Some Terrorism Scares Are More Useful Than Other Terrorism Scares
Particularly at those increasingly frequent times when our country experiences political violence and terrorism, it’s important to read David Neiwert, not least because his running list of domestic terror attacks demonstrates clearly that these are not isolated incidences.
— July 2008: A gunman named Jim David Adkisson, agitated at how “liberals” are “destroying America,” walks into a Unitarian Church and opens fire, killing two churchgoers and wounding four others.
— October 2008: Two neo-Nazis are arrested in Tennessee in a plot to murder dozens of African-Americans, culminating in the assassination of President Obama.
— December 2008: A pair of “Patriot” movement radicals — the father-son team of Bruce and Joshua Turnidge, who wanted “to attack the political infrastructure” — threaten a bank in Woodburn, Oregon, with a bomb in the hopes of extorting money that would end their financial difficulties, for which they blamed the government. Instead, the bomb goes off and kills two police officers. The men eventually are convicted and sentenced to death for the crime.
— December 2008: In Belfast, Maine, police discover the makings of a nuclear “dirty bomb” in the basement of a white supremacist shot dead by his wife. The man, who was independently wealthy, reportedly was agitated about the election of President Obama and was crafting a plan to set off the bomb.
— January 2009: A white supremacist named Keith Luke embarks on a killing rampage in Brockton, Mass., raping and wounding a black woman and killing her sister, then killing a homeless man before being captured by police as he is en route to a Jewish community center.
— February 2009: A Marine named Kody Brittingham is arrested and charged with plotting to assassinate President Obama. Brittingham also collected white-supremacist material.
— April 2009: A white supremacist named Richard Poplawski opens fire on three Pittsburgh police officers who come to his house on a domestic-violence call and kills all three, because he believed President Obama intended to take away the guns of white citizens like himself. Poplawski is currently awaiting trial.
— April 2009: Another gunman in Okaloosa County, Florida, similarly fearful of Obama’s purported gun-grabbing plans, kills two deputies when they come to arrest him in a domestic-violence matter, then is killed himself in a shootout with police.
— May 2009: A “sovereign citizen” named Scott Roeder walks into a church in Wichita, Kansas, and assassinates abortion provider Dr. George Tiller.
— June 2009: A Holocaust denier and right-wing tax protester named James Von Brunn opens fire at the Holocaust Museum, killing a security guard.
— February 2010: An angry tax protester named Joseph Ray Stack flies an airplane into the building housing IRS offices in Austin, Texas. (Media are reluctant to label this one “domestic terrorism” too.)
— March 2010: An anti-government extremist named John Patrick Bedell walks into the Pentagon and opens fire, wounding two officers before he is himself shot dead.
— May 2010: A “sovereign citizen” from Georgia is arrested in Tennessee and charged with plotting the violent takeover of a local county courthouse.
— May 2010: A still-unidentified white man walks into a Jacksonville, Fla., mosque and sets it afire, simultaneously setting off a pipe bomb.
— May 2010: Two “sovereign citizens” named Jerry and Joe Kane gun down two police officers who pull them over for a traffic violation, and then wound two more officers in a shootout in which both of them are eventually killed.
— July 2010: An agitated right-winger and convict named Byron Williams loads up on weapons and drives to the Bay Area intent on attacking the offices of the Tides Foundation and the ACLU, but is intercepted by state patrolmen and engages them in a shootout and armed standoff in which two officers and Williams are wounded.
— September 2010: A Concord, N.C., man is arrested and charged with plotting to blow up a North Carolina abortion clinic. The man, 26-year–old Justin Carl Moose, referred to himself as the “Christian counterpart to (Osama) bin Laden” in a taped undercover meeting with a federal informant.
Yesterday, he linked to an important Will Bunch piece, wondering whether the agenda setters in this country haven’t reported on the Spokane bomb attempt because of the right wing backlash to the coverage of the Gabrielle Giffords assassination attempt.
In other words, [the Spokane bomb attempt is] what Joe Biden might call a BFD. But you wouldn’t know that if, for example, you visited the two websites that — in my own 30 years of experience as a journalist, for better or worse — do more than any other to set the agenda on national coverage in newsrooms across the country.
One of those (note I said “for better or worse”) is The Drudge Report, which ultimate Beltway insider Mark Halperin has said “rules our world.” In the 16 or so hours since the FBI went public with the “domestic terrorism” angle, Matt Drudge has spotlighted articles about things like a man arrested for taking photos at Miami airport, a blogger who may lose his firearms permit for a post related to the Tucson massacre, and laser incidents against airplanes — but nothing about the thwarted Spokane bombing.
OK, so that’s Matt Drudge — but the silence of the leading mainstream news website — that of the New York Times — is a little harder to explain. I’ve checked their home page at least a half-dozen times since last night, and I have yet to see a featured story on the FBI investigating “domestic terrorism” in Washington State. The lack of Times coverage may explain while for the most part, the coverage of this story on cable TV — the people who routinely hyped run of the mill car chases and blown-tire airplane landings — has been very minimal. I say for the most part because there have been a couple of exceptions. “The Rachel Maddow Show” on MSNBC featured the Spokane story as major breaking news at the top of its broadcast last night, and for a time it was the lead story on the Huffington Post. Major news outlets — but with a liberal orientation.
Which is why I can’t help but wonder if there’s a backstory here related to the past weeks coverage of the assassination attempt on Rep. Giffords, and the right-wing critique of some of that coverage.
The former GOP veep nominee was savaged for using that charged term, but you have to wonder now if the pushback from Palin [about her crosshairs ad] is actually a case of “mission accomplished.”
That’s because with this new episode in Spokane, not only have the pillars of the mainstream media not raced to any conclusions, but they seem to be in a competition as to who can most ignore the story altogether.
As important as Bunch’s point is–that there’s an eerie silence surrounding this terrorist attempt–given Neiwert’s list of under-reported domestic terror events going back several years, I actually don’t think the non-coverage of the Spokane incident is a response to the Giffords assassination attempt and the ensuing media frenzy. Rather, it’s a reversion to the status quo, less than two weeks after that assassination attempt.
Because the press almost never covers these domestic terrorism incidents. And, just as importantly, our government doesn’t often (the biggest exception was the Hutaree bust) hold big press conferences to report on such events, partly is because most press conferences are about arrests, not unsolved crimes. Moreover, in spite of Neiwert’s and Bunch’s work, there is not one bogeyman, like al Qaeda, which the press can blame.
And without an easy and convenient bogeyman, terrorism scares don’t serve the same purpose for the press, or the government.