Rancher Cliven Bundy has been fighting the US federal government for years.

Rancher Cliven Bundy has been fighting the US federal government for years. Photo: Getty Images

THERE'S a genuine, old-timey cowboy standoff in the Wild West right now - in a dusty desert north of Las Vegas. It's a great reminder of just how stupid some people can be.

Veteran cattle rancher Cliven Bundy has been fighting the federal government over land rights since 1993. That year the evil Feds bought back a bunch of land to protect an endangered tortoise. Old Bundy ignored the transaction and kept grazing his cows illegally on federal land. The Feds fined him. Bundy decided he didn't recognise the existence of a federal government, and the fact that his Mormon family grazed the land back in the 1800s was proof of ownership.

In the 20 years that followed, Bundy lost every single legal fight against the tortoise-protecting, freedom-strangling hippies in Washington, DC. Bundy then claimed it was state, not federal land. No one agreed.

Rather than do anything drastic, the Federal Bureau of Land Management kept fining Bundy, who has yet to pay. Finally, after 20 years and many threats and warnings, the Feds moved in this month to seize his criminal cows. They were met by an armed militia from all over the place. They vowed to stop the Fed round-up and to stand and fight for their rights, because they're true patriots.

Bundy has given interviews to anyone with a microphone. Somehow conservative pundits decided he was a freedom fighter and his gun-toting friends the real heroes in this fight.

He says taking his cows will raise the cost of meat at the supermarket. True, because he feeds his cows for free.

One of Bundy's mates revealed on TV the militia planned to put women folk on the front line - so if the Feds start shooting, the world will see how truly terrible they are. Nothing portrays a righteous struggle by manly, patriotic men like hiding behind unarmed women.

Bundy, his mates and Fox News have won this round - the Feds backed down from the cattle round-up. But the massive publicity around this old fight is revealing. The economy's OK, Obama's healthcare law has helped millions finally get much needed insurance and international wars are winding down. Conservatives don't have a lot to complain about right now - so why not make a hero out of an ignorant law breaker without a legal leg to stand on. Go Bundy, long live the freedom to choose whatever laws we want to obey.

Tim is a writer, TV producer and proud former Canberra resident who has lived in Los Angeles since 1997. Twitter @timschildberger