I’ve been waiting to see what, if any, new information was going to be reported on the RV bombing in Nashville yesterday morning before doing a post. Very little factually useful information has been reported so far. Earlier today I put together a preliminary assessment for a close friend who is a supervisory patrol officer in the police department he works for. This is the same guy I’ve mentioned in comments before who I teach martial arts with and who used to be that department’s SWAT team leader and sniper. I’m going to copy and paste a slightly modified version of that assessment below for you. It had three parts and I’m going to actually start with what was part two of the assessment, follow it with part three, and then finish with part one.
The second thing that stands out to me is that I’ve so far not seen anyone report that someone has taken responsibility. There is no reporting that a manifesto was posted on one of the chan boards or somewhere else. If this was someone like the New Zealand shooter – an extreme rightist who is heavily involved in the online extreme right shitposting and trolling communities – I’d have expected a manifesto to have been posted, highlighted, and reported on by now. If this was an extremist politicized Islamic based attack, I’d have expected one of the obvious groups to have taken credit by now. As of 1:15 PM EST on 26 DEC, neither of those have taken place. This leads me to worry that we’ve got one of two potential types of perpetrators. Either someone more similar to Eric Robert Rudolph – long radicalized and indoctrinated, with a very detailed set of grievances, good impulse control, and the ability to operate in ways that do not require a lot of attention to himself – or someone with a very specific grievance against one of the businesses or companies in the building adjacent to where the RV was parked or the building’s owner. AT&T does have a major data processing center there, but they’re not the only company in that building.
The third thing has less to do with the bombing and more to do with how the news media covers this stuff. By mid afternoon CBS’s Homeland Security correspondent wasn’t just tweeting that the Nashville Police and the FBI had a “person of interest”*, but was also tweeting the guy’s name and a description of him. This was followed shortly by a bunch of other people tweeting pictures of the guy’s house. In over 20 years – since that idiot profiler Clint Van Zandt*** misidentified Richard Jewel as the Centennial Park bomber, which allowed the news media to focus on the wrong person letting Rudolph get away and continue his terrorism campaign for seven more years – the news media hasn’t been able to learn not to run with initial details that may have no actual significance to the events they’re covering. In this case the immediate connection is that the person that law enforcement wanted to talk to had a RV similar to the one used in the bombing parked at his house for a couple of weeks. So did one of my neighbors. The fact that the RV my neighbors rented or borrowed for a camping trip is no longer in their driveway DOES NOT MEAN THEY BLEW UP A STREET IN NASHVILLE ON CHRISTMAS MORNING!!!!!!
While the BBC is carefully reporting that the FBI thinks, at this time, that it may have been a suicide bombing because of the human remains found at the bomb site, and that the FBI is not looking for anyone else at this time, it still does not mean that is a final assessment. And the fact that Catherine Herridge of CBS is tweeting that this is the leading theory is meaningless. Herridge couldn’t accurately report on what she had for breakfast or which shoes she is currently wearing. Why CBS decided it was a good idea to hire a hard right reporter with a sweet tooth for every silly conspiracy theory that emerges from the conservative digital and social media ecosystem away from Fox News is beyond me. Regardless, once they get the DNA back from the remains found at the bomb site they’ll know if their current working theory is accurate or if they are back to square one. Of course this assumes that someone didn’t kill the person whose home they searched earlier today in order to steal the guy’s RV and left the body in the RV so that it would appear to be a suicide bombing, which would allow the actual perpetrator or perpetrators to get away. I think that’s less likely, but it is still a possibility.
And now we get to the first part of the assessment. Before I went to work for the Army, I wrote my doctoral dissertation on domestic terrorism in the US. While there was a complete empirical theory I built out of existing criminological, political science, and sociological theories and then tested it statistically, there were also three case studies to qualify what had been quantified. The primary of those three case studies was Eric Robert Rudolph. In the findings, I then contrasted what we were seeing domestically with examples of terrorism in other nation-states by what we would call foreign non-state actors. This comparison of domestic and foreign extremists and the terrorism they were undertaking was the focus of my work until I went to work for the Army five years later.
