April 19, 1995: Fifteen years (and a day) later.
April 20, 2010 2:04 PM   Subscribe

It's the 15th anniversary of the Oklahoma City Bombing, and it's time for the US to take a good, long, hard look at itself.

On April 19, 1995, Timothy McVeigh (1968-2001) (previously) and Terry Nichols detonated a truck bomb outside the Alfred Murrah Federal Building in downtown Oklahoma, killing 168 and injuring more than 680 (PDF link). 19 of the fatalities were young children. The deadliest ever domestic terrorist act in America until 9/11, the 15th anniversary has sent feature writers scurrying to put out new articles putting the bombing in perspective, remembering the fallen, engaging in "Where-are-they-now?"-type enquiries, and - most topically -prompted an ex-President to ponder what lessons were learnt from the bombing, especially in light of recent, recurring threats of violence on American soil by American "patriots". (Previously, previously and previously)
posted by WalterMitty (60 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
 
As I recall, Terry Nichols helped McVeigh construct the bomb but did not go to OKC with him to detonate it.
posted by Daddy-O at 2:09 PM on April 20, 2010


Preview fail: this is the PDF link for the Oklahoma Police Dept After Action Report.
posted by WalterMitty at 2:09 PM on April 20, 2010




There's one thing that still irks me about this deal.

Does anyone else remember there was a John Doe #2? Tim McVeigh's description matched John Doe #1, but there was a John Doe #2, and I remember -vividly- this being broadcast (mainly, because he looked identical to an old Phys Ed. teacher I had, who was on a ski trip with us at the time, fortunately), but there was never any mention of this later. They got John Doe #1, they got Nichols, open/shut... tag 'em and bag 'em.

Am I the only one who remembers that? What happened to him?
posted by Bathtub Bobsled at 2:19 PM on April 20, 2010 [2 favorites]


I've never managed to make it all the way through Michael Moore's Bowling for Columbine, but Moore's interview with Terry Moore's brother is quite interesting.
posted by darth_tedious at 2:19 PM on April 20, 2010


"...but Moore's interview with Terry Moore's brother is quite interesting.

I believe that was Terry NICHOLS' brother, if we are talking about the same Oscar winning documentary.
posted by Bathtub Bobsled at 2:20 PM on April 20, 2010




Terry Moore's brother

Well there's your John Doe right there.
posted by shakespeherian at 2:21 PM on April 20, 2010


>> Terry Moore's brother

Grr. Terry Nichols' brother, Michael Nichols.
posted by darth_tedious at 2:23 PM on April 20, 2010


To me, McVeigh is almost an archetypal modern example of someone who is an ideologically driven sociopath. His continued insistence that death is just something that happens everyday and his actions were just part of the cosmic background radiation combined with his anger at the government is kind of sickly fascinating.
posted by Burhanistan at 2:28 PM on April 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


What I remember most: the fireman holding a dead child and the sheer amount of damage to the building. It happened on a Wednesday morning I think, was working in a ad department in Baltimore at the time and the sheer devastation was incomprehensible at the time, we just stopped work and said "WTF?!" a lot. Some people predicted WWIII, because obviously the Arabs did it. Man, was Timothy McVeigh a surprise.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 2:30 PM on April 20, 2010


I think comparing Tea Partiers with the Oklahoma City bombers is like this truck's treatment of Islam. Only people who actually plan to commit acts of violence against the government (while we still have a functioning democracy) deserve that comparison. There probably are nuts in the Tea Party who want to do that, but it's hardly their dogma.

I'm not a conservative and it really pains me to defend the Tea Party. But the way this thread was framed, I'm a bit concerned the thread might go in that direction.
posted by mccarty.tim at 2:32 PM on April 20, 2010 [6 favorites]


I'll tell you what really bothers me, is the constant "(## US)" clarification following every fatality count. As though the nationalities of the others killed made their deaths somehow less tragic. The sooner people can shed this notion of foreign otherness, the better off humanity will be altogether. The US-centrism of, well, of this whole FPP belies the global nature of the problem: humans kill humans. Muddying the waters with xenophobia does nothing to help.
posted by The Winsome Parker Lewis at 2:32 PM on April 20, 2010 [6 favorites]


Oh yeah, that, and the remix of Lightning Crashes by Live with all of the soundbytes in it.

