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.

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.

Media Criticism

Much of the criticism that the Weather Underground has gotten has been both from historians and former participants in the leftist movements of the 1960s and early 1970s. Mostly having to do with the Weather Underground’s use of violence and authoritarianism is criticized, but in many instances it seems that criticism of the Weather Underground is a right winged slander campaign. By not taking into account the reality of the 60s and 70s and reasons they led their lives as revolutionaries (just as Ayers points out in his interview with ABC seen in post on Obama/Ayers Connection), media takes away the meaning, purpose and humanity of The Weather Underground.

The Weathermen are widely criticized for their use of violence as a means of social change; being called “terrorists” and known as giving a bad name to violent as well as non-violent activists. While movies like “The Weather Underground“, the trailer for which is below, have come out portraying them in a neutral tone, many articles of controversy have been written about “the glorification of terrorism”. In a similar light, backlash comes while many of the former members of The Weather Underground- despite their admitting to planting the bombs and some, including Bill Ayers, who don’t regret their militancy- are free, and college professors for that fact. The article “Justice for Victims of The Weather Underground“, written by Cliff Kincaid, is a perfect example of how articles are written against The Weather Underground. Even Wikipedia essentially has a black list of members of The Weather Underground. These articles not only call them “terrorists”, many cover up the truth by misguiding the audience into thinking they killed more than they actually did.

While there is much controversy on how many people were killed by the WUO in my research I found that before the Brinks robbery and the death of three of their own, only two people were killed in a station bombing and one other sergeant in a separate bombing. The FBI claims “…During the last 18 months there has been a spectacular increase in the number of politically motivated police slayings and bombings. At least 20 policemen have been killed and 100 wounded in apparently unprovoked attacks. Seven were Chicago policemen, four of whom were gunned down without warning.” but unless they are including the Red Army and John Jackson Brigade, these numbers are simply inaccurate.

While this is not hiding the fact that many were wounded by some of the bombs that went off, the Weather Underground in multiple ways (bombing things, not people/ sending out warnings about bombs) was not looking to kill people or terrorize, but to symbolically send a message that was loud enough for the public to hear after all of the media/FBI/police cover up.

Many of The Weathermen are free today because of the corruption of the government. There was evidence that the FBI had talked about abducting Bernardine Dohrn’s niece as ransom for her to come out from hiding. Because of these conspiracies, many charges were dropped, this is where much of the backlash comes in.

While I believe that the movie “The Weather Underground” does not in any way glorify terrorism as much as to explain a concrete tactical approach to social change, such a controversial subject may seem one sided, but what is more one sided is not getting their perspective.

One statement from “The Weather Underground” documentary, shows that some members are more critical of their previous actions. “If you think you have right on your side, you can do some pretty horrific things.” Says Brian Flanagan, another member of WUO. I think this statement also provides justification of violence used not only by The Weathermen, but our Government as well; meaning if you are critical of WUOs violence you should look into the other wars we are a part of. Violence in most wars is hidden from us, “bringing the war home” is a way to see the destruction of US imperialism  first hand, make the need for social change more pertinent. Mark Rudd has another critical perspective of his past actions with the WUO, and is still trying to figure out his own perspective on violent vs. non-violent action.

Mark Rudd: A Critical Look at History

Mark Rudd‘s book “Underground” goes into depth talking about his struggle to come to terms and justify with his past actions. His account questions the fine line between terrorism and militant actions as well as highlights regrets such as the splintering of SDS, one of the fastest growing groups that would have, according to him, “In forming the Weather Underground, we destroyed the largest radical student organization in the country, doing the FBIs work for them.” Rudd describes his book as “dedicated to non-violence” and in many of his writings admits that himself and other leaders of WUO made some bad decisions, even going as far as questioning the ability of SDS to have ended the war sooner.

Rudd confronts “The Weather Underground” documentary, while not completely dissatisfied with it, as painting WUO as completely reactionary based on emotions. However Rudd states in his essay Che and me “Our dominant emotion, however, was not frustration.  On the contrary, it took an enormous quantity of optimism, combined with a strategic theory, to believe that this country was moving toward revolution and that our actions could play a role in that development.”

Rudd is also very critical of the Townhouse bombing which killed three “intelligent, vibrant, beautiful friends” and the fact that WU forced an ideological debate about violence that unmotivated anti-war movements nationally.