Right now we’ve got two things that stand out, given that there’s been very little new news since late yesterday afternoon/early evening. The first is the use of the warning, as well as what appear to be strings of gunfire broadcast before the warning and count down. Rudolph was one of the first domestic terrorists in the US to use warnings before his bombings. By one of the first, I specifically mean the first on the extreme right. Rudolph’s behavioral drivers were rooted in the fact that he was a religiously motivated racist, anti-Semite, homophobe, anti-feminist, anti-government xenophobe. Rudolph had been raised in – indoctrinated and radicalized from the time he was child – the Christian Identity movement and the Church of Jesus Christ Christian. The Church of Jesus Christ Christian is the religious arm/component of the Aryan Nations. It provides the theology and dogma in teaching and preaching not just for the Aryan Nations, but several other extreme right movements in the US. Its core theology and doctrine** is an extreme, violent, racist, and rigid version of charismatic Pentecostalism that was fused with the British Israelitism/Anglo Isrealitism theology that had bounced around England and the US since the Victorian period. Woodrow Wilson was an Anglo Israelite, so this wasn’t something that was just on the extreme fringes of American Christianity. Decades after Wilson’s presidency and death, in the early post WW II period, Anglo Israelitism was fused with a white, segregationist charismatic Pentacostalism and that gave us the Church of Jesus Christ Christian. And while the Aryan Nations is now little more than the name and several different men fighting over who has the right to it in an attempt to grift off of it these days, the Church of Jesus Christ Christian is still active. Small compared to other evangelical and charismatic sects of American Christianity, but active.
Rudolph’s terrorism was rooted in a solid blend of extreme right and extreme religious, in this case charismatic Protestant ideas, theologies, ideologies, and dogmas. Just like those of the directly tied to the Aryan Nations Order I and Order II. As we all as the anti-government behavior of the Weavers – specifically Vicki Weaver as she was the actual driver of her and her husband’s anti-government, racist, and anti-Semitic behavior as she was both the brains in the family and the one who had fervently adopted the teachings of the Church of Jesus Christ Christian and pulled Randi into it. Rudolph was also tied into the Army of God, which also existed then and what’s left of it exists now in this nexus of far right and religious Christian extremism in the US. But what makes Rudolph important here is his use of issuing warnings before his bombs would go off.
Prior to Rudolph this tactic had been used solely by extreme left terrorists. Specifically, because these groups were partially or totally Marxist in their ideologies. They wanted their violence to inspire a popular or proletarian revolution to sweep away what is and establish a new socialist state and society. Even the groups that were anti-colonialist and nationalists – like the IRA – were also partially or wholly Marxist in their ideology. And since they wanted to inspire a popular uprising, they couldn’t be indiscriminately killing the populace that they needed to motivate willy nilly. So they tried to carefully target – kidnap the right official or elite or notable, assassinate the right official or elite or notable, blow up a building or structure that is a symbol of the tyranny of the elites and notables – without causing mass casualties. If you just use Northern Ireland as the case study, if you look at violence coming from the Catholic independence groups like the IRA, the PIRA, INLA (what were originally called the Republicans because they wanted Northern Ireland to be rejoined to the Irish Republic) before a lot of them devolved into organized crime groups, they were very careful in who they killed and what they blew up. The casualty and death tallies for their groups is comparatively low. When you pull the numbers for the Protestant loyalist groups, both those that wanted to just remain in the UK and those that got fed up with Britain and believed it was betraying them to the Irish Catholics and also targeted British officials, the casualty and kill numbers for their attacks are through the roof. While the Catholic independence groups would call in a bomb threat so they could symbolically blow up a building once everyone had been evacuated, the Protestant loyalist groups would just blow it up. They’d kill a building full of Protestants if it allowed them to kill their lone Catholic target. And this pattern – that extreme left terrorists were much more discriminating in their targeting, while extreme right, extreme religious, and extreme right and religious terrorists were not discriminating at all – holds all over the world.
Since Rudolph, the tactic of calling in a warning or providing one has become commonplace on the extreme right in the US. Just working from memory, I’m almost 100% positive that it was actually included in a revision to the Army of God manual. What Rudolph did in adapting this tactic was to use it not to get people out of the way so few if any were hurt in his symbolic violence intended to motivate the masses to rise up, but rather to draw law enforcement and first responders, the news media, and others into the kill zone. This tactic has now been used dozens of times over the past 20 years or so as we’ve seen an increase in extreme right domestic terrorism in the US.
And now we continue to wait for more information to be released. Right now we have no idea if this is domestic terrorism or someone angry at one of the businesses in the building adjacent to where the RV was parked or the owner of the building or someone hoping to commit suicide by cop or someone hoping to draw in law enforcement and first responders and commit a mass casualty suicide attack. What we do know, unfortunately, is that these things have a tendency to spawn copycat attacks. And that is what law enforcement needs to keep an eye out for right now.
* I’ll let Ken White explain the problem with the use of person of interest, which law enforcement only started to use after the TV show became popular.
