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Figure 1. A before photo of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal building. The bombing involved a rental truck directly in front of the building by the overhang.

On April 19, 1995 the face of domestic terrorism changed in the United States. Timothy McVeigh, along with his sole accomplice Terry Nichols, bombed the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, killing 168 people and causing an estimate of $652 million worth of damage. [1]

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Figure 2. An after photo of the building after the bombing. Most of the destructive damage was due in part to the proximity of the blast to the overhang.

McVeigh’s motivation for this brazen attack was his hatred of the federal government and belief that American liberties were under attack. This hatred began to spark when he read the incendiary novel The Turner Diaries, which details an uprising against the federal government that then leads to a race war. The catalysts for the attack, however, were two widely publicized siege/shootouts between the United States government and its citizens, the Ruby Ridge standoff and the Waco Siege.  Involved in both of these incidents was the ATF, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, a federal law enforcement agency tasked with, among other things, investigating and preventing federal offenses that involve the use, manufacture or possession of firearms and explosives. Both incidences involved violations of federal gun laws and the subsequent handling of both cases lead to many hearings on the standing of the ATF as a federal organization. These three factors together made a volatile cocktail inside of McVeigh and lead him to carry out his attack. As such, it is important to now the basic facts surrounding these three factors.

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Figure 3. The Turner Diaries, a widely read novel among the far right. Often found among the paraphernalia of far right criminals.

The Turner Diaries is one of the founding books of far-right extremist Americans and has been called “the New Testament of the Nazi Bible”. [2] The Anti-Defamation League has described the tone of the book to be: lurid, violent, apocalyptic, misogynistic, racist and anti-Semitic. [3] The narrative of the book is structured around the recently recovered (and also fictitious) diaries of a man named Earl Turner who was one of the leading figures in a worldwide revolution. This revolution targeted Jews, gays, and non-whites leading to their extermination and a post-apocalyptic white utopia. While hardly a literary classic, the effect of this book cannot be marginalized as it is frequently found among paraphernalia owned by far-right extremists. The book was possessed by Timothy McVeigh and also found in related crimes of The Order, a real world terrorist group based on a group from the book, and the death of James Byrd, who was killed by John William King who hoped to incite the race war described in the novel. [4]

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Figure 4. A surveillance photo of Vicki Weaver taken on the Weaver property. Vicki was later shot and killed by a sniper.

Ruby Ridge was an incident of armed confrontation between members of the Weaver family and agents of the United States Marshals Service (USMS) and Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). [5] Family patriarch Randy Weaver first appeared to federal agents based on alleged ties to Aryan Nations groups and supplying an ATF informant with illegally shortened shotguns. Through a series of miscommunications, Weaver missed a court date and was believed to be barricading himself on his property and would attack any trespassers. When agents went to investigate his land for a possible ambush spot in order to arrest him, they were discovered and in an ensuing gunfight Randy’s son Samuel, 14, and US Marshal Bill Degan were killed. As the siege continued, Vicky Weaver, Randy’s wife, was shot and killed by a government sniper, while holding her 10 month old baby Elishiba. Weaver eventually surrendered and was charged with several crimes relating to the incident. Of these charges, he was convicted and sentenced under only one, a charge for missing his original court date.

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Figure 5. The burning Branch Davidian compound. Footage of this incident was widely broadcast across the media and emphasized the failure of the FBI on this case.

The Waco Siege of the Branch Davidian Compound was an incident when a sect of the Seventh-day Adventist Church led by David Koresh was besieged at first by the ATF and then the FBI. [6] Like Ruby Ridge, the Branch Davidians were suspected of weapons violations by the federal government. A planned surprise raid by the ATF was bungled when the Branch Davidians were alerted to the coming raid. A shootout ensued with both sides claiming the other shot first and four ATF agents and six Branch Davidians were killed. The FBI took over the operation, which lead to a siege that lasted nearly two months. Despite attempts at negotiating a peaceful exodus, the FBI soon began to use increasingly drastic actions to drive the congregants out. At the end of the siege the Branch Davidians set fire to their compound resulting in the further deaths of seventy-six civilians.

The close proximity of these two controversial incidents led to a connection by conspiracy theorists as the proof they needed for the nefarious intentions of the government. In addition these also served to “radicalize” many far right activists would saw the freedoms of their fellow Americans under attack and feared that they would be next. “If Ruby Ridge had been the spark that lit the fuse, six months later events in Texas would lead McVeigh directly to Oklahoma …”. [7] For certain people this was the proof they needed in order to promote the idea that as a federal organization the ATF was intending to take firearms away from all American citizens.

