Because today seemed like a good day to have this argument again
From Walter Shapiro’s Salon interview with Bill Ayers:
This is where we probably part company. One of the reasons, in my view, that Nixon got away with pursuing the war was that, in part, the violence of the Weather Underground—and some of the other extreme parts of the antiwar movement—discredited the overall antiwar movement. And that led to a further polarization of American life, which led to the first round of demonology involving yourself.
I don’t see it that way. You could be partly right. I don’t know how to make those cause-and-effect relationships. I would posit a different explanation. I think what happened was cynical and thought through and it was deliberate. And I think what happened was that the Nixon administration determined that they could keep the war going without a domestic upheaval that they couldn’t handle. So they stopped bringing dead soldiers home. So they made it an air war and a sea war that was no longer a ground war. So they withdrew troops and they punished Vietnam and pounded it into the ground. When I say it was a war of terror, that is not idle talk. There were entire areas of Vietnam that were designated free fire zones. If you were a pilot and had leftover ordinance, you could just drop it in those villages and they did. So a couple of thousand people every month were dying, innocent people ...
It was a crime against humanity on an enormous scale. We were trying to end it. In the six years that the Weather Underground existed, we did everything we could to end it. We never hurt or killed anyone—by design. We didn’t want to. Was it risky, were we a little nuts, were we a little off the track? Yes. Did we cross lines of legality and propriety and common sense? I think we did. On the other hand, I don’t think we were the cause of any kind of reaction. I think we were a small part of an upheaval against war and against killing.
No, seriously, I’m glad Shapiro said this – the interview would have had a great big gaping hole in it otherwise. And while I’m usually sympathetic to Shapiro’s line of argument (no surprise there, I suppose), I’m a bit puzzled by the indirectness of Ayers’s reply. Not that I expected him to say, “up against the wall, Walter motherfucker,” exactly, but perhaps something like “yes, we went too far, and we alienated just about everybody. But surely you’ll remember, Walter, that it wasn’t as if nonviolent protests and marches were having any effect on the war policies of either party. And it wasn’t like proper parliamentary procedure was working in our favor, either. What’s more, people tend to get their chronologies all confused and compressed when it comes to the New Left, and everybody now thinks everything happened in 1968, as if we had a demonstration in Chicago, got beaten up by police, and went out blowing shit up the next day. Lots of stuff happened in between the Democratic National Convention and the Greenwich Village townhouse explosion in March 1970, such as, oh, the secret bombing of Cambodia. So when you say that the violence of the Weather Underground allowed Nixon to get away with pursuing the war, I think maybe you have things a bit, how you say, ass-backwards.” Maybe something like that. Certainly, something better than “I don’t think we were the cause of any kind of reaction.” Anyway, I’m curious about what you all think—if you’re interested in having this argument again, of course.
On a more-or-less obviously related note, I’d also like to hear what you all think of a bunch of questions Cathy Davidson asked the other day:
If the Frankfurt School’s idea of critique is rooted in a horrific historical moment, one in which intellectuals were not just derided but jailed and killed, if the major theorists of the late twentieth century, virtually all of whom consider critique to be foundational to their method, came of age in the 1960s in the midst of struggles, riots, assassinations, unjust wars, and radicalism generated by a sense of political urgency and agentive hopelessness, what will the cultural criticism of the future look like for eighteen year-olds who voted for the first time for an utterly improbable and historically unlikely president who won. In other words, in the gross world of power politics and partisan politics in the U.S., what happens if what no one could have predicted was even possible a year ago could, through concerted collective effort, become possible? If you believe you have agency in democracy, what is the affective, critical imperative borne of that agency? What is the relationship between theoretical critique and collective action? What is the continuity between success in one improbable arena and the sense that you can enact change in other arenas as well through organized, determined, focused, collective action? What form of progressive critique, evaluation, and analysis emerges when you believe that you have the collective power to enact change in a progressive direction, even against a generation of anti-progressive and highly repressive politics? What form of analysis and future action emerges when you demonstrate, through action as well as through theory, that it is possible to succeed against all predictions, against the assumptions of history?
