I just finished seeing the movie trailer for the upcoming Warner Bros. Pictures film Richard Jewell produced and directed by Clint Eastwood and scheduled for US release on Friday, December 13th, starring actor Paul Walter Hauser as the title character.  Honestly I can’t wait to see this film, and feel that it should have been made years ago.

At then 20 years old, I witnessed the national tragedy that took place during the 1996 Summer Olympic Games in Atlanta, Georgia as millions of people worldwide did following the bomb explosion at Centennial Olympic Park. The bombing directly killed 1 person and injured 111 others; another person later died of a heart attack.

The main hero of this tragedy was a security guard and native Georgia resident, Richard Allensworth Jewell (December 17, 1962 – August 29, 2007) who first discovered the explosive device and then helped evacuate people from the area before the device exploded. His actions likely saved the lives of hundreds of people from across the country and the world attending the summer games from injury, or certain death. 

However, less than 72 hours later, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the American Media Establishment accused Jewell of planting the bomb himself in order to come off looking like the hero. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution revealed that the FBI was treating him as a possible suspect, based largely on a “lone bomber” criminal profile.

What followed was 88 days of hell for an honorable, compassionate man who protected the lives of complete strangers from a senseless act of domestic terrorism. Despite never actually being charged with the crime, he underwent a senseless “trial by media” with great toll on his personal and professional life. 

Jewell was subject to constant surveillance and harassment by news reporters with television cameras surrounding his apartment. The FBI thoroughly and publicly searched his home twice, impounded his personal vehicle, questioned his associates, investigated his background, and maintained 24-hour surveillance of him.

In point of fact, when the FBI conducted their search of Jewell’s home and impounded his truck for forensic analysis, the Associated Press at the time made it a special point to emphasize the presence of the Confederate flag on his vehicle as a means to further portray him as a right-wing terrorist.

The flag plate seen on Jewell’s pickup truck was the 1956 Georgia State Flag at the time, which featured the Dixie Cross battle flag design.

At the time during the 1996 Olympic Games, there had been considerable controversy for years over the presence of the Dixie Cross symbol of the Georgia State Flag, which had been incorporated in 1956 by the State Legislature to honor the then upcoming Civil War Centennial (1961-1965). However, the timing of the flag’s presence during the start of the Civil Rights Era led to accusations by politically correct lapdogs (notably the NAACP) that the flag was put there in defiance of progress made against Jim Crow segregation. State records and the testimony of the flag’s designer prove this is not true, none-the-less the controversy persisted, driven by the same left-leaning Establishment media.

Despite all attempts to suppress its presence, the 56 Georgia State Flag (which would not be changed until 2001) was a part of the 1996 Olympic Games and featured on much of the memorabilia. The fact that people from all over the world collected that same memorabilia and seemed to have no trouble with the flag itself was a source of major embarrassment for those who sought to continue demonizing the Dixie Cross and those who honor it at the time.

Richard Jewell, proud Southern man from northern Georgia and apparent supporter of the Dixie Cross banner; the man falsely labeled a domestic terrorist by federal authorities and the media establishment, the Southern redneck — was the perfect patsy.

The media coverage of him was a witch hunt which portrayed Jewell in the worst possible light, and often through hateful stereotypical satire. One outlet referred to Jewell as “Bubba The Bomber” or “Una-Bubba” (a play on left-wing domestic terrorist Ted Kaczynski‘s “Unibomber” name) and his mother as “Una-Mama”. His life as a Southern-born white man living in poorer parts of northern Georgia was put on display, including pictures of his old, run-down home. Considerable mention of him living with doberman dogs and in a home “with the shades constantly drawn” filtered into what passed as news coverage.

With memories of the 1993 Branch Davidian Waco Cult and the 1995 Oklahoma City Bombing still fresh in people’s memories, pictures of Jewell wearing camouflage and holding hunting rifles were also portrayed in the media, attempting to cast him as a possible militia-type similar to domestic terrorist Timothy McVeigh.

Such coverage of Richard Jewell is eerily similar to more recent coverage by the same establishment media when portraying people who honor Southern-Confederate historical heritage, though far more subtle.

Whenever the Establishment News Media portrays supporters of the Confederate battle flag, its usually always never in a positive light. Despite the fact that the vast majority of people who honor that flag do so for positive reasons, the media narrative continues to push their self-serving anti-Confederate heritage reactionary agenda. 

They never show Confederate heritage supporters volunteering for disaster relief efforts, or people with the Dixie Cross banner on their boats helping flood victims to safety. They never show honorable heritage groups like the Sons of Confederate Veterans donating supplies to victims of natural disasters. 

However, read almost any news story about a hate crime, and if a Confederate flag can be found nearby it is mentioned with some throw-away line like: In a neighborhood where the Confederate battle flag is prominently shown….or some variation of that statement in an attempt to link violence to that flag and anyone proud of it, regardless of the situation.

The media almost always evokes the name of the Left’s favorite white supremacist, Dylann Roof, and sites his display of the Dixie Cross in at least one photo. They never show the display of the Dixie Cross by the hundreds of thousands of other Southern-born American people — a number of them people of color — who continue to view the flag positively as a symbol of cultural and regional identity.

The same media and political establishment that tarnished the Confederate battle flag and claimed it helped inspire a senseless act of hatred in 2015 condemned and stereotyped Jewell in 1996, a good and honorable man who saved the lives of hundred if not thousands of strangers no matter the color of their skin or their nationality — a man who admired the flag and the true heritage of duty and honor it stood for.

Ultimately, Richard Jewell was eventually exonerated and right-wing terrorist Eric Rudolph was later found to have been the bomber. Despite this the damage had largely been done and Jewell spent the rest of his short life attempting to rebuild his life and reputation.

As far as I am concerned, the political Left and the white supremacist throwbacks can keep their Dylann Roof; the rest of us will praise our Richard Jewell. It is my hope that Mr. Eastwood’s film helps to further repair the legacy of a real American hero, and an honorable Southern brother.

This piece was originally published at Southern Fried Common Sense & Stuff.

C.W. Roden

C.W. Roden is a blogger and "simple small-town country writer" from South Carolina.

Leave a Reply