‘This is nearly the same as a bundle of road flares wrapped together with an old-timey alarm clock ticking away….’
(Ben Sellers, Liberty Headlines) At a press conference Friday afternoon, Attorney General Jeff Sessions and FBI Director Christopher Wray addressed the suspicious packages allegedly sent by right-wing extremist Cesar Sayoc to prominent Democrats.
In addition to providing details of Sayoc’s arrest, which the FBI said came about with the help of a fingerprint, one of the main objectives was attempting to bring closure to the speculation that it may have been a hoax or a false-flag stunt so close to the midterm election.
In the conference and a follow-up press release, Wray reiterated in no uncertain terms that the improvised explosive devices were real. “Though we’re still analyzing the devices in our Laboratory, these are not hoax devices,” he said.
Wray said the devices each contained about six inches of PVC pipe, a small clock, a battery, wiring and ‘energetic material,’ which, he explained, “is essentially potential explosives and material that gives off heat and energy through a reaction to heat, shock, or friction.”
But despite the FBI’s explanation, many doubts still lingered.
To begin with, as conservative radio pundit Rush Limbaugh had observed prior to the arrest, it didn’t add up that someone on the Right would seek to slow the tremendous momentum that Republicans nationwide were feeling. At best, it was a distraction; at worst, negative optics that would undermine the GOP’s valid criticism of violent rhetoric on the Left—largely driven by many of the purported bombing “victims.”
Many in the media also observed that Wray’s statement was a direct contradiction, of sorts, to a tweet that President Donald Trump had issued at 7:30 Friday morning, putting the word “Bomb” in quotation marks.
Republicans are doing so well in early voting, and at the polls, and now this “Bomb” stuff happens and the momentum greatly slows – news not talking politics. Very unfortunate, what is going on. Republicans, go out and vote!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 26, 2018
With the FBI’s credibility already strained under the scandals surrounding top officials James Comey, Andrew McCabe, Peter Strzok, Lisa Page, Bruce Ohr and others, it didn’t seem a far stretch to wonder if any members of the “deep state” resistance still lingered in the agency’s upper echelon.
However, even among those less inclined toward the conspiratorial, several pieces of information simply didn’t seem to pass the smell test.
To begin with, some noted that the bombs themselves were so amateurishly designed that even if the ingredients were correct, they seemed highly unlikely to detonate.
A story from Twitchy compiled the tweets of former bomb-disposal officer Tom Sauer, who questioned their cartoonish appearance.
3. Bottom Line: Whoever made that wanted it to be painfully obvious to anyone and everyone that it’s a “bomb.”
This is nearly the same as a bundle of road flares wrapped together with an old-timey alarm clock ticking away.
— Tom Sauer (@thomasbsauer) October 24, 2018
Many also puzzled over the fact that images of the packaging itself, provided both by CNN and by the FBI, showed that the suspicious-looking parcels not only failed to raise any red flags at USPS processing centers up and down the East Coast, but the stamps weren’t canceled.
Although the package sent to CNN appeared to show only $3 in postage, the lowest price for a 1-pound package from Aventura, Florida to New York City would be more than double that.
Moreover, others pointed out that the postal service would not have delivered packages to the addresses of former presidents Obama and Clinton due to Secret Service screening policies. Even left-wing “fact checking site” Snopes, in dutifully attempting to debunk the hoax claim, could not explain how they would have gotten there, only that they did.
Details about Sayoc also were a bit over-the-top, including his van, which seemed glaringly obvious for someone engaged in a one-man conspiracy to murder top politicians and intelligence officials. “I thought he looked like a shooter,” Paul Bilodeau told the Sun Sentinel.
Not only did Sayoc’s behavior attract the attention of common-folk, but also professional photographers, filmmakers and even liberal activist Michael Moore, who conveniently released footage of Sayoc at a rally, which Moore said was an outtake from his new anti-Trump documentary.
Although several social media accounts that were purported to belong to Sayoc quickly went dark on Friday, inaccessible even via Archive.org, his Facebook page, when active, appeared to show very little except for pro-Trump messages and rally photos—and yet those close to him said his personality had only recently changed under the influence of steroids.
Some online sleuths—such as Shad Olson, who was able to capture screenshots of Sayoc’s accounts—said a deeper investigation revealed him to have been rabidly anti-Bush and that key details online about his political leanings changed shortly after his arrest.
Tragically, a real example of violence from an anti-Trump, anti-Semitic neo-Nazi in a Pittsburgh synagogue on Saturday made skepticism of the FBI’s bombing explanation seem both tasteless and irrelevant.
It is hard to question the slaughter of 11 innocent people in what should have been their sanctuary from the evils of the world—even while callous liberal media and politicians spun the massacre as confirmation of a right-wing undercurrent of violence propelled by Trump.
But the thread throughout all of the conspiracy speculation seems to be that, despite the many unanswered questions, the very implausibility of such a politically motivated stunt—the ridiculous and audacious quality of it—are precisely what might make it an effective smear campaign and/or cover-up.