On April 19, 1995, Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols, two seemingly ordinary men with a history of serving in the military, detonated a truck bomb near the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. The result was devastating: over 160 people were murdered, with an additional 600-700 injured. It was the second deadliest terrorist attack in US history, topped only by the September 11 Attacks, and lead to the drafting of the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996.
Over 20 years after this horrific event, the country came close to reliving it were it not for the heroic efforts of local law enforcement officials and the FBI. The perpetrator this time was Jerry Drake Varnell, a 23 year old that wanted to detonate an undisclosed amount of explosives near the financial services BancFirst building.
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As with most terrorists, Varnell had a disturbing history of being involved with extremist groups, and we can trace that all through his social media presence. He was a part of a Facebook group called the “Oklahoma Defense Force” or “OKDF,” which, as you may guess from the name alone, was a right-wing militia group dedicated to fighting the federal government. As a result, it should come as no surprise that Varnell identified himself as a “three percenter,” an anti-government ideology that The Washington Post’s Devlin Barrett defined as the following:
“….that pledges resistance against the United States government on the belief it has infringed on the Constitution, according to court papers. Those who subscribe to the ideology incorrectly believe that only 3 percent of the colonial population participated in the American Revolution, and they see themselves as their heirs.”
In other words, he was a zealous pseudo-patriot with a revisionist idea of American history. Add to that the fact that he was an actual admirer of McVeigh, and you can see he was always destined to fall onto a violent path. What makes Varnell all the more terrifying, however, is how close his political views are to some of the local Republicans. For example, in Multnomah County, Oregon, the GOP approved the hiring of three percent followers as private security for events held by their politicians.
There was this idea when Donald Trump was elected that he would inspire further immoral behavior in this country given that he managed to get elected to the highest office in the land despite his numerous crimes. The same can be said locally. When you have people who support violent ideologies getting successfully elected to power, of course their constituents are going to be similarly influenced. Whatever was going on in Varnell’s mind, we assure you he was far from alone in that mindset. If lunatics can travel from all over the country to riot at a single college campus, then anything is possible at a grassroots level.
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