I know, I know, it’s like Chou En-lai said about the French Revolution—it’s too soon to tell. But for now, lest anyone suggest that Davidson isn’t being properly dour enough about Obama’s election, let me point out one interesting thing about those 1960s. No, not the end of them, the beginning. Take a look at this handy chart of the first 100 days of Presidential administrations since FDR. Pay special attention to the JFK part, because, you know, Obama gets likened to that guy sometimes. Youthful energetic charismatic fellow coming in after eight years of Republican rule, right, Camelot and new frontiers and stuff, and look! On Day 41 he creates the Peace Corps, and on day 88 he invades the Bay of Pigs. Now there’s disappointment for you! Even before the struggles, riots, assassinations, unjust wars, and radicalism generated by a sense of political urgency and agentive hopelessness. Whereas it appears quite possible that Obama’s first-100-days Cuban adventure will involve closing Guantánamo. So there’s that.
Some pretty jaw-dropping comments at that penultimate link. Misanthropy justified, again.Posted by on 11/19 at 12:47 PM
It is the molten, golden calf, where much of the intelligentsia and their disciples gather to worship.
Hott!Posted by on 11/19 at 01:37 PM
For what it’s worth, JFK was also the first President to use the CIA to spy on American citizens. Plus, he helped make a mess of Vietnam.
I’m glad to learn from the American Thinker, by the way, that political correctness has replaced traditional religion. I can’t wait to knock on every single church door in my zip code to let them know. Man, my knuckles are gonna be sore.Posted by on 11/19 at 01:46 PM
Context: I’m a frustrated adjunct with a (fairly) new Ph.D. in English. I have to hold down a regular part-time job along with my adjuncting gigs in order to sustain a healthy lifestyle. I have virtually no time to publish. I can’t get a tenure-track job.
Event: All this stuff comes out about Ayers. The (potential/conjured/imagined) Obama connection is beside the point. What really, really irks me--and I’m sorry, but I can’t get past this--is seeing all of these “We Support Ayers” people--tenured professors and others--coming out of the woodwork. Also, I can’t help but wonder if Ayers has anything to do this semester at the school where he is a revered professor who, according to “Inside Higher Ed,” makes a mean bowl of pasta when he has students over at his house. What I want to say to Ayers is this: “Dr. Ayers, I’m having trouble writing an academic CV that catches the attention of search committees. Would you suggest that I get involved in domestic terrorism to spruce things up? If so, where should I list those activities? Should they go before my list of publications?”
I write all of this not implying that Ayers should be fired for his past or that tenure should be abolished or really about anything else related to academic freedom. Instead I’m writing because I can’t--just can’t--help but feel that his rise to prominency, and his newfound celebrity status, among academics, reveals the enormous injustices that are systemic to the hiring and promotion of college professors. What does it say about the whole industry that people like Ayers hold down their jobs and garner the support of so many others in the face of the fact that roughly 70% of college profs are adjuncts, many of whom would do anything for a shot at a TT job and probably all of whom have never even considered ever building anything close to a bomb? I can’t get past that, Michael, and I can’t help but feel that it’s instances like these that galvanize the general disdain for college profs. Moreover, I can’t help but feel that when so many of them speak so highly of Ayers that we deserve every bit of disdain that we get.
Signature: Murray Jay SiskindPosted by on 11/19 at 02:08 PM
” what will the cultural criticism of the future look like for eighteen year-olds”
Hell, what will it look like for 44-year-olds. The difference of the Obama administration is not Obama himself—I expect him to be Clinton redux, pretty much—but that the political system has suddenly opened up to change again. Since 1990 I’ve been working within a system in which all that was possible was to slow down the losses. Even if Obama completely blows this chance, it was still a chance.
Not that this is at all important, but I’ve started blogging because of it.Posted by on 11/19 at 02:47 PM
I’m not sure I follow your argument, Murray, partly because you’ve got two undistributed middles in your logic. First: Whatever Ayers may or may not have done forty years ago, he is not responsible for the thirty years of state disinvestment in higher education which has resulted in universities balancing their books on the backs of contingent faculty such as yourself. His being a tenured, full professor has no bearing on the job market you face.
Second: you imply that Ayers has risen to his current position in academe because of his Weather Underground past and his recipe for spaghetti. Are you suggesting that Ayers, or professors of his generation, having earned a Ph.D. in the good old days of high employment in/high state support for universities, did not have to meet the three requirements of promotion and tenure: scholarship, teaching, service?
