What follows is some conversation from the Website: Med-Events:, a site I moderate for opinions and comments about current events. Sometimes it gets pretty volatile and there isn’t much held back as Events is a closed site. I cannot reproduce any of the opinions other than mine because I don’t have permissions. So I have put forth my opinions regarding certain current events of a volatile nature for whatever interest anyone may have, maybe none. It’s all mine and I opine from the perspective of having been there for some of it and having personally known some of those involved. I was, however, never a member of the Weather Underground and I never participated in any such violence.
It’s fairly long and involuted and I rarely copy-edit anything for spelling or grammar.
Crippen on “Protests”, Media” and “Black Lives Matter”. (Med-Events discussions in January-February, 1016.)
Demonstrations, Protests and the Media
Crippen: I’ve seen a lot of demonstrations in my lifetime and participated in a few when I was a younger dog. Here’s how it works. A group gets worked up over some atrocity, real or imagined, and they all congregate to show the public how pissed off they are and to assure their anger makes the 6 pm, 11 pm news and CNN. However, no one watching these news sources cares. Most don’t look up from their issue of People magazine. Whatever it is they’re demonstrating about, it doesn’t touch them and it doesn’t matter to them. It’s somewhere else, and it affects black people. OK, fair enough. Anyone for Chinese? The news services work it up for a while and they to get bored with it and move on to whatever the Royals are doing or how many ISIS sites were blown up.
Then the protesters figure out no one cares and they’re wasting their time. They march and then everything goes back to normal. So they then understand they need to make more of a splash to get the attention of those dulled by most news stories anyway. So the U of Missouri football team refuse to play, and some of the students go on hunger strikes and they loudly call for the resignation of higher-ups in the system. The dumbass higher-ups offer blanket apologies for atrocities they don’t even know about, roll over like weasels, exposing theirs softest parts at the whims of a pissed off MINORITY and skulk off to cheers of equally clueless cheering sections.
This hits the 6 pm, the 11 pm and Anderson Cooper briefly, the viewers look up from their Us magazine, tut-tut and then move on to the Real Housewives of Atlanta. The protesters loudly shout “we won!” and then repair to formulate more demands, many having nothing to do with the original atrocities at their school, real or imagined. Then all goes back to normal again for a while.
Then the protesters understand it’s time to kick the sleeping bear again. This time they obstruct traffic and entrance into major businesses on the busiest shopping day of the year. “LOOK AT US, WE’RE TRYING TO SHOW YOU WE’RE BEING DISCRIMINATED AGAINST”. That’ll show ’em. The public then definitely notices them. The “notice” the protesters get is the exact opposite of what they want. The public is inconvenienced and they don’t give a shit about the principle, they want the road cleared and the businesses non-obstructed.
Finally, the protesters understand that the only way to get noticed and stay noticed is by bombs and bullets. Just like the Weather Underground in 1970. The public will be dragged into an understanding of the problem whether they want to or not. That’s where this is headed.
Crippen: While in the air and hanging around airports over the last week I read an interesting book on the revolution in this country from the 60s and 70s, a subject I am very interested in as I was there for a lot of it. In my collection, I have almost every book written about this era, most from those involved, including a signed (to me) copy of “Fugitive Days” by Bill Ayres and an original first edition copy of “Prairie Fire: A political statement of the Weather Underground” (1974), run off by mimeograph to avoid detection by the ever vigilant Federales.
Regardless of whether you agree with him on anything, Bill Ayres writes a lot about American culture and most of it is an interesting read:
If anyone’s interested, the book is: “Love & Struggle: My life in the SDS” by David Gilbert, a stalwart of the Weather Underground in the early 70s, currently imprisoned at the Auburn Correctional facility in New York for his (non-violent) part in the infamous Brinks robbery in 1981 during the waning years of the WU. David and his wife Kathy Boudin were caught up in a plot to finance future radical activity by robbing a Brinks truck that went completely wrong and people were killed by members of the Black Liberation Army (BLA), a faction that both Gilbert and Boudin stupidly underestimated. Boudin was released in 2003 after 22 years. Gilbert is my age, has spent most of his adult life in prison and will die there as he isn’t eligible for parole until the year 2056. Bill Ayres and Bernardine Dohrn legally adopted Gilbert & Boudin’s son while they were incarcerated. He is a civil rights lawyer today.
