Spurred on by those who put forward that it is the 'Right' or 'conservatives' that engender violence in US culture, I decided to take a look at those high level affairs that were either important in their time or in the realm of politics for the US. This is by no means an all inclusive listing, but one that looks at the realm of high-level assassinations. I am NOT looking at foreign assassinations nor their political motivations. And if I cannot quickly discern a political affiliation that is strong for an assassin(s) then I say so. I am more than ready to put in the actual affiliations, but motivation is far more important than anything else as that is what is implied as being on the 'Right' or with 'conservatives.
So here is the deeply unhappy list I put together.
It is not a list of large scale terrorist events, thus you will not find McVeigh on it as he and other terrorists are generally doing something called 'Private War' against the Nation. That list is highly diverse, however, and the decades of terror acts aimed at the US has a huge list of events, actors, and motivations behind them. Terrorists can commit assassinations, but large scale acts aimed at the Nation are Acts of War not assassinations.
If you want a better list of high level assassinations, do it yourself... and read of the unhappiness that can find room in the heart of your fellow man.
Attempted assassination of President Clinton by FARC - Motivation: Terrorism. In general the Colombian police found a bomb planted in a room that President Clinton was to give a speech in within a few hours and the device was traced to FARC. Political party - Unknown/FARC.
Assassination of Tommy Burks by Byron (Low Tax) Looper - Motivation: Political opportunism to murder an opponent to get his name removed from the ballot. Looper had changed his middle name to signify his political beliefs, had previously switched parties, and ran numerous false news accounts of his political achievements. Also an ex-girlfriend sued for child support and fraud and charged Looper of using his political office to harass her. Republicans helped the wife of the murdered Tommy Burks run a write-in campaign to win the election. Political party - Republican.
Attempted assassination of President Bill Clinton by Francisco Martin Duran - Motivation: Possibly infamy. Plead guilty, attempted insanity defense that involved a celestial alien umbilical cord and incitement by a conservative talk radio host, and was convicted for his crimes. He had an aggravated assault conviction prior to this while in the Army. Political party - Unknown.
Assassination of Meir Kahane bye El Sayyid Nosair - Motivation: Terrorism and member of al Qaeda. Political party - Unknown.
Attempted assassination of President Reagan by John Hinckley, Jr. - Motivation: Insanity caused by obsession. Political party - Unknown.
John Lennon killed by Mark David Chapman - Motivation: Seeking infamy. Sought to be found insane at first, but recanted and was found competent to plead guilty, but was deemed in need of mental treatment at sentencing. Political party - Unknown.
Assassination of District Judge John H. Wood, Jr. by Charles Voyde Harrelson - Motivation: Hitman hired by drug dealer Jamiel Chagra. Previously tried for the murder of Sam Degelia. Political party - Unknown.
San Francisco Mayor George Moscone and Supervisor Harvey Milk assassinated by Daniel James White - Motivation: City politics/depression. In general the infamous 'twinkie defense' is best known as Dan White's legacy, and he would later commit suicide while out on parole. Political party - Democratic.
Attempted assassination of President Ford by Lynette Alice "Squeaky" Fromme - Motivation: Unknown, previously a member of the Manson Family. Political party - Unknown.
Attempted assassination of President Ford by Sara Jane Moore - Motivation: Uknown, possibly mental instability, later in life stated it was due to her "radical views". Political party - Unknown.
Attempted assassination of Richard Nixon by Samuel Byck - Motivation: Derangement/personal, depression, attempt to start "Operation Pandora's Box" given in tapes to columnist Jack Anderson, belief that government was trying to suppress the poor. Had sent other tapes to Jonas Salk, Abraham Ribicoff, Leonard Bernstein and attempted to join the Black Panther Party, as well as held protests in front of the White House without gaining permits to do so. Political party - Unknown.
Attempted assassination of George Wallace by Arthur Bremer - Motivation: Personal statement about his manhood, wrote that he would kill either Richard Nixon or George Wallace to demonstrate it and become infamous. Plan to assassinate President Nixon was thwarted due to high security, stopped on initial attempt against Wallace due to teenagers being near glass behind Wallace who might have been blinded. In general obsession with assassinations, personal derangement. Political party - Unknown.
Martin Luther King, Jr. assassinated by James Earl Ray - Motivation: Racial/Habitual criminal. In general Ray had been convicted of burglary, armed robbery twice, and mail fraud, thus being a habitual criminal. He had left the scene of the crime and after conviction attempted to escape from prison. Political party - Unknown.
Attempted assassination of Andy Warhol by Valerie Solanas - Motivation: Paranoid-Schizophrenia/mentally unstable, possible infamy to get her play produced. Political party - Unknown.
