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[00:00:07]

Early one morning, a militant terrorist drove down the streets of Oklahoma City. He didn't accelerate too fast, wary of the explosives in the back of his van. He imagined that if he pulled this off, he'd be celebrated as a hero. The man who took down the United States government, the would be killer drove to a downtown alley. He parked, activated the detonator and waited, but he only heard silence. Something had gone wrong. The bomb hadn't exploded.

[00:00:47]

Later that same morning, FBI agents arrested the Would-Be terrorist, Jerry Drake Varnell. It was 1:00 a.m. on August 12th, 2017.

[00:01:00]

The agency had known about Vinyl's plot for months. He'd wanted to recreate Timothy McVeigh's deadly attack from April 19th, 1995. But the FBI hadn't read history repeat itself.

[00:01:17]

The agency had learned from their mistakes in 1995.

[00:01:21]

They were a bit more prepared to combat far right violent schemes, but the terrorists had learned to and they weren't going down without a fight.

[00:01:45]

Welcome to Conspiracy Theories, a podcast original Carter Roy, and I'm Molly Brandenburg Brandenberg.

[00:01:52]

Normally we take things story by story, conspiracy by conspiracy. But for the past three episodes, we've done things differently. We took a deep dive into one devastating moment in U.S. history. The Oklahoma City bombing on April 19th, 1995, America's deadliest domestic terrorist attack claimed 168 lives, 19 of whom were children. And its legacy still shapes policy and rhetoric.

[00:02:24]

Today, in the last three episodes, we covered the cultural and personal factors that inspired Timothy McVeigh to detonate a truck bomb at the Alfred P. Murrah Building. We follow the events of April 19th, 1995, and McVeigh's arrest, trial and execution.

[00:02:43]

Now we'll explore the legacy of the Oklahoma City bombing. We'll look at the conspiracy theories that sprung up around the tragedy and examine how those claims helped radicalize more. Terrorists will also explain the steps law enforcement takes today to prevent future attacks. We have all that and more coming up. Stay with us. On April 19th, 1995, the people of Oklahoma City came together, first responders wiped away tears while they searched the rubble for survivors. Reporters captured moments of joyful salvation or heartbreaking tragedy.

[00:03:29]

Volunteers and search and rescue dogs flew in from across the country, emergency blood drives cropped up throughout the city and its suburbs. The Junior League of Oklahoma City collected toys for the over 200 children who'd suddenly lost a parent.

[00:03:46]

The scenes would be repeated time and time again on September 11th, 2001 at New York City's World Trade Center at Sandy Hook Elementary School on December 14th, 2012, at a 2017 country music festival in Las Vegas. They were a communal expression of public grief, a deep wound that scarred an entire community.

[00:04:13]

But April 19th, 1995, was different. The Oklahoma City bombing was the worst domestic terrorist attack on United States soil. Previously, a disaster on this scale had been unthinkable. The survivors were on their own, figuring out how to adapt to their new normal.

[00:04:32]

They became more cooperative, perhaps because residents felt united against their attacker. In the summer and fall of 1995, Oklahoma City's divorce rates fell and nine months after the blast, the birthrate went up.

[00:04:49]

But there were negative consequences as well. Alcohol and tobacco consumption doubled citywide.

[00:04:56]

Post-Traumatic stress syndrome cases spiked and remained elevated over a full year after the bombing, one in four survivors still had PTSD symptoms.

[00:05:07]

Nearly two decades later, psychologists use the tragedy to explore the conditions, long term impacts and improved methods for treatment. In the meantime, locals grappled with the more immediate questions like how to move on from the death of a loved one. Sally Farrell lost her 37 year old daughter Susan in the attack. Susan was an avid gardener and a lawyer for Native American housing with the U.S. Housing and Urban Development Agency, which had offices in the Alfred P. Murrah Building.

[00:05:43]

After Susan's death, Sally forced herself to visit her daughter's empty house. Memories overwhelmed her as she walked through familiar hallways and rooms. When she found a packet of Morning Glory seeds, she realized the perfect way to honor her daughter. She sent the seeds to all of Susan's friends and family members, urging them to plant morning glories in their yards and gardens.

