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Profile: John Kifner
John Kifner was a participant or observer in the following events:
A New York Times analysis of indicted Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995, July 11-13, 1995, and August 10, 1995) uses an interview with FBI profiler Jack Douglas to paint a picture of McVeigh as a burgeoning serial killer. Douglas, the model for the FBI analyst in the movie The Silence of the Lambs, describes McVeigh as an underachieving loner whose stunted social development, obsessive neatness, inability to deal with his abandonment by his mother, sexual frustration, obsession with guns, and overarching alienation led him to conceive and execute a plot that killed scores of innocent people. “There are the same kind of characteristics” in McVeigh’s makeup as serial killers possess, Douglas says. “Asocial, asexual, a loner, withdrawn, from a family with problems, strong feelings of inadequacy from early in life, an underachiever.” McVeigh did well in the highly structured environment of the US Army (see March 24, 1988 - Late 1990 and January - March 1991 and After), Douglas notes, but was unable to function successfully outside of that environment (see November 1991 - Summer 1992). His lifelong obsession with guns (see 1987-1988) blended with his increasing fascination with far-right militia, white supremacist, and separatist ideologies that led him to believe the government was actively plotting to disarm and repress its citizenry. McVeigh, always fascinated with computers, used the burgeoning network of computerized bulletin boards, email clients, videotape exchanges, shortwave radio broadcasts, and other information resources to fuel his beliefs, all codified in what Times reporter John Kifner calls “a venomous novel called The Turner Diaries” (see 1978) that depicts rebel white supremacists overthrowing the federal government and committing genocide against minority citizens.
Apocalyptic World View Triggered by Events - McVeigh’s increasingly apocalyptic world view, Douglas says, led him to carry out the bomb plot, perhaps in an effort to bring about the same supremacist rebellion that The Turner Diaries depicts. The federal raids on Randy Weaver’s cabin in Ruby Ridge, Idaho (see August 31, 1992), and the Branch Davidian compound in Texas (see April 19, 1993), the passage of the Brady gun control bill (see November 30, 1993), and the birth of the paramilitary militia movement (see August 1994 - March 1995) all spurred McVeigh forward. Kifner writes: “The paramilitary movement vowed to resist the government and publish manuals on forming underground guerrilla squads. Mr. McVeigh was just a little ahead of the curve.” The final straw for McVeigh, Kifner and Douglas theorize, was the passage of the August 1994 crime bill that outlawed 19 types of semiautomatic assault weapons (see September 13, 1994). Shortly thereafter, McVeigh wrote an angry letter to his friend Michael Fortier alerting him that he intended to take some sort of “positive action” against the government (see September 13, 1994).
Shared Inadequacies - Douglas calls McVeigh’s “obsession with weapons” an “overcompensation for deep-rooted feelings of inadequacy.… They compensate for a while by talking the talk, but after a while they have to go out and do something about it. Typically the time for violence is in the mid-20s. They look in the mirror and see they’re going nowhere fast. This is an easily controlled and manipulated personality. They are looking for something to hang their hat on, some ideology. They have difficulty fitting into groups, but they are more mission-oriented, more focused.” Seattle forensic psychiatrist Kenneth Muscatel has called this type of personality disorder “Smerdyakov syndrome,” after the scorned half-brother in Dostoyevsky’s novel The Brothers Karamazov, who listens to the other brothers inveigh against their father until, finally, he murders the father. Douglas notes the devoted friendship between McVeigh and indicted co-conspirator Terry Nichols, another underachieving loner who did well in the Army. “These two are birds of a feather,” Douglas says. “Each feeds off the other’s inadequacies.” Of McVeigh, Douglas says: “These people are comfortable in a structured environment, they do very well. But outside of a structured environment, without that rigidity, he just can’t survive. On the other hand, he’s probably doing fine now in jail. I bet they would say he’s a model prisoner.”