There are several things learned from reading accounts of the “Days of Rage”, specifically the Students for Democratic Society (SDS) and it evolution to the “Weather Underground” (WU) by people that were intimately involved.
- The SDS were by and large white children of privilege, reared in families of means, many of them Jewish as were both David Gilbert and Kathy Boudin. Kathy’s father was an ultra-left wing lawyer, counsel to numerous left-wing organizations. Her great-uncle was Louis B. Boudin, a Marxist theorist. Gilbert was an Explorer Scout. In essence, they were all what we would have described then as “Communists” in the purist sense with a Marxist economics inflection. They interpreted many of Marx’s principles of the value of work belonging to workers and not to those who dilute it unfairly.
- The SDS started life in the late 60s with the fundamental goal of addressing the inequities of the poor and disadvantaged in a world that entitles white males. Their primary interest was exposing the inequities of minorities including dramatic deficits in education, nutrition, housing, jobs and opportunity for black folk. They developed an accumulating interest in the Black Panther Party (BPP), established in 1966 and mirrored most of their political/social activities. The BPP’s core practice was its armed street patrols to monitor police officers behavior and challenge police brutality in the vicinity of Oakland, California. In 1969, with assistance from the SDS, the Panthers evolved to community social programs including Free Breakfast for Children Programs, and community health clinics.
- The complaints brought by either the Panthers or the Weathermen in the late 60s were absolutely righteous. There were, indeed, egregious and terrible offenses against those unlucky to have been poor and especially black. They were herded into ghettos. There was intense job and education discrimination and mostly they were systematically abused by police, who considered them vermin. The WU also “discovered” sexism in society and went to great lengths to resolve in in their own organization, creating great strife amongst the mostly while male factions steeped in sexism from birth.
- In their early iterations, neither the panthers or the WU had any particular interest in violence as it pertained to murder. That said, the Panthers were happy to flaunt their right to openly carry weapons, frequently waving them under the noses of police, daring them to respond. This was not a particularly wise action in the late 60s. From 1967-1969, there were at least eight gun battles in which three police officers and five Panthers died. Otherwise, both the Panthers and the Weathermen were committed to social change by publicly exposing social inequities and by participating in non-violent demonstrations. However, the police and FBI overreacted to most of it. J. Edgar Hoover called the panthers “the greatest threat to the internal security of the country” and he supervised an extensive program (COINTELPRO) of surveillance, infiltration, perjury, police harassment, and many other tactics designed to undermine them, quickly extending to the SDS, who reacted by forming the much more aggressive Weather Underground in 1969. The program was also accused of using assassination against Black Panther members, including the death of Fred Hampton and Mark Clark in December, 1969 in Chicago, a seminal event in radicalizing the SDS.
- After the deaths of Hampton and Clark, the Weathermen realized that the police could run roughshod over protesters. They also realized that general public had little interest in addressing the problems associated with the poor and disadvantaged, especially of black folk minorities. The Vietnam war was also beginning to rage, an altercation considered by the WU to be blatant imperialism. Simply pointing it out was as ineffective for the BPP and WU as it was for Dr. King much earlier. Both groups then radicalized into factions that would not only point out these societal deficits but do so more forcefully by “getting the attention” of an otherwise apathetic public. This would be accomplished by blowing up buildings associated with Nationalist imperialism and discrimination, of course to be vividly described on National television for a much wider audience than newspapers.
- The WU aligned themselves with virtually any other organization dedicated to the aggressive (violent) redesign of American government/politics, end the imperialist war in Vietnam and as an afterthought, to end sexism. It was at this juncture that they made at least two fatal mistakes that would go on to destroy them. They embraced collections of steely-eyed killers whose mission was simply to kill cops in retribution for the ills they had suffered and they thought that simply blowing up buildings would not harm innocent bystanders.
