There’s a video going around of a call Ammon Bundy made from jail. He says that at the time of the call, he is in solitary confinement, in his undergarments. It’s a pretty disturbing call to listen to at first, and I felt my own emotions rising as I listened. But I stopped and went back, and listened to it again as an analyst. Why? Because we cannot afford to run on emotion.
Once I listened to it again, I talked to a good friend of mine who used to be a Corrections Officer in a prison, and had him watch it. Then I talked to a second friend who’s done some criminal defense work. Lastly, I consulted someone else familiar with Statement Analysis. We all saw the same thing.
This won’t be a popular article. In fact, it’ll probably get me crucified, because the movement loves its heroes and folklore. But I’m going to step out and say this, because truth matters, and if we can’t be honest with ourselves, about ourselves, then what good are we?
I’ve done a full analysis on the video and the statements within it, but for the purpose of keeping this less than 15+ pages, I’m going to show you just the first couple sentences. The entire statement continues this pattern, so it won’t take long for you to see it. Let’s look at his statements, his own words.
So, they didn’t like that I had a shirt hung over my bunkbed, I guess, so the guy took it, and that’s fine and dandy…
It’s important to note exactly what’s said, but also important to note what is NOT said. The reason why a shirt hanging from the bunk is not allowed is because it impedes the officers’ ability to count the inmates – a process that happens several times a day. Having been in federal custody for over 15 months, Ammon Bundy would have been not only aware of this rule, but in all probability aware of the reasons for it, and the potential consequences for violating it – confiscation of the item that was impeding the count. It’s slightly disingenuous to act as if this was a capricious, mean act on the part of evil guards. This particular rule is in force in every single correctional facility I’ve ever heard of, and I confirmed that with people with a lot of experience in that system. The guards may be evil people, I have no idea about them specifically. But it’s not because of this.
but the problem is, if you don’t have your shirt, then you can’t get breakfast the next morning, because they won’t let you eat lunch without a shirt. And my other two shirts were in the laundry, so…
Why would a prison force inmates to have a shirt on when going to eat? Since we are going to set aside our personal feelings and simply look at the information provided, we have to admit the possibility that just maybe, wearing a shirt at mealtime isn’t some way to break anyone’s spirit, it’s simply one of the rules. You wear the uniform of the day – that’s true in the military as well.
Another tidbit that needs to go under the ‘cold facts’ pile is this: If an inmate chooses to break a well-known, basic, standing rule, the officer is not going to care that the punishment for that rule has a ripple effect to the inmate. In fact, the guard is going to see that as a case of “well, you probably should’ve thought about that.”
anyway, I tried to get it back. He refused, and then Ryan got involved, and he tried to get it back, and then…anyway, then they decided to use force on us…
Again, what’s not being said? How they tried to get it back. There’s no mention of words being used. There’s no mention, in fact, of any method used at all. Did he attempt to physically take it out of the guard’s hands? Did he politely say, “Please give me my shirt back?” We have no idea. And until we do, that’s a blank area. The only thing that I know for sure from his own language is that he tried to take it back. NOTE: There’s no judgment here, or even an insinuation about what happened, merely pointing out that we do not know.
Next, Ryan gets involved, according to Ammon’s own story. Now, let’s set aside all the feels about brotherhood and family and the rest. From the guard’s perspective, he’s got one inmate who broke a standing rule, then tried to take back the item confiscated from him – then a second inmate gets involved and also tries to ‘get it back.’ There is an escalation happening here, even in Ammon’s own language. There’s also a big gaping hole in the story. Do you see where it is?
“and then….anyway, then they decided to use force on us…”
There’s missing information there. And then what? What happened immediately before “they decided to use force?” Also, note that they used force on “us,” as in both Ammon and Ryan. In Ammon’s own language, he glosses over a hole in the timeline, and when people do that, it’s because the information is sensitive to them. Generally speaking, the information left out is the critical part.
There is some discussion about how Ryan was talking to the guards in the hallway and “the next thing you know, they’re hauling him down the hallway.”
