American essayist and writer Gore Vidal passed away recently. Much has been written in praise of the controversial and polemic author, widely admired for his wit and intellect.
The Oklahoma City bombing killed scores of people in 2001, and was conducted by Timothy McVeigh. McVeigh murdered 19 children under the age of 6.
Gore Vidal praised McVeigh at the Edinburgh Film Festival in 2001:
The writer Gore Vidal yesterday compared the executed Oklahoma bomber Timothy McVeigh to Paul Revere, the hero of American independence.
In a withering address at the Edinburgh book festival, the liberal novelist and elder statesman of the Gore political dynasty said the former soldier decorated for bravery in the Gulf war wanted to send out a warning that the government had been bought by corporate America and "its secret police, the FBI, were out of control. What McVeigh was saying was, 'The Feds are coming, the Feds are coming'. "
In his strongest identification yet with the man who confessed to blowing up the Federal Building in Oklahoma City in 1995, killing 168 people in retaliation for the FBI's "slaughter at Waco", Vidal described him as a "Kipling hero" with an "overdeveloped sense of justice" who did what he did because he was inflamed by the massacre, the FBI's subsequent cover-up, and the way it "had shredded the bill of rights and the constitution. He was the man who would be king."
Gore Vidal spoke of an FBI conspiracy against the mass-murdering terrorist, McVeigh.
Writing in Vanity Fair in 2001, Vidal said:
Then the F.B.I. conspired to withhold documents from the McVeigh defense as well as from the department's alleged master: We the People in Congress Assembled as embodied by former senator Danforth. Finally, the ongoing spontaneous Media conspiracy to demonize McVeigh, who acted alone, despite contrary evidence.
Vidal on McVeigh as an American hero, one born out of time:
The stoic serenity of McVeigh's last days certainly qualified him as a Henley-style hero. He did not complain about his fate; took responsibility for what he was thought to have done; did not beg for mercy as our always sadistic Media require. Meanwhile, conflicting details about him accumulate--a bewildering mosaic, in fact--and he seems more and more to have stumbled into the wrong American era. Plainly, he needed a self-consuming cause to define him. The abolition of slavery or the preservation of the Union would have been more worthy of his life than anger at the excesses of our corrupt secret police. But he was stuck where he was and so he declared war on a government that he felt had declared war on its own people.
Or perhaps, McVeigh was working with secret police?
There is always the interesting possibility--prepare for the grandest conspiracy of all--that he neither made nor set off the bomb outside the Murrah building: it was only later, when facing either death or life imprisonment, that he saw to it that he would be given sole credit for hoisting the black flag and slitting throats, to the rising fury of various "militias" across the land who are currently outraged that he is getting sole credit for a revolutionary act organized, some say, by many others. At the end, if this scenario is correct, he and the detested Feds were of a single mind.
Gore Vidal attended McVeigh's execution. The BBC reported at the time:
Mr Vidal said that he shared McVeigh's feeling that government had "run amok".
He said he hoped his presence at the execution, despite his opposition to the death penalty, would be seen as a sign that "there is somebody who's not violent - that's me - who agrees" with McVeigh, Mr Vidal said on US television.
He said there was a "general pattern of harrassment of American people across the country" by the US Government.
Mr Vidal said he shared McVeigh's horror at the former US Attorney General who ordered the storming of a cult stronghold in Waco, Texas, in 1993, resulting in the death of more than 80 cult members.
"I'm against the death penalty, I'm against Timothy McVeigh blowing up people in Oklahoma City, but I'm even more against [former] Attorney General Janet Reno," Mr Vidal said.
Here is an interview Vidal did on McVeigh (from 13:00):
"The more I studied the case, the more I'm convinced it was a very large conspiracy and he was a very small part of it. [...] He was a kind of straight arrow when it came to the constitution. Quite learned and self-taught. An autodidact. He said this present government is unforgiveable."
If you carry on listening to the interview, Vidal boasts of having suggested other retrospective targets to McVeigh, which would not have killed anyone.
Vidal's writing on McVeigh was deeply disturbing, yet perhaps indicativ of his paranoid politics.