Capitalism and Media

While there is much controversy going on about The Weather Underground, it is pertinent that we note that their main goal was the same reason we have White Privilege Awareness today. To get white kids to identify with anti-racism and anti-imperialism, which in their perspective came inevitably with armed struggle. The Weather Underground ultimately failed for a multitude of reasons, some having to do with our government, as Anthony has pointed out in his article “Guerilla Militancy: A Viable Option?”. Other mistakes have to do with their own tactical mishaps (i.e. Greenwich Village Townhouse Explosion), the struggle of gaining the masses (seen in “Days of Rage”), and the struggle of organizing whites against white supremacy. For these reasons The Weather Underground serves as an influential historical perspective of grass roots activism against white supremacy.

Terrorism is a social construct (talked about in “Violence and Terrorism”) and a complicated issue at that, which we note in our “Discussion on Terrorism”. Why is The Weather Underground framed as “terrorists” and not The Boston Tea Party?–Who have along with the government done much worse. Violence and white supremacy were all issues that The Weather Underground brought up and still don’t have any answers to. Despite not having all of the answers, they believed what was worse was not acting at all. Capitalism shapes our history, just as George Oswell put it in his book Nineteen Eighty-Four, “Who controls the past, controls the future; who controls the present controls the past.”

With this information, discussions are encouraged to find deeper meaning to and from The Weather Underground which will add to our understanding of human connection, communication and social movements.

Preface: Terrorism, US Imperialism and Corporate Media

The Weather Underground is a topic that addresses issues across time and space. While it took place in the 70s, issues such as terrorism, US imperialism and corporate media have been dealt with by many walks of life. This website was not created in order to take sides or say what’s right or wrong, instead we aim to bring light to a history, that is in many cases unheard, and deals with pertinent issues of our time. In this way we hope to aid discussions, like that of which Anthony and I have recorded on the website, that further our understanding of such complicated issues.

The website we have created consists of multiple medias including video, audio, links to journals and news articles, and a blog style format in hopes of making an intriguing and well rounded site. It is a unique site that deals with many of The Weather Underground issues talked about in multiple books including Bill Ayers’ “Fugitive Days” and Mark Rudd’s “Underground”. By looking at historical actions and how they are framed today we hope to gain a firmer understanding of the issues that were present both then and today. On top of that we would like to make it accessible to the masses, a free forum where comments and further discussion are openly welcomed.

Public opposition to the war, domestic and international terrorism, government corruption and the fact that we are calling The Weather Underground terrorists when the US has done so much worse are all issues that are commonplace then and now. In one interview by Good Morning America posted on the website Ayers notes that we need to look at the Weather Underground in the context of its time because it was when the US was in the war with Vietnam and bombing Laos. In the interview this point wasn’t taken seriously but when you look at the definition of “terrorism” and see that it’s violence and intimidation you cannot say that the US did not and does not even today fall under that category. Using the word “terrorism” implies something new since 9/11, something more than violent; Terrorism implies striking fear into the people and killing mass amounts of people and The Weather Underground does not fit under those categories… the US well, that’s another argument.

Capitol, Pentagon and State Department Bombings

On March 1, 1971 the United States Capitol is bombed. WUO called ahead stating that this was in protest of Nixon’s resent bombing of Laos. Below is ABC’s reaction to the bombing on the morning news in 1971.

There were three California bombings, two of which WUO claimed credit for on August 28, 1971. The State Department of Corrections offices in Sacramento and San Francisco were both attacked with a corresponding letter from The WU. The third blast that happened in San Mateo was under investigation and no conclusion was come to in deciding if it was related or not.

On May 19, 1972 WUO took credit for the bombing of The Pentagon, which was according to New York Times‘ article “in retaliation for the U.S. bombing raid in Hanoi.” The date was chosen for it being Ho Chi Minh’s birthday. WUO called in before hand and gave them less than an hours notice to evacuate the building.


Film Resources

De Antonio, Emile and Mary Lampson. 1976. Underground. Sphinex Productions.

Title image taken from: Green, Sam, Bill Siegel, Lili Taylor, and Pamela Z. 2003. The Weather Underground a documentary. [United States?]: Free History Project.

Online Resources

Good Morning America. (2008). Youtube. “William Ayers GMA Interview About Obama”<[/youtube>. Accessed 3/11/12.

Jacobs, Harold. (1970). “Weatherman”. Ramparts Press. ISBN: 671-20725-3 <> Accessed 2/22/12.

Kincaid, Cliff. (2009). “Justice for Victims of the Weather Underground”. Accuracy in Media: for fairness, balance and accuracy in news reporting. <> Accessed 3/11/12.

SDS. “Links to resources from Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) and related groups and activities”. Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) Archives and Resources. Next Left Notes. Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License. <> accessed 3/10/12.

Orwell, George. (1948) “Nineteen Eighty Four”. ch. 3 <> accessed 3/12/12.