John F. Kennedy assassinated by Sirhan Sirhan - Motivation: Political, anti-Zionist/mentally unstable. In general he was a Palestinian-American who did not want a positive foreign policy towards Israel, and was obsessive that RFK would do that. Political party - Unknown.
Malcolm X assassinated by Talmadge Hayer, Norman 3X Butler and Thomas 15X Johnson. Motivation: Killed by members of the Nation of Islam after leaving it and shifting his agenda from equal rights to human rights and changed his views after the Hajj that racism by any color is destructive. Jury convictions covers all three men, Butler claims the others were not involved. Political affiliation of the assassins - Nation of Islam, Political party - Unknown.
Medgar Evers assassinated by Byron De La Beckwith - Motivation: Racial - KKK member, Phineas Preisthood member, anti-semite, anti-multiculturalism, anti-taxation. In general hatred of Blacks, Jews, Catholics and the US Government. Also planned to murder the head of the B'nai Brith in 1973. Political party - Democratic.
President Kennedy assassinated by Lee Harvey Oswald - Motivation: Political, seeking infamy. Prior attempted assassination of General Walker who was an anti-communist, segregationist and member of the John Birch Society. Political party - Communist sympathizer.
Lee Harvey Oswald assassinated by Jack Ruby - Motivation: Mental instability, depth of feeling for Kennedy family. In general Jack Ruby was a small time hustler who came from Chicago and was described as 'meshuga' or 'not having a full deck' and known to be unstable in both criminal and social environs. Political party - Unknown.
Attempted assassination of President Kennedy by Richard Paul Pavlick - Motivation: Mentally unstable/insane. In general believed that the 1960 election was stolen, criticized the government and was anti-Catholic. Political party - Republican sympathizer.
Attempted assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. by a black woman, Izola Curry - Motivation: Derangement/Insanity determined incompetent to stand trial and committed to a mental hospital. Political party - Unknown.
Huey Long believed to be assassinated by Carl Weiss, but that is since been put into question - Motivation: Dave Haas led an anti-Long group called "Minute Men" and claims that Weiss drew the straw to kill Long during an ambush. Dave Haas' statements have been shown to be less than truthful, but it can be said that Long died in a shoot-out with anti-Long individuals. Political party - Unknown/anti-Long.
Attempted assassination of President-elect Franklin Delano Roosevelt by Giuseppe Zangara - Motivation: Zangara was a small time pawn shop owner living off of his savings and hated the capitalist system which he saw the President-elect as one of the people involved in capitalism undermining workers. In general he was convicted of one of the others that he shot at wildly as the chair he was standing on collapsed under him. Political party - Unknown.
Attempted assassination of President Theodore Roosevelt by John Flammang Schrank - Motivation: Mentally unstable/insane/political and declared to be insane. Schrank did not believe any President should seek a third term and also had visions from the previously assassinated McKinley, plus other mental problems. Roosevelt continued on to give a 90 minute speech with a bullet lodged in his chest, and then was hospitalized after that. Political party - Unknown.
Jim Miller lynched for killing the local Sheriff - Motivation: Outlaw, gun for hire and assassin. Political party - Unknown.
President William McKinley assassinated by Leon Czolgosz - Motivation: Disaffected Anarchist using the template of another Anarchist assassination as inspiration. In general expressed support for anarchism and the working man. Political party - Unknown/Anarchist.
Chicago Mayor Carter Harrison, Sr. was assassinated by Patrick Eugene Prendergast - Motivation: Seeking political appointment after supporting Harrison's run for election/mentally unstable declared insane. Harrison did not know who Prendergast was. Political party - Democratic.
Jesse James assassinated by Robert Ford - Motivation: Betrayal/reward for killing an outlaw and getting a pardon for his crimes, infamy. Political party - Unknown/City Councilman of Las Vegas.
Assassination of President Garfield by Charles Julius Guiteau - Motivation: Mental instability/derangement. Failed lawyer and theologian who felt he deserved a job in the Garfield Administration for his support of it. Political party - Republican.
Assassination of "Wild Bill" Hickock by Jack McCall - Motivation: Revenge for Hickock having killed his brother years previoiusly/act of generosity by Hickock offering to buy McCall breakfast after a bad night of poker for McCall. Tried for murder on US territory, convicted and hanged. Political party - Unknown.
President Abraham Lincoln assassinated by John Wilkes Booth, with help from Lewis Powell and David Herold who was supposed to assassinate Secretary of State William Seward, along with George Atzerodt who was to kill VP Johnson . Motivation: Pro-Secessionist, Confederate sympathizer, opposed the abolition of slavery and emancipation of the slaves. In general support of the Southern cause during the Civil War, hatred of abolition, attempt to turn the tide of the war with a failed plot to kidnap Lincoln. Booth's father had threatened the assassination of President Andrew Jackson. Political party - Know Nothing Party.