Why? Hadn't our country suffered enough?
posted by Bathtub Bobsled at 2:34 PM on April 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


I'll tell you what really bothers me, is the constant "(## US)" clarification following every fatality count. As though the nationalities of the others killed made their deaths somehow less tragic.

What, are you a communist?
posted by Mayor Curley at 2:35 PM on April 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


I'll tell you what really bothers me, is the constant "(## US)" clarification following every fatality count.

Dear Foreign Mefites: Do other countries do this?
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 2:41 PM on April 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


What, are you a communist?

Haha, nope, I'm an individualist. Kind of the opposite of a communist, I guess. But nothing means what it's supposed to anymore, and everything's all upside-down and backwards.
posted by The Winsome Parker Lewis at 2:51 PM on April 20, 2010


Yes, humans kill humans, but the significance of the date is really US-centric, since nobody outside the US particularly cares about the Oklahoma City bombings. The FPP is framed in such a way because there isn't really very much anyone outside the US has to say about it that isn't said better inside it.
posted by WalterMitty at 2:55 PM on April 20, 2010


There was no John Doe #2 - it was a mistake. They eventually located and identified the guy in the indentikit pictures and he was at the rental agency at a different time - no connection to McVeigh.

Neither the Hutaree nor the Guardians of the Free Republics figure in this picture much. The Hutaree were taken down because they were getting too crazy and dangerous. Their prosecution is likely going to fizzle. Seditious conspiracy usually doesn't result in convictions. So unless there are other charges in a superseding indictment, this case is going to evaporate. Likewise, the Guardians appear to have been a hoax.

The same sort of progression happened back in the period leading up to the OKC bombing. Crazies and stupids getting caught and then McVeigh blindsiding everybody. Most of the militia activists more or less vanished up their own assholes in the 24 following the bombing - all talk. But enough talk to encourage somebody like McVeigh.

If things get really out of hand, it will be about this time next year. And the prologue events won't help much in explaining what went down.

The simple truth is that the heated rhetoric coming out the Tea Partys and groups like the Oath Keepers is pretty much indistinguishable from the ranting of the militias in the early 1990's. But the ones making the noise aren't the ones who will be committing the deadliest violence. The violent actors will be under the radar but drawing energy from the ranters.

So the answer is draw the fangs from the Tea Partys, Oath Keepers and others who are spouting insurrection as a means of political intimidation. But not in the way that it will inevitably be misunderstood. The distinction between being morally culpable and directly culpable is where the disconnect is.

We'll be having this discussion next year, I'm sure.

The nub of the question is "what has to happen for the risk of violence to subside?" If the answer is that the violence has to happen for the risk to be understood, then we've all failed.
posted by warbaby at 2:57 PM on April 20, 2010 [8 favorites]


The very definition of tragic irony tragically misguided, lead to the split of the group.

From that article: While the OKC Tea Party organizers continued to focus their events on frustrations with the federal government’s growing role in their lives, members of the Sooner Tea Party joined forces with various conservative groups.

Blazecock's link is referring to the "Sooner Tea Party" faction, if you were wondering.
posted by filthy light thief at 3:04 PM on April 20, 2010


Five years previously
posted by warbaby at 3:08 PM on April 20, 2010


As though the nationalities of the others killed made their deaths somehow less tragic. The sooner people can shed this notion of foreign otherness

blah blah blah you can come down off the cross now. The list was of terrorist attacks directed specifically against Americans, so the number of dead Americans is relevant information.
posted by DecemberBoy at 3:09 PM on April 20, 2010 [2 favorites]


This is one thing that drives me nuts. Every time anyone says that there's not racism, just common sense in profiling Arabs and the rush to military prisons, I point out that the second largest terrorist attack on this country did not end up with edgy, white, right-wingers getting rounded up.