Print Resources

AP. “State Department Rattled by Blast,” The Daily Times-News, January 29, 1975, p. 1

Berger, Dan. (2006). “Outlaws of America: The Weather Underground and Politics of Solidarity”. AK Press, 2006. Oakland, CA. Book.

Horowitz, David. (1972). “Counterculture and Revolution”. New York, NY. Random House, Inc. Book.

Jones, Thai. (2004). “A Radical Line”. New York, NY. A Division of Simon and Schuster, Inc. Book.

Lemisch, Jesse. “Weather Underground Rises from the Ashes: They’re Back!”. New Politics; 11, no. 1 (Summer, 2006): 7-13, 7p. Columbia University. accessed from Ebsco Host.

New York Times, May 19, 1972, Berger 330

Rahamani, Sina. “Anti-imperialism and its Discontents: An Interview with Mark Rudd, founding member of the Weather Underground”. Radical History Review; no. 95 (Spring, 2006): 115-27, 13 p. accessed from Ebsco Host.

Raskin, J. (2006). “Looking Backward: Personal Reflections on Language, Gesture, and Mythology in the Weather Underground”. Socialism and Democracy; 20, no. 2 (Jul, 2006): 121-35, 15 p. accessed from Ebsco Host.

Rudd, Mark. (2009). “Underground: My life with SDS and The Weathermen”. HarperCollins. New York, NY. Book.

Varon, Jeremy. (2004). “Bringing the War Home: the Weather Underground, the Red Army Faction, and Revolutionary Violence in the Sixties and Seventies”. Los Angeles, California. University of California Press. Book.

Eliezer Ben-Rafael. (1979) “Social Aspects of Guerrilla and Anti-Guerrilla Warfare”. Harry S. Truman Research Institute. Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Book.

Carlos Marighella. “The manual of The Urban Guerrilla. Documentary publications North Carolina.

Greenwich Village Townhouse Explosion

On March 6, 1970 a group of The Weatherman was preparing a bomb intended for a police dance in Fort Dix , New Jersey when the wiring short secreted and killed three WU members. Theodore Gold (member of Columbia University student protests), Terry Robins (leader at Kent State rebellions) and Diana Oughton (Organizer of SDS 1969 national convention) were all killed, three youths that Mark Rudd notes as “beautiful” and “intelligent”. According to Mark Rudd, the Townhouse explosion was one of the biggest regrets of the Weathermen and is a source for much of the criticism they gain today. Rudd also on many occasions notes that this was an act of “doing the FBIs work for them” better than the FBI ever could have.

There were two survivors of the explosion, Boudin and Wilkerson were ID’d but unable to be charged with dynamite when successfully escaping to The Underground and put on the FBI’s most wanted list.

This explosion marks the turning point of the Weatherman living openly to the Weather Underground and false identities. Cathy Wilkerson wrote a book “Flying from the Sun” in which an excerpt is shown here: “The Explosion”. The explosion is an in depth description of what happened when the bomb went off, and Cathy’s first steps towards going Underground which started with a subway ticket. Wilkerson went Underground for 10 years but eventually surfaced and served her sentence. She now teaches how to teach math to new teachers. Despite her apologetic tone in her book for the Weatherman actions, she does not regret her own radicalism.

Fire bombing was a common occurrence at this time and dynamite was a new experiment, an interview with Cathy Wilkerson by NPR makes clear that there were differing views among the Weather Underground that included the organizational and tactical approach. While Wilkerson is noted as being more cautious in her organizing and pointed demonstrations however “…their more hot headed colleges in SDS had shown that their more impulsive destructive actions attracted big followings, they provoked the police and, in ensuing violence, made radicals out of moderates at least for a time.” This for Wilkerson was a way in which she had abandoned her own critical thinking and somewhat blindly followed the Weather Underground and their tactical actions.

This is also a period known for another change in tactics, they issued a communiqué 9 months after the explosion called “New Morning” that I talk about in the post “Communiqués and Publications“. This tactical change effected their targets. While the explosion that backfired was meant for Fort Dix, they realized that the fine line of perhaps “terrorism” was crossed. The Weather Underground were consciously retreating from this position in hopes that their reaction would be taken positively by the public.

Obama/Ayers Connection

When Obama was eight years old, Ayers was taking part in his actions with the WUO. After the WUO disbanded and Ayers was let off the served on a board together advocating for education on behalf of the poor. Later during Obama’s early political campaign for presidency, Ayers was asked by the senator to have coffee with Obama. Obama was welcomed into Ayers’ home and as Ayers points out in the interview below with ABC, that Obama probably visited 20 other homes that day. Obama and Ayers’ relationship was very much so professional and the fact that Obama is conserned with multiple point of views and walks of life (while still having a mind of his own as Ayers points out) should be seen as a positive aspect in his campaign.

Sarah Palin, John McCain and many others have exploited the Obama/Ayers connection. While Ayers may be one of the members of The Weather Underground that has remained very stern in his dedication, with no regrets of the bombs that he planted, Obama’s interaction with Ayers was minimal. Not only was Obama only 8 when Ayers was planting bombs, his neighborhood and charity board affiliation should not be put under such harsh light.