I sympathize. The current employment outlook for people like yourself sucks and isn’t likely to improve anytime soon. But you don’t help yourself by ignoring reality and projecting the cause of your problem on a phantasm.Posted by on 11/19 at 02:55 PM
It’s a funny thing about the 60’s-- if you are old enough to remember them you probably don’t. Or your recollection is probably too colored by the biases you came into the period with to be of much use. For people my age (I was 11 in 1968) the whole thing has collapsed into a video montage with a Hendrix soundtrack, and accounts like “The Armies of the Night”, filled as they are with adults wearing ties, set off all kinds of cognitive dissonance. I’m pretty sure the war didn’t end because Stephen Stills lead a band of hippies in revolt, or because people like Bill Ayers set off bombs. It is probably fair to say that Ayers didn’t help matters as much as he intended too-- I am prepared to assume good faith, in the context of the times, even though it seems pretty apparent that the judgment being employed was poor. Poor judgment is one of the things people who were Ayers’ age in 1968, et seq are noted for. He has impressed me as somewhat disingenuous in the interview I heard with Terri Gross the other night, but he didn’t ask for this attention, so I am inclined to shrug and move on.
He seems to have-- in one more refutation of Scott Fitzgerald Bill Ayers seems to have had a decent second act. Looks like his academic credentials are pretty solid-- per Wikipedia, M.Ed from Bank Street College in Early Childhood Education (1984), an M.Ed from Teachers College, Columbia University in Early Childhood Education (1987) and an Ed.D from Teachers College, Columbia University in Curriculum and Instruction (1987). I can’t speak to the quality of his scholarship, which is outside my area anyway, but he appears to have more going for him than just being a tattered 60’s remnant.
The really interesting thing about the re-emergence of the Weather Underground in the election is that it demonstrated just how last-gasp desperate the Republican Party was-- and how this particular round of the Culture War may finally be over. The Vietnam War may have ended. Who went, who didn’t go, what they did or didn’t do-- that generation will be mostly aged out of national politics.Posted by Bill Altreuter on 11/19 at 03:00 PM
perhaps by publishing an email address such as “firstname.lastname@example.org” you may not endear you to academic search committees. Why don’t you get creatively wild and do something like .
e.Posted by on 11/19 at 03:04 PM
Murray @ 4—sure, there’s a fair amount of wagon-circling going on with professorial expressions of support for Ayers. But let me say two things. One, the reasons he’s back in the public eye are bullshit from start to finish. As Ayers himself says, there’s no way Obama knew about Ayers’ radical past at that fundraiser in 1995. The right’s campaign against Obama on this front involved taking Ayers’s New York Times interview from 2001 and projecting it backwards, as if Obama ever had some reason to know in 1995 what Ayers would say about Fugitive Days six years later (and that’s leaving aside the nutters who believe that Ayers wrote Dreams From My Father). So some of the defense of Ayers is simple protest against that kind of bullshit. Likewise, when Sarah Palin accuses Obama of “palling around with terrorists,” hell, even I support Ayers. I mean, Palin’s married to a secessionist. Meanwhile, for all his grievous faults, Ayers gave up bombing, went to school, got graduate degrees, and now works in public education. People are supposed to be upset about that now? As if they’d feel better if he were still underground, still running Weatherman?
Two, as for Ayers’ employment situation and your own. Mostly what Ohio teach said in the first two paragraphs of comment 6, with this caveat: Ayers didn’t get his degrees in the good old days, pre-1970, when people could get jobs and tenure for being carbon-based. And (just to underscore the point) he has nothing to do with the adjunctification of the professoriate. That sorry process—and I agree, the conditions for academic employment are abysmal, especially in English, which is responsible for so much adjunct hiring—was well under way long before Ayers re-emerged into public view.
Anyway, no, don’t get involved in domestic terrorism to spruce things up. It doesn’t actually enhance your job prospects. Indeed, you can’t always be sure that it’s safe to list graduate-TA union activities on your cv. Some people don’t like that kind of stuff, you know.Posted by Michael on 11/19 at 03:19 PM
And, in my department, we make it a point never to hire fictional characters such as Murray--or any DeLillo character, actually, though some of us would be delighted to share an omelet with Lambert Strether.Posted by on 11/19 at 03:22 PM
I’m pretty sure the war didn’t end because Stephen Stills lead a band of hippies in revolt, or because people like Bill Ayers set off bombs.
