American Extremists: Militias, Supremacists, Klansmen, Communists & Others

By John George; Laird Wilcox | Go to book overview

18 The Militias

The blast that destroyed the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City on April 19, 1995, was felt by John George thirteen miles to the north in Edmond.When the dust cleared it became apparent that the worst instance of domestic terrorism in the history of the United States had just occurred. The final tally of dead was 168 with hundreds more wounded, many seriously.

Initial speculation concerning the perpetrators focused on Arabs inasmuch as the bombing was quite similar in both scale and type of explosive to the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center in New York City, which was committed by a radical Muslim sect. According to Newsweek:

The low point came on Thursday (April 20th) when CNN reported that two suspects had been arrested in Dallas and one in Oklahoma City.The network actually named the Arabs who had been detained even though there was no confirmation of any connection to the case. 1

Within twenty-four hours, however, a new suspect emerged: the small right-wing civilian "militia" movement. Militias were obsessed with guns and their right to own them, they possessed army manuals on weapons and explosives, and they were "right-wing," which meant that they were bad guys.

Intuitively, the militias seemed to fill the bill. Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols, two former soldiers, had been apprehended and were the main suspects in the bombing. It was rumored they had "links" and "ties" to the shadowy antigovernment militia movement. The militias had the apparent means, an apparent motive, and some members whose demeanor and statements were very suspicious. Over the next several weeks the public became witness to an incautious and generally misdirected feeding frenzy.

The spate of disinformation went unabated. Every group even vaguely identified with militias and every individual that could be "linked" with them were investigated and subjected to the harsh glare of adversarial publicity. Writing in the liberal Progressive magazine, June Jordan said:

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