Why Didn’t Everything Change After Oklahoma City?

In a recent article about the racist right and science fiction, this caught my eye (boldface mine):

Scalzi said that it’s unwise to dismiss authors because of a single novel or late-career tendency toward the lunatic fringe, but that he’s seen a rightward shift in a baby-boomer sci-fi novelists in particular. “For some healthy slice of the baby boomers in general, 9/11 just caused a bend in their thinking and they’ve been thinking in a much more conservative and reactionary way,” he said.

Here’s what I don’t get: if our internal security forces hadn’t had multiple failures, the Oklahoma City bombing would have been the largest domestic terrorist incident in recent history, not Sept. 11, 2001. And keep in mind, for six years, Oklahoma City was the most devastating attack. Yet there wasn’t a massive derangement–if anything the country became slightly less insane. Republican congressman weren’t inviting far-right militias, often with white supremacist ties, to testify in front of Congress–and not as hostile witnesses, but patriots defending freedom.

While there were a lot of factors that led to post-9/11 hysteria (including cynical manipulation), it was as if some people wanted to be at war, wanted to be afraid.

I can analyze this, but, at some basic level, I still don’t understand how so many completely lost their shit for so long.

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3 Responses to Why Didn’t Everything Change After Oklahoma City?

  1. Physicalist says:

    I don’t really get it at a basic level either, but here are a few items that I think contribute:

    1. Right-wingers are largely motivated by fear. This means successful right-wingers are fear mongers, and stoking fear (against others) gives them power.

    2. People are often more afraid of “those other folks” than they are of greater threats from those that are more familiar. (Probably some ancient monkey-wiring at work.) McVeigh was seen as a couple orders of magnitude above a teen drunk driver who kills someone, but still in the same general category (white kid does something stupid). 9/11 was instead “them” attacking “us.”

    3. As piece of terrorism, 9/11 was quite impressive in that it made a vast number of people feel threatened. With Oklahoma, when we found out about it, it was over. Something in the past to deal with. On 9/11 the coordinated attacks left everyone wondering how many more there would be, and when and where they might fall.

    This led to many Americans feeling threatened for the first time in their lives. Oklahoma City is pretty far from most Americans, but when New York and DC are hit, you’re left wondering what might be next. I had to head home when the State House was evacuated, and high rises all over the country were shut down.

    Most white American men had never tasted that sort of fear before, and it sparked a drive for revenge and macho pro-war posturing. I’m sure that’s only part of it, but I think it’s an important part.

  2. anthrosciguy says:

    The reason is that 9/11 is an excuse.

  3. killiara says:

    Oklahoma was done by a white man, someone who could be your neighbor or your brother. You can’t really fearmonger against yourself.

    9/11 was done by the Other, and there’s nothing that we like to hate more.

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