It was this idea that led Timothy McVeigh to plant a bomb in Oklahoma City with the intent to strike back against the government. While this is widely accepted as the basic truth of the case, there are those who question this narrative of events and believe in an alternative set of occurrences. The core belief of the Oklahoma City bombing conspiracy is that the government either had knowledge forehand of the attack or were directly responsible for the attack itself. While individual theories diverge from this point, this seems to be the one linking factor that unites these ideas.

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Figure 6. Alex Jones one of the most vocal and far reaching conspiracy theorists in America. Jones is a heavy critic of the US government and often promotes anti-establishment ideas.

One of the biggest proponents of the theory of government involvement in the Oklahoma City bombing is the radio host, Alex Jones. Jones is a noted conspiracy theorist and uses his show, The Alex Jones Show, to promote such beliefs. Among the beliefs that Jones’ promotes are: the moon landings were faked by the government, the US government perpetrating 9/11 and the Sandy Hook massacre being a conspiracy to take away guns from citizens. [8] In addition to presenting his theories on his radio show, Jones promotes his theories and products heavily on his website, InfoWars.com. As for his beliefs on the Oklahoma City bombing, Jones believes this was another attack perpetrated by the government against American citizens. Alex Jones specifically believes that the Oklahoma City bombing was a false flag operation perpetrated in part by the ATF. The goal of this operation was to cast Republicans and right-wing activists in a negative light in order benefit from the resulting fear and enact new legislation. [9] Jones was interviewed by James Lane for the documentary A Noble Lie and in turn promoted the documentary on his website, which endorsed the idea of the Oklahoma City Bombing being perpetrated by the US government. Although the documentary is still promoted on Jones’ website, links to purchase this DVD no longer function on the website. [10] The idea of a conspiracy behind the Oklahoma City Bombing is a frequent calling card of Jones and he uses it frequently to invoke the idea of a tyrannical government. In August 2016, Jones tried to discredit presidential candidate Hillary Clinton by once again claiming that Oklahoma City was a false flag operation. [11]

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Figure 7. Jayna Davis a former broadcast journalist who covered the bombing. Later became a heavy promoter of theories surrounding the bombing in a book she wrote.

When looking further in to promoters of this conspiracy, I came across the views of Jayna Davis. Davis is a former broadcast journalist and her article iterates the point that there was a second willing accomplice to McVeigh and a supposed cover-up by the FBI. This second accomplice was of Iraqi descent and Davis believes that this points to the involvement of the Iraqi government. Davis has a website registered under her named that promotes her viewpoint and a book authored by her The Third Terrorist: The Middle East Connection to the Oklahoma City Bombing. [12] In addition to her own website, Davis also promotes her conspiracies concerning the OKC on the website American Thinker. This website published an article written by Davis that supports the idea of a John Doe #2, a second accomplice to McVeigh. Davis was a broadcast journalist at the time of the bombing and covered stories on “Middle-Eastern-looking” suspects wanted in conjunction with the bombing. The article begins with an uncited poll stating that 80% of Americans believe that additional conspirators escaped prosecution in the case. Davis describes a confession from Terry Nichols, the traditionally accepted accomplice to McVeigh, of an unnamed accomplice undiscovered by the FBI. The author treats this supposed accomplice as the true mastermind and as someone who has the power to bring harm to Terry Nichols and his family, with the former serving 161 life sentences with no parole for his role in the attack. According to Davis, the obvious real mastermind was Iraqi soldiers with the help from Saddam Hussein. [13]

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Figure 8. Lorraine Day in addition to promoting holistic medicine supports the conspiracy theories surrounding the bombing.

Lorraine Day is a medical doctor who promotes alternative medicines in addition to right wing conspiracies. On a website published by Day, she presents herself as a medical doctor who promotes alternative cancer treatments, claims the Holocaust was a lie and advocated the idea of testing surgery patients for AIDS. [14] Day has published her views on the website Good News About God in an article entitled, Tim McVeigh is Still Alive! To begin with her article interesting acts from a presumption that the readership knows of the supposed evidence that Timothy McVeigh did not detonate the Oklahoma City bomb. The author explains this reasoning as “We won’t go into the extensive evidence showing that Tim McVeigh did not blow up the building, and I’ll show who really did it.  …  The evidence is in many places on the internet, and eventually I will write about it on my website.  But it takes time to write these extensive exposes.” The article glosses over proving one of the main points to their argument and instead focuses on the “faked” execution of Timothy McVeigh. Among the facts cited to support the theory are: McVeigh choosing not to appeal his case and having his execution date moved up, prison visits from a psychiatrist, Dr. Louis Jollyon West, who she claims was in charge of the MK Ultra Mind Control program, the state not donating the executed prisoners organs, the sealing of the prisoners’ medical records for 25 years, McVeigh’s lawyers petitioning the court that an autopsy not be done, the placing of the IV tube used for the execution in McVeigh’s leg, and the claims of a witness that McVeigh has signs of life after he was ruled dead. [15]

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Figure 9. Mugshot of Timothy McVeigh. He remains the only terrorist executed by the United States.