Just a reminder that “person of interest” is an utter bullshit null-content post-9/11 dystopia phrase. https://t.co/zhVLEdQgaH
— ISSUEALLTHEPARDONShat (@Popehat) December 26, 2020
** Christian Identity theology, which is the core of the Church of Jesus Christ Christian’s theology, dogma, and doctrine is a combination of two things. The first is that the 10 lost tribes of Israel were not lost. Rather they sailed out of the Mediterranean, up the coast of Europe, down the Thames, and established the ancient city of Londinium, which is where the modern London is situated. There they reestablished themselves and started the Anglo-Saxon race. As such, Anglo-Saxons (read this as white European people) are the real Chosen People, not the Jews. Christian Identity takes this and adds a racist and anti-Semitic component. Specifically that the Jews are really the children of Satan, which is derived from the Jews being a “synagogue of Satan” mentioned in one of Paul’s epistles. Existence is a fight between the real Chosen People and the Jews and it is hard to distinguish them because only people who can blush – white people – are the real Chosen People and really have souls. Since Jews present as white and can blush, they are able to trick those not in the know. Anyhow, according to Christian Identity the Satanic Jews and their soulless minions – Africans/people of African descent, Asians/people of Asian descent, Hispanics/people of Hispanic descent and people of mixed ethnicities, which the Christian Identity folks call “mud people” seek to take over the world and rule on behalf of Satan. This all departs from traditional Anglo-Israelitism, which included the whole ten lost tribes thing, but recognized Jews as still part of the Chosen People, just not pure blood anymore, leading to a sort of bizarre antagonistic and hostile to Jews philo-Semitism by the English and then American elites who held these views, like Woodrow Wilson. The final component of Christian identity is a racialized, racist, anti-Semitic, homophobic, and nativist/xenophobic version of charismatic evangelicalsim/Pentacostalism. The seminal work on all of this is Michael Barkun’s Religion and the Racist Right: The Origins of the Christian Identity Movement.
*** Van Zandt so screwed this up that in May 2003 he was still blaming Jewell. On the Sunday morning TV talk fests! I was attending the XL Senior Conference at the US Military Academy in May 2003 as an invited guest and participant. It was the kickoff for the newly opened Combatting Terrorism Center, which I had a small involvement with as it was being set up. They had just arrested Rudolph as the conference was starting and we all had some fun talking about Van Zandt’s appearance on one of the Sunday news shows blaming Jewell for the fact that it took seven more years to catch Rudolph because Jewell had made himself such an appealing suspect that just fit every different assumption in Van Zandt’s profile. So it was Jewell’s fault, not Van Zandt’s that Rudolph was at large and active for seven more years. This was then, as it is now, a load of bullshit. Van Zandt is a moron. Behavioral profiling is a scam. It was a scam at its creation:
On November 16, 1940, workers at the Consolidated Edison building on West Sixty-fourth Street in Manhattan found a homemade pipe bomb on a windowsill. Attached was a note: “Con Edison crooks, this is for you.” In September of 1941, a second bomb was found, on Nineteenth Street, just a few blocks from Con Edison’s headquarters, near Union Square. It had been left in the street, wrapped in a sock. A few months later, the New York police received a letter promising to “bring the Con Edison to justice—they will pay for their dastardly deeds.” Sixteen other letters followed, between 1941 and 1946, all written in block letters, many repeating the phrase “dastardly deeds” and all signed with the initials “F.P.” In March of 1950, a third bomb—larger and more powerful than the others—was found on the lower level of Grand Central Terminal. The next was left in a phone booth at the New York Public Library. It exploded, as did one placed in a phone booth in Grand Central. In 1954, the Mad Bomber—as he came to be known—struck four times, once in Radio City Music Hall, sending shrapnel throughout the audience. In 1955, he struck six times. The city was in an uproar. The police were getting nowhere. Late in 1956, in desperation, Inspector Howard Finney, of the New York City Police Department’s crime laboratory, and two plainclothesmen paid a visit to a psychiatrist by the name of James Brussel.
Brussel was a Freudian. He lived on Twelfth Street, in the West Village, and smoked a pipe. In Mexico, early in his career, he had done counter-espionage work for the F.B.I. He wrote many books, including “Instant Shrink: How to Become an Expert Psychiatrist in Ten Easy Lessons.” Finney put a stack of documents on Brussel’s desk: photographs of unexploded bombs, pictures of devastation, photostats of F.P.’s neatly lettered missives. “I didn’t miss the look in the two plainclothesmen’s eyes,” Brussel writes in his memoir, “Casebook of a Crime Psychiatrist.” “I’d seen that look before, most often in the Army, on the faces of hard, old-line, field-grade officers who were sure this newfangled psychiatry business was all nonsense.”
