Conspiracies, conspiracies everywhere

The topic of the day yesterday was Timothy McVeigh. I’d forgotten that yesterday was his day–I saw the lead story on The Kansas City Star announcing McVeigh was dead yesterday morning when I went to read up on the day’s events.
McVeigh raises a lot of uncomfortable questions. So let’s go back to a year after the Oklahoma City bombing, because that was when I got my wakeup call.

I was a crime reporter for the Columbia Missourian, a flaming liberal little daily newspaper in, frankly, what would be a worthless little town if it weren’t for the University of Missouri being there. But Columbia is situated in the middle of nowhere; aside from Columbia and Jefferson City, Central Missouri has no good-sized towns, and those two “cities” are cities only by Missouri standards. St. Louis has suburbs bigger than either of them. Central Missouri is backward, or rural, or backward and rural, depending on where you go.

Well, a guy by the name of Don Albright drove to Columbia one night and got drunk. He was pulled over, ticketed, and charged with driving while intoxicated. Albright maintained it was his constitutional right to drive drunk. Actually, he said his constitutional right to travel was being violated. “A driver is for hire,” Albright told me. “A traveler is a private citizen.”

I had a very long conversation with Albright. Albright was one of the biggest conspiracy theorists I’d ever talked to. He believed the United States was still technically a collection of British colonies; that there are actually two United States of Americas; that the Civil War, World Wars I and II, the Great Depression, and the Kennedy Assassination were all directly linked and part of the same conspiracy, and other bizarre beliefs. Another belief he shared with me was the New World Order, a belief Timothy McVeigh shared.

He was also militant. He took out liens on judges and prosecuting attorneys. And, on the first anniversary of the Oklahoma City bombing, Albright, along with others, threatened to attack government buildings as well as press organizations that didn’t “tell what was really going on.”

By this time, I was on Albright’s black list. One of his friends anonymously called me one day and told me to watch my back, so I took the threats seriously. I consciously avoided the newsroom, courthouse, post office, and police station that day. Fortunately, nothing eventful happened.

I suspect Albright’s motivation was primarily racial. During that single conversation, he brought up plenty of racial overtones. When we investigated him further, what we discovered was a person who didn’t want to accept any responsibility for his own past.

Albright had numerous supporters in and around Columbia. I spoke with a number of them outside the Boone County courthouse on the day of one of Albright’s scheduled court appearances. The only one who would give me his name was a guy by the name of Hobbes (I think his first name was Ken). An older woman, who would only go by “Mrs. Hobbes,” (I assume she was his mother), talked to me a little bit less. They were certainly fundamentalist Christians. They gave me pamphlets, a Constitutional Driver’s License (whereby I could grant myself the right to travel the nation’s roads freely), a copy of the Constitution, information on how I could secede from the United States and become a sovereign citizen, and other materials. But they sang exactly the same song Albright did, though Albright appeared to be racially motivated.

In 1992, while a senior in high school, I met a conspiracy theorist of another feather. He was a fervent believer in the writings of George Adamski, a UFO author who claimed he had been visited by beings from a yet-undiscovered planet in the solar system. Adamski, as I recall, had been widely discredited in the 1960s. But this guy’s beliefs (I don’t recall his name anymore, unfortunately) fit these others like a hand in a glove. He, too, spoke of the New World Order, the Trilateral Commission, and other oddities.

So… There are plenty of kooks like McVeigh out there. Some of them, like the last one I mentioned, are quirky but harmless. Albright, I believe, could be extremely dangerous. And, interestingly enough, although each type begins with a different premise at heart, they all come to nearly identical conclusions.

The common thread is that none of them trust the government and none of them fully understand the world around them. That’s fine. I don’t trust the government and I certainly don’t understand everything about the world around me. You can do one of two things when that happens. You can just accept that you don’t know everything and you never will know everything, and just try to understand the things that interest you or the things that affect you as best as you possibly can.

Or you can explain it all away as a giant conspiracy. Of course you can’t be the one that’s messed up. The rest of the world around you is messed up. And they’re doing it on purpose!

