Old Wives' Tales
Radio & TV
Toxin du jour
Claim: Not buying American Terrorist, a book about Timothy McVeigh, will prevent the Oklahoma City bomber from garnering additional publicity.
Example: [Collected on the Internet, 2001]
Origins: Ours is a prurient society. We are endlessly fascinated by the monsters among us, thus books about crazed killers and horrendous crimes generally sell well. It should therefore come as no surprise that the man who blew up Oklahoma City's federal building on
American Terrorist: Timothy McVeigh & the Oklahoma City Bombing was written by Lou Michel and Dan Herbeck, former reporters for the Buffalo News. The book is the result of intensive research into both McVeigh and the bombing, including
The authors have been loudly decried both for granting McVeigh an unfettered chance to sound off through their pages and for making money from writing about a tragedy still deeply felt.
Should you buy the book? We couldn't say. We have to point out, however, that it's nothing short of naive to think that by not buying it McVeigh will be denied the publicity he sought. Whether one book or ten is written about him, he now has a place in infamy in the unfolding history of the USA.
Possibly the most important point to stress in this controversy is that McVeigh does not get any of the royalties from the book's sales, so there is no possibility its sales will enrich him. Whatever revenues American Terrorist garners will go to its publisher and its authors; none of it ends up going to the subject of the work. Additionally, by law convicted criminals are not allowed to capitalize on or exploit their crimes for profit, so even if McVeigh had penned his autobiography, he would not be permitted to profit financially from its sales.
The justifiable urge to express outrage over this man's deeds can only be sympathized with. But shunning a book about him out of a misdirected belief that doing so will somehow impact the attention he receives is a misdirection of effort at best.
Barbara "rage of angels" Mikkelson
Last updated: 2 December 2007
This material may not be reproduced without permission.
snopes and the snopes.com logo are registered service marks of snopes.com.