Plus, we're still afraid to call them terrorists.
posted by lumpenprole at 3:27 PM on April 20, 2010 [5 favorites]


http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Michael_Fortier_%28American%29

A third guy, Fortier, a pal met in the army, knew of the plot, did not participate, got ten years for not telling about it. Served time, then set out in witness protection program.
What is odd: I had thought witness protection for those who gave evidence against bad guys but this one is someone jailed because he did Not give evidence but needed his butt covered it seems after being released for good behavior.
posted by Postroad at 3:28 PM on April 20, 2010


Meanwhile, Republicans in the Oklahoma state legislature want to create an armed militia to resist the federal government. I'm not really sure why this hasn't gotten more attention; it seems blatantly seditious to me.
posted by EarBucket at 3:29 PM on April 20, 2010 [4 favorites]


one of the more interesting things to me, is that in the news i've seen (and i haven't delved, just read snippets and headlines) is that it seems like less and less is being made of the date. it seems like for the first few years, any mention of the OKC bombings was followed with mentions of Waco - and sometimes with mentions of Ruby Ridge (technically, that all blew up on the 21st, but things were mounting on the 19th).
posted by nadawi at 3:31 PM on April 20, 2010


Meanwhile, Republicans in the Oklahoma state legislature want to create an armed militia to resist the federal government.

Meanwhile, The Georgia House Judiciary Committee took up a bill last week that would "prohibit requiring a person to be implanted with a microchip," and would make violating the ban a misdemeanor. Oh, and one of the speakers at the hearing claimed she had a microchip placed in her "vaginal-rectum area". WAKE UP SHEEPLE!
posted by Combustible Edison Lighthouse at 3:51 PM on April 20, 2010


For those who really want to remember, here's the opening statement by the prosecution in U.S. v. McVeigh.
posted by bearwife at 3:57 PM on April 20, 2010 [2 favorites]


>> I'll tell you what really bothers me, is the constant "(## US)" clarification following every fatality count.

> Dear Foreign Mefites: Do other countries do this?


Yes. If you watch BBC coverage of, say, a bomb attack in another country, you will hear '## have been reported dead, including ## British nationals.' I can't remember nationalities being highlighted during coverage of the 7/7 bombings in London, sorry.
posted by K.P. at 4:37 PM on April 20, 2010


Is it true the gov's brother wrote a book in which a character by the name of 'Tim McVye' blew up a fed building… a book published before McVeigh did his deed?
posted by five fresh fish at 4:38 PM on April 20, 2010


(posted to the right thread this time)

I watched excerpts from the McVeigh Tapes on Rachel Maddow and I was just struck by how much McVeigh seemed like. . . I dunno, a guy with some major problems who kind of needed a hug at a crucial point in his life, or something. If you look at his history, he was multiply failed by multiple communities, organizations, and institutions that should have been willing or able to help him. I know he seems like a weird guy to have compassion for, but I'm just struck hollow by the thought that one way or another, it didn't have to go down like this.
posted by KathrynT at 7:01 PM on April 20, 2010


Grr. Terry Nichols' brother, Michael Nichols.

For the record, Terry Nichols' brother is James Nichols. He's still in the Michigan Thumb. My mother ran into him one day! His face turned bright red when my mother indelicately mentioned she'd seen him in that Bowling for Columbine movie.
posted by BinGregory at 7:16 PM on April 20, 2010


There was no John Doe #2 - it was a mistake. They eventually located and identified the guy in the indentikit pictures and he was at the rental agency at a different time - no connection to McVeigh.

Do you have a citation/source for this?
posted by Bathtub Bobsled at 7:19 PM on April 20, 2010


nadawi: "s that it seems like less and less is being made of the date."

Columbine shooting was 4/20, also. And Hitler's birthday. I always sorta dread 4/19 and 4/20; what nutjob is going to show up with a bomb or gun today?
posted by Mid at 7:26 PM on April 20, 2010


i forgot about columbine (not that i forgot about it, i forgot the date). and yeah, on hitler's birthday. i used to troll the stormfront message boards to get a dose of brain exploding rage and things were always a little fervent around this time of the year.
posted by nadawi at 7:31 PM on April 20, 2010


Also - for McVeigh trivia - I'm always astounded by the fact that he was arrested within 90 minutes because he was barreling down the highway in a yellow 1977 Mercury Marquis with no license plates. When he gets pulled over, the trooper immediately notices that Mr. No Plates is packing a concealed pistol. McVeigh is thrown in jail and three days later they figure out that he is the bomber.

What the hell kind of plan was that?! If you want to escape undetected, ixnay on the yellow car with no plates and gun. If you want to go out in a blaze of glory, presumably that's what the gun is for. But pull over and get carted off to jail on a license plate violation?

It's like the guy who went back to the Ryder truck shop to ask for his deposit back on the truck that blew up in the World Trade Center in 1993.