Attempted assassination of President Jackson by Richard Lawrence - Motivation: Mentally disturbed, believe that Jackson was in the way of Lawrence receiving funds that would allow him to become King of England. Also ahistorically blamed Jackson for the death of his father who had never been to the United States. Political party - Unknown.
So how many of these are carried out by the 'Right' or right-leaning individuals?
I would argue that Schrank, Pavlick, and Looper all have elements of the 'Right' in them, but in the first two there are reasons to doubt sanity overall and in the last there are personal motivations in the misuse of power that go with it. So about 3 acts of assassination.
Ok, how many from the 'Left' or left-leaning individuals?
I would argue that Pendergast, Zangara, Oswald, the three convicted of the Malcolm X assassination, Moore, White, and FARC. About 7 acts of assassination all told. For Pendergast, Zangara and Moore I would argue that mental disturbances play a major factor in their motivations.
But that doesn't end the political slicing and dicing, now, does it?
How many actual or convicted conspiracies are there in this list?
- Lincoln's assassination, of course, as that was but one intended assassination that evening.
- Taking down Jesse James required a conspiracy with the Ford brothers, the Governor and the President.
- Huey Long being taken down by anti-Long individuals.
- The assassination of Malcolm X, even with the protestations by one individual that he acted alone, the jury thought otherwise, so that, too, is a conspiracy.
- The assassination of Meir Kahane by al Qaeda is a long-ranging plot that spans from Europe to Africa to America.
- FARC attempting assassination is part of their stock and trade, as they had been doing that long before and long after President Clinton, but he was one who helped get an effective anti-FARC system started. It is one of the real feathers in President Clonton's cap that he helped start the process of taking down that leftist narco-terror group.
So 6 conspiracies, all told, large and small.
How about party-on-party assassinations? Leaving out the criminal ones, that is, as crime has only temporary allegiances.
- Guiteau thought he was due a job for his political support, even though no one knew who he was.
- Prendergast expected favoritism for his support, too.
- Malcolm X obviously had a falling out with the Nation of Islam.
- White had difficulties with fellow Democrats within San Francisco's government.
In two cases the unknowns think they deserve recognition for support, one is a factional falling out and the other is just a build-up of problems within government. At least we aren't having government by defenestration!
Lets flip this around and see how many we get with the mentally unstable, the disturbed, the insane, shall we?
- Richard Lawrence, obviously, the man who would be King, somehow, with money.
- Guiteau a failed lawyer, theologian, plagiarist and just not all there.
- Prendergast for thinking he was someone when no one really knew about him, especially his target.
- Leon Czolgosz - how do you tell insanity from fervently held anarchism? Looked insane then and now.
- John Flammang Schrank had visions, some held political beliefs and found that they played together.
- Giuseppe Zangara demonstrated a lack of touch with reality during his trial and after, so probably before, too.
- Izola Curry was judged to be unfit to stand trial, her race had nothing to do with it, period.
- Richard Paul Pavlick decided to spare the Kennedy children but still thought killing him was a good idea. That is not ideological commitment.
- Jack Ruby was meshuga. His life points to that and he did lack a full, mental deck.
- Sirhan Sirhan had a definite instability on who did what in politics, and became obsessed into the bargain.
- Valerie Solanas - was she nuts or just a good actress? If she was that good she didn't need to act nuts.
- Arthur Bremer - would it by Nixon or Wallace? Nixon or Wallace? To show his manhood?
- Samuel Byck decades before al Qaeda wanted to fly a plane into the White House. Personally.
- Sara Jane Moore and her 'radical views' which she regrets or doesn't depending on when you talk to her.
- Lynette Alice "Squeaky" Fromme is the fallout of Charles Manson and pretty it isn't.
- Daniel James White the jury bought the 'twinkie defense' and he did commit suicide. Contrition or just one twinkie too many?
- John Hinckley, Jr. wanted to kill the President to get the girl... that just doesn't work out in anyone's book.
Now that is painful, isn't it? We get 17 acts of assassination that are spurred on in whole or in part by lack of sanity, delusions or just plain losing it. The 'it' being sanity. From wannabe King of England to kill the President to get the girl, the range of insanity over the past couple of centuries is damned interesting. And nothing you can actually pin down for politics in all of them.
How about infamy? You know: kill someone famous to be famous by intent?
- Richard Lawrence just had to kill the President to get government money to be King of England. Something got lost between steps 1 and 3, but the fame was a factor.
- John Wilkes Booth an actor from start to finish, and only an actor puts out a great line to be remembered after he kills someone.
- Robert Ford would always want to be known as the man who took out Jesse James, before and after he did it, as afar as I can tell.
