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Rudolph Is No Lone Nut

The notion that terrorism only comes in the form of Al-Quaida attacks presumes that gender and racially motivated violence are isolated acts committed by a handful of quacks and unreconstructed bigots.
 
 
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Alleged abortion clinic and 1996 Olympic games bomber Eric Robert Rudolph is hardly the first "lone nut" white supremacist bomber to make idiots of police and FBI agents. In 1989, mail bombs blew up federal judge Robert Vance and NAACP legal counsel Robert Robinson. There were also threats of more bomb attacks against civil rights leaders and federal officials in other cities. FBI agents and U.S. Attorneys involved with the case met in Atlanta in April 1990 to discuss strategy and to pump new life into the investigation. They began rechecking their leads and putting more pressure on informants.

Seven months later, FBI agents arrested Walter Moody, Jr., a former Klansman. When Moody was convicted in June 1991, and sentenced to a life term, federal officials quickly closed the book on the case. But, this still left several questions unanswered. How could one man acting alone manage to concoct an elaborate plot to carry out bombings in dozens of cities nationally? Where did Moody get his funds? What organizations did he belong too? Who were his associates? The questions were never answered because the government had its "lone nut" murderer and there was no need to dig any further.

Two decades later, red-faced police and FBI officials are asking the same questions about Rudolph. Some in the backwater, intensely religious North Carolina town where Rudolph lived, sported "Run Rudolph Run" tee shirts after he was identified as a bombing suspect. After his capture some called him a patriot, or claimed that he was driven to his deadly acts by a liberal, and Godless federal government. The likelihood then is that the same unanswered question of who aided and abetted Moody will remain unanswered in the Rudolph case. But that won't surprise.

The notion that terrorism only comes in the form of Al-Quaida attacks presumes that gender and racially motivated violence are isolated acts committed by a handful of quacks and unreconstructed bigots, and that state authorities vigorously report and prosecute the perpetrators of these crimes is a myth. In its latest report on hate violence in America, the FBI notes that the number of hate crimes in America rose in 2000. Nearly forty percent of them were racially motivated, with blacks, Jews and gays the most frequent target of hate mongers. But even the number of reported hate crimes barely scratches the surface on hate violence in America.

According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, a public advocacy group that tracks hate crimes, the 8000 or so hate crimes the FBI reports each year is a gross under count. The Center puts the actual number of hate attacks at closer to 50,000. The ignoring or downplaying of hate crimes by many police agencies gets worse each year. According to a report by Human Rights Watch, fewer police agencies reported hate crimes to the FBI in 2000 than in 1999. And the number that reported them in 1999 dropped from those reporting in 1998. The official indifference by many police agencies to hate crimes insures that federal officials can't accurately gauge the magnitude of hate violence. This lulls the public into thinking that made-in America hate crimes have diminished or are non-existent.

The high profile prosecutions of a handful of white supremacist and Nazi and Skinhead groups by state and federal officials, and the recent convictions in a state court of two former Klansmen for the 1963 Birmingham church bombing that killed four African-American girls, further feed the delusion that only a few lonely, whacked out white guys commit hate crimes, and they are loudly and swiftly denounced by most Americans.

The townspeople in Murphy, North Carolina that cheered Rudolph, or at the very least kept their mouths closed about his presence in the town, did so because they also believe that America is under attack from blacks, Jews, immigrants, gays, feminists, and abortionists. They blame liberal bureaucrats in Washington for mollycoddling gays and minorities, usurping the Constitution and corrupting American values.

The legion of publications and websites, and in a few places radio stations, of the so-called anti-government activists read and sound like a who's who of white supremacy. They are crammed with the standard racist and gender baiting articles that proclaim that white Christians must rule America, the federal government is the enemy, and that terror is an acceptable weapon in their war to reclaim America. Rudolph apparently was a passionate believer in that view. The years that he spent on the lam, even with a million dollar price tag on him and his mug on the FBI's ten most wanted list, is ample proof that there are still plenty of people who share Rudolph's deadly, hate-filled views, and were perhaps even willing to aid and abet him. If he is a "lone nut' then he has a lot of company.

Earl Ofari Hutchinson is the author of " The Crisis in Black and Black" (Middle Passage Press).