[00:06:09]

Later, Sally realized morning glories were a creeping invasive species. They spread down residential blocks and cropped up in neighbors yards. The people who'd planted them couldn't keep them in check. At least a small part of Susan's legacy would never die. But for Janie Coverdale, it wasn't enough to mourn and move on. Her two and five year old grandsons died when McVeigh's bomb tore apart their daycare and she wanted the terrorist to pay.

[00:06:42]

In the months after the bombing, Coverdale went on a press tour.

[00:06:47]

She demanded a swift death penalty for McVeigh and his collaborators. She campaigned for a truncated appeals process so he couldn't wiggle out of his sentence. In an interview with USA Today, she explained, I was so angry. I wanted him to know that I wanted to sit and watch him die. I wanted him to live in agony like we did other victims family members long for McVeigh's execution, like Bud Welch, his 23 year old daughter died in the Murrah Building Social Security offices.

[00:07:23]

While obsessed over McVeigh, he feared the terrorist might be found innocent or get a light sentence. And Welch wanted him dead.

[00:07:32]

But as weeks passed after the bombing, Welch's rage sputtered into heartache. He remembered that his daughter had opposed the death penalty. He couldn't seek revenge against McVeigh and still honor her legacy. Well, it sank into a deep depression, smoking and drinking to excess, but about nine months after the attack in January 1996, he visited the blast site while he looked at the empty lot where his daughter had died. Something clicked into place. He found a new purpose in life.

[00:08:08]

He became an anti death penalty advocate. For months, Welch gave speeches across the country about convicts rights, even the rights of killers like McVeigh, he like to imagine that his daughter lived on through his activism.

[00:08:27]

But Janie Coverdale was still making the rounds to in June 1997, her hard work paid off when McVeigh was sentenced to death. Next, Coverdale advocated for McVeigh's execution to be broadcast. She claims she and other survivors needed the closure.

[00:08:46]

Her advocacy was controversial. McVeigh's attorney, Stephen Jones, condemned the proposed broadcast.

[00:08:55]

He told reporters with USA Today it would be an act of barbarism like hanging people in the town square. Surprisingly, McVeigh was in favor of the transmission.

[00:09:08]

Perhaps he hoped he'd earned sympathy for his cause if the world witnessed his death in real time.

[00:09:15]

This was probably the only time McVeigh and Janie Coverdale shared a goal. Although their motives differed, efforts like covered helped set the narrative around the death penalty.

[00:09:27]

In 1996, Congress passed the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act, or a DPA. It made it harder for death row inmates to overturn terror related verdicts.

[00:09:40]

The DPA made two changes to the appeals process. First, it imposed a time limit. Death row inmates only had a year to file an appeal. Second, it put a limit on how many appeals a person could file for procedural issues like evidence gathering or jury bias.

[00:10:02]

So if you're wrongfully convicted and you can't assemble evidence in time, or if you hit your appeals cap and find out later, there were other issues you could have contested, you're out of luck. Legal analyst Andrew Cohen argued that the EPA made it too easy for states to shut down valid appeals, it increased the likelihood that innocent people would be wrongfully executed. For example, in 1987, Floyd Perkins was convicted of murder. He gathered evidence that suggested he was innocent but didn't file an appeal until 2008.

[00:10:43]

Well, after the EPA's deadline, the law prevented him from proving his innocence. Perkins took his case all the way to the Supreme Court and secured an exception. But the EPA still stands today, and it might prevent innocent people from overturning their unjust sentences.

[00:11:06]

Timothy McVeigh wanted to strike a blow against the federal government, but instead his terrorism helped the government expand its power over the criminal justice system. And today, private citizens pay the price. But that's not the only legacy McVeigh left, thanks to a spate of conspiracy theories. He's also an inspiration to a new generation of right wing terrorists, extremists who are willing to kill in McVeigh's. Up next, we'll explore some conspiracy theories and determine if McVeigh was brainwashed.

