Timothy McVeigh: Portrait of a Political Mass Murderer

Robert M. Kaplan

Affiliation: School of Medicine, University of Western Sydney, Thirroul, Australia

Keywords: Timothy McVeigh, Oklahoma City Bombing, Waco, Right Wing Extremism, Terry Nichols, Bill Clinton

Categories: News and Views, Humanities, Social Sciences and Law

DOI: 10.17160/josha.10.6.944

Languages: English

The 1995 bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City demolished one-third of the building, killing 168 people, including 19 children, and injured 684 others – the worst act of domestic terrorism in American history. The bomb was placed by Timothy McVeigh who intended it to provoke a right-wing rising as a declaration of war against the Federal government. McVeigh, who made little effort to avoid detection, was found guilty and duly executed after a relatively short time of six years. McVeigh, coming from an unsettled but not traumatising upbringing, developed an early obsession with guns which progressed to the extreme right-wing survivalist movement. He had a good military career and was decorated in the first Gulf War but became disillusioned after failing to get into Special Forces. Drifting around gun shows, becoming more extreme, the tipping point was the deaths of white supremacist Randy Weaver’s wife and son at their home in Ruby Ridge, Idaho, and the 1993 siege of the Branch Davidians’ compound in Waco, Texas. McVeigh decided that these events justified going to war against the Federal government and, aided by Terry Nichols, made elaborate efforts to acquire large amounts of ammonium nitrate, racing fuel and dynamite. McVeigh intended to be a martyr for his cause. The war against the government he had hoped for did not occur but there was a steady increase in right-wing activities culminating in the Trump-inspired 6 January insurrection against the Capitol. McVeigh shares characteristics with other such mass murderers and these issues are examined in the article.

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