It fascinates and frightens me that a total idiot could kill so many people.
posted by Mid at 7:38 PM on April 20, 2010


Andreas Stassmeir possible John Dough 2
posted by hortense at 7:43 PM on April 20, 2010


Strassmeir
posted by hortense at 7:45 PM on April 20, 2010


What I remember most as an OKC resident:

Hearing the thunderous rumble and feeling the ensuing shock wave from about 9-10 miles away.

Listening to local news radio to hear what happened and instead hearing to dumbass G. Gordon Liddy spew his asshat opinion on about how to assassinate a federal agent by shooting him in the head (news had yet to fully break).

Yes, Baylee Almon in the arms of the firefighter.

Years spent avoiding the memorial site (flash) after a lone visit tore me to shreds (yes, the chain link fence with the notes, flowers and stuffed animals is still there).

What bothers me most now:

OK State Rep Charles Key and his offensive, ignorant and ill-timed Oklahoma Militia crap. McVeigh would have been proud to be a member. Meanwhile, Will Rogers is spinning in his grave.
posted by HyperBlue at 8:24 PM on April 20, 2010


A friend of mine spent the summer of '95 as an archivist at the blast site. They put up the big chainlink fence around the site afterwards, as hyperblue mentions, the whole block, and it was her summer internship to catalog the things that were left tucked into the fence. You know, "Grid 19: Teddy bear, white; placard, "Justin We Will Never Forget"; 1 family photo, 4"x6", retrieved 6/17 & filed box MB9583A". It's all recorded carefully in two columns and cross-indexed in the state archives somewhere. They'd probably show it to you if you asked.
posted by ormondsacker at 8:35 PM on April 20, 2010 [3 favorites]


I worked a suicide prevention hotline when I was in school, and it just seems to me that the same kinds of people who turned up on that phone line, or should have, are the same kind of people that end up being actors at places like Ft. Hood, Columbine, OK City, etc. After two glasses of merlot, I just want to send a message out to everyone, everyone, to seek out he most awkward, uncommitted, subjectively misunderstood individuals in their experience, and offer to listen to what they have to say. There's something enriching and transformative in the act of listening to someone else's point of view.

Most of these tea party kooks have no real fundamental beef - they're privileged middle-aged, better-than-average-earning white guys. The difference is, everybody's bowling alone, everybody feels like they have exclusive access to some higher perspective, basically everybody's talking and nobody's (perceptively) listening - technology has made the talking easier and the listening harder (to perceive if not in reality to actually do). Tell somebody you're listening to them, regardless of how off-the-wall they are, and you to some degree validate their viewpoint. Deliberative democracy depends on people being willing to listen and being, fundamentally, willing to transform their beliefs if some better rationale is offered. Violence is really the last refuge of people who believe no one is listening to them.
posted by newdaddy at 8:36 PM on April 20, 2010 [5 favorites]


this should be no 5 on levin's list - unfortunately, it's often forgotten outside of michigan
posted by pyramid termite at 8:36 PM on April 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


perceptably, I meant.
posted by newdaddy at 8:40 PM on April 20, 2010


>> Andreas Stassmeir possible John Dough 2

I wouldn't be terribly surprised to find that a) there were others involved in this or b) it was a sting gone wrong... but having now watched the long Maddow report, with the included interview of McVeigh, these possibilities now seem less likely to me.

>> If you want to escape undetected, ixnay on the yellow car with no plates and gun. If you want to go out in a blaze of glory, presumably that's what the gun is for. But pull over and get carted off to jail on a license plate violation?

McVeigh seems to have wanted to be caught... just not immediately. In the interview referenced above, he uses the phrase suicide by cop, and what he seems to have been aiming for was suicide by government, contingent on publicity.
posted by darth_tedious at 9:03 PM on April 20, 2010


OK State Rep Charles Key and his offensive, ignorant and ill-timed Oklahoma Militia crap.

Just for the record, I hated the government before it was cool to hate the government. Now I learn even a state representative has a black flag tied to his messenger bag.
[sigh]
posted by fuq at 9:04 PM on April 20, 2010


Actually, if there were others helping McVeigh, it would make sense that McVeigh would conceal this fact.

