THAT PERFECT SILENCE you hear is the environmental movement not being blamed for the crimes of the Unabomber. It is President Clinton not calling a press conference to denounce the purveyors of hate and division on the ecological fringe. It is the Sunday-morning Beltway pundits not accusing environmental activists of inflaming an unstable creep like Theodore Kaczynski, the Unabomber suspect. It is editors in America's great newsrooms not assigning long takeouts on radical groups like Earth First, which blow up logging equipment and demand the blood of environmental "villains," such as those the Unabomber killed.
Unabomber suspect Theodore Kaczynski
There's no disputing the pull of militant environmentalism on the mind of the Unabomber. His own writings cite "anarchist and radical environmentalist journals" to justify attacks on "the industrial-technological system," and he obviously drew his victims from the demonology of green extremists. Two examples:
At a 1994 Earth First meeting in Missoula, Mont., a meeting Kaczynski attended, the public-relations giant Burson-Marsteller was excoriated for supposedly having helped Exxon recover from the Valdez oil spill disaster. One month later, Thomas Mosser, a former Burson-Marsteller executive, was killed by a bomb mailed to his home. In a letter to The New York Times, the Unabomber claimed credit. "Among other misdeeds," he wrote, "Burston-Marsteller [sic] helped Exxon clean up its public image after the Exxon Valdez incident."
In a 1989 tract called "Live Wild or Die," a group of enviro-nihilists put out an "Eco-[expletive deleted] Hit List." No. 1 on the list was the Timber Association of California. Last year the Unabomber addressed an explosive to the association at its Sacramento headquarters, unaware that it had been renamed the California Forestry Association. Gilbert Murray, the group's president and a father of three, opened the package. He died on the spot.
So isn't it odd that the nation's opinion makers aren't skewering environmentalists for the Unabomber's long trail of death and mayhem?
Isn't it curious that editorial writers and "Nightline" producers aren't hyping Kaczynski's connection to the eco-fanatics? Isn't it strange that we're not being reminded that deadly rhetoric can fuel deadly deeds -- that when environmental advocates put timber executives on a "hit list," they are encouraging psychopaths to blow up timber executives?
Well, no. In fact, it isn't strange. It would be absurd to blame decent environmentalists for the Unabomber's murders. Just as it would have been absurd to blame decent conservatives for the horror in Oklahoma City. Or decent pro-lifers for the killing of abortion doctors.
Whoops. Did somebody say . . . "double standard?"
Twelve months ago, when Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols were arrested for the bombing in Oklahoma City, it was open season on anything right of center. President Clinton slammed conservative talk show hosts as "promoters of paranoia" who "leave the impression that . . . violence is acceptable." Washington Post pundit David Broder observed, "The bombing shows how dangerous it really is to inflame twisted minds with statements that suggest political opponents are enemies." A Scripps Howard wire story was headlined: "Did National Rifle Association Ads Spark Bombing?"
Even the Republican Party found itself charged with the terrorism in Oklahoma City.
When House Speaker Newt Gingrich arrived to pay his respects, a reporter asked him whether the GOP victory in 1994 had led to the atrocity. Columnist Carl Rowan echoed that slur: "Unless Gingrich and Dole and the Republicans say, 'Am I inflaming a bunch of nuts?' you know we're going to have more events" like the attack on the Murrah Building.
The same phenomenon was at work four months earlier, when John Salvi opened fire on two Brookline, Mass., abortion clinics, killing two women.
"The National Right to Life Committee, the Pro-Life Action League, and Operation Rescue . . . are responsible for these shootings," snarled Kim Gandy of the National Organization for Women.
"Despite the claims of pro-lifers," The Boston Globe editorialized, "yesterday's murders were not merely the acts of a deranged individual."
Planned Parenthood blasted the "inflammatory rhetoric" of prolifers "that fostered this climate of fear and violence." One syndicated columnist declared: "The mainstream antiabortion rhetoric that calls abortion murder has led many, step by step, to the 'logical' conclusion that killing a 'killer' is justifiable homicide."
He who says X must say Y. Either Al Gore, Earth First, and Greenpeace had a hand in the Unabomber's killings -- or Newt Gingrich, the NRA, and Rush Limbaugh's radio show didn't cause the carnage in Oklahoma City. If John Salvi is the product of "mainstream antiabortion rhetoric," then Theodore Kaczynski was spawned by mainstream environmentalists.
Every movement has its kooks and degenerates. To blame the left for the crimes of the Unabomber would be shameless. Even as it was shameless to blame the right for the crimes in Brookline and Oklahoma City.
(Jeff Jacoby is a columnist for The Boston Globe).
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