Well, my mother was 11 in 1968, so I can’t speak from any experience here, but I really don’t think effectiveness is a fair standard by which to judge the WU. If anything, their story makes it clear that military action is structurally unaccountable to the people in whose names it’s carried out, and I think maybe that’s something worth knowing from experience.
In all, in the final analysis, Bill Ayers doesn’t need to feel bad on my account. But that also depends on the contingency of the failure of the Fort Dix bombing. I’m frankly grateful I don’t have to deal with that easily imaginable alternate set of facts in thinking about this.Posted by on 11/19 at 03:23 PM
And, in my department, we make it a point never to hire fictional characters such as Murray--or any DeLillo character
That’s where we probably part company, Ohio teach. As I recall, Murray’s a hell of a teacher. At least he seems to be.Posted by Michael on 11/19 at 03:28 PM
I replied to the second part of this thinking that most people would probably skip the first, but of course it’s the other way round. Dudes, it’s after the election. Why are we still talking about Ayers?Posted by on 11/19 at 03:34 PM
Um… err… as I recall - I first marched against the Vietnam War in 1965 - people were complaining about radical commie extremists well before the Weathermen. The advisability of such tactics was certainly hotly debated within the anti-war movement - I was against them - but I rather doubt that such tactics had much to do with maintaining public sentiment in favor of the war. I think that government deception and propaganda plus inertia had much more to do with it.Posted by on 11/19 at 03:40 PM
Poor judgment is one of the things people who were Ayers’ age in 1968, et seq are noted for.
I can’t speak for anybody’s else judgement, let alone everyone’s, and I was as yet too young to drive when that townhouse blew up, but so far as I knew most everybody who was anti-war and anti-Nixon thought the bomb throwers and the RVN flag wavers were punks and assholes. Shit, I’d have blown up the Haymarket statue myself if Mom woulda let me take the bus to Chicago, but not even at fourteen would I have blown hunks of concrete onto the Kennedy Expressway.
Fuck Bill Ayers, and fuck Jane Fonda (neither of whom is a Boomer, just for the record). The only amelioration there is to be offered is that if they hadn’t existed, the FBI would have managed to invent them. And sometimes did.
As for the second, I suggest that it is in fact too early yet even to invoke Chou.Posted by Doghouse Riley on 11/19 at 03:50 PM
FWIW: I just discovered that thousands upon thousands of images from LIFE magazine have been archived online:
Here are images from the Vietnam war:
a, Lodge, and other worthies:
Anti-war demonstrator being arrested, 1967:
Allan Ginsberg at anti-war rally, 1965:
Wounded Vietnamese boy:
There are scads of images there—and not just of the war in Vietnam. But I figured the pictures of Louis Armstrong aren’t so germane to this thread.Posted by on 11/19 at 03:52 PM
Not that this is at all important, but I’ve started blogging because of it.
Ah, but it is important, Rich—I believe I suggested a few years back that you should have your own blog. I didn’t say it should be that color of green, though.
And yeah, more comments on Cathy Davidson’s questions would be great. Because I sometimes wonder whether the Theory Generation of ‘68 isn’t constitutionally committed to disappointment and disaffected. They were reasonable, after all—they demanded the impossible. Hard not to be disappointed when that doesn’t pan out.Posted by Michael on 11/19 at 03:52 PM
"As I recall, Murray’s a hell of a teacher. At least he seems to be.”
Correcion: I am one hell of a teacher.
And that Carburetor Dung email address isn’t my CV one, e. Although I would like to go all Lester Bangs on a fair amount of search committees, prefacing my applications by saying something like, “If you don’t call me for an interview, then you at least need to call me to tell me why that’s the case.” It worked for Bangs’ infamous MC5 review in “Rolling Stone” back in the day, which is why the 60s were so great.
And to clarify: I think my gripe has more to do with the support that Ayers has received from inside academe more so than anything else. Again, I admit to the ocean of solipsism that is coursing through my posts, but I just can’t help but think that if some of the energy that erupts around issues like this one were directed inward more vehemently, hiring practices in higher education could change. And while I might be the only one posting these sentiments here, which obviously makes me an easy target, I think it’s safe to say that I’m not the only one who feels this way--and who probably resents Ayers’s job security. Because that job security is most definitely not a phantom.Posted by on 11/19 at 03:58 PM
If this were a both/and kinda blog, one could argue both that the genocidal policies of the LBJ/Nixon administrations created a climate of violence and desperation and relative hopelessness among certain parts of society, including the self-appointed vanguards of the left and that the bombings did play a role in rallying the base (which I think was called the Quiet Plurality: perhaps some of the commenters here who are older than me, Michael and Rich Puchalsky could correct me if I’m wrong) thus further polarizing a society that had been thin at one end, much thicker just to the left of the middle, and thin again at the far end.