[00:11:55]

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[00:13:09]

Now back to the story on April 19th, 1995, right wing terrorist Timothy McVeigh killed 168 people and left countless more reeling in grief. Survivors scrambled to make sense of the tragedy. Some turn to community organizing or political activism. Others scoured police reports, security footage and news stories for any lost details of that tragic day. And the amateur sleuths discovered some alarming inconsistencies.

[00:13:44]

Local and federal investigators alike had made major missteps during the investigation of the bombing, and the first mistake cost 168 lives.

[00:13:57]

In November 1994, an informant offered a tip to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, or ATF.

[00:14:06]

They said that white supremacists planned to bomb a federal building in Tulsa or Oklahoma City on April 19th. The ATF passed the tip along to the FBI and they ignored it officially.

[00:14:22]

This was because the FBI acted with an abundance of caution. Just a few years prior, they'd bungled their responses to Ruby Ridge and Waco. Both standoffs escalated to bloodshed after federal officials got involved.

[00:14:37]

This time around, the FBI didn't want to run into Oklahoma City with guns blazing, especially if the ATF was already acting on the tip. Unfortunately, the ATF felt the same way, so nobody investigated until it was too late.

[00:14:57]

And after the bombing, the FBI mismanaged the manhunt for McVeigh and his collaborators.

[00:15:03]

On August 10th, 1995, an Oklahoma City grand jury indicted the conspirators in the bombing. McVeigh, Terry Nichols and quote, others unknown, others unknown, referred to at least one individual, maybe several people who were still unidentified. In the summer of 1995.

[00:15:26]

In the immediate aftermath of the bombing, the FBI spoke to witnesses and determined that two men were involved in the crime.

[00:15:35]

They were called John Doe number one and John Doe number two. Presumably, these John Doe's were McVeigh and Terry Nichols.

[00:15:44]

But The Guardian's Andrew Gumbel argued that McVeigh didn't fit the description of either suspect. That means that both of the John Doe's must have been other accomplices. And this second unidentified partner, John Doe number two, is still at large.

[00:16:03]

In addition, several eyewitnesses saw McVeigh meet with at least one other man on the day of the explosion, a man who has never been identified. It's possible that this man was another accomplice who escaped justice.

[00:16:20]

According to some conspiracy theories, John Doe number two was never found because federal agents didn't want him to be found. They helped him get away as part of a cover up. And to justify the stance, theories point to inconsistencies in Terry Nichols arrest.

[00:16:39]

Researcher and writer Charles P. Blair explained that typically agencies investigate and monitor suspects with ties to militant communities before they make an arrest.

[00:16:51]

Once they identified Nichols as a person of interest, the FBI should have tailed him, surveilled his home, noted who he made contact with, allowed collaborators to reveal themselves.

[00:17:04]

Instead, the FBI immediately searched his Michigan farm. They let the media share Nichols name and picture, none of this brought them any closer to Nichols, who was in Kansas, but it almost certainly spooked his conspirators and ensured they'd escape before investigators even finished gathering evidence. In addition, controversy surrounded McVeigh's other collaborator, Michael Fortier. Michael knew about McVeigh's plans nine months before the Oklahoma City bombing. His wife, Laurie, helped McVeigh create the fake I.D. He used to rent the Ryder truck that transported the bomb.

[00:17:44]

When FBI agents questioned the 40 years, they refused to cooperate, even as Michael bragged to his friends that he planned to sell his story to book publishers and movie producers, even in the face of their obvious guilt.

[00:17:58]

Laurie was never charged with any crimes. Michael plea bargained for a brief 12 year prison sentence after his release. The Fortier family vanished into the witness protection program today. No one but their handlers knows what became of them, which means no one can ask them to set the record straight. Today, even McVeigh's trial and execution were contentious.

[00:18:25]

As we discussed in our last episode, the FBI produced thousands of new documents related to McVeigh in May 2001. They'd never shown anyone this evidence before, and McVeigh never had the chance to defend himself against it in court. It seems as if the FBI didn't want the public to know the truth about the Oklahoma City bombing. Conspiracy theorists point to the botched investigations as evidence that the bombing was all part of a larger government plan. But remember Hanlon's razor, a pithy saying that can be summed up as don't attribute to malice, that which can be explained by incompetence.