- The “Brinks Job” in 1981 that sent Dave Gilbert and Kathy Boudin to prison for much of their adult lives was a terrible miscalculation. Both should have known better, but again, this must be viewed in the persona of the time. While Gilbert and Boudin waited in a U-Haul truck in a nearby parking lot, armed BLA members found themselves accidentally confronting the Brinks guards and a shootout ensued, killing several at the scene. The BLA members transferred $1.6 million in cash transfer into the waiting U-Haul, quickly apprehended by a police roadblock. Gilbert and Boudin surrendered but when the officers tried to search the back of the vehicle Black Liberation A members emerged shooting with automatic weapons, killing more at the site.
- Most of the Weather Underground intimates have never recognized or repudiated their mistakes of the 60s and 70s. In Gilbert’s book, he repeatedly articulates that they were on a mission from God and their quest was righteous, glossing over several realities. In fact, they probably ever had a chance. None of their passionate ideals were of any particular interest to most of the general public. Few in majority America cared much about the plight of the poor and disadvantaged. It is VERY unclear whether “protest demonstrations” actually did much to change anything until those changes evolved naturally over their own good time, particularly anti-war demonstrations. All these protests went on for years but change generally didn’t occur within the time frame of the demonstrations. The Vietnam war didn’t end until 1975 and conditions for black folk, including a lot of them shot by police continue to this day. And again, blowing up buildings to publicize social inequity didn’t work very well, sufficing mainly to build CNN up to it’s worldwide penetrance. A few accidental innocents killed because of being in the wrong place at the wrong time undermined any utility of these actions.
- One of the things gleaned from David’s rather eloquent memoirs is the fact that to the truly radicalized, there is absolutely NO concession to any opposition and there will always be an perpetual, open-ended search for discrimination and social inequity. This concept has come to fruit now following the shooting or beating of unarmed (but sometimes aggressive) young black males by police. The reaction to it has been now to “find” discrimination on places normally though to be fairly benign. Discrimination is now defined in institutions where there “aren’t enough” minorities. How many minority administrators are “enough”? (More). In a mid-western university, several top administrators bullied into resigning because their minds weren’t quite right. How right should their minds be? (more than they are). How many minorities should be offered acting jobs in Hollywood? (More). Anything is now “racist” if a “J’accuse” finger is pointed at them by a loud voice popping up on the Internet. When that happens, the accused party is guilty until they can prove themselves otherwise.
- We are now liable for a repeat of the events of 1970 because we haven’t learned that little of it worked in 1970. Much heat was generated but little useful work. We now have a stage set for another Black Liberation Army and the events that followed it.
Crippen: The Black Panthers, Weather Underground and Timothy McVey were clearly terrorists. Anyone who uses violence to terrorize or instill fear into a community to try to effect change is a terrorist.
Well, since I knew people involved with the Weather Underground in the early 70s and I have really studies both the Panthers and their successors the Black Liberation Army (BLA) I may not be an expert but I’m more knowledgeable than many.
There are subtle and maybe not so subtle differences between all three of these factions but I would not call any of the “terrorists” in the same sense as radical fundamentalist Islamics.
The Arabs use wanton killings of masses as a tool to spread fear in a population, and it works pretty well. They do so because they want to kill off as many infidels as possible and run the rest of us off the cliff if possible. It’s a global hatred thing of an entire civilization and there isn’t any focus. There isn’t any specific issue. It’s all Americans, or all non-islamics for that matter. Their destruction isn’t focal. It’s anywhere, anytime.
However, the Weathermen of the early 70s were focused specifically on the Vietnam war. They focused damage (not so much death, most deaths were accidental) on public icons and buildings related to the war and it was specifically for publicity value, to advertise their opposition of the war. All of their bombings were warned before the fact.
The Panthers rarely did any specific damage. Their focus was to point out the discrepancy between black america and white America as it applied to jobs, education and opportunity. They created alternative schools and food sources. They liked to wave guns in front of cops and dare them to do anything about it but didn’t they kill anyone that I recall. However, the cops did kill some high profile Panthers.
The BLA was the tactical arm of the Panthers’ social philosophy. They were the reaction to cops killing Bobby Hutton and Fred Hampton. They killed isolated police officers in cold blood minding their own business cruising in cars or walking beats. They were all busted and many of them re-located to Cuba or Africa, where some remain.