- Lee Harvey Oswald wanted to make a name for himself: he was always the loud misfit and even defected to/from the USSR,and STILL no one noticed him.
- Jack Ruby loved the spotlight, and some part of that must have been a wildcard in that wild deck.
- Valerie Solanas - was she truly insane or did she do it for her art at the expense of Warhol?
- Arthur Bremer was going to be known as a REAL man.
- Mark David Chapman, really it would be better if he was just nuts, but he wasn't.
- John Hinckley, Jr. he was nuts and that didn't help, but the fame was there too.
- Francisco Martin Duran, just maybe, but he didn't really earn much of anything, save prison time.
This idea that you can get famous by killing someone famous really has got to be nipped in the bud: it just doesn't work out that way. Really, do you want people to have scorn when they say your name? Or is it that they will say your name, with or without scorn? Really you just have to be nuts to think that way, and most on the list are nuts... but not all of them.
Next up is the famous topic from the Left that just won't heal because they won't listen to anyone outside of the Left on it: Racism. Here I will bundle in anti-Semitism, as it really is a form of racist thought, too.
- John Wilkes Booth didn't see blacks as equal to whites and was willing to kill for it. Die for that as a cause.
- Byron De La Beckwith was a racist: member of the KKK and other racist, anti-Semitic groups.
- Sirhan Sirhan was anti-Semitic and feared power in government supporting Israel.
- James Earl Ray had some racist motivations, even with being a habitual criminal.
- Arthur Bremer had many racist tracts and such at his apartment and his car. Plus anti-Republican ones. The man just had hate as a habit, it appears.
- El Sayyid Nosair as an operative for terror backed groups looked to spread anti-Semitism.
Well, so much for the 'racial divide' in assassinations: there isn't one. Racist assassinations do happen, yes, but as an overall factor in all assassinations? No.
The last part is the interesting one: being taken out by professional killers or because you ARE a professional killer. Here the people are a bit more interesting as this is their line of work, more or less.
- Jack McCall taking out Hickock.
- Robert Ford taking out Jesse James and getting he and his brother's sentence wiped out by the Governor.
- Jim Miller finding out that killing can get you lynched.
- Charles Voyde Harrelson was a hitman.
- El Sayyid Nosair trained by al Qaeda.
- FARC a terrorist organization that does a bit of everything criminal from small to Nation State size.
One less than Left violence and equal to conspiracies. I don't put down the Huey Long one as that doesn't appear too professional and more in the line of: mutual Charlie Foxtrot and the last ones alive win. Numbers help, but when you shoot one of your own to get to the target, by accident, well... no... especially as the guy you shot was the purported triggerman, but that was probably a fib, too.
What this all shows is that assassination is a multi-vector event that depends much on individuals and very little on politics or racism. Those do have their events, yes, but they are never clear and concise 'this causes that' sort of thing. In America the #1 cause of high level assassinations is: being nuts, demented, insane, whatever the term of the moment is to describe those not in close touch with any reality. It is the Trump Card of assassinations: you are more likely to be nuts if you carry out an assassination or try to.
Next up after that is infamy, which is the fame of killing someone famous and not being well loved for it. Your name might go down in history: as a bad example, of someone to be scorned, not in a good nor positive light. Together being nuts and trying to be infamous covers a huge swath of assassination events in America.
The residuals are telling.
Criminals taking out criminals or being taken out, in turn. Fascinating that those sorts of killings of the infamous get you infamous, not famous.
Terrorist organizations, with only a couple of spots on the list, make their depth of hatred towards civilization felt by going down to the individual level and up to the Nation State level. Truly they are Enemies of All Mankind.
Inter-factional struggles within a party or power structure. Huey Long, Nation of Islam, and the San Francisco political machine each give us a look at just how nasty politics can get to drive people as groups or individuals against each other. No one is so hated as those that share 95% of your beliefs: that final 5% becomes more divisive than the joining 95%. Of course that is why factional fights get so bloody, too... if only you could get that final 5%, and yet, in forcing it you get death.
I have many articles on terrorism and why terrorism is a different beast than mere assassination. Assassinations can be done by terror groups, but not all assassinations, as we have seen, are terrorist acts. For terrorists the act of assassination is a tactic as part of a strategy. For individual assassinations, they are purely personal affairs or, at chilling worse, factional within a group. When that internal hatred and killing gets turned on all others, then you get terrorism.
Our politics have remained remarkably civil.
Let us work to keep it that way and not try to say that violence is engendered in any one part of the political spectrum. So that we can join together against terrorists who have no love of civility or civilization, and who despise your life and mine. They are the common enemies of all mankind.
We should be treating them that way.
It is what they ask for.