The Rudolphs of America

Jury selection has begun in Birmingham seven years after alleged survivalist, and possible white supremacist, Eric Robert Rudolph allegedly bombed an abortion clinic there in 1998 and planted bombs at the 1996 Olympic Games. Federal officials seem satisfied that Rudolph is the man solely responsible for the wave of terror. It's the "lone nut" theory all over again. By depicting the demented acts of domestic terrorists as the work of loners, crazies and psychopaths, federal officials duck and dodge the fact that there are still a lot of Rudolphs running around in America. And even more frightening is that there are thousands more who are willing to aid and abet those who commit terror acts.

A big hint of public complicity with hate terror is Rudolph himself. He had a million dollar price tag on his head. He was on the FBI's ten most wanted list for long stretches of time. Yet, he was able to evade police and FBI agents for five years. How could that happen? Where and from whom did he get his funds? What organizations did he belong to? Who were his associates? The questions have not been satisfactorily answered. And they may not be because the government has its "lone nut" suspected murderer and there may be no need to dig any further.

But it's well known that some in the backwater, intensely religious North Carolina town where Rudolph lived, sported "Run Rudolph Run" tee shirts when he was identified as the Atlanta bombing suspect. When he was captured some called him a patriot, and claimed that he was driven to his deadly acts by a liberal, and Godless, federal government. Rudolph's attorneys plan to spend time explaining to the jurors why so many people in that neck of the woods thought (and still think) Rudolph's a hero, maybe even a victim.

The notion that terrorism only comes in the form of al Qaeda 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 fiction. In its latest report on hate violence in America, the FBI notes that the number of hate crimes in America rose in 2003. Nearly 35 percent of them were racially motivated, with blacks, Jews and gays the most frequent target of hate mongers. The number of reported hate crimes barely scratches the surface of hate violence in America.

According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, a public advocacy group that tracks hate crimes, the 8,000 or so hate crimes the FBI reports each year is a gross undercount. 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. The Leadership Conference on Civil Rights notes that many local law enforcement agencies don't classify blatant hate acts as hate crimes, and don't report them to the FBI.

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. That lull also extends to Congress. Last October, House Republicans summarily axed a provision from the Local law Enforcement Enhancement Act, approved by the Senate and the House in July, that would have expanded federal hate crime protections.

The high profile prosecutions of a handful of white supremacist, Nazi, and skinhead groups by state and federal officials, and the convictions in a state court two years ago of two former Klansmen for the 1963 Birmingham church bombing that killed four African-American girls, further feeds 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, N.C. that cheered Rudolph, or at the very least that kept their mouths shut 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 web sites, 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. Rudolph made idiots of police and FBI officials for the five years he was on the run. He couldn't have done that if a lot of people didn't think that what he did wasn't a bad thing. They aren't lone nuts, and neither is he.

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