Why so little reporting on Spokane bomb threat?

SEATTLE – Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR) recently posted a story on its website headlined “Terrorism and Spokane” assailing the media for mostly ignoring the bomb placed along the route of the Jan. 17 Martin Luther King Day march in Spokane.

Luckily, city workers discovered the backpack containing the shrapnel-filled explosive device and the march was rerouted by Spokane police. The FBI removed the bomb, sending it to the FBI lab at Quantico, Virginia for analysis. Forensic investigators say the bomb also was laced with a toxic chemical to make it even more lethal. FBI Special Agent Frederick Gutt, a spokesperson for the Seattle Field Office, said, “The device appeared to be operational, it appeared to be deadly, and it was intended to inflict multiple casualties.” Another police official said, it is the “worst device, and the most intentional device I have ever seen.”

It was described as “highly sophisticated,” rigged with a remote trigger.

Spokane is the largest city in a region with a concentration of white supremacist hate groups and armed militias. The Aryan Nations and its  leader Richard Butler recruited racists and anti-Semites to an armed compound in nearby Hayden Lake, Idaho. A civil lawsuit won by opponents of the Aryan Nations bankrupted Butler. His compound was confiscated. He died in 2004.

FAIR points out that the media downplayed the Spokane bomb threat even though it took place just a few weeks after the tragedy in Tucson in which a deranged gunman shot Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Ariz., killed a U.S. Judge, an eight year old girl and four other victims and wounded a dozen more.

FAIR quotes Will Bunch of the Philadelphia Daily News who protests the media putting this case of “domestic terrorism” on their back pages.

Bunch asks if the underreporting is the result of intimidation of the media by former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin, the Tea Party, and other rightwing extremists when the Tucson sheriff and others blamed the right for a climate of hate that made the killer think he was licensed to kill. Bunch cites the “massive pushback from conservatives who accused the mainstream media of jumping to unfair conclusions.”

Palin herself called it a “blood libel.” The former GOP veep nominee was savaged for using that term, Bunch continued, “but you have to wonder, now if the pushback from Palin is actually a case of ‘mission accomplished.’ That’s because with this new episode in Spokane, not only have the pillars of the mainstream media not raced to any conclusions, but they seem to be in a competition as to who can most ignore the story altogether.”

Bunch points out that there is a well-documented history of the corporate media playing down domestic terrorism threats “that don’t involve Arab or Muslim” alleged conspirators. When Timothy McVeigh and his accomplice bombed the Federal Building in Oklahoma City on April 19, 1995, for example, law enforcement and the media instantly concluded that Arabs or Muslims were the perpetrators.

“But there’s no need to jump to unwarranted conclusions here,” writes Bunch, “the actual facts have been laid out by the nation’s preeminent law enforcement agency, the FBI – that we are dealing with a case of ‘domestic terrorism,’ that the sophisticated device along the King Day parade route was capable of causing mass casualties, and the target was American citizens celebrating an icon of the progressive movement, Dr. King.”

Photo: Devastation after the blast that destroyed the federal building in Oklahoma City in 1995, killing 168 people, including 19 children, and wounding 680 others. (DoD photo)


Tim Wheeler
Tim Wheeler

Tim Wheeler has written over 10,000 news reports, exposés, op-eds, and commentaries in his half-century as a journalist for the Worker, Daily World, and People’s World. Tim also served as editor of the People’s Weekly World newspaper.  His book News for the 99% is a selection of his writings over the last 50 years representing a history of the nation and the world from a working-class point of view. After residing in Baltimore for many years, Tim now lives in Sequim, Wash.