Patriots, Politics, and the Oklahoma City Bombing.

Author:Wellman, James K., Jr.
Position:Book review

Patriots, Politics, and the Oklahoma City Bombing, By Stuart A. Wright. New York: Cambridge University Press. 2007. np.

Stuart A. Wright's Patriots, Politics, and the Oklahoma City Bornbing is a stellar study of the confluence of factors leading up to the Oklahoma City bombing. Wright makes it clear that this bombing was not a one man show--the work of Timothy McVeigh. Wright sketches out the context and precipitating events, internationally (the Cold War ideology of anticommunism) and domestic factors, which include the governmental regulation of guns; the extension of federal war on drugs; cimilitarization of the police force, and the economic disruptions to small family farms in the 1980s. All of these variables and events acted as opportunity and threat that mobilized an informal network of patriots, composed of various religious associations (Christian identity groups) and insurgent-type groups (Posse Comitatus) using marshalmetaphors of war against the federal government--a war to protect the American constitution and the fight to bear arms.

Wright uses and transforms social movement theory--the attribution of opportunities or threats, social appropriation of sites for mobilization, and discursive framing--to describe this insurgent movement of non-state actors, and argues because right wing resistance movements are understudied that movement theory needs to amplify and further theorize the power of "threat" in explaining how these groups mobilize and function. Wright uses his empirical analysis of precipitating events to the Oklahoma City bombing, to show how it was a reaction to threats and a result of multiple violent federal confrontations, most notably the Ruby Ridge and the Branch Davidian debacles. The Oklahoma City bombing did not rise ex nihilo, but was an event having an historical and political lineage. The "paranoid" style of right win groups took on many forms, including the John Bircht Society of the 1960s, the Aryan Brotherhood, and the defunct Covenant, Sword and Arm of the Lord, which Wright explains "... was the target of a federal siege exactly ten years to the day before the Oklahoma City bombing: April 19, 1985" (p. 21). Wright shows that the patriot groups, while paranoid, had legitimate complaints and were deeply concerned that the 1993 Brady Bill...

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