[00:19:07]

It's undeniable that the ATF and the FBI mismanaged the situation. But all the errors may have been that mismanagement and ignored tip a rushed investigation, a generous plea bargain. We can blame the officials for their bad decision making, but it doesn't mean they were all in on it together.

[00:19:30]

Either way, conspiracy theories continue to spread.

[00:19:35]

One theory even suggested that McVeigh was an unwilling participant in a secret mind control experiment, allegedly federal agents, possibly from the CIA, brainwashed McVeigh and then forced him to bomb the Alfred P. Murrah Building. The reason, far right separatist groups were flourishing. According to this theory, they pose too much of a threat to the powers that be so. Federal agents forced an anti-government activist to commit a horrifying crime to discredit the movement.

[00:20:12]

Another rumor said that Attorney General Janet Reno masterminded the attack to drum up support for gun control legislation. Reno championed waiting periods and assault weapon bans, and gun enthusiasts assumed her next step was to seize all private firearms.

[00:20:30]

Similarly, a recent Facebook meme alleged that then first lady Hillary Clinton arranged the bombing. The goal was to destroy evidence that implicated her in the Whitewater scandal. Afterward, her associates framed Mikveh.

[00:20:47]

The allegations varied, but they all shared a few common features. They asserted that Timothy McVeigh wasn't really to blame. He was a patsy set up to take the fall for the real culprit, the federal government.

[00:21:01]

These theories are a boon to far right recruitment. They gave the community a way to publicly embrace and celebrate Timothy McVeigh without overtly endorsing the bombing.

[00:21:13]

That included William Pearce, who authored The Turner Diaries. Pearce straddled the delicate line between honoring and decrying the bomber. He said, quote, Terrorism is nasty business, but the terrorism we'll be seeing in the future will be a protest against the government's destruction of America. It's shocking that anyone would want to associate themselves with McVeigh, even those who agreed with his ideology in the late 90s, he was one of the most despised figures in the United States before his execution.

[00:21:51]

A Gallup poll said 81 percent of Americans believe McVeigh should be put to death. 23 percent of people in his camp typically objected to the death penalty.

[00:22:03]

Rick Bragg of The New York Times added Mr. McVeigh was still seen as a monster who brutally murdered old people, babies, mothers and fathers. He's still seen as a perversion, still regarded as a sick and distorted version of what an American soldier is supposed to be.

[00:22:22]

But that displeasure and outrage made McVeigh appealing to extremists. He believed he was a victim of government oppression, just like Randy Weaver from Ruby Ridge and the Branch Davidian at Waco. Conspiracy theories suggested that was literally true. McVeigh was a martyr and his arrest and conviction were grave injustices.

[00:22:47]

By claiming that he didn't really orchestrate the Oklahoma City bombing, far right groups could reframe the perpetrator as a victim.

[00:22:58]

And to McVeigh's actions didn't just embolden far right terrorists. His rhetoric spread through mainstream political debates. As we discussed in the past episodes, McVeigh was a firearm fanatic.

[00:23:11]

He attended rallies and shows after the bombing, he claimed that the Turner Diaries pro rifle messaging had radicalized him.

[00:23:19]

Initially, these beliefs were a PR disaster for the National Rifle Association and other pro-gun lobbies.

[00:23:28]

They didn't want to be associated with domestic terrorism. So in their struggle to rebrand, they drew boundaries between McVeigh's ideology and his actions. Just like the conspiracy theorists and right wing extremists, these groups tried to say that the terror attack was wrong, but its motives were right.

[00:23:51]

And in late April 1995, public approval for gun control went down. Larry Pratt, president of the Gun Owners of America, told The Christian Science Monitor that he thought the Oklahoma City bombing would serve as a wake up call to arms enthusiasts. Even if they disagreed with McVeigh's actions, they'd still be roused to fight for their Second Amendment rights and has predicted a noisy, pro-gun outcry led to loosened regulations.

[00:24:24]

In 1996, the Deqi amendment passed cutting funding for CDC research into gun violence prevention. In 2004, the Brady Bill expired, which had required background checks and a five day waiting period when purchasing firearms. Congress voted not to renew the act.

