Soon after Timothy McVeigh bombed the Alfred P. Murrah federal building in Oklahoma City in April of 1995, some on the left of the political spectrum blamed “anti-government rhetoric” for the assault. Supposedly “hateful” speech directed at politicians had incited a cadre of “right-wing” extremists to put words into explosive action. Is any of this true? Did angry white males give up on the democratic process and resort to incendiary devices to vent their anger against an ever increasing power-hungry government? The facts do not support the shaky premises. For one thing, the conservative agenda has always been to affect political change through the democratic process, not through revolution. For example, in the 1994 mid-term election angry Americans took out their frustrations at the ballot box. The Left is once again trying to link political action to violence. The true history of violent political action is ignored by Liberals. Let me rehearse some of it for you.
On the cover of Revolution for the Hell of It, Abbie Hoffman,1 the late Yippie spokesman of the 1960s, is pictured with a rifle in his hand leaping for joy. Hoffman’s rhetoric about revolution was just a warm-up. In Steal This Book he gave instructions on how to build stink bombs, smoke bombs, sterno bombs, aerosol bombs, pipe bombs, and Molotov Cocktails. Hoffman’s updated version of the Molotov Cocktail consisted of a glass bottle filled with a mixture of gasoline and styrofoam, turning the slushy blend into a poor man’s version of napalm. The flaming gasoline-soaked styrofoam was designed to stick to policemen when it exploded.2 Helpful drawings on how to make the incendiary devices are included.
In Woodstock Nation, Hoffman updated his revolutionary tactics. This time, Random House is the publisher. Next to Random House’s name on the title page, there is an illustration of a man using dynamite to blow up a house. This same illustration appears in Hoffman’s Steal This Book. The theme of both books is how to blow up the system, literally. Hoffman informs us that “the best material available on military tactics in revolutionary warfare” is available through “the U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, D.C.”
Another publication that’s probably the most valuable work of its kind available is called Physical Security and has more relevant information than Che Guevara’s Guerilla Warfare. The chapter on Sabotage is extremely precise and accurate with detailed instructions on the making of all sorts of homemade bombs and triggering mechanisms. That information, combined with Army Installations in the Continental United States and a lot of guts, can really get something going?3
Of course, Hoffman never advocates blowing up anything or anyone. “I ain’t saying you should use any of this information, in fact for the records of the FBI, I say right now ‘Don’t blow up your local draft board or other such holy places.’ You wouldn’t want to get the Government Printing Office indicted for conspiracy, would you now?”4 He’s just making the information available. You know, freedom of expression and all of that. Then he reproduces pages from the Department of the Army Field Manual dealing with “Disguised Incendiary Devices,” “Mechanical Delay Devices,” and pipe bombs.5
Liberals have short and selective memories. “Righteous violence” was rationalized by the front-line New Left leadership in the 1960s in the same way that it is rationalized by those who want us to “understand the plight of Islamic extremists.”
The use of violence was justified, many in the New Left comforted themselves, because theirs was a violence to end all violence, a liberating and righteous violence that would rid the world of a system that deformed and destroyed people. Such glorious ends justified, even ennobled, violent means.6
Organizations like Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) and the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) used violent rhetoric almost from their inception in the early 1960s. John Lewis, the very liberal Democrat representative from Georgia, boasted when he addressed the March on Washington in August 1963, “We will march through the South, . . . the way Sherman did. We shall pursue our own ‘scorched earth’ policy and burn Jim Crow to the ground—nonviolently. We shall crack the South into a thousand pieces and put them back together in the image of democracy.”7
If this isn’t enough, there is a bizarre link between the Weathermen, the SDS, and Charles Manson. Bernardine Dohrn was a founding member of the radical Weatherman group who made the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted list, told an SDS convention just before she went underground: “Offing those rich pigs with their own forks and knives, and then eating a meal in the same room, far out! The Weathermen dig Charles Manson.”8 For a time Manson was the darling of anti-war protester Jerry Rubin. Rubin wrote of Manson in We Are Everywhere: “His words and courage inspired us. . . . Manson’s soul is easy to touch because it lays quite bare on the surface.”9 Rubin later admitted that he was angered by Manson’s “incredible male chauvinism.” High praises for ritualistic, political murder but indignation for male chauvinism. Typical. A reporter for the Los Angeles Free Press expressed similar sentiments when he found out that Manson was “both anti-Jewish and anti-black.”10 If you didn’t know, Dohrn is married to Bill Ayers, another former radical who supports Leftist causes.
Why did some on the radical left see Manson as a hero? Perhaps because Manson articulated the same rhetoric of violence that spewed forth from the SDS and Weathermen and actually put it into action as way to bring down “the system.” Manson believed that the Tate-LaBianca murders he orchestrated would start a race war.
That Manson foresaw a war between the blacks and the whites was not fantastic. Many people believe that such a war may someday occur. What was fantastic was that he was convinced he could personally start that war himself—that by making it look as if blacks had murdered the seven Caucasian victims he could turn the white community against the black community.11
Manson had simply acted upon the radical revolutionary tactics that Tom Hayden, Huey Newton, and Bernardine Dohrn had been suggesting for quite some time.
Timothy McVeigh is viewed as the poster boy for the right wing. Nothing could be farther from the truth. His tactics were developed from the playbook of the Left. Two years before he blew up the Morrow building, McVeigh wrote a letter to the Union-Sun & Journal (Lockport, New York): “We have no proverbial tea to dump; should we instead sink a ship full of Japanese imports? Is a civil war imminent? Do we have to shed blood to reform the current system? I hope it doesn’t come to that, but it might.”
McVeigh never would have joined a Tea party event. He was too busy following the tactics of the political Left.
- Hoffman was found dead in his apartment in April 1989. (“A Flower in a Clenched Fist,” Time [April 24, 1989], 23).(↩)
- Abbie Hoffman, Steal This Book (New York: Pirate Editions, 1971), 170–79.(↩)
- Abbie Hoffman, Woodstock Nation: A Talk-Rock Album (New York: Random House, 1969), 114.(↩)
- Hoffman, Woodstock Nation, 114.(↩)
- Hoffman, Woodstock Nation, 115–116.(↩)
- Richard J. Ellis, The Dark Side of the Left: Illiberal Egalitarianism in America (Lawrence, KS: University Press of Kansas, 1997), 137.(↩)
- John Lewis, “A Serious Revolution,” in Massimo Teodori, ed., The New Left: A Documentary History (Indianapolis, IN: Bobbs-Merrill, 1969), 102.(↩)
- Vincent Bugliosi, with Curt Gentry, Helter Skelter: The True Story of the Manson Murders (New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 1974), 222. Rothman and Lichter tell it a little differently in Roots of Radicalism: “Dig it: First they killed those pigs, then they ate dinner in the same room with them, then they even shoved a fork into the victim’s stomach. Wild!” (42).(↩)
- Jerry Rubin, We Are Everywhere (New York: Harper & Row, 1971). Quoted in Bugliosi and Gentry, Helter Skelter, 221–222.(↩)
- Bugliosi and Gentry, Helter Skelter, 222.(↩)
- Bugliosi and Gentry, Helter Skelter, 222. Manson and his “family” killed thirty-five to forty people (489).(↩)