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Twenty-five years ago today Timothy McVeigh parked a Ryder rental truck in front of the Alfred P. Murrah Building in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. The contents of the truck included seven thousand pounds of fertilizer mixed with fuel oil. When detonated by an arc of Tovex, a gelatinous explosive, the massive explosion collapsed the building, wounding more than 500 people and killing 168 souls, including 19 children.

As many rushed to find the source of the bombing in the form of “Middle Eastern” terrorists, it quickly became clear that the roots of this vicious mass murder had grown and flowered in American soil. In the months that followed, Americans would hear much about the April 19, 1993, FBI assault on the Branch Davidian compound in Waco, Texas that had resulted in the deaths of 76 members of the cult. Timothy McVeigh, in fact, had used a North Dakota driver’s license with a birthdate of April 19 to rent the truck used to carry the deadly bomb.

The conflagration at Waco had, in fact, provided an immediate source of inspiration for the Oklahoma City bombing. However, its origins ultimately lay in two intertwined strands of violent, racist ideology through which Waco had been viewed and the desire for destruction hatched – the vanguardist wing of the white nationalist movement and the organized far-right militias that had become prominent on the American political landscape by 1995.

On the one hand, McVeigh, a Persian Gulf War veteran, had been known for carting around copies of National Alliance leader William Pierce’s Turner Diaries, made calls to white supremacist groups with a Liberty Lobby charge card leading up to the bombing, and had joined a small Ku Klux Klan outfit.

The Turner Diaries had become gospel for those white nationalists dedicated to building a violent vanguard to overthrow the United States government so as to create a white ethnostate. The book depicted such a vanguard as it initiated guerilla warfare and murders blacks and Jews. The protagonist “Organization” eventually takes control of southern California, killing off all Jews, terrorizes whites into submission and launches nuclear attacks on Israel and China.

Along the way, the white terrorists had blown up an FBI building with a truck bomb.

Some 10 years before Oklahoma City, the book had already helped inspire racist terror in the form of The Order, a hybrid of national socialists and Christian Identity adherents who robbed armored cars and murdered Jewish talk show host Alan Berg in a quest to fund and foster white revolution.

If McVeigh had a firm foot in such circles, he also traveled the militia circuit of guns and survivalism. Even more so Terry Nichols, McVeigh’s accomplice had been active in the militia scene Michigan where he had adopted the movement’s pseudo-legal status of a sovereign citizen, seen as outside federal jurisdiction and distinct from 14th Amendment citizens.

In the wake of the bombing, William Pierce would use the Turner Diary link to bolster his own organization, writing that “terrorism is nasty business” and expressing that the racist movement must “help people understand” that the “private terrorism we’ll be seeing in the future will be a protest against the government’s destruction of America.”

Twenty-five years later, it would be enjoyable to report that Americans had rejected racism and put the days of white supremacist terror and armed militias behind us.

Unfortunately, this is not the case.

The 2016 election of Donald Trump, and a large body of polling show its relationship to racist attitudes among whites, belies the first hope. Racism has a mass base and white nationalist mainstreamers continue to seek avenues to electoral power.

Likewise, the violent side of organized racism. Both white nationalist vanguardism and far-right militia activity that fueled the Oklahoma City bombing remain present and anchored in American political soil. This has been seen time and again in mass shootings animated by a toxic mix of white nationalism, anti-Semitism and some variation on the “great replacement” theory that posits the dispossession of whites by people of color and Jews.

These murders are etched in our hearts and minds.