[00:24:46]

The National Rifle Association loudly championed the changes. They released a statement saying that guns were the only tools private citizens had to keep an oppressive government at bay. Just like McVeigh had said, by the 2010s, gun rights had made their way onto the political main stage.

[00:25:07]

In 2015, senator and presidential candidate Ted Cruz said the Second Amendment to the Constitution is a constitutional right to serve as the ultimate check against government tyranny for the protection of liberty. Another presidential candidate, Ben Carson, declared, As a surgeon, I spent many a night operating on people with gunshot wounds to their heads. And all of that is horrible. But I can tell you something, it is not nearly as horrible as having a population that is defenseless against a group of tyrants.

[00:25:46]

These men weren't extremists. They weren't fringe separatists. They were mainstream politicians. Speaking to crowds of thousands. They may not have even realized that the rhetoric they were using was almost identical to the words of the Oklahoma City bomber.

[00:26:05]

Even as the world condemned Timothy McVeigh's actions, it embraced his ideas, and that led to even more violence.

[00:26:20]

Up next, we'll examine the state of domestic terrorism today. Now back to the story. In the weeks and months after the Oklahoma City bombing, some far right extremists turned Timothy McVeigh into a celebrated figure even as they tried to excuse his actions through conspiracy theories.

[00:26:46]

And that helped them mobilize. Far right activity, especially from white supremacist organizations, has been on the upswing since 1995.

[00:26:58]

That's according to the Center for Strategic and International Studies, or the ISIS.

[00:27:05]

They're a nonprofit think tank that tracks terrorist attacks in the United States and identifies trends.

[00:27:11]

The CSIRO categorizes political violence into four categories. Right wing, left wing religious and ethnic nationalist Timothy McVeigh qualified as a right wing terrorist.

[00:27:26]

Since 2001, right wing terrorists have actually been responsible for roughly 73 percent of all deadly extremist attacks in the United States, going back even further from 1994 to 2019.

[00:27:44]

Right wing terrorists killed at least 335 people in the United States. They were responsible for the 1996 bombing of the Olympic Games in Atlanta, Georgia. Eric Rudolph detonated the explosive and several others over the next two years as part of a violent anti-abortion and anti-government demonstration.

[00:28:06]

In September 2004, officials arrested Stephen Paşa for plotting to blow up a downtown Milwaukee building with a truck bomb. He claimed he wanted to be the next Timothy McVeigh.

[00:28:21]

In January 2011, Kevin Harper planted a pipe bomb in Spokane, Washington. He meant to detonate it along a parade route on Martin Luther King Jr. Day with the explosive never went off.

[00:28:35]

He was arrested and sentenced to 32 years in prison.

[00:28:40]

These kinds of attacks spiked in 2016. At the time, it was the deadliest year for right wing terrorism since 1995. The surge coincided with the U.S. presidential election, according to the Pew Research Center.

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The 2016 campaign was one of the most divisive in recent memory. Roughly half of all Republicans and Democrats reported that they were afraid of the other party. And of course, when some people are afraid, they lash out in violence.

[00:29:14]

Right wing terrorist attacks became even more frequent in 2017, with 53 incidents that year. The CSIS noted that left wing terrorism also increased in 2016 and religiously motivated attacks were more frequent than average in 2018 and 2019.

[00:29:38]

The CSIS noted that the deadliest killers were radicalized through their online activity.

[00:29:45]

Many far right terrorists weren't affiliated with a specific extremist cell. They were lone wolves.

[00:29:53]

Usually they formed their ideology.

[00:29:56]

After reading incendiary blog posts, message boards and online manifestos, they researched targets and learned to make weapons through YouTube tutorials. In Google searches, they chatted with like minded people on Twitter and 4chan, but never met in person.

[00:30:16]

They were fully indoctrinated without ever setting foot at a rally or compound.

[00:30:22]

Recruiters knew how powerful the Internet was. They could accomplish things online they'd never manage. In real life, public demonstrations attracted police, counter protesters and bad PR. But a carefully worded tweet or Reddit post could reach an audience without the inconvenient pushback.

[00:30:44]

Social media algorithms exacerbate the issue.