Time for a reality check.

Hard Fact Number One: Members of the hard left are every bit as disillusioned as members of the hard right. Most of my college professors despised Bill Clinton every bit as much as I did. They were liberal. We’ve got people on the hard left who can’t get what they want. We’ve got people on the hard right who can’t get what they want. [observation]Isn’t that called compromise?[/observation]

Hard Fact Number Two: It’s difficult to get people to cooperate with one another. It’s even more difficult to get organizations to cooperate with one another. If you spend any length of time within an organization of any considerable size, you begin to wonder how it keeps from unraveling just because of internal politics. And these are people who share the same interests! Want an example of how conspiracies are so difficult? Fine. Here’s one: Oracle and Sun and the United States Government against Microsoft. Remember how they bungled that one? And why? None of the parties could figure out what exactly they wanted on their own, let alone what they wanted collectively.

Conspiracies can happen. But they’re rare and generally short-lived.

McVeigh killed 168 people. Or, at the very least, McVeigh participated in the killing of 168 people. We don’t know if he and Terry Nichols acted alone. Probably not–there was a John Doe No. 2 who was never found. But McVeigh did kill innocent people, and he did it willfully and he expressed no remorse.

Yes, the United States Government is partially responsible for that. The Clinton administration did a lot of detestable things. Part of that was because Bill Clinton is and was a hopeless idealist, and he surrounded himself with the same types of people. They didn’t know how to handle people who didn’t share their worldview. And most of them probably didn’t forsee the possibility of a McVeigh-like backlash to Waco and Ruby Ridge. Holding the government accountable for those actions is necessary. Not handing the presidency to Al Gore is a good start, but that’s only a start. And the country was bitterly divided over that.

If you want to take that argument to its logical conclusion, who was it that put that administration in office? Hint: If you live in the United States, scroll up to the top of this page, get a good look at my picture, then go look in the mirror. You and I did that. But you didn’t vote for him, you say? Neither did I. Fifty-seven percent of us didn’t. The problem was, the 57% of us who wanted someone else couldn’t agree on the someone else to put in office, and we paid the price. But the fact is, most of us don’t care. So, since we put this government in place, aren’t we also responsible for its actions, especially when we refuse to fundamentally change it?

But blaming the United States Government for Timothy McVeigh’s actions is childish. When I was in fifth grade, another kid named Benji used to act up and then blame his poor behavior on the outcome of the 1985 World Series. There is no difference. Benji wasn’t mature enough to deal with his disappointment about the baseball season in a socially responsible manner. Timothy McVeigh wasn’t mature enough to deal with his disappointment with the government’s behavior in a socially responsible manner. The St. Louis Cardinals didn’t make Benji misbehave, and the U.S. Government didn’t make McVeigh blow up that building. The victims of McVeigh’s atrocity deserve better than that kind of logic.

Yes, the government is partially responsible because McVeigh’s actions are the consequence of some of its own actions. And the government’s job is to clean up its own mess. I’m not convinced it’s totally done that. But McVeigh was guilty, and he even admitted his guilt. The U.S. Government did what its laws call for it to do. So it actually owned up for once.

Don’t get used to it. Except for it only partially cleaning up, that is.

And, like it or not, McVeigh is now a martyr in some circles. Actually he’s been a martyr since the day of his arrest. But there’s a grain of truth in McVeigh’s beliefs. Our government is out of control, it’s irresponsible, and it’s not accountable to anyone.

But that’s our fault. Our government is supposed to be accountable to us, and as long as our Congressmen send plenty of pork back home, we keep them in office. And we vote for our presidents whimsically. The government knows that as long as they give us bread and circuses, we don’t care about much else.

And if we want to keep this kind of crap from ever happening again, we’re going to have to start giving a crap about more than just food and entertainment.

I’m not holding my breath.

12 thoughts on “Conspiracies, conspiracies everywhere

  • June 12, 2001 at 9:45 am
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    eloquent

  • June 12, 2001 at 10:53 am
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    Bravo!

    "Our government is out of control, it’s irresponsible, and it’s not accountable to anyone."

