Cultural Revolutions

Criminal of the Deepest Dye

Steven Hatfill, if indeed he is responsible for the anthrax campaign in the United States last year, is a villainous criminal of the deepest dye, who deserves the harshest punishment the courts can impose.  Yet even if his guilt should be established by some future trial, the way in which the case has been investigated—and especially the role of the media—should still be seen as a deeply sinister abuse of official power.  If Hatfill, however, is innocent, then the official campaign of vilification against him over the past few months must be counted among the most horrendous legal scandals in modern American history.  The only reason we are not speaking in terms of
“McCarthyism” and “witch-hunt” is that the worst media culprits are located firmly on the liberal end of the spectrum, and, as we all know, only conservatives can be guilty of hysterical yellow journalism.

Following the anthrax attacks in the fall of 2001, suspicion immediately fell upon Middle Eastern enemies, above all Iraq, a linkage that made a U.S. attack upon that country almost certain.  Soon, however, federal agencies began publicizing their belief that the anthrax originated within the United States, probably from a “lone wolf” scientist with ultra-right views.  Since this theory immediately took the heat off Iraq, it was wonderful news for administration doves, especially in the State...

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