[00:30:48]

They deliver content a user agrees with while muting dissent, creating a hateful echo chamber, a digital setting where violence is normalized and criticism is easy to ignore.

[00:31:01]

These kinds of message boards might sound unpleasant, but hate based communities can be incredibly attractive to disaffected people, with nowhere else to go. Sociologist Kathleen Blee noted that many people join far right groups because they offer a feeling of camaraderie and acceptance. The rhetoric is almost always secondary to the sense of belonging these groups offer their members.

[00:31:29]

In addition, hate groups offer simple solutions to. More complicated questions, issues of race, sexuality, class and gender are multifaceted and difficult to understand.

[00:31:41]

Even experts don't know how to fix structural inequality, but white supremacy offers convenient scapegoats for people who buy into the ideology. A New York Times op ed profiled a woman named Carina Olson, who joined online far right communities because she was lonely and wanted to connect with other people. Initially, she didn't hate minorities or have strong opinions about race. But after being welcomed on websites like Stormfront, she became radicalized.

[00:32:16]

She began printing and disseminating anti-Semitic literature. She ran a Portland based chapter of a hate group. She led meetings while wearing a Nazi uniform.

[00:32:28]

Eventually, Olson became uncomfortable with her own rhetoric. Several right wing individuals committed heavily publicized acts of terror, and Olson had never wanted anyone to get hurt.

[00:32:41]

Once she left the movement, Olson's beliefs seemingly changed again. She claimed to support movements like Black Lives Matter. But the shift in ideology only came after she lost the social ties that had bound her to white supremacy.

[00:32:57]

The world is full of men and women like Olson. Unfortunately, they don't all move on and abandon their hate. Some only become more embedded in the culture until they're inspired to violence.

[00:33:12]

To illustrate how all these factors come together, let's imagine a seemingly non-threatening citizen. We'll call him Bill. He isn't very political. He might think his taxes are too high or feel unduly suspicious of people of color. He may enjoy hunting or target shooting and worry about restrictions on his hobbies, but he's not yet an extremist.

[00:33:38]

If Bill becomes lonely, he might seek out connections on social media and message boards. Naturally, he'll gravitate to people who share his political beliefs.

[00:33:49]

Then he reads an article or watches a YouTube video about the Oklahoma City bombing. And McVeigh's motives and ideology resonate with Bill. He realizes that he's not alone in his beliefs. There's a whole community out there that would welcome him and his opinions with open arms.

[00:34:11]

But Bill isn't ready to commit. He's uncomfortable with violence and he doesn't want to associate with a group of terrorists.

[00:34:19]

But white supremacist or separatist groups released a statement saying they're not actually dangerous. They explained that McVeigh wasn't really at fault. It was all a government cover up. And Bill likes that idea. It means he can connect with his peers without violating his morals. And once he identifies with the movement, Bill becomes more radicalized. He loses contact with his few moderate friends who object to his extreme opinions. Soon, he only talk to the people in his online community.

[00:34:55]

Everyone says he has to kill for his beliefs. Since Bill never hears dissenting opinions, their recommendations sound reasonable. So he lashes out with a deadly attack.

[00:35:10]

Bill's story plays out time and time again, and it's sadly becoming more common.

[00:35:18]

The CSIRO warns that 20-20 might bring a spike in terrorist activity. They identify three factors that increase the risk.

[00:35:27]

First, the covid-19 pandemic became a shockingly politicised issue in the spring and summer of 2020. Conspiracy theories spread online, implying that the virus risks were overstated. Some Americans fear that mandatory mask policies were a government overreach, which would lead down a slippery slope toward tyranny.

[00:35:53]

In addition, global shelter at home policies left many people out of work. Unemployment rates skyrocketed.

[00:36:01]

Dr Sherry Hanby of the Psychology of Violence Journal noted that people are more likely to break the law when they have idle time and breaks from their routines. Crime rates go up on weekends and holidays, and perhaps when more than 300 million Americans shelter in place indefinitely, their frustrations will boil over into violence.

