Easy as ABC? Tracking the ‘Inescapable’ Racial Angle in the MLK Parade Bomb Story

Easy as ABC? Tracking the ‘Inescapable’ Racial Angle in the MLK Parade Bomb Story

Easy as ABC? Tracking the ‘Inescapable’ Racial Angle in the MLK Parade Bomb Story

For journalism that connects the dots between Spokane, Tucson, the rise of an extremist American right and, yes, the uptick in violent rhetoric that feeds it, look to David Neiwert.


Author’s note: Sixteen hours after their initial report, ABC is now running a story that calls the race connection regarding the bomb found along Spokane’s MLK Day Parade route "inescapable," per the estimate of the local FBI agent investigating the case, and acknowledges that it’s an incidence of domestic terrorism. As my piece notes, that certainly wasn’t their initial reaction, as evidenced by yesterday’s piece, which included none of these details despite their widespread availability.

ABC, the same major media outlet that leaped on the Sarah-Palin-is-receiving-death threats story based solely on the say-so of a Palin aide, has now chosen an odd moment to show professional restraint. The station’s initial reportage of Monday’s Martin Luther King Jr. Day bomb threat in Spokane mentions not a single detail that could imply a connection between the bomb and the purpose of the parade.

That’s pretty remarkable given that the primary source for ABC’s story, FBI special agent Frank Harrill, did link the two. Spokane’s local paper ran a story hours before ABC’s that quotes him saying, "Clearly, the timing and placement of a device—secreted in a backpack—with the Martin Luther King parade is not coincidental." Harrill describes the link between the bomb and the MLK Day celebration and march as "inescapable," adding that "at that point the incident falls directly in the realm and sphere of domestic terrorism. Clearly, there was some political or social agenda here."

How could ABC’s own interview with Harrill settle merely for his description of the bomb as "a viable device" with "potential for lethality"? Well, heck, maybe they were just being cautious about jumping to conclusions. After all, what’s a backpack filled with shrapnel aimed at an MLK Day crowd and confirmed by an FBI agent as an instance of domestic terrorism, compared to a Palin aide’s hearsay?

Bad enough that the Tucson rampage spawned a Republican and right-wing campaign to brand it as an "isolated incident"; if ABC’s curiously un-investigative take on the Spokane incident is any indication, that campaign is working well. So, for journalism that connects the dots between Spokane, Tucson, the rise of an extremist American Right and, yes, the uptick in violent rhetoric that feeds it, go to David Neiwert. He’s an award-winning writer and former MSNBC producer who’s been writing about the growing trend in homegrown terrorism for years. Long before Sarah Palin was even popular enough to go around putting up gunsight-decorated electoral maps, Neiwert, an Idaho native and longtime Pacific Northwest resident, was monitoring the existence and roots of violent right-wing activity.

In the wake of Tucson, Neiwert has led a virtual master class in how to respond to far-right aggression, denial and evasion. Day after day he’s exposed their lies, from the myth that Loughner was a "far-left loony" to the reality-free claim that the left is responsible for more—and more violent—rhetoric than the right. As an added bonus, he’s offered insight into the culpability of "extraordinarily heated and hateful rhetoric" and examined the victim mentality favored by lock-and-load folks, which turns victims into perpetrators and perpetrators into victims, as right-wing apologists whip up their base by assuring them that they are utterly right and thoroughly wronged.

Anyone who still needs convincing that we are in the midst of what Neiwert calls "a gradually mounting litany of violence directed against ‘liberal’ and government targets" should read Neiwert’s devastating list of twenty such "isolated incidents" over the past two and a half years. It begins in July 2008. That’s when a gunman named Jim David Adkisson, agitated at how "liberals" are "destroying America," walks into a Unitarian Church and opens fire, killing two churchgoers and wounding four others. It ends—for now—with the MLK Day bomb threat in Spokane.

But really, who still needs convincing? Oh, right. ABC.

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Katrina vanden Heuvel
Editorial Director and Publisher, The Nation

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