In public, militia leaders are distancing their groups from the bombing in Oklahoma City. But in cyberspace, extremists are spinning conspiracy theories that portray patriot groups as the real victims of the blast.
The destruction of the Alfred P. Murrah building Wednesday and resulting casualties are part of a government plan to attack militias nationwide, according to dozens of messages on the Internet and commercial on-line services.
The government’s goal, the theorists say, is to strip Americans of their guns, abolish civil liberties and subjugate the Constitution to United Nations control. The recurring theme is that the government will justify its assault on militia groups by blaming them for the bombing.
“How convenient, eh? With one blow, wrap up militias, Davidians, skinheads, gun owners et al.,” said one message in a Usenet newsgroup about the bombing. “Sure sounds like a ‘Reichstag’ copycat to me.”
In 1933 Nazi storm troopers used the burning of the Reichstag legislature building to justify arresting 4,000 political opponents. Some historians suggested Hitler, who blamed the fire on communists, ordered the arson to fuel support for his agenda.
The current conspiracy theories are “laughable and idiotic,” but not surprising, said Irwin Suall, who wrote an Anti-Defamation League report on militias.
“In the paranoid fantasy world in which they live, anything is possible,” he said. “Political paranoia always needs to be taken seriously, especially when it’s coming from groups that are heavily armed, trained extensively and have a political agenda.”
Even before Wednesday’s bomb ing, militia members discussed an imminent government assault against them, based on a report by the National Rifle Association.
The report cited rumors of impending raids by federal agencies on the militia movements. On Monday, Justice Department officials said the reports were false.
“So they couldn’t strike in the open after the memo leaked,” a message in a newsgroup called misc.activism.militia said, referring to the NRA report.
“Now they begin their black campaign by killing people in the heartland in order to spread as much terror as possible,” the message continued. The message did not explain what codes it was referring to.
The conspiracy theories hinge on several points: the Oklahoma City bombing was cracked by the FBI so quickly that it must have been scripted, unsubstantiated reports that seismographs of the blast show two explosions, and the belief that the bombing is not the first government attack against citizens.
Others accept the FBI’s report that two suspects planted the truck bomb, but insist the men were led by government agents.
“It would certainly explain how the artist’s sketch is the most accurate rendering of a criminal suspect that I have ever seen, right down to the puffiness under his (Timothy McVeigh’s) lip,” said a message in alt.current-events.amfb-explosion.
In talk.politics.guns, a user going by the name Libberty issued a warning to “Patriotic Militias.”
“I predict there will be another bombing, staged by them again. My advice, cover your ass!” the message said in all capital letters, the cyberspace equivalent of yelling. “Don’t let them link us to another bombing. They will stop at nothing!”
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