He began to leaf through the case materials. For sixteen years, F.P. had been fixated on the notion that Con Ed had done him some terrible injustice. Clearly, he was clinically paranoid. But paranoia takes some time to develop. F.P. had been bombing since 1940, which suggested that he was now middle-aged. Brussel looked closely at the precise lettering of F.P.’s notes to the police. This was an orderly man. He would be cautious. His work record would be exemplary. Further, the language suggested some degree of education. But there was a stilted quality to the word choice and the phrasing. Con Edison was often referred to as “the Con Edison.” And who still used the expression “dastardly deeds”? F.P. seemed to be foreign-born. Brussel looked closer at the letters, and noticed that all the letters were perfect block capitals, except the “W”s. They were misshapen, like two “U”s. To Brussel’s eye, those “W”s looked like a pair of breasts. He flipped to the crime-scene descriptions. When F.P. planted his bombs in movie theatres, he would slit the underside of the seat with a knife and stuff his explosives into the upholstery. Didn’t that seem like a symbolic act of penetrating a woman, or castrating a man—or perhaps both? F.P. had probably never progressed beyond the Oedipal stage. He was unmarried, a loner. Living with a mother figure. Brussel made another leap. F.P. was a Slav. Just as the use of a garrote would have suggested someone of Mediterranean extraction, the bomb-knife combination struck him as Eastern European. Some of the letters had been posted from Westchester County, but F.P. wouldn’t have mailed the letters from his home town. Still, a number of cities in southeastern Connecticut had a large Slavic population. And didn’t you have to pass through Westchester to get to the city from Connecticut?
Brussel waited a moment, and then, in a scene that has become legendary among criminal profilers, he made a prediction:
“One more thing.” I closed my eyes because I didn’t want to see their reaction. I saw the Bomber: impeccably neat, absolutely proper. A man who would avoid the newer styles of clothing until long custom had made them conservative. I saw him clearly—much more clearly than the facts really warranted. I knew I was letting my imagination get the better of me, but I couldn’t help it.
“One more thing,” I said, my eyes closed tight. “When you catch him—and I have no doubt you will—he’ll be wearing a double-breasted suit.”
“Jesus!” one of the detectives whispered.
“And it will be buttoned,” I said. I opened my eyes. Finney and his men were looking at each other.
“A double-breasted suit,” said the Inspector.
He nodded. Without another word, they left.
A month later, George Metesky was arrested by police in connection with the New York City bombings. His name had been changed from Milauskas. He lived in Waterbury, Connecticut, with his two older sisters. He was unmarried. He was unfailingly neat. He attended Mass regularly. He had been employed by Con Edison from 1929 to 1931, and claimed to have been injured on the job. When he opened the door to the police officers, he said, “I know why you fellows are here. You think I’m the Mad Bomber.” It was midnight, and he was in his pajamas. The police asked that he get dressed. When he returned, his hair was combed into a pompadour and his shoes were newly shined. He was also wearing a double-breasted suit—buttoned.
And it is a scam now!
James Brussel didn’t really see the Mad Bomber in that pile of pictures and photostats, then. That was an illusion. As the literary scholar Donald Foster pointed out in his 2000 book “Author Unknown,” Brussel cleaned up his predictions for his memoirs. He actually told the police to look for the bomber in White Plains, sending the N.Y.P.D.’s bomb unit on a wild goose chase in Westchester County, sifting through local records. Brussel also told the police to look for a man with a facial scar, which Metesky didn’t have. He told them to look for a man with a night job, and Metesky had been largely unemployed since leaving Con Edison in 1931. He told them to look for someone between forty and fifty, and Metesky was over fifty. He told them to look for someone who was an “expert in civil or military ordnance” and the closest Metesky came to that was a brief stint in a machine shop. And Brussel, despite what he wrote in his memoir, never said that the Bomber would be a Slav. He actually told the police to look for a man “born and educated in Germany,” a prediction so far off the mark that the Mad Bomber himself was moved to object. At the height of the police investigation, when the New York Journal American offered to print any communications from the Mad Bomber, Metesky wrote in huffily to say that “the nearest to my being ‘Teutonic’ is that my father boarded a liner in Hamburg for passage to this country—about sixty-five years ago.”
The true hero of the case wasn’t Brussel; it was a woman named Alice Kelly, who had been assigned to go through Con Edison’s personnel files. In January, 1957, she ran across an employee complaint from the early nineteen-thirties: a generator wiper at the Hell Gate plant had been knocked down by a backdraft of hot gases. The worker said that he was injured. The company said that he wasn’t. And in the flood of angry letters from the ex-employee Kelly spotted a threat—to “take justice in my own hands”—that had appeared in one of the Mad Bomber’s letters. The name on the file was George Metesky.
Brussel did not really understand the mind of the Mad Bomber. He seems to have understood only that, if you make a great number of predictions, the ones that were wrong will soon be forgotten, and the ones that turn out to be true will make you famous. The Hedunit is not a triumph of forensic analysis. It’s a party trick.
There’s no criminological, sociological, and/or psychological empirical validity to behavioral profiling. It was bullshit in 1940 and it is bullshit in 2020.