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.

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.

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.