Tim McVeigh bombed an isolated building as revenge against the federal government for its handling of the Waco Siege. It was a one-time event by one pissed off individual to simply get quits with the government. Not meant to spread “terror”.
No none of these factions are technically “terrorists” was we understand the term in 2015.
Crippen: This debate was just amazing. Fantastic. Everyone should have seen it. The really great thing was the fact that the University of Michigan had the foresight to put this on in this world of enforced political correctness. To present different viewpoints in an educational forum, not screaming at each other as frequently happens on Bill Maher. The audience was clearly biased to conservativeness but they were well behaved and didn’t boo either debater. The debaters were very polite and respectful of each other in their comments. They both stuck to the issues and not attacking each other…much.
To my observation, D’Souza came off dark, foreboding and very, very angry. He rarely smiled. Frowned frequently and regularly grimaced at Ayres making some point he didn’t like. He was dressed in a formal suit & tie and appeared nervous, beads of perspiration on his face. Dinesh is a self-proclaimed “child of the 80s” (The “me” generation as I recall).
D’Souza was right about the generation gap between them. Ayres is straight up 60s hippie, free & easy, t-shirt, earrings, comfortable even in this hostile environment, laughed and smiled a lot. Jeans, backpack on his back. He has nothing to be angry about, really. He’s been there and done it all, but he makes good points cheerfully and with no particular malice.
The audience was hostile under the surface but the rules were followed pretty much. No booing, no speeches by the audience instead of questions. When one female started making an extended speech they cut her short and she really didn’t have much of a question.
I think best interaction was when some female started espousing the classic conservative line: “I work hard for my money, why should I have to give any of it up. It’s mine to do with as I please”. Ayres shut her down hard (I think), letting her know that the reason she has any money at all is because of all the infrastructure paid by taxes. She wanted to use all that then keep the proceeds, letting someone else support the infrastructures that allowed her to accumulate wealth.
There was another good one. Another female rose to very a smarmy remark that she was offended at Ayres’ “Black Lives Matter” T-Shirt. Very smugly and self righteously opined that “all lives matter”. Ayres nailed her with the reply that “all lives” were not getting shot dead, unarmed, in the street for bad attitudes.
Dinesh actually did make a few valid points though (only a few, the rest of his diatribe was sophomoric mythology). I was a little more impressed with him than I thought I’d be. I thought Bill Ayres shut him down pretty regularly, exposing his faulty logic. The moderator said something about his film: “Obama 2016” being the highest grossing this and the most award winning that. Of course that’s all bullshit Conservative propaganda. That film was laughable garbage, none of it was true at the time and none of it came true later. Every reviewer, those that bothered, trashed it (except of course conservative Republicans). So in the end, Dinesh is STILL the guy that produced and directed that smelly piece of shit and he believes it to this day.
The moderator also pronounced that Dinesh was one of the true great conservative intellectual voices of our generation. That may very well be true, but if it is, I’m not too impressed with that voice. Most of his points made were unsupportable theory and open-ended criticism of any opponents without specifically refuting facts.
They mentioned something at the end about having another “debate” about each others legal woes. Ayres brightened up about that. He’s been defending most of that for years, pretty eloquently. I’d like to see that show.
Crippen: I think they go out of their way to portray almost any kind of trouble that blacks get into to reaffirm the ongoing suspicion that blacks are always in some kind of trouble. News services have no interest in news. They have an interest in as many viewers as possible watching their advertisers. They’re interested in taping into the drooling cretins that watch “Kardashians”, “Real Housewives”, “Batchelor” and “Broke Girls” (with it’s ridiculous laugh track).
Dr. King never asked that blacks get an exalted position in American culture. He only asked for an even break and it never happened, then or now despite “laws” superficially assuring it. They know that as black culture progressively recedes from mainstream it’s progressively disliked by the mainstream. It’s a alternate universe, a matriarchal culture with continued job and educational discrimination, too many kids hanging around streets with nothing to do, a drug culture and a crime culture. Mainstream America loves to watch the details on the tube. Scary pictures of suspects. Black on black crime occurring in areas receding from mainstream residential areas. It affirms what mainstream America has always suspected; that they’re dangerous and need to be isolated.
