Having worked on Parliament Hill for close to a decade, I have to admit that there are certain things that always seem to pique my interest in our political world. One of those things is legislation brought forward by individual members that just make you shake your head and wonder “why” aloud. Some people bring forward bills that are silly, others just downright awful and some raise a lot of legitimate questions beyond “why would you want your name attached to this?”
It was that last question that came to mind today when I had a real oddball story come across my social media feed. That wasn’t the only question that this story brought to mind, but to be fair, there are a lot of them. Heck any story that involves some of the elements that this story does should raise more than a few of them. What is the story in question? Well check this out:
Yes folks, you read that right. A Republican representative of the Oklahoma Legislature introduced a bill to create a hunting season for something that doesn’t exist. State Rep. Justin Humphrey (R-Lane) is the person who came up with this “idea”, one that I’m sure most serious elected people would never want their name attached to. But not Justin Humphrey, no sir. He decided that he would bring forward a bill that would forever make him known as the “Bigfoot Hunting Season guy”.
So what exactly does this piece of legislation, House Bill 1648, do? According to The Oklahoman newspaper, it would “direct the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation to establish the annual dates of a Bigfoot season and create any necessary specific hunting licenses and fees.” On top of that, Humphrey himself is quoted as saying that he would like to see a $25,000 bounty for the live capture of a Bigfoot. Yep, talk about a great use of the precious time of Oklahoma’s elected officials, in the middle of a global pandemic and generational economic crisis. Congrats people of Lane, that’s the “voice” you elected to represent you.
As I mentioned above this proposed bill raises a few serious questions beyond the major one I raised above. The first question is obviously “Why?”, as in “Why create this hunting season for something that doesn’t exist?”. Well Humphrey has an explanation for that one: TOURISM!!! Yep, he’s quoted in that same story that while he personally doesn’t believe in Bigfoot, in an apparent attempt to try to show he’s sane, there are a lot of people who do believe. He actually said these very words to the major newspaper of record in his state:
“There are a lot of people, who really, really believe in Bigfoot and so it is going to give them the opportunity to come down. We want to make it a real deal. You can have a license. You can get out there and hunt this thing. I want to be really clear that we are not going to kill Bigfoot. We are going to trap a live Bigfoot. We are not promoting killing Bigfoot. We are promoting hunting Bigfoot, trying to find evidence of Bigfoot.”Source: The Oklahoman
Make sense everyone? Yep, not a lick of it. His rationale is that having such a season will attract people who believe that Bigfoot is real to come and hunt something that he openly admits doesn’t exist. But he’s clear to say that he’s not “promoting” killing it, just finding it, hunting it and trapping it, because I guess you can do all of those things to a being that doesn’t exist. What would he do if someone did the impossible and managed to trap a mythical, non-existent being? Well that he doesn’t say, but you’d think that if you were going to the trouble of writing a bill for this insanity, you would close the crazy circle and figure out where you’d keep said being. Maybe he just assumed that Joe Exotic’s former zoo would just take it in.
But that’s not the most serious question that comes to my mind in this crazy story. For me, it came to mind pretty fast because the answer seemed to be pretty straightforward. The question: “Isn’t it basically fraud to legislate the selling of hunting licenses at a cost for something you know can never be caught because it doesn’t exist?” The answer: “Of course!!!”. Basically, that’s what in the ingenious State Rep from Lane Mr. Humphrey wants his colleagues in Oklahoma to pass into law. He lays it all out very clearly; he knows it doesn’t exist and doesn’t believe it does, but justifies creating fees and licenses to exploit those who do believe in something he knows isn’t real. That flippin’ insane!!!
To bring forward such a bill should be illegal on its face, but at the very least common sense should stop you from doing this. But nope, none of that seems to have stopped Mr. Humphrey, the elected official who wants to basically pass a law to dupe people who believe in non-existent things out of their money, using a government department to do it no less. How is this all going over with his constituents? Well this quote beautifully shows us how:
After news of Humphrey’s bill broke on Wednesday, the lawmaker said he received calls from true believers who embrace the idea, as well as skeptics who think he should be run out of office for filing such a piece of frivolous legislation. “I had one lady just scream at me that she is going to make sure I will get beat because of this and told me I’ve lost my mind,” Humphrey said. “I don’t think they (critics) understand what we are trying to do to promote our area.”Source: The Oklahoman
“I don’t think they understand what we’re trying to do to promote our area”???? Seriously??? This would be hilarious if it weren’t so bad. According to the story this all came from, it turns out there are a couple of towns in the state that sell Bigfoot merch and one that holds an annual Bigfoot festival. But there is a big difference from selling a few plush Bigfoot toys or selling Bigfoot themed funnel cakes and creating a government-mandated hunting season for the non-existent thing. This would be like if the State of Nevada created an extra-terrestrial hunting license to “boost tourism” because folks around Area-51 sell alien paraphernalia to people who believe that they landed there. You wouldn’t do that because, well, that’s bloody insane. Yet here we are, in 2021, and this is on the actual books in Oklahoma. Crazy.
Part of me would like to laugh at this story, mostly because it’s so crazy, and in normal times I would. But what this bill implicitly suggests doing and the current climate that we’re in now just makes that impossible. This is a bill that appears to create government-organized fraud on misguided people would believe in this. It’s trying to make quick bucks out of people that Mr. Humphrey appears to feel are, at best, suckers. It’s just dirty, crap politics but it’s actually worse than that. We’re living in a time when we’re seeing conspiracy theories running amok all over. We saw their impact in what happened in Washington just two years ago. Part of that happened because rather than speak out against those conspiracy theories and that misinformation, too many American politicians embraced them as a vehicle to advance their own political interests. They didn’t believe in them, but they fanned the flames of insanity that they created because they felt it benefited their political aims and goals. And once those flames grew out of control, we saw what we saw.
It’s true that believing in Bigfoot is not the same thing as the conspiracy theory crap we’ve seen elsewhere, but for me it’s all in the same vein of the same problem. Both of them require the same approach, which is their political leaders being honest with them and not play into this crap. By trying to play some political advantage out of the insane, it’s only giving comfort to that crap and giving it space to grow and flourish. That’s also something that Mr. Humphrey is doing here. Instead of shutting down these “true believers” in this crap, he’s embracing them and citing it as support for this crazy bill. That’s why I can’t laugh at this story, because the consequences of entertaining such crap are too large. I’d like to think that Mr. Humphrey would come to his senses and realize that, but given what this story has taught us about him, he clearly doesn’t have the sense to come back to. And that truly makes him the sucker in this story.