Having it publicly known that others were involved would reduce what McVeigh saw as his glory, and having others become the target of an investigation-- whether they were captured or they escaped-- would transform McVeigh from a martyr-mastermind to a pawn and a tool.
posted by darth_tedious at 9:12 PM on April 20, 2010


Meanwhile, The Georgia House Judiciary Committee took up a bill last week that would "prohibit requiring a person to be implanted with a microchip," and would make violating the ban a misdemeanor.

The Virginia House of Delegates passed one of these too. According to some state legislators, microchips are a sign of the Antichrist. It's been an embarrassing year to to be a Virginian so far.
posted by naoko at 9:38 PM on April 20, 2010


I watched excerpts from the McVeigh Tapes on Rachel Maddow and I was just struck by how much McVeigh seemed like. . . I dunno, a guy with some major problems who kind of needed a hug at a crucial point in his life, or something.

TalkLeft's Jeralyn Merritt was one of McVeigh's defense attorneys.
Do you think there was anything of the so-called "banality of evil" in McVeigh? That is, was there something missing in him, or was he a more or less ordinary person who took a terrible wrong turn.

without question. "a more or less ordinary person who took a terrible wrong turn."
Also, while she acknowledges what he did was horrible, she says, "I represented him with pride and dedication. I even liked him. He was articulate, smart and he had a sense of humor."
posted by kirkaracha at 9:57 PM on April 20, 2010


There was no John Doe #2 - it was a mistake. They eventually located and identified the guy in the indentikit pictures and he was at the rental agency at a different time - no connection to McVeigh.

Do you have a citation/source for this?


The FBI has maintained that coincidence is the best way to explain John Doe No. 2, whose character sketch was drawn mainly from the account of an eyewitness at the Junction City shop where the Ryder truck was rented. That witness, the FBI says, mixed up his recollections and mistakenly identified a man who came in the next day to rent a truck -- a 23-year-old soldier named Todd Bunting -- as an accomplice of McVeigh's. Bunting, who was cleared of any connection to the crime, vaguely resembled the composite drawing and wore clothes similar to those in the drawing, including a Carolina Panthers ball cap. -- Salon, 2001

Of course, other theories abound. Salon discusses some; Mother Jones published a curious alternative. Later, some right-wing blogs (and 9/11 truthers) decided that Jose Padilla was John Doe #2. One local journalist followed the investigation, and eventually wrote a book concluding that the "third terrorist" was an Iraqi soldier.
posted by dhartung at 10:46 PM on April 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


Meanwhile, Republicans in the Oklahoma state legislature want to create an armed militia to resist the federal government.

Actually, a fair number of states still retain "militia" like units that generally are called into action when the National Guard are out of town. Here's a link to Virginia's Defense Force, and here's a Wikipedia list of the states that still retain them.
posted by Atreides at 4:40 AM on April 21, 2010


Actually, a fair number of states still retain "militia" like units that generally are called into action when the National Guard are out of town. Here's a link to Virginia's Defense Force, and here's a Wikipedia list of the states that still retain them.

The first sentence of the article:

Frustrated by recent political setbacks, tea party leaders and some conservative members of the Oklahoma Legislature say they would like to create a new volunteer militia to help defend against what they believe are improper federal infringements on state sovereignty.

That's not a volunteer force for helping out with natural disasters. I don't see any way to read it like that.
posted by EarBucket at 8:28 AM on April 21, 2010 [1 favorite]


mccarty.tim Perhaps not the Tea Party specifically, but let's not fool ourselves. The sort of violent, eliminationist, rhetoric that characterized the build up to McVeigh's terrorism is happening again today. Worse, perhaps.

Back in 1995 the eliminationist, crazy, rhetoric was mainly limited to fringe types. Mainly militia members but also right wing hate radio. There wasn't a news network devoted to spreading it, there weren't any elected officials endorsing it.

Today the sort of eliminationist, violent, rhetoric that lead up to McVeigh's action is not only commonplace among the hate radio crowd, but increasingly commonplace among elected officials. The Tea Party is, of course, not the only source of such rhetoric but they are participants.

I don't think its wrong to be concerned with the violent, eliminationist, rhetoric employed by the modern right, nor do I think its wrong to point out that in the past that sort of rhetoric has resulted in terrorist acts.

