Read my 2003 post
on the disaster. Note the opening paragraph:
Ten years ago today, the property of a madman suspected of amassing illegal firearms was assaulted, and nobody in Hollywood complained.
Reason has a collection of its stories on the Waco siege. In one of them, Virginia Postrel confronts a certain breed of paranoia:
A Los Angeles Times news report by Janet Hook is direct: "Gingrich has kept his distance from the violent extremes of the right....But Gingrich has continued to champion the same causes as these extremist groups: criticism of the Waco siege, opposition to gun control and general anti-government themes."
In the wake of the Oklahoma City tragedy, we have seen a different side of that confusion--the deliberate conflation of his opponents' words with the deadly deeds of a handful of vicious, isolated individuals. Using tactics that would make Joe McCarthy sit up and take notes, Bill Clinton has sought to intimidate critics of government policy by branding them as terrorists.
Such tactics must not work. Loud voices are not the same as violent deeds. Criticism is not the same as murder. Exposing government violence is not the same as blowing up buildings. It is grossly irresponsible to blur these distinctions. And those who rely on such smear tactics are in no position to lecture the rest of us about toning down rhetoric.
In fact, wide-open debate is the best chance for restraining violent impulses. Contrary to the Los Angeles Times editorialists, hearings on Waco would be a very good idea, especially now. Information is the enemy both of out-of-control government and of paranoia. Vigorous, open dissent is a powerful check on government excesses--and an important, peaceful outlet for citizen grievances.
Declaring those grievances illegitimate, and those citizens the philosophical allies of murderers, may make a weak president feel strong. But it won't make the grievances go away. And it won't make sleazy rhetoric any less sleazy.
Gee, I wonder if the people who blamed conservative punditry for the OKC bombing are worried about all the future violence being bred by the rantings of Michael Moore, John Kerry, Harry Reid, Howard Dean, Noam Chomsky, Ward Churchill, and the Democratic Underground.