Ayres had a “Black Lives Matter” shirt because he fervently believes that. I give him that. In the 60s, blacks were reliably and brutally mistreated by society in general and cops in particular. The Weather Underground started it’s life on a parallel course with civil rights and only became violent when it became apparent that nothing was changing any of it. Bill Ayres continues to be stuck in the 60s because he’s seen it all and there’s a lot to see.
Black lives DO matter and there is a VERY strong suggestion in the media that they are being shot simply for bad attitudes. I don’t know if “most” cop shootings of unarmed citizens are black. I VERY strongly suspect they are and I’d be interested to see any convincing data to show otherwise.
I do know that there have been a considerable number of blacks shot by cops on film that at least appear that they’re shot for little other than bad attitudes. Cops shooting them for criteria they would NOT shoot a Fox Chapel housewife with a bad attitude for in my neighborhood. All lives do matter too, but the attitude of the female on the Ayres-D’Souza program was that because “all lives matter”, black lives don’t matter so much.
Crippen: Re: justification for “deadly Force”. The reality is that multiple legal challenges from the past, including the SCOTUS have confirmed that it’s the police shooter that determines at the time what a “threat” is, not the TV news the next day. If the officer believes there is a threat to his life or the life of some other innocent he’s pledged to “protect and serve”, his decision is VERY “bulletproof” from complaints after the fact (as we’ve seen from current events).
The problem, I think, is that the decision to shoot young black men armed only with bad attitudes breaks a lower threshold than for solid citizen suburban whites. In Ferguson, it’s difficult to know exactly what happened because of all the highly biased observers on the street, each with a very strong incentives to blame cops for everything and anything. Some observers claimed Brown was on his knees, tearfully begging for his life, whereupon the cop callously shot him in cold blood. Does anyone really believe that? I don’t. It makes zero sense that in an inflammatory situation a young police officer with a family and a career would do that in front of a pissed off audience of witnesses.
More likely, Brown, passionately pissed off at the situation, decided to get into the face of a cop that was hassling him and others, probably threatening all of them with the authority of a uniform. The experiences of young black males on the street with cops is “uniformly” bad. The experiences of cops dealing with pissed off young black males very quick to exert their “constitutional rights” to “protest” by taunting a cop in his face are equally bad.
This sets the stage for both groups that hate each other on sight. But the young black males STILL have not learned that they can NEVER win an altercation with police on the street. They still like to get in their faces, especially in a situation where the cop is outnumbered. But the reality is that if the cop feels threatened, the law is on his side if he chooses to protect himself and he gets to determine if he’s threatened.
It’s highly that Brown, a big kid, pissed off to the max, decided to approach the cop in a threatening manner, not to kill him but to taunt him with his nose inches from his face. The cop interpreted this as threatening and, his threshold for deadly force already lowered for blacks on the street, protected himself before he could find out if the threat to him was dangerous. If it had been a Fox Chapel housewife (blond, great legs, driving a Lexus SUV, got out of a car (stopped for speeding to her hair appointment) and got screaming in the face of a cop on Fox Chapel Road, it’s HIGHLY UNLIKELY she would be shot. And yes, I consider those situations similar.
There is an extensive history of young black males getting in the face of cops. It was the whole point of the Black Panthers in the 60s. They made an art form of it, frequently waving guns in front of the cops nose daring them to do anything about it. The knew (or thought they knew) that the cops would back off rather than make a big stink with the Panthers who were like the “Mighty Ducks”. You screw with one, you screw with the whole flock. And they got away with it for a long time, but as they did, they built up a frustration level in the police force. A frustration level that eventually led to breaking through and the police manufacturing confrontations where the Panthers’ frustrations broke the threshold to actually shoot back, whereupon they were bested by superior tactics and firepower.
FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover called the party “the greatest threat to the internal security of the country”, initiating surveillance and harassment program (COINTELPRO), tactics specifically designed to undermine Panther leadership, incriminate party members, discredit and criminalize the Party and drain the organization of resources. The program was also accused of creating and manipulating scenarios where police could assassinate Panthers after setting them up to appear to be “threatening” officers. Shootouts with police began in which Panthers usually got the worst of it.
