Newsweek finds connections between Oklahoma City bombing and 1978 novel

MAGAZINES

April 30, 1995|By Bruce McCabe | Bruce McCabe,Boston Globe

It's too early to adopt a line or a take on the Oklahoma City bombing -- except that it's driving a stake into the heart of the O. J. Simpson trial -- and it's certainly too soon for the line that it's the end of innocence for America.

The story is breaking too fast to even ask, let alone try to answer, who's innocent, who's guilty or who's guilty with an explanation.

Still, the newsweeklies have to commit and they do.

The best single piece of writing/reporting is this week's Newsweek's misleadingly mildly headlined "The View from the Far Right" by Tom Morganthau and collaborators.

It crackles with its connection, comparisons and contrasts of the Oklahoma City tragedy with what it calls a "wretched" 1978 pulp fiction novel called "The Turner Diaries" that "has long had cult status on the gun-toting far right."

Mike Tharp's piece on militias in this week's U.S. News is adequate but, like a more ambitious piece in Time, it still looks like more of a sidebar.

Of course, there are militias and militias and there are related "fringe" groups -- isn't "fringe" rather mild for this syndrome? -- like the Freemen and Constitutionalists who refuse to pay taxes or obtain driver's licenses and registrations, and have begun trying to "provoke confrontations with law enforcement officials."

"In a half hour, these guys can raise a dozen or so people with .30-06 [rifles]," says a state senator. Only wondering, but isn't there a law or two being broken somewhere along the line? The piece doesn't say.

Time's sidebars seem arbitrary and disjointed. "Rushing to Bash Outsiders" acknowledges the rampant xenophobia raging throughout the land, but it's slotted deep inside the package of stories. The placement makes it look secondary.

The piece fails to consider the extraordinary power that proposed ambiguous legislation would invest in the presidency, including the authority to deport whoever he thinks is even peripherally involved in terrorism. Of course, the presumption is that the guilty party is an "alien."

The magazines' narratives flow with the kind of detailed imagery they like. In Time, Terry Lynn Nichols is noticed spreading fertilizer on his lawn with his bare hands, striking his (perhaps necessarily anonymous) across-the-street neighbor as "peculiar."

Looking at Limbaugh

Except in the most general way, the hatemongering, distortion and lying over the airwaves, on videos and the Internet is given scant attention. For that, you can refer to the June Mother Jones. Featured is Molly Ivins' take on Rush Limbaugh along with some of his ideas, such as the large mousetrap-like "Homeless Trap" that uses a bedroll as bait to trap homeless people.

Oswald again

Another inadvertently timely piece is Thomas Mallon's review in the May GQ of Norman Mailer's 800-page -- does he get paid by the pound? -- "Oswald's Tale," an account of Lee Harvey Oswald's hidden Russian years. Mr. Mallone's critique quotes flashes of vintage Mailer imagery: The 26-volume Warren report is "a dead whale decomposing on a beach."

The untold story

What remains to be told about Oklahoma City is, if not the biggest story, the most thankless. It's the search for survivors, a story whose conclusion seems preordained. But the story behind the story is about the rescuers, people who seem to redefine the word if not the whole concept of stress. I would have liked to see more about how rescue workers cope with the stresses of their jobs; in fact, more about the kind of people they are. Are they superhuman? Don't they deserve at least as much attention as

the bombers?

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