But all the cool kids these days seem to be more interested in analyzing the WeatherMen with an eye toward the ways in which their praxis reflected serious ingrown privilege and was thus largely irrelevant to any real struggle out in the world, though the group did hang itself up on the coathook of relevance.
The “the other side was worse” argument has long struck me as adolescent, kin to the kind of thing where your mother would roll her eyes and ask “and if all your friends were blowing up the Empire State Building...?” One need only look at the continued existence of David Gelernter to see how those sorts of tactics play out in the real world.Posted by Chris Clarke on 11/19 at 04:02 PM
There is no longer any such thing as job security.
I was in college during the war and was opposed to it. Nobody liked violence. (which was kinda the point) But nobody seemed to get too upset at the bombings particularly after Kent State. In some ways that tragic event created a sense that it was us vs. them and the rules were out the window.
captcha “property” - you figure it out -Posted by on 11/19 at 04:24 PM
Yes, the green blog template doesn’t work that well. For some reason I decided to put some content up first and do the template later; not the best decision perhaps.
But I’ve written what I think about the second part of this, more or less, in a blog post here. And if you thought that my comments were long, wait till you see what I can do with a slightly larger box.Posted by on 11/19 at 04:44 PM
All righty, I was born in ‘66. I experienced the Cold War’s final years, and...thought it was rather silly. That article by Paul Kengor that you linked to—man, does he sound old to me. He’s wigging out because the nation’s youth don’t know first-hand about the Moral Hazards of Communism? Dude. It’s been, what, a good 50 years since McCarthyism. In maybe 40 years, only very superannuated people will have any sort of personal, non-book-learnin’ experience with The Red Menace. (Kengor reminds me of Andy Rooney here.)
Nixon resigned when I was in kindergarten, so I simply can’t get myself too exercised over things that happened before I lost my first baby tooth. The McCain campaign’s obsessive interest in that era, in fact, made them look remarkably out of touch to me. Sure, they were out of touch in a great many other ways, too, but the Ayers/"ZOMG! Socialism!” combo seemed custom-made for voters eligible for AARP. There’s a reason younger voters went for Obama. Well, a lot of reasons, actually, but Obama’s keen focus on recent history and the future surely resonated far more than McCain’s rehash of the ‘50s and ‘60s. I’m just not sure why McCain didn’t add “Remember Pearl Harbor!” to his stump speech.Posted by Orange on 11/19 at 05:06 PM
Murray, as far as I can tell, a lot *more*energy is being directed to the academic job situation by tenured profs than to Ayers (or Ward Churchill before him). A major organ of that effort is the <a href-"http://www.aaup.org/aaup">AAUP</a>, on whose national board Michael B sits, as he notes on the home page of this blog. He also edits a series at NYU Press, which recently published this book on university labor practices. This is not to gainsay your pain, to which I can relate intimately, having spent ten years looking for a TT job, but it is to open your eyes to the work already being done in fighting a thirty-year process in which academia is only a reflection of larger processes.Posted by John Protevi on 11/19 at 05:49 PM
Properly formatted link to the AAUP.Posted by John Protevi on 11/19 at 05:51 PM
And yet, even more faculty awareness and activism about the state of the job system wouldn’t hurt. As long as it doesn’t involve blowing shit up, of course.Posted by Michael on 11/19 at 06:15 PM
Point taken. Didn’t mean to imply we could rest on our laurels. But it would be more discouraging to think *no* work is being done. So I should rephrase, less defensively: Murray, you have friends who take your side and who are already working against the system that is exploiting you. Please join the AAUP and encourage your friends and colleagues to do so as well.Posted by John Protevi on 11/19 at 06:21 PM
And yet, even more faculty awareness and activism about the state of the job system wouldn’t hurt. As long as it doesn’t involve blowing shit up, of course.
Chicken. Can’t we even put Mentