Apparently, Steve Emerson has literally forgotten the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing, the scene of his own most infamous mistake—which he repeated today.
Yet the purported terrorism expert somehow retains enough of his cachet to keep getting invited to talk about terrorism at places like AIPAC's annual conference and on cable television. All this even after he's been wrong again and again when it comes to his predictions and analysis of terror incidences. Most notably, he's been wrong in pronouncements that Islamic extremists were behind terrorist attacks; the most famous example came when Emerson blamed the 1995 bombing of the Federal Building in Oklahoma City on Muslims because he said the attack bore a "Middle East trait" of being "done with the intent to inflict as many casualties as possible." That's what makes it so stunning that he completely forgot about this example today on Fox News when the anchor asked him about what it would mean if an Al Qaeda was behind the Boston Marathon bombing yesterday:
EMERSON: Remember that those domestic extremist groups, the white extremist groups or individuals, used guns, to carry out their attacks. And then they committed suicide or were caught. But this is the first time—
HOST: Oklahoma City bombing... bombing, a truck bomb.
EMERSON: That's actually very true. But this is the first time since 9/11 that an actually bombing's occurred successfully.
Perhaps Emerson was so convinced by his own misbegotten conclusions in 1995 that he's completely internalized them. Or perhaps, like ideologues everywhere, he simply allows his view of reality to be distorted by his ideology.
Nonetheless, Emerson's still finding those "Middle East traits"—though this time he uses the now-ubiquitous label of "jihadist" instead of simply "Middle East." In the Fox interview, he told the host that law enforcement will be trying to track the origins of the "actual fragment, which were nails and ball-bearings, which is a hallmark, by the way, of jihadist suicide bombings." Never you mind that the Boston Marathon bombs don't appear to have been suicide bombings at all, but just as he did in Oklahoma City, Emerson is attributing widely used modi operandi and ascribing it to Muslim terrorists. Just as Tim McVeigh and Anders Breivik might have been surprised to learn that only Middle Easterners seek to "inflict as many casualties as possible," so too would Ted Kaczynski (an anti-technology zealot known as the Unabomber) and David Copeland (a British neo-Nazi known as the Nailbomber) be surprised to learn that putting nails in bombs as shrapnel qualifies them as "jihadists." And actual terrorism expert Will McCants Tweeted a 2011 case where white supremacists had used ball bearings in a bomb.
America's two top Islamophobes—Pamela Geller and Robert Spencer—naturally both latched onto Emerson's faulty proclamation to bolster their own steadfast belief that Muslims were behind the Boston attack.
Emerson, obviously, remains the same Emerson that made his infamous error nearly two decades ago. Salon's Alex Seitz-Wald reminds us of this by pointing out how sure Emerson was that the purported "Saudi national" was a suspect this morning, only to reverse himself six hours later (in addition to getting other facts wrong). What really galls is that groups like AIPAC and cable news channels continue to take him seriously.