Here is a video from Good Morning America from 2008 of Ayers being interviewed on his interactions with Obama and WUO: 

In researching, countless conservative articles exploit this idea of terrorism. Since 9/11 using the word “terrorist” to describe a militant social group such as The Weather Underground (WUO) is in reality silencing a potentially intelligent debate. By attacking WUO in this manner today, one is refusing to see what you can learn from our past.

Violence and Terrorism

What is violence?

According to the WUO (Weather Underground Organization), by not acting against violence, you are taking the side of the oppressor. In fact, you are the oppressor.

The WUO has controversially claimed that they do not intend to inflict violence on any person, but rather on institutions. I believe this claim is held true after a tactical change which occurred in response to the Greenwich Village townhouse explosion. While the bomb that was intended to kill police officers at a ball backfired and ended up killing three of their own, they responded by writing their first Communique, stating “Within the next fourteen days we will attack a symbol or institution of Amerikan Injustice.”

In this regard you could argue that The Weather Underground is not a terrorist organization, that terrorist organizations are meant to send a message through terrorizing people, not destroying things. The WUO is not trying to bring fear into the hearts of Americans as much as show them what they are doing (or what they are doing by not doing anything). Ayers wrote in his book “Fugitive Days” that “Terrorists terrorize, they kill innocent civilians, while we organized and agitated. Terrorists destroy randomly, while our actions bore, we hoped, the precise stamp of a cut diamond. Terrorists intimidate, while we aimed only to educate. No, we’re not terrorists.”

Dan Berger also brings up terrorism in his book “Outlaws of America” in which he states that the group had “purposefully and successfully avoided injuring anyone… Its war against property by definition means that the WUO was not a terrorist organization.” However this is controversial even within the group, Mark Rudd has mixed feelings of sometimes guilt and shame, Brian Flanagan compares his past actions to terrorism, while Bill Ayers is completely unrelenting.

Calling The Weather Underground terrorists when the US has done so much worse is a ridiculous argument that is common place today. In one interview by Good Morning America, posted in the Ayers/Obama page, notes that we need to look at the Weather Underground in the context of its time– it was when the US was in the war with Vietnam and bombing Laos. In the interview this point wasn’t taken seriously but when you look at the definition of “terrorism” and see that it’s violence and intimidation you cannot say that the US did not and does not even today fall under that category. Using the word “terrorism” implies something new since 9/11, something more than violent; Terrorism implies striking fear into the people and killing mass amounts of people and The Weather Underground does not fit under those categories… the US well, that’s another argument.

Here is a discussion by Anthony and I about WUO and Terrorism.


The war in Vietnam and the civil rights movement motivated many Americans, black and white, to get involved in protests, riots, and in overthrowing the government. The Weather Underground was composed of predominately white middle class students who felt that not acting was in itself violence. By taking the sides of the Vietnamese, blacks, and the oppressed, they felt they were leaving the side of the oppressor (which they were born into). Peaceful means were being exhausted, just as John F. Kennedy said “Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable.”

The WUO formed out of Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) which splintered around the same time. While trying to get SDS to join the militant cause, the Society fell from it’s grips and may be one reason why the WUO went underground, unable to motivate the masses in riots and rallies. The “Days of Rage” in Chicago were the true turning point for WUO to go underground though, when only a few hundred showed up to what they expected to be a huge rally to destroy the corporate downtown and give America a little taste of the war that was happening in Vietnam.

After going underground they successfully bombed the pentagon, state department and capital building along with others. This change in tactics made each attack deliberate and meaningful; when George Jackson was killed by prison guards, the WUO bombed the Department of Corrections in San Francisco and the Office of California Prisons in Sacramento; the Kent State shootings lead the WUO to bomb the National Guard Association building in DC; when the US bombed Laos, the WUO bombed the US Capitol building; when the US raided Hanoi, the WUO attacked the pentagon.

While they used bombs as a counter to US imperialism, they went to great extents trying not to harm any person in the making. After their unsuccessful attempt at bombing an “officer’s dance” at Fort Dix, New Jersey which would have killed many police officers and their families, and instead killing three of their own in the what was to become known as The Greenwich Townhouse Explosion when the bomb went off unsuccessfully, the WUO’s tactics again changed. Now they were issuing warnings about the bombs in order to prevent injuries.

[image courtesy of SDS website] By this time the WUO were on the FBI’s most wanted list, with a full-scale manhunt for them issued in 1973, it was eventually halted because CIA admitted to illegally obtaining evidence, many charges, including those from the Days of Rage were therefore dropped. Today, three of the WUO are college professors, one is in jail, three are dead, all living their lives, but why are they called “terrorists”? What does the conservative media aim to do by framing them as such? Is it possible for a violent social movement to successfully overthrow US government and imperialism today (inciting national revolution and evading the FBI)?