[00:36:25]

Second, 20-20 is once again an election year. Regardless of who wins the White House, their opponents may be spurred to. Action when they lose the ballot in third, terrorist attacks often spark copycats and radicalize otherwise non-violent political extremists. McVeigh inspired a generation of guerrilla rebels. The past four years of bloodshed will likely motivate even more.

[00:36:54]

But mass killings aren't inevitable. Simon Clark, an anti-racist advocate and senior fellow with the Center for American Progress, laid out the steps authorities could take to stop right wing violence. The first step is to gather data and analyze trends. This may require the authorities to cooperate with foreign leaders. Many far right groups collaborate across national borders, and investigators need to do the same to stop them.

[00:37:25]

In addition, authorities need to identify rhetoric that radicalizes nonviolent people into extremism. This is especially true with online discourse, which seduces so many private platforms like YouTube, Twitter and Facebook can help tamp down on hate speech without violating the First Amendment.

[00:37:45]

They currently all have anti hate policies which aren't consistently enforced. Finally, federal officials should ensure that law enforcement has the resources it needs to crack down on domestic terrorism, just like they offered the funding and tools to fight international terrorism after September 11th, 2001. These steps won't keep Americans 100 percent safe.

[00:38:12]

Nothing can, but perhaps they can turn the tide of hate in the face of institutional indifference, peacekeepers have to find creative ways to combat hate. New Mexico adopted an unprecedented strategy in the summer of 2020. Right wing militants calling themselves the New Mexico Civil Guard fired on peaceful, anti-racist protests.

[00:38:39]

In response, the Bernalillo County district attorney sued them.

[00:38:43]

He argued that by wearing uniforms, running militaristic drills and carrying weapons, the civil guard was guilty of impersonating police officers. The civil suit couldn't force the group to disband, but perhaps it could bankrupt them.

[00:38:59]

In a Facebook post, the militia argued that the government was violating their civil rights and trying to shut down dissent. The DA's office fired back that the New Mexico Civil Guard infringed on the peaceful protesters rights by shooting at them.

[00:39:17]

As of this recording, the state's suit against the militia is still pending. Only time will tell whether the charges will stand and how similar groups will respond. Perhaps this will become another flashpoint in the battle against militancy another Ruby Ridge, Waco or Oklahoma City. But maybe the state of New Mexico has found a way to prevent extremists from following in Timothy McVeigh's footsteps.

[00:39:47]

McVeigh blew up the Alfred P. Murrah Building because he believed he'd be celebrated as a freedom fighter. He was only half right. Citizens never rallied to overthrow the U.S. government, but he did become a hero and a martyr to a community of extremists with thoughtful policies and education.

[00:40:08]

We can combat the narrative he sought to advance. We can change his legacy to that of a despised criminal. We can strike a blow against intolerance and violence once and for all. Thanks for tuning in to conspiracy theories. We'll be back Monday with a new episode.

[00:40:38]

You can find all episodes of conspiracy theories and all other podcast originals for free on Spotify, not only to Spotify, already have all of your favorite music, but now Spotify is making it easy for you to enjoy all of your favorite past originals, like conspiracy theories for free from your phone desktop or smart speaker to stream conspiracy theories on Spotify.

[00:41:03]

Just open the app and type conspiracy theories in the search bar.

[00:41:07]

Until then, remember, the truth isn't always the best story, and the official story isn't always the truth. Conspiracy theories was created by Max Cutler in Disney Park and Studios original executive producers include Max and Ron Cutler, Sound Design by Anthony Vasic with production assistance by Ron Shapiro, Carly Madden and Travis Clark. This episode of Conspiracy Theories was written by Angela Jorgensen with writing assistants by Allie Wicker and stars Molly Brandenberg and Carter Roy. It's the most powerful position in American politics and arguably the world, but behind the oath to preserve, protect and defend, lie, dark secrets supposed to leave some legacies in disgrace.

[00:42:00]

Don't forget to check out the new Spotify original from past very presidential with Ashley Flowers every Tuesday through the 2020 election. Host Ashley Flowers shines a light on the darker side of the American presidency, exposing wildly true stories about history's most high profile leaders.

[00:42:20]

To hear more follow. Very presidential with Ashley flowers free on Spotify or wherever you get your podcasts.