With the 15th anniversary of the Oklahoma City bombing approaching, former President Bill Clinton on Thursday drew parallels between the antigovernment tone that preceded that devastating attack and the political tumult of today, saying government critics must be mindful that angry words can stir violent actions.
In advance of a symposium on Friday about the attack on the Oklahoma City federal building and its current relevance, Mr. Clinton, who was in his first term at the time of the bombing, warned that attempts to incite opposition by demonizing the government can provoke responses beyond what political figures intend.
"There can be real consequences when what you say animates people who do things you would never do," Mr. Clinton said in an interview, saying that Timothy McVeigh, who carried out the Oklahoma City bombing, and those who assisted him, "were profoundly alienated, disconnected people who bought into this militant antigovernment line."
The former president said the potential for stirring a violent response might be even greater now with the reach of the Internet and other common ways of communication that did not exist on April 19, 1995, when the building was struck.
"Because of the Internet, there is this vast echo chamber and our advocacy reaches into corners that never would have been possible before," said Mr. Clinton, who said political messages are now able to reach those who are both "serious and seriously disturbed."
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