Commentary
Manure Alert!

By Tim Findley
The Hatch [N.M.] Courier

So what does it mean? Every time you put a load of manure in the back of the Dodge and stop by the diesel pump to fill up, somebody's going to call a terrorist alert?
The FBI backed off its national panic this week after their all-points bulletin quickly caught up with a rented truck hauling fertilizer, which turned out to be just that---a rented truck hauling fertilizer, not a rolling bomb.
If it seems a little silly now, and a bit exaggerated to make something of it here, consider the implications just a little further.
In its haste to alert the entire nation, even corners of it thousands of mile out of range of a rented truck seen in Texas, the FBI desperately released descriptions of the possible "terrorists," including an artist's sketch of a fifty-year-old white man who looked, by God, just like one of them crazy red necks who might do it.
And they pointed out that what made it all that much more likely and that much more sinister was that it's almost the fourth anniversary of the federal attack on the Branch Davidians, and it's right on the verge of the trial beginning for the accused Oklahoma City bomber, who, by the way, pretty much fits that crazy red neck profile himself.
The national media bought it right away. Do you have any



doubt that network news producers all over New York were scrambling to secure helicopters, blimps and spy satellite time if necessary to cover what they hoped would be the chase and ultimate capture of the fertilizer terrorists along some open stretch of plains states freeway?
No real questions asked, they ran the story and the sketch into every six o'clock setting in America and waited anxiously for the drama to play out. At last something to replace OJ re-runs.
Are we all nuts? Or are we all such shivering simpletons to be freaked out any old time the FBI wants to push the right network button? Do you immediately take shelter whenever you see a 50-year-old white guy with a six dollar haircut and a load of cow droppings?
The same day, a deranged middle-aged Palestinian goes to the top of the Empire State Building and starts shooting, finally killing himself. Within hours, the networks are talking about ways to install metal detectors on street corners.
I'm not sure about you, but I'm not out to bomb somebody or shoot somebody, so I've got nothing to worry about. I don't


 
even carry keys anymore and I give away all my loose change to strangers just so I don't set something off. And I don't drive no dung near the diesel pumps.
Is that enough? Hell, no. It's still almost the anniversary of Waco and the trial is starting in Denver, and my old pickup makes it look like I don't respect the government in the first place. The FBI has reason to be suspicious -- "Pull him over, Edgar, that looks like cow poop in the back."
Look, I don't mean to be disrespectful. I'm not trying to compare the FBI to the Gestapo, or to the Keystone Cops for that matter, but I'm a little wigged out by how easily the national media is manipulated by federal authority.
Whatever happened to an alert Fourth Estate which our free society so proudly said was a last bastion against government excess? Whatever happened to the idea that the federal government could not get away with criminalizing a class of people without even stating the charge against them? When did suspicion replace evidence as a cause for signaling a nationwide "terrorist alert?"
Sorry, but this is serious stuff, folks. That little false fertilizer alarm reminds me of the old Emergency Alert System broadcasts




they used to use to get us ready for an A-bomb attack in the Cold War.
"Had this been a real emergency, you would be advised to tune to your EBS station and await further information on the approach of 50-year-old white men."
What if it was just a test? What if the real purpose was to see how easy it is to mobilize most of the nation against an invented enemy?
I don't know if Timothy McVeigh bombed that federal building. I'll be interested to hear the evidence that he did, and, if so, why he did. I'm still not quite sure why those two guys in Texas got their few minutes of fame for hauling around some fertilizer in a rented truck. I have no idea if what's going on in Atlanta is some right-wing plot.
And there are a few other things that I definitely know I don't know. I know the federal authorities don't know, or won't say, what caused Flight 800 to blow up over Long Island. I know they don't know, or won't say why that bomb went off at the Olympics. I know they don't know, no matter what some of them say, who set off the smaller explosives on weekend window sills at Forest Service buildings in Nevada and New Mexico.
I know the media in general,


 
including us, doesn't know who is organizing some right-wing redneck plot to overthrow the government, even though the government keeps suggesting they "know."
We know about Ruby Ridge. We know about Waco. But somehow, if we start to suggest that those were acts of government terrorism, then we expose ourselves as captured by the sort of 50-year-old white guy thinking the government is so worried about.
Remember the "Vipers" in Arizona who were supposedly caught before they could carry out their plot to blow up every piece of federal property in Phoenix? Turned out they just liked to blow up cactus in a sort of stupid game. But folks don't remember that part. They remember it was "Vipers" caught by "terrorist alert."
Terrorism may not have ever really happened in America, at least not in our lifetime. Terrorism implies an organized campaign to frighten the public into submission, like blowing up buses in Jerusalem.
One nut with a pistol on the Empire State Building might commit an act of terrorism, but what was the point? Some cult-driven crazies might leave their own names when they rent a truck to bomb the World Trade Center in New York, but they weren't home-boys to start with. And there must have been




somebody insanelymotivated enough to set off that blast in Oklahoma City. But was it McVeigh? Why?
Are we really to believe, as the national media seems willing to accept, that every time there's an anniversary of Waco or Ruby Ridge some 50-year-old fool is going to drive a truck-load of fuel and fertilizer up to a federal building? For what? Revenge?
That's not terrorism, it's just plain psychotic.
Remember the Symbionese Liberation Army misfits who kidnapped Patricia Hearst? They wanted to be terrorists, or at least guerrilla revolutionaries everybody would be scared of, and they killed at least two innocent people before they just flat ran out of surviving guerrillas. The whole army numbered seven.
The Weather Underground in the '70s? The Black Panther Party? The UNA bomber?
Compared to Hezbollah, the PLO, the Irgun or the IRA, American "terrorists" have a serious conspiracy gap. Unless, that is, 50-year-old white men with cheap haircuts really get you worried.
Some other things I don't know enough about include the payoffs apparently made to the White House by evident foreign agents, the flaunting of constitutional restrictions on federal law


 
enforcement, the doctoring of information about why an attack on Waco was necessary at all.
I do know from history, though, that there have been other times when people with power in Washington have abused their authority. In the Communist witch




hunts of the fifties. In the CoIntelPro program against blacks in the '60s. In the black bag actions of the Nixon administration in the '70s.
I'm sure about those things, and history has borne out their damage and their injustice.


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