On October 28, 1967, Oakland California police officer John Frey was killed in an altercation with Panther Huey Newton during a traffic stop. Newton and a backup officer also suffered gunshot wounds. On April 7, 1968, Panther Bobby Hutton was killed in a shootout with the Oakland police, and Panther Eldridge Cleaver was wounded . Two police officers were also shot. Panthers later admitted that Cleaver had led the police into a deliberate ambush, provoking the shoot-out. On January 17, 1969, Panthers Bunchy Carter John Huggins were killed in a shootout on the UCLA campus. Another shootout on March 17 led to two more Panthers dead.
But the big one, the one that led to the violent focus of the Weather Underground was the killing of Fred Hampton and Mark Clark on December 4, 1969 in a shootout orchestrated by the Chicago police and FBI. A federal investigation reported that only one shot was fired by the Panthers and police fired at least 80 shots. Hampton was shot twice in the head at point blank range. He was 21 years old and unarmed at the time of his death. Coroner reports show that Hampton was drugged with barbiturate said to have been administered by that night by FBI Panther infiltrator William O’Neal. Cook County State’s Attorney Edward Hanrahan, and eight Chicago police officers were indicted by a federal grand jury over the raid, but the charges were later dismissed. In 1979 civil action, Hampton’s family won $1.85 million from the city of Chicago in a wrongful death settlement.
Members of the Chicago Weathermen (including Bill Ayres) were on the scene and viewed Hampton’s body. They were galvanized and instantly radicalized by Hampton’s death. From that point on, they made the strategic decision to begin retribution for the way blacks were treated and the indifferent attitude of White America. Plus of course the continuing mess in Vietnam.
Hampton’s death was also the focal point for the creating of the infamous Black Liberation Army (BLA) around 1970, a group radically different than the Panthers. The Black Panther Party’s original goals were to provide alternate community social programs for the perpetually disadvantaged black community. Breakfasts for kids, alternate health care and education. It was the side actions of their contempt for the police (and pretty much white America) that got them into trouble. The BLA cared nothing about these things. The BLA existed to make the police (and white America) “pay” for their crimes against black america.
The BLA was mostly composed of former Panthers and their stated credo was “armed struggle”, taking up arms for the liberation and self-determination of black people in the United States.” The BLA carried out a series of bombings, murders, robberies and prison breaks (including my friend and patient Tim Leary in 1971). Expatriate Eldridge Cleaver publicly criticized the BLA as being revolutionary instead of reformist. According to a Justice Department report, the BLA is suspected of involvement in over 70 incidents of violence between and the murders of 13 police officers1970 and 1976. The Weathermen strongly sympathized with the radical Black Panthers. The police killing of Panther Fred Hampton prompted the Weatherman to issue a declaration of war upon the United States government.
Part of the WU manifesto goes: “The most important task for us toward making the revolution, and the work our collectives should engage in, is the creation of a mass revolutionary movement, without which a clandestine revolutionary party will be impossible. A revolutionary mass movement is different from the traditional revisionist mass base of “sympathizers”. Rather it is akin to the Red Guard in China, based on the full participation and involvement of masses of people in the practice of making revolution; a movement with a full willingness to participate in the violent and illegal struggle”.
Now, why do I ply you with this long, dry history? I think because it’s history repeating itself. Police with a low threshold for shooting young black males approaching them in “threatening” poses, legally justified and blessed by Grand Juries”. A gathering of seriously pissed off blacks now with the “Black Lives Matter” logo in he media, greeted by indifference of a large chunk of white America.This sets the stage for blacks figuring out that “Black Lives Mater” isn’t taken seriously (as vividly demonstrated in the Ayres/D’Souza debate Wednesday evening).
The next logical step is for those galvanized blacks to start getting more aggressive in showing white American their displeasure, including getting in the faces of cops as a demonstration that they DO matter. Then cops will continue shooting them and Grand Juries will continue exonerating them. Then the stage is further set for another Black Liberation Activity, just like 1970 when business owners sat guard in front of their storefronts, shotguns propped on their toes.
History shows that this could easily happen and might already be happening. I’m worried that it could, and how it might impact the 2016 election.