    You are correct, it is us that must change it.

    Have you seen or read "The Deliberate Dumbing Down of America – A Chronological Paper Trail" by Charlotte Thompson Iserbyt? (http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0966707109)

    This is an incredible book that my wife and I are reading, we are only at the beginning but it will blow your mind with the carefully documented paper trail of lies and deceit revealed by Charlotte. It can make one inclined to believe there are some with long term goals we do not like… goals that are not in the interest of anyone who would care to be able to pursue life, liberty and happiness.

    You may want to read the reviews on Amazon. I’d be interested in your thoughts on the matter.

    -Bruce
    http://www.BruceEdwards.com

  • June 12, 2001 at 11:33 am
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    The implications of a communist plot and use of the phrase "New World Order" in the customer reviews of "Dumbing Down" make me really nervous.

    That, plus the small publisher, that Amazon doesn’t keep it in their warehouse… It has a lot of the conspiracy theory red flags.

    What’s wrong with the idea that the education system is screwed up simply because the people in charge of it are misguided or incompetent? That I find much more likely than socialist infiltration. Yes, educators tend to be liberal, but outright pinko commies? I have problems with that.

  • June 12, 2001 at 4:17 pm
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    With all the tragedy and pain that the Oklahoma city bombing has caused, rather than trying to blame McVeigh, the government, or ourselves, we should be on our knees, with our hearts wide-open, asking God to guide this country through this difficult time, so that this kind of tragedy doesn’t ever happen here again.

  • June 12, 2001 at 4:19 pm
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    With all the tragedy and pain that the Oklahoma city bombing has caused, rather than trying to blame McVeigh, the government, or ourselves, we should be on our knees, with our hearts wide-open, asking God to guide this country through this difficult time, so that this kind of tragedy doesn’t ever happen here again.

  • June 12, 2001 at 4:27 pm
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    Kneeling down and praying to anyone isn’t going to change a thing. We as people and a group need to stand up and demand our govenment clean it’s act up. But that has to begin with ourselves.

  • June 12, 2001 at 5:49 pm
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    Ok, so you have addressed the fact that McVeigh is guilty of a crime. There is little anyone can do to disagree with that. But, you haven’t addressed the question at all about whether We The People have the right to kill someone.

    Did the death of Timothy McVeigh yesterday really change anything today?

  • June 12, 2001 at 6:07 pm
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    I avoided the question of whether killing McVeigh accomplished anything good because I don’t know. We made him a martyr. That’s not good. Did we send any message? We sent the message that if you kill 168 people, there’ll be an investigation, you’ll be put on trial, and within six or seven years, if you’re found guilty, you’ll die a reasonably comfortable death.

    Whether that message changes anything is an intangible.

  • June 12, 2001 at 8:34 pm
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    I’ve been seeing that a lot in the European news, wether or not killing him is really going to change much. It might not change anything, but I don’t think capital punishment is a good thing in this case. Yeah, it may not detere anyone else down the road, but then life sentences in jail don’t either. Last time I checked people were still murdered around the world.

    I’d agree with Dave, I’d rather know what made him tick. What made him think that just because his government was corupt, did he have the right to do what he did? That’s what I’d like to know. What drastically changed him into such a disgrunteled person that he thought this would help his cause?

  • June 12, 2001 at 8:35 pm
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    Argh! I meant to say I thought it was a good thing in this case. damn my misspelling!

  • June 12, 2001 at 8:50 pm
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    Argh! I meant to say I thought it was a good thing in this case. damn my misspelling!

  • June 13, 2001 at 9:11 am
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    Dave:

    Your points regarding the book I mentioned, especially based on the reviews on Amazon, are reasonable.

    Once I read the entire book, I’ll let you know if I tend to agree with you or the author of the book.

    What appears incontestable are the actual memos and other materials used in the book to support the author’s points. If she fabricated those (and thus slandered a lot of people, some well known), I would think that she would have been prosecuted…

    Anyway, I’ll let you know more after I finish the book.

    -Bruce
    http://www.BruceEdwards.com

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