Ursula Le Guin blasts coverage of Oregon militia's 'Right-Winged Loonybirds'

Outspoken novelist attacks local paper for ‘parroting the meaningless rants’ of armed men occupying wildlife refuge

Ursula Le Guin has slammed her local paper’s coverage of the militia currently occupying an Oregon wildlife refuge for parroting the meaningless rants of a flock of Right-Winged Loonybirds”.

The science fiction grand master attacked the Oregonian’s interview with protester Ryan Payne, describing the headline which appeared in print, “Effort to free federal lands”, as “inaccurate and irresponsible”, and its article as “a mere mouthpiece for the scofflaws illegally occupying public buildings and land, repeating their lies and distortions of history and law”.

An armed militia took over the headquarters of the Malheur national wildlife refuge on 2 January. Payne told the Oregonian that, as well as the release of ranchers Dwight Hammond and his son Steve from federal prison, the occupiers also want federal land to be returned to its previous owners.

Le Guin, author of the beloved Earthsea fantasy series, took issue with this demand. “Ammon Bundy and his bullyboys aren’t trying to free federal lands, but to hold them hostage. I can’t go to the Malheur refuge now, though as a citizen of the United States, I own it and have the freedom of it,” she wrote in a letter to the Oregonian.

“That’s what public land is: land that belongs to the public – me, you, every law-abiding American. The people it doesn’t belong to and who don’t belong there are those who grabbed it by force of arms, flaunting their contempt for the local citizens.”

Le Guin, who lives in northwest Portland, said that the people of Harney County “have carefully hammered out agreements to manage the refuge in the best interest of landowners, scientists, visitors, tourists, livestock and wildlife”, and that “they’re suffering more every day, economically and otherwise, from this invasion by outsiders”.

“Instead of parroting the meaningless rants of a flock of Right-Winged Loonybirds infesting the refuge, why doesn’t the Oregonian talk to the people who live there?” she finished.

The author of seminal science fiction novels including The Left Hand of Darkness and The Dispossessed, Le Guin has always been ready to speak out. She slated an adaptation of her Earthsea books that made her red-brown skinned wizard Ged white, and led a group of authors protesting against Google’s plans to digitise millions of books. More recently, she asked readers not to buy books from Amazon because “every book purchase made from Amazon is a vote for a culture without content and without contentment”.

Two years ago, when Le Guin was given an award for distinguished contribution to American letters, she gave a speech in which she condemned the treatment of books as “just commodities”.

“The profit motive often is in conflict with the aims of art. We live in capitalism. Its power seems inescapable. So did the divine right of kings. Any human power can be resisted and changed by human beings. Resistance and change often begin in art, and very often in our art – the art of words,” she told the award ceremony.

“I have had a long career and a good one. In good company. Now here, at the end of it, I really don’t want to watch American literature get sold down the river. We who live by writing and publishing want – and should demand – our fair share of the proceeds. But the name of our beautiful reward is not profit. Its name is freedom.”

Contributor

Alison Flood

The GuardianTramp

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