Not merely McVeigh. The Tulsa "race riot" in 1921, scare quotes because it was a carefully planned military campaign that resulted in hundreds of deaths not a riot in any conventional sense of the word, was presaged by exactly the same sort of rhetoric we see coming from the right wing today. Same with the Tacoma "riot" of 1885, again not truly a riot but rather a planned and well executed extermination campaign. The targets were different, blacks in Tulsa, Chinese in Tacoma, and liberals today, but the result has historically always been the same: violence.

Not all instances of dangerous rhetoric from the right have produced violence, of course, but it happens frequently enough that I think we're quite right to be more than somewhat nervous.

And, of course, the violence has already begun. Scott Roeder. Jim David Adkisson. Joseph Stack. All of them have killed, in the name of right wing eliminationism, and for the most part they not only haven't been repudiated by the right, but rather lionized.

I'm worried that even a McVeigh style mass killing won't deter them this time around.
posted by sotonohito at 9:33 AM on April 21, 2010 [1 favorite]


seconding dhartung: The feds began to back away from the John Doe #2 story as early as June 1995; describing it as a mis-identification. I no longer have my files on the case, but a quick search of indexes turns up a Washington Post article on 6/15/95 "FBI Finds `John Doe 2,' Drops Him as Suspect; Question of a Truck Rental Associate Remains"

The controversy continued because three witnesses were involved and none of their identifications matched the others perfectly. Both McVeigh and Nichols defense used the confusion to attempt to create reasonable doubt about the prosecutions cases against their clients.

Reporting the controversy as news, as Dave Niewert has done in his Salon story, has made many people aware of the contending explanations. But what it comes down to is there is solid and unquestionable evidence that McVeigh and Nichols committed the bombing, Fortier and his wife had some prior knowledge, and there are leads suggesting it was more complicated but nobody has been able to develop those leads into anything more than interesting speculation.

It is a fact that McVeigh repeatedly insisted that there was no larger conspiracy and that he had sole control over the placement and timing of the bomb. His attorney, Stephen Jones, repeatedly contradicted these statements because it vastly complicated McVeigh's defense. At the same time, Jones was never able to produce any proof, only sow doubts.

The FBI had problems with their investigation, including identifying the explosive used. A leak from the defense through Playboy magazine identified the explosive as ammonium nitrate and nitromethane shortly before the trial. The FBI was able to trace the seller, but was not able to get a positive ID of McVeigh. So right up to the beginning of the trial, they were insisting it was fuel oil used as a sensitizer and that was repeated in most of the news reports.

This is a key problem in analyzing any case: the prosecution's investigation may be flawed, the new reporting only reflects what people were saying, the trial may not thoroughly test the evidence presented and not all the facts may be admissible as evidence. Life is messy and things are not always clear-cut.

This uncertainty presents a very strong argument for NOT seeking the death penalty in these sort of cases. McVeigh was the best witness available and death silenced him forever. With a life sentence without parole, there is at least the possibility that he might have decided at some future time to tell the whole story. With him dead, there's no way to know.

One thing that this suggests is that if the story of more people being present at the lake when McVeigh and Nichols made the bomb is true, then as time goes by, Nichols will have some incentive to settle the outstanding question. Based on his early statements to investigators, it's my feeling that if there were others involved in making the bomb, he would have volunteered that information.

All of us who were involved in reporting and responding to the militia situation prior to the OKC bombing keep turning this stuff over in our heads. There is no definitive account and there are loose ends. All I can say is that I've taken a long hard look at the evidence and this is how I think it went down.

As sotonohito says, the current situation is very worrying. The last time around, there never was a point at which things got resolved. Instead, the crazies went from New World Order to Y2K and basically shut themselves up. Then 9/11 came along before they could get their game going again. Now it's about as crazy as it was back in 1994. The OKC bombing in 1995 increased the public awareness of the problem, but the violent incidents continued for another 4 or 5 years.
posted by warbaby at 1:14 PM on April 21, 2010 [1 favorite]


That's not a volunteer force for helping out with natural disasters. I don't see any way to read it like that. -earbucket

No...but it is a volunteer military force which COULD be deployed against the Federal government should extremists take control of the state government. The same is true for pretty much most of the states on the Wikipedia list that I posted. I'd also assume that were Oklahoma to create a militia, it would at least superficially appear to be identical in cause and nature as those listed. I don't think the legislature of Oklahoma is going to vote for, "a volunteer force to put the gov'ment in its place. (As well funding for the requisition of tri-corner hats)."
posted by Atreides at 2:35 PM on April 21, 2010


Not merely McVeigh. The Tulsa "race riot" in 1921, scare quotes because it was a carefully planned military campaign

Saying it was carefully planned is blatantly incorrect. For one thing, there wasn't a military, more just a rag-tag group of whites who improvised their way through the next 16 hours. And it was a riot, a mindless, senseless round of anti-black sentiment that destroyed Greenwood and eliminated African-American self-reliance in Tulsa.

