Psychologists say Rudolph's writings give insight into bomber's mind

Posted: Sunday, April 17, 2005

Eric Rudolph's ''manifesto'' is 11 pages of hate, intolerance and self-justification. Sometimes eloquent, often blunt, it is at once an attempt to influence history and a thinly veiled call to arms.

And to those who tracked the serial bomber and whose lives he shattered, it may be the only window they will ever get into the mind of a man who was once at the top of the FBI's most wanted list.

''This is an unapologetic letter from an arrogant, defiant commander of an extremist army of one. ... I think this is both a call to action and tooting his own horn,'' said Brian Levin, director of the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at California State University.

Rudolph issued the statement Wednesday after pleading guilty in federal court to a two-year string of bombings that killed two and injured more than 120 in Alabama and Georgia.

The typewritten, single-spaced document describes a personal war on abortion that bled over into attacks against homosexuality and a government he saw as legitimizing both. It shows a man attempting to justify the unjustifiable, offering apologies without remorse.

''What his manifesto shows is the expected inflexibility and rigidity of thought that's necessary to have carried out these acts,'' said Park Dietz, the forensic psychiatrist credited with first making the connection between the Olympic Park bombing and the attacks on an abortion clinic and gay nightclub.

It is considered unethical for a psychologist or psychiatrist to diagnose someone based on writings alone. But Dietz and others say Rudolph's statement appears to show someone suffering from delusions of grandeur, paranoia and a classic anti-social personality.

''He incorrectly assumes that a monolithic government is motivated by personal animus to execute him,'' said Dietz, a former FBI profiler who has testified in the cases of Unabomber Theodore Kaczynski and serial murderer Jeffrey Dahmer.

''This is black-and-white thinking. It's making mountains out of molehills. It's projecting his hostility to the government onto a big screen in which he imagines the government and everyone in it is hostile to him.''

The document begins almost as a denial, as if the 38-year-old Rudolph is trying to say he didn't really do it, that the government #&151; with its mountain of ''circumstantial evidence'' and its ''junk science about explosive residues'' #&151; would have found some way to pin the bombings on him, so he might as well save himself the hassle of four lengthy trials.

The voice slips back and forth between the first-person singular (''I have deprived the government of its goal of sentencing me to death'') and the collective ''we'' of the letters to police and the media claiming the bombings on behalf of the ''Army of God.''

Psychologist Jack Glaser, an assistant professor at the University of California-Berkeley's Goldman School of Public Policy, found hints of delusion in passages where Rudolph compares his decision to wage war on the ''abortionist'' government with the Declaration of Independence.

''If you thought you were just a cog in the machine ... if you didn't have some high self-image, you wouldn't think yourself worthy of taking other people's lives,'' said Glaser, who studies hate crimes and political ideology.

Ed Dunbar, a psychologist at UCLA who profiles hate crimes for the Los Angeles police, saw in the writing the hallmarks of a classic anti-social personality #&151; ''grandiose and self-pitying, seeing himself as the victim, seeing himself as the one who has been persecuted.''

He talks of his willingness to ''forgive'' abortion clinic employees who mend their ways. He offers as proof of his compassion his decision not to bomb the FBI task force's headquarters in Murphy, N.C., after a year of meticulous planning.

But while Kaczynski's manifesto #&151; which filled a 100-page paperback book #&151; contained complex, innovative theories, Dietz found Rudolph's terribly ordinary, something you'd expect from the product of a ''second-rate college.''

''Rudolph is not original,'' he said. ''He doesn't say anything in this manifesto that hasn't been said by a lot of other characters. That's why I think of him as derivative, and the product of some influence. ...

''This is the same kind of writing Adolph Hitler did.''

Glaser suspects that much of Rudolph's statement is ''post-hoc rationalization.'' The man who eluded agents for five years, only to be caught rooting through a grocery store trash bin, was making one last attempt to shape his own image.

''He wouldn't have written this thing if he didn't want to be viewed favorably by history,'' said Glaser. ''He intends to continue to be influential from prison.''

Despite all his attempts to seem extraordinary, larger than life, Dietz said Rudolph's statement betrays a very ordinary human need for acceptance and admiration.

''I think he has an eye on retaining fans.''

Allen G. Breed is the AP's Southeast regional writer, based in Raleigh, N.C.



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