A bunch of guys took over the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in the winter of 2016. No force was required. It’s a remote, fairly unvisited place. No hostages. The guys brought lots of guns, though, and lots of righteous indignation. “No Man’s Land” documents an insider record of the 41-day occupation, including its affect on Harney County, Oregon, population 7000.
There does seem to be a core issue. Finding land enough to graze in western US deserts forces ranchers to lease federal land. Some people think the government shouldn’t own and lease the “God given right to land.” They think that such is tyranny.
Twelve hundred people in an online chatroom wanted to know if these American Patriots had a plan. The revolutionary cowboys said. “freedom and stuff.” In their more articulate public statements, they said “The government can lose or lose. Wipe us out like they do or concede us our land.”
The occupiers attracted quite a bit of media attention until their tactics became boringly unprovocative. One journalist commented that the occupiers “weren’t looking for answers; they were looking for a deeper emersion in anti-government militancy” as a way to feel empowered and listened to.
“No Man’s Land” isn’t a mocking chronicle. There is serious, dangerous national mood reflected in its dusky coverage. The tension stays taut, even in its somewhat lame details because violence is always a spark away -- even if the spark, in these taut times, catches fire somewhere else.