And one thing people don't realize is while it was an overwhelming force of highly armed middle class whites rolling into the North side, the African-American population was not unarmed and not helpless. They tried to fight to save what they had, but they were outgunned and outnumbered.

I grew up in Tulsa and live up the road from Tacoma, and I can tell you the Chinese expulsion was much different. The expulsion was planned. The race riot in Tulsa was a boiling over of resentment by racist whites. Had Dick Rowland taken the stairs, the riot would have just happened later.

I was in the first generation to actually learn about the riot in school. My younger brothers learned it in greater detail, but it took over 60 years before my generation opened their Oklahoma history textbooks to see pictures of Greenwood burning. Before then, the riot was seen as a source of shame and embarrassment among whites and blacks. It never should have happened, but it was going to happen, and in a town that so leans on libertarian sentiment and Jesus, it was something that didn't fit the narrative, and it always let to much foot-shuffling among the elders of the community.
posted by dw at 4:36 PM on April 21, 2010 [1 favorite]


As for Oklahoma City, I knew someone in the Murrah building that day, an interpreter in the Social Security office. Met her at a state student council workshop. Nice girl. Given the position of the office in relation to the Ryder truck, she likely died instantly.

Every time I think of the anti-government sentiment that boils up from the right and the left depending on who's in power at that given time, I think of her. She died at 23, my age at the time, just another chair at the memorial. A human I knew dehumanized in an instant.

And it's one reason I yelled at all those who wanted to frame the last administration as some sort of evil animals. They weren't. They went home to their kids, just like the rest of us do. Their decisions were dead wrong and nearly brought this country to the brink of extinction, and they should be held accountable for their actions, but they are, like us, humans, fallible humans.

So it cheered me to hear Julie's father had turned into a anti-death penalty activist. Maybe the better angels of our nature will, like the hope in Pandora's Box, remain even as the anger and vitriol continue to be freely traded in this country like a bad drug that gives everyone smug self-satisfaction over their position in life but leaves a bad aftertaste and a horrible hangover on the comedown.
posted by dw at 4:52 PM on April 21, 2010 [3 favorites]


dw, I meant "military" in the sense that it was a deliberate attack on the black neighborhood rather than a semi-random act of violence as the word "riot" implies, not in the sense that the official military was involved. IIRC the "rioters" attempted to break into the National Guard armory to obtain weapons and failed to do so.

However I do stand by my statement that it was planned. Perhaps not in the sense of maps and whatnot, but the movers behind the "riots" intended to wipe out the black population of Tulsa for some time and were merely waiting for any convenient excuse to whip up a racial frenzy. Records of speeches, articles in the newspaper and letters to the editor, etc are filled, for months before the actual event, with violent, eliminationist, rhetoric urging people to the violence that eventually happened. That looks planned to me.
posted by sotonohito at 8:25 AM on April 22, 2010


The full Report of the Oklahoma Commission to study the Tulsa Race Riot of 1921 is online now. Scott Ellsworth's paper is extremely thorough.

Nine months before the Tulsa riots, a mob broke into prison, hauled out (white) accused murderer Roy Belton, and hung him from a street sign. The Tulsa World:

"There was not a vestige of the mob spirit in the act of Saturday night. It was citizenship, outraged by government inefficiency and a too tender regard for the professional criminal."

There may have been (read: obviously was) anti-black sentiment on the ground; but what media outlets and politicians said out loud in the months leading up to the riot was all about patriotism and taking the necessary steps to fight the corrupt, bleeding-heart government. It's comforting to see how far we've come, yeah?
posted by ormondsacker at 10:25 AM on April 22, 2010




American Family Association: Dumbasses, or dumbestasses?

More like the American Taliban Association, to be honest.
posted by five fresh fish at 5:49 PM on April 23, 2010


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