There’s another hole. The phrase “next thing you know” is called a “temporal lacunae,” or missing time. It’s used when people want to skip over a piece of an event. Whatever happened between when Ryan was talking in the hallway and then was “hauled” down the hallway is being left out of the story. Why? Wouldn’t that be a critical piece of information? And why is the story out of order?
We are literally about a minute and a half into this narrative, and here’s what his own words tell us:
- He violated a rule.
- His shirt was confiscated.
- That caused a ripple effect for his meal the next morning.
- He tried to get his shirt back, although we don’t know how.
- A second inmate got involved, and also tried to get the shirt back; again, we don’t know how.
- Something happened during this time that either caused or continued a physical use of force between the Bundy brothers and the guards, but we are not told what that was.
As mentioned earlier, there’s a beginning here – the violation of a long-standing, basic rule about impeding a prisoner count. There’s an escalation, and the critical points of that escalation are missing.
It doesn’t matter if you believe they are being unfairly jailed before trial – and I’d agree with you. It doesn’t matter if you agree with all of their positions or everything they’ve done. When looking at ANY account of events, whether it’s from someone we know and trust or not, it needs to be looked at with a critical eye, without emotion, without bias, without anything else except a very calm, rational breakdown of the facts. The facts MUST be allowed to tell the truth, without us making them try to fit in a box of our own beliefs.
I look at statements like the above all the time. This is one of the things (aside from writing and editing) that I do for a living. I read trial transcripts, statements to police, letters from victims, and a host of other statements, and assist in cases ranging from child abuse to murder to rape to people being wrongfully accused. There is a science to the analysis. There is a process, and as many of you who know me or have sat in on the training can attest, it is accurate. The issues with the statements above are not my opinion, they are the result of simply analyzing the words that he chooses to give us.
One thing I have learned in my time doing this is that there is no substitute for analytical, critical thinking. Sometimes the facts lead down a path we never expected to go. Sometimes we go into a case certain that it’s simple and cut and dry – only to find that it’s not, that the victim was the aggressor, or the aggressor the victim. I’ve seen statements from people claiming to need a restraining order, and once the analysis is done, the stalking ‘victim’ is the stalker. We always start from the position that the person is telling the truth, and only allow their own words to change that starting point.
I’m not calling Ammon Bundy a liar here. I don’t know Ammon Bundy, and that’s why I’m simply looking at what he’s saying, and taking his own words at face value. I’m not casting any judgment at all on the information that has been given. In fact, I do not think he is fabricating the statements above. I think that the things he describes above actually happened. I do, however, think he’s withholding information, and that information may hold the key to a lot of this story.
I’m also not of the opinion that federal agents should always get a pass, and that should go without saying if you have read my writing for any length of time. But my personal feelings about federal officers cannot come into play here either. The statement is my concern; I don’t care who the players are, I don’t care what narrative the truth serves. Truth is its own narrative.
I’m not asking you to condemn anyone, stop supporting anyone, switch sides, or anything else. I’m asking you to take a deep breath, set your emotions aside, and really look at the words above. LISTEN to what’s being said. Note the holes in the timeline; when do they appear? What is missing? What do they change? Are those places where, if information was given, have the power to change the tone of the story? What’s NOT being said? What’s being left out?
As long as we’re discussing that, do you remember Ammon Bundy, standing at the rally for the Hammonds, just before he took off for the refuge? He said there were federal agents blocking the road to the refuge. Was that true?
I was talking to a friend of mine about this tonight. He’s what you’d call very tactically minded, and has the bona fides to make observations on that front. He made the following comment:
Malheur happened and ended up screwed because people weren’t objectively critical of the purpose. There was no plan. There was no competent leadership, and those on the ground were reacting without a clue as to how to be effective.
The ability to set your emotions and even beliefs aside long enough to consider information in a critical way is one of the most necessary skills you can possibly develop. If your emotions are driving, then facts are no longer important…they’re just along for the ride. And when it comes to the life and death situations we will find ourselves in, don’t you want to be pretty damn sure you’ve got all of the facts?