  • Six killed and four injured in a shooting targeting a Sikh temple in Oak Creek, Wisconsin on August 5, 2012, by a onetime member of white power bands.
  • Three killed at two Jewish community centers in Overland Park, Kansas on April 13, 2014, by a longtime national socialist and onetime leader of the North Carolina-based White Patriot Party.
  • Nine African-American churchgoers killed June 17, 2015, in a shooting at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina by a white supremacist inspired, in part, by literature from the white nationalist Council of Conservative Citizens.
  • Two killed and nine injured July 23, 2015, in Lafayette, Louisiana a man who had praised Adolph Hitler’s “pragmatism,” neo-Nazi David Duke, and the rabidly anti-LGBTQ Westboro Baptist Church.
  • Nine injured on September 26, 2016, in Houston, Texas in a shooting at a strip mall by a man wearing military garb with Nazi emblems.
  • Three Latinx people shopping at Walmart were killed November 1, 2017, in Thorton, Colorado by someone who neighbors had reported was “very racist toward Hispanics.”
  • Two killed December 7, 2017, in shooting at an Aztec, New Mexico high school by an individual expressed racism and anti-LGBTQ bigotry online, written “RIP Hitler,” and adopted the name of several mass shooters, including Anders Brevik – the racist murderer who in 2011 had killed 7 people in a bomb and shooting attack in a Labor party youth camp in Norway.
  • Between 2017 and 2018, five deaths are linked to the nationalist socialist Atomwaffen Division.
  • Seventeen killed and seventeen injured in a February 14, 2018 shooting at a Parkland, Florida high school by a young man who had written about killing Mexicans; keeping black people in chains; claimed that Jews wanted to destroy the world; and etched swastikas into the magazines of some of his ammunition.
  • Ten killed and 12 injured May 18, 2018, in a shooting at a Santa Fe, Texas high school by a young man who had been photographed wearing the Iron Cross used by some neo-Nazi groups.
  • Two African-American people killed October 24, 2018, in shooting at a Jeffersontown, Kentucky grocery store by an individual charged with federal hate crimes for the murders.
  • Eleven killed and 6 injured October 27, 2018, in a shooting at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania by an individual who had spewed hatred toward Jews online and told a law officer “They’re committing genocide to my people…I just want to kill Jews.”
  • Two women killed and five injured November 2, 2018, in a shooting at a Tallahassee, Florida yoga studio by a man who had posted videos on social media disparaging interracial couples as well as videos titled “The Rebirth of My Misogynism” and “The Dangers of Diversity.”
  • One killed and three injured April 27, 2019, in a shooting at a Poway, California synagogue who told law enforcement officers he had been inspired by Adolph Hitler and the March 2019 murder of 51 people at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand.
  • Twenty-two killed and twenty-four injured in an August 3, 2019, shooting at a Walmart in El Paso, Texas by an individual who targeted Latinx people and wrote a white nationalist manifesto that referenced the “great replacement,” “white genocide,” the “Hispanic invasion of Texas” and praised the New Zealand massacre.

As references to the March 2019 Christchurch murders and Anders Brevik demonstrate, these racially-motivated mass killings are international in scope, connected by a thread of ideas built around the bogus idea of white dispossession, and with one killing begetting another.

And these cases do not include at least five additional incidents involving murders between 2011 and the present connected to organized racists or those animated by their ideas; at least 17 incidents of killings apparently associate with organized racists from 1995 to 2010; and 36 non-lethal actions by organized racists from 1995 to the present, ranging from attempted or failed bomb plots, to non-lethal assault, to manufacturing illegal bombs to illegal weapons possession.[1] Nor does it include six additional alleged racist plots in 2019.[2]

Nor does this include the level of chronically under-reported hate crimes, most of which are not committed by individuals not active in the racist movement. The Justice Department, for instance, reported 7,120 bias crimes in 2018, down just 55 incidents from 2017 – yet, showing an increase in violent bias crimes, including intimidation, assault and homicide. Among bias crimes, African-Americans continue to be the most frequently targeted; anti-Muslim events comprise 15% of the total; anti-Semitic homicides reached their highest level recorded; and anti-Latino, anti-Asian, anti-Sikh and anti-transgender hate crimes increased, the latter by almost 34%.

As with these murders by those active in or inspired by white nationalist ideas and anti-Semitism, so the armed militia movement has left a legacy of violence since the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995. A tally by the Anti-Defamation League some 11 incidents of lethal violence by people connected to far-right militias or animated by their ideas between the Oklahoma City bombing and 2017. The group also tallied some 47 non-lethal illegal actions by such groups and individuals, ranging from thwarted bomb plots and manufacturing explosives, to illegal weapons possession, to murder plots and robberies.[3




[1] Anti-Defamation League. 2017. A Dark & Constant Rage: 25 Years of Right-Wing Terrorism in the United States.

[2] Southern Poverty Law Center. Notable extremist attacks and plots in 2019. March 18, 2020.

[3] Anti-Defamation League. 2017. A Dark & Constant Rage: 25 Years of Right-Wing Terrorism in the United States.


Chuck Tanner

Author Chuck Tanner

Chuck Tanner is an Advisory Board member and researcher for the Institute for Research and Education on Human Rights. He lives in Washington State where he researches and works to counter white nationalism and the anti-Indian and other far right social movements.

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