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April 17, 2013 1

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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