'Red Dawn' and the Militia Movement - McVeigh’s favorite movie is, by all accounts, a 1984 film called Red Dawn that depicts a group of Texas high school football players banding together to defeat an invasion of Soviet paratroopers. The “Wolverines,” as the footballers term themselves, transform themselves into a polished, lethal guerrilla force. The film contains a number of tropes that resonate with McVeigh and other militia sympathizers: the use of gun-registration forms to enable the Soviet invasion, political leaders eager to betray the American citizenry they represent, and others. The film is a cult classic among militia members. Along with another extraordinarily popular series of movies, the Rambo films, Red Dawn expresses what sociologist James William Gibson has noted is a new perspective on military veterans and popular culture; whereas traditional war movies show raw recruits uniting to battle an evil enemy on behalf of a just national cause, post-Vietnam movies such as Red Dawn and the Rambo films popularize the archetype of an alienated loner or small band of outlaws, betrayed by their own government and fighting for their view of the American ideal as renegades. Another favorite film of McVeigh’s is a very different offering, the 1985 black comedy Brazil, which depicts an Orwellian future dominated by an all-powerful bureaucracy. Actor Robert DeNiro plays a commando-like “outlaw repairman”; his character’s name is “Tuttle,” one of the aliases used by McVeigh (see April 19, 1993 and After, October 12, 1993 - January 1994, December 1993, February - July 1994, and May 12, 1995). The last movie McVeigh rented before the Oklahoma City bombing was Blown Away, the tale of a mad bomber.
'The Turner Diaries', Gun Regulation, and the Militia Movement - Kifner notes that much has been made of McVeigh’s fascination with William Pierce’s novel The Turner Diaries. McVeigh was an avid reader, paging through mercenary and gun magazines, white supremacist and anti-Semitic newsletters and fliers, and an array of apocalyptic and war novels. One of the more unusual works found in McVeigh’s possessions is a document titled “Operation Vampire Killer 2000,” written by militia leader Jack McLamb and predicting a “globalist,” “New World Order” (see September 11, 1990) takeover of the US by “the year 2000.” The document names the plotters against American democracy as, among others, the Order of the Illuminati, international bankers, the United Nations, the “Rothschild Dynasty,” the Internal Revenue Service, CBS News, Communists, the Yale secret society Skull and Bones, “humanist wackos,” and, possibly, aliens from outer space in Unidentified Flying Objects. McLamb writes: “For the World Elite to truly enjoy their ‘utopian’ Socialist Society, the subject masses must not have the means to protect themselves against more ‘voluntary compliance.’ When one grasps this logical position, there is no longer any question about it: THE GUNS WILL HAVE TO GO.” But The Turner Diaries was, according to one person involved in the investigation, McVeigh’s “Bible” (see August 20, 1995). As with so much of McVeigh’s reading material, Turner posited the forcible confiscation of citizen-owned guns by the US government as the presage to tyranny. In a book on the paramilitary movement, Kenneth Stern wrote: “Those who would regulate guns were cast as tyrants who were coming for people’s guns first. The government had to disarm citizens in order to subjugate them. The United Nations could march in and take over America; loyal Americans could be sent to concentration camps.” Both McVeigh and the paramilitary movement were “developing in the same time line,” Stern tells Kifner. “I would date the first functioning militia as February of 1994 in Montana, and then spreading to Michigan and other places” (see October 12, 1993 - January 1994). McVeigh and Nichols were apparently influenced by the writings of former Ku Klux Klan leader Louis Beam, who advocated a “leaderless resistance” of tiny, independent cells that “state tyranny” would find more difficult to control (see February 1992). “No one need issue an order to anyone,” Beam wrotes. “These idealists truly committed to the cause of freedom will act when they feel the time is ripe, or will take their cues from others who proceed them.” In Pierce’s novel, a bombing almost exactly like the Oklahoma City blast is carried out by the novel’s hero Earl Turner; the novel’s bombing destroys the FBI headquarters in Washington and inspires a nationwide revolt by white supremacists against the “tyrannical” government. It is conceivable, Kifner concludes, that McVeigh’s bomb was intended to strike the same sort of blow, and perhaps evoke the same results. [New York Times, 12/31/1995]
Entity Tags: Kenneth Muscatel, James William Gibson, Jack McLamb, Federal Bureau of Investigation, John Kifner, Timothy James McVeigh, Randy Weaver, Louis R. Beam, Jr, Michael Joseph Fortier, Terry Lynn Nichols, New York Times, John E. (“Jack”) Douglas, Kenneth Stern
Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism
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