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  It was political terrorism.


               The bomb threat at the Hilton Central School District yesterday, it was political terrorism.


               Somebody sent an oddly composed and ill-spelled email to Rochester news organizations saying that school officials had to die because they were destroying America’s youth and grooming children for presumed homosexual recruitment or exploitation by having “This Book is Gay” in the school library. Supposedly, there were pipe bombs in all of the school’s buildings, and in the home of the superintendent.


               Sadly, the resultant evacuation was handled in a way that left children crying and parents frantic. Much upset and angst resulted and the superintendent, assuming the sincerity of the threat’s stated motive, angrily and loudly denounced it as a “hate crime” at an afternoon press conference.


               Probably not coincidentally, there was a long-scheduled meeting last night at which the propriety of this very book in the school library was to be the topic.


               Probably not coincidentally, the nature and tone of the threat mirrored warnings from the federal government that parents concerned about progressive control of public schools were potential domestic terrorists.


               And, yes, this threat was political terrorism, by definition. The threat of violence to achieve a political end is terrorism, used by Marxists, Nazis, anarchists, race supremacists and Antifa rioters, and anyone else sowing the seeds of disorder and division.


               The issue here isn’t what, it’s who.


               Who sent this, and why?


               If it is someone who truly believes threatened pipe bombs is the way to get inappropriate books removed from school libraries, then the motive is clear. If it is someone on the other side of the issue, who seeks to embarrass and defeat the effort to remove sexual-advocacy literature from school libraries, the motive is also clear, though concealed. If it is someone in a Chinese or Russian troll farm, hoping to pour gasoline on the flames of America’s culture wars, the motive is also clear, though deeply concealed.


               That’s why knowing who sent this is important.


               And why it’s also important not to assume who sent it.


               The superintendent and the TV reporters seemed pretty clear on what had happened. Taking the manifesto at face value, they saw this as some mouth-breathing MAGA Republican persecuting gay people and terrorizing children. This was the perfect embodiment of progressives’ stereotype of anyone who disagrees with them, and so they swallowed it hook, line, and sinker.


               And they may be right.


               There may be some Trump voter or Rosary counter out there in a tinfoil hat worrying about Armageddon and the mark of the beast. This may be exactly what it presents itself to be.


               But it also may not be.


               It seems interesting that someone savvy enough to send an untraceable email couldn’t operate spellcheck. The writer could track down news organizations’ contact information and the superintendent’s address, but not look up the spelling of the word “innocent.”


               It’s also interesting that other emailed bomb threats at schools and libraries across the country have played out in a similar context of parental and community questioning of the propriety of sexual-advocacy books in public or school libraries. In almost all of those situations, the threats have been presented as part of a culture war being waged by conservatives – with that being an almost direct quote from the Huffington Post.


               Somehow, these threats of political violence have almost always eluded federal law-enforcement efforts to track down their origins. In the only findable arrest in a case similar to this, a political activist in Canada was charged with bomb hoaxes targeted at Boston hospitals doing transgender surgery and at libraries in Nashville carrying sexually explicit books.


               The only problem is, it was never reported what kind of political activist he was – which side he was on. His motive wasn’t reported and consequently isn’t known.


               Just as the motive of the Hilton terrorist is not known.


               Was it an anti-gay person? Was it a pro-gay person?


               Or, possibly more likely, was it an anti-American foreign actor or agency? While that might seem farfetched, it’s not. It’s estimated that some 30 governments around the world actively use the Internet to weaken and divide foreign or domestic opponents, and that an average of 140 million Americans each month see a message or are affected by an operation undertaken by online foreign agents.


               Could that have happened here? Absolutely. Did it? We don’t know.


               But we do know that yesterday morning, about breakfast time, one email displaced 5,000 students and teachers, angered a community and dominated a region’s newscasts.


               We got played, and we got played big time.


               And we ought to be careful about presuming who did the playing.


               We ought to be smart enough not to be led around by the nose by anonymous emails sent by political terrorists.

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