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April 17, 2013

Language In Ricin Letters Not So Mysterious

Federal authorities have intercepted letters sent to President Obama and Mississippi Senator Roger Wicker that have tested positive for ricin in preliminary or follow-up tests.  Ricin is a poison derived from castor beans that operates as a deadly toxin when ingested or swallowed.

Senator Roger Wicker (R-MS)

Extremists in the United States, especially on the far right, have long been fascinated with ricin.

According to an FBI bulletin obtained by Fox News, the ricin-laced letters were sent from Memphis on April 8 and both contained the phrase “to see a wrong and not expose it, is to become a silent partner to its continuance.”  Both letters were signed “I am KC and I approve this message.”

The identity of “KC” may not yet be known, but the language that he used does have a source.  The sentence about seeing a wrong is actually a quotation that traces back to an obscure chiropractor, John Raymond Baker, from Longview, Texas.  Baker claims to have originated the quotation for a Web site he created to express grievances about a major insurance company.

Over the years, visitors to this site picked up the quotation and began using it elsewhere.   Activists and extremists across the political spectrum—from right-wing extremist groups to the left-wing Animal Liberation Front—have repeated Baker’s nostrum, both with and without attribution.   They typically use it as language to justify or rationalize their actions.

Baker himself noticed this phenomenon as early as 2006, observing that “now, people are using it about all kinds of injustices.”

No evidence has emerged to suggest that Baker himself might in any way be connected to the ricin letters.  Clearly, though, someone has exploited his language in order to justify their potentially deadly actions.

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