Gold Cross, BlackrnHelicoptersrnby Philip JenkinsrnHarvest of Rage: Why OklahomarnCity is Only the Beginningrnby ]oel DyerrnBoulder: WestviewPress;rn304 pp., $24.00rnMaybe in another decade or so wernwill be ready to assess the full politicalrnand psychological impact of thern1995 bombing of the federal building inrnOklahoma City, but already we can observernsome of the major effects. Thernpartisan impact became clear last year,rnwhen Bill Clinton’s reelection owed sornmuch to the radical shift in the publicrnmood caused by the act: overnight, therntorrent of media hostility and suspicionrndirected against the White House becamernassociated with extremism, conspiracyrnthinking, and violence. Thernbombing also reversed American attitudesrnon domestic terrorism and politicalrnviolence. After blithely ignoring forrn30 years frequent acts of domestic terrorismrnby various political and ethnicrngroups, the American media suddenlyrndecided that Oklahoma City was just therntip of a very large iceberg, and 1995 witnessedrnwhat we can in retrospect termrnthe Great Militia Panic. Capitalizing onrntransformed public sentiment, federalrnagencies have spent the last two years engagedrnin the tactics of infiltration andrnprovocation which they so regularly usedrnagainst the left in the 1960’s and 70’s,rnwith painfully predictable results. Everyrnfew months now, we hear astonishingrnclaims that the FBI has once again savedrnus from the savage onslaught of somernmilitia band—only to learn later that thernsole suggestions of violence stemmedrnfrom Bureau provocateurs themselves.rnHarvest of Rage reflects something ofrnthe Militia Panic, in that Joel Dyer seesrnthe attack on the Murrah building as arnportent of a cataclysmic revolutionaryrnbreakdown: “The bomb’s fuse had beenrnlit somewhere in the economically devastatedrnlandscape of rural America . . .rnthe people who live in the nation’s hinterlandrnhave finally reached the edge ofrnthe abyss. The fertilizer and diesel fuelrnthat once enriched the soil and poweredrnthe machines that plant and harvest willrnnow be used to destroy their perceivedrnenemies, primary among them, the federalrngovernment.” Throughout thisrnbook we must separate such hyperbolernfrom the author’s underlying analysis ofrnthe social and political situation, which isrnthoughtful and signihcant. Even if OklahomarnCity is the beginning of anythingrnin particular (and that is far from certain),rnit is very difficult to link the perceivedrnthreat with the distinctive problemsrnof rural America, and the structuralrneconomic failures collectively known asrnthe farm crisis. Dyer has importantrnthings to say about the latter, but thernconnection to terrorism is tenuous.rnReaders attracted by the Oklahoma Cityrnsubtitle will be disappointed; others whornwould profit from the book’s main argumentrnmay be put off by its emphasis onrn”terrorists.”rnJoel Dyer is a Colorado-based journalistrnwho has worked with communityrngroups seeking to investigate the growingrneconomic and psychic crises of ruralrnAmerica. He argues that these tensionsrnhave literally traumatized millions of citizensrnwho have proceeded to respond torndesperate circumstances in a series ofrnonce unthinkable ways, including suicidernand domestic violence. Anomicrncountry-dwellers are ready takers for a varietyrnof conspiracy theories assumingrnovertly or covertly religious forms, derivingrnultimately from familiar notions ofrnthe apocalyptic and presenting a livelyrncast of villains: international bankers andrnJewish manipulators, the Beast of thernApocalypse and the Federal Reserve,rnblack helicopters and Soviet tanks, thernNew World Order and the rise of Antichrist.rnSometimes ideas are cementedrntogether by a “Christian Identity” theology,rnlinked to the right-wing anarchismrnof the Common Law movement. Veryrncommonly, the political framework assumesrnthe betrayal and perversion of thernUnited States Constitution. So far, sorngood; the strongest parts of Harvest ofrnRage are undoubtedly the case-studiesrnwhich Dyer presents of farmers and theirrnfamilies adopting some or all of thisrnbizarre intellectual melange in order tornmake sense of the disasters wrought uponrnwhole regions and states. Some arernmembers of questionable groups like thernFreemen and the Republic of Texas,rnwhile others are straightforward individuals.rnIt is helpful to have their ideas explainedrnby a sympathetic populist observerrnwho does not automatically viewrnconspiracy thought as the prerogative ofrnthe Nazi or the lunatic, and who sincerelyrnrespects the principles of the strictrnconstitutionalist. In this sense, Harvestrnof Rage is a welcome corrective to farrnmore hostile books on the “militia movement”rnby authors like Kenneth Sternrnand Morris Dees.rnProblems do arise, however, fromrnDyer’s general thesis. First, I am far fromrncertain that the apocalyptic cocktail hererndescribed is all that new in rural America.rnIn the I890’s, Midwestern farmersrnwere preparing to defend themselvesrnagainst the imminent armed onslaughtrnof the Jesuits and the Knights of Columbus,rnand in the I930’s their fears werernwilder still. Second, Dyer asserts—rnrather than proves—that the attitudesrnand beliefs he describes have more resonancernfor rural Americans than for, say,rnsuburbanites, many of whom respond torntheir fears by moving to the hinterland.rnThough the survivalist compounds mayrnbe in Idaho or Arkansas, they are oftenrnpopulated by uprooted city-dwellersrnfrom California or Michigan. Apocalypticrnthinking is not necessarily a productrnof the farm crisis; and the degree of violencernis unlikely to be decided by thernshifting fortunes of rural America.rnYet Dyer’s book offers a heartfelt portraitrnof conditions in the American farmbeltrnand fingers the real culprits responsiblernfor its woes: corporate agribusiness,rnthe soulless mandarins of the Federal Reservernsystem, and the politicians whornlong ago gave up any pretense of trying tornregulate them. If Oklahoma City servesrnto focus attention on these injustices,rnthen some good may yet come of thatrndisaster.rnPhilip ]enkins is Distinguished Professorrnof History and Religious Studies at PennrnState University. His most recent booksrnare Hoods and Shirts: The ExtremernRight in Pennsylvania I925-I950 (Universityrnof North Carolina Press) and ArnHistory of the United States (St. Martin’srnPress).rne n – 5459rn38/CHRONICLESrnrnrn