By discussing these theories it is worth mentioning that they occasionally highlight strange facts. Jayna Davis is correct in that there was initial searching for additional suspects in addition to those already captured. However these searches were cancelled and official reports concluded the involvement of two suspects. In addition Lorraine Day is right in calling into question the practicality of executing someone in the leg. However, it is not impossible for this to work and the work of executing someone is often performed by untrained interns. The most recurring logical fallacy occurring in these theories is the Texas sharpshooter fallacy. All the theorists’ pick facts that support their viewpoint and then ignore any evidence that contradict or alter this perspective. The connection of Ruby Ridge and Waco and the fears behind these events represents the slippery slope fallacy. Individuals believed that these two incidents would be followed by the confiscation of all guns. The big question is, how could the government support, maintain and execute a program of this magnitude? This type of thinking also qualifies as false cause in that there is a presumed relation between these events. While both Ruby Ridge and Waco did in part lead to the Oklahoma City Bombing, it is the presumed relationship between Ruby Ridge and Waco as being intentional actions of a rogue government agency. Never did promoters of this idea ever try to definitively answer, how are these events connected and what is the proof? People believed that these events were along the path of a slippery slope and would lead to further problems and cause along the way. Evidently the people who promote these theories, Alex Jones in particular, profit from the ideology these theories collaborate. They create an us vs. them mentality of the public vs. the government and sell products that profit from this type of mentality. The entire theory relies on the belief that the United States government is malicious enough to bring harm against the American citizen and skilled enough to perpetrate such a crime without being caught. In addition, this theory also relies on the fact that the United States government had no clear goal in this plan and no way to benefit. All it leads to are more theories that never have a concrete standing and only rely on leaning on each other.

Looking back, the handling of Waco and Ruby Ridge could have been better and lessons can be learned. However these possible lessons are now muddled under the bombing that occurred in Oklahoma City and the aftermath. In regards to conspiracy theories, what can be learned from the Oklahoma City case is to question seemingly qualified sources; be they journalists or doctors. In addition, that people will distort facts and look for singular points to justify their own ideas and claims. While official accounts should never be taken for-granted, it is important to ideas that are harmful or created for entirely selfish purposes.

[1] n.a. “Oklahoma City Bombing.” History.com n.d. Web. 7 November 2016.

[2] Thomas, D. Paul. Nazi America: A Secret History. Online. Written by Greg DeHart. New York City: The History Channel, 2000.

[3] n.a. “Extremism in America: The Turner Diaries.” Anti-DefamationLeague.com n.d. Web. 10 December 2016.

[4] n.a. “The Turner Diaries.” Wikipedia.org n.d. Web. 10 December 2016.

[5] n.a. “Ruby Ridge.” Wikipedia.org n.d Web. 10 December 2016.

[6] n.a. “Waco Siege.” Wikipedia.org n.d Web. 10 December 2016.

[7] Blair, Jon. Zero Hour: One of America’s Own. Online. Directed by Jon Blair. London: 3BM Television, 2006.

[8] n.a. “Alex Jones (radio host).” Wikipedia.org n.d. Web. 7 November 2016.

[9] The Alex Jones Channel. “How OKC Bombing Was A False Flag To Blame Liberty Movement.” YouTube.com 19 April 2015. Web. 7 November 2016.

[10] Craig McKee “DOCUMENTARY A NOBLE LIE EXPOSES OKLAHOMA CITY BOMBING AS GOVERNMENT BLACK-OP.” TruthAndShadows.com. 27 September 2012. Web. 7 November 2016.

[11] n.a. ‘Alex Jones Responds To Clinton Speech By Doubling Down On Conspiracy Theories: “We’re Covering Real Things”.’ MediaMatters.org. 25 August 2016. Web. 7 November 2016.

[12] Davis, Jayna. “The Third Terrorist.” JaynaDavis.com. n.d. Web. 10 December 2016.

[13] Davis, Jayna. “Confession of the Oklahoma City Bomber: John Doe 2 Exists.” AmericanThinker.com. 11 April 2016. Web. 7 November 2016.

[14] Day, Lorraine. “Lorraine Day, M.D. discusses … Natural, Alternative Therapies for all Diseases, including Cancer and AIDS.” DrDay.com. n.d. Web. 10 December 2016.

[15] Day, Lorraine. “Tim McVeigh is Still Alive!.” GoodNewsAboutGod.com. n.d. Web. 7 November 2016.

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