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The Pentagon shooter, insurrectionism, and right-wing bloggers

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Back in 1995, McVeigh, keyed into far-right conspiracies and still seething about the siege at Waco, declared war on the federal government. Today, more and more combatants seem to be signing up for duty.

Last week's shooter, who traveled all the way from California to attack the Pentagon, certainly expressed a dark and unstable contempt for the government:

When the government can control how private property is used, and especially when the government controls the monetary system that is use to exchange private property, the government has the mechanisms and the motivation to control individuals to the smallest detail.


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When governments are able to confiscate the resources of their citizens to fund schemes that need only be justified by lies and deception enormous disasters can result.


The imperative to defend the freedom of conscience must lead us to eliminate the role of the government in education and leave parents and communities free to raise their children as they see fit.

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As blogger Charles Johnson, at Little Green Footballs correctly pointed out: "If you gave a speech at a tea party rally consisting of nothing but the quotes from Bedell you see above, you'd get a standing ovation."

But today, far-right bloggers scramble to deflect the connection. They excitedly point to the fact that Bedell was a 9-11 "truther," who demanded answers about the government's supposed involvement in the attacks that day, and so that automatically made the mentally ill gunman a liberal. But wait, wasn't it a right-wing Tea Party candidate for governor who recently made news when she refused to knock down the anti-government "truther" conspiracy?

Indeed. Texas Tea Party activist and candidate Debra Medina appeared on Glenn Beck's radio show and suggested she was open to the idea that the 9-11 attacks were an inside government job. "I have not taken a position on that," said Medina. (It's the same insurrectionist Medina who told a Tea Party crowd that "we are aware that stepping off into secession may in fact be a bloody war. We understand that the tree of freedom is occasionally watered with the blood of tyrants and patriots.")

And meanwhile, aren't lots of Ron Paul supporters famously attached to the 9-11 conspiracy theory? And isn't that the same Ron Paul who ran away with the straw poll at the recent Conservative Political Action Conference convention in Washington, D.C.?

And isn't the 9-11 truther movement's most famous advocate the conspiratorial radio nut (and full-time Obama hater) Alex Jones, who has been mainstreamed by Fox News? And isn't that the same Alex Jones who today complains that Glenn Beck's show now sounds so much like Jones' that Beck is just ripping him off?

From this month's issue of Texas Monthly (subscription required):

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More troubling, [Jones] told me, is the way personalities at the top of the media food chain have been co-opting his message. Glenn Beck is the worst, he said. "Two weeks after I have a guest on, they have him on. ... Glenn Beck is literally word for word taking everything I do and twisting it and turning it into a Roger Ailes Fox News evil doppelgänger of my show," he said" [emphasis added].

Bloggers also pointed to the fact that Bedell was reportedly a registered Democrat as more proof of his allegiance to the left. But that doesn't make much sense, either. Are bloggers really suggesting that no registered Democrats have attended anti-government Tea Party rallies this year? Haven't Tea Party leaders been bragging about how they're attracting a wide range of disaffected voters? And in fact, haven't Tea Party leaders been stressing how wrong it is to assume the movement is synonymous with the Republican Party? But suddenly a distant political registration proves all.

For the record, I'm not suggesting that Bedell was a dedicated Glenn Beck fan, or that Rush Limbaugh made him do it. I think the specifics of this case are too muddled for those kinds of conclusions. But the idea that panicked right-wing bloggers can turn Bedell into a tree-hugging Greenpeace activist is ludicrous. The allegation doesn't withstand scrutiny, simply because dangerous, anti-government rhetoric is not part of today's liberal dialogue.

It is however, a proud cornerstone of the conservative one.

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Eric Boehlert is the author of Lapdogs: How the Press Rolled Over for Bush (Free Press, 2006). He worked for five years as a senior writer for, where he wrote extensively about media and politics. Prior to that, he worked as a (more...)

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