Perceptions of the Pentagon shooter

The Washington Post on Saturday carried two front page stories, side by side, on John Patrick Bedell, the man who shot and wounded two guards at the Pentagon before he was killed.  The one story, Pentagon shooter, others strike symbols of ‘power for the powerless’, framed the attack in terms of anti-government groups, such as the Tea Party movement and right-wing militias.   “Researchers who track violent groups see Bedell’s rampage as a distorted manifestation of the anti-Washington view that has driven the rise of right-wing militias.”

And yet, the accompanying news article describes a marijuana activist whom friends described as a “peacenik” known for his 9/11 denial and his online rants against George W. Bush. In other words, this mentally-disturbed 36-year-old was a creature of the left rather than of the right, despite the impression created by the feature story.

Yes, Bedell believed in wild conspiracy theories–maintaining that the government was taken over by a “coup” when JFK was assassinated and that it has been run by a sinister non-democratic cabal ever since–but such fantasies are commonplace on the hard left as well as the hard right.


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