Magazine article Insight on the News
Who's to Blame for Bombing in Atlanta?
One of the great things about living in late 20th-century America is that no one is responsible for their actions. If a guy wants to go out and deal drugs, for example, well, obviously society has done him wrong by not providing a comparably lucrative and more legitimate way of making a living. "If only that minimum wage were higher," the theory goes, the poor guy wouldn't be forced to try to make an easy 100 grand dealing crack.
And if an environmental Luddite freak like Ted Kaczynski sends bombs through the mail, well, obviously it's society's fault for becoming too complex. "The poor guy was just trying to help us see the error of our ways," we're told. It has gotten so bad that when a nutcase bombs a federal building, the network talking heads actually can lay the blame at the feet of the House speaker.
Indeed, when news first broke of the bombing in Centennial Olympic Park in Atlanta, it looked like Newt Gingrich was being set up to take the fall again. Early reports from some guy named "Unnamed Sources" held the FBI was hot on the trail of evil militia types, raisin" the specter that, once again, antigovernment (read: Republican) extremists had shattered the aura of peace, harmony and brotherhood that has characterized the nation since the election of Bill Clinton.
Now, I've never met Mr. Sources personally, but I know two things about him just as sure as I know that Clinton's new moderate image won't last through the month of November. First, the guy obviously is a liberal. He seems to know everything that's going on; but how often have you seen him quoted in a story on Whitewater? Second, and perhaps risking a redundancy of the first point, the guy almost always is wrong. Remember that whole "October Surprise" story about George Bush back in '92? That was one of Mr. Sources' tips. And we all know how wrong that story was.
So we shouldn't be surprised if it turns out that Mr. Sources was wrong again in pointing the media toward the militias in the Atlanta bombing. The FBI suspected one Richard Jewell, a former deputy sheriff and security guard at the Atlanta Olympics. Leaks from the FBI to the press have prompted a media siege around Jewell's apartment for two weeks -- with nary a criminal charge against him. On Aug. 8, CBS news reported that the FBI had no evidence pointing to Jewell and was putting together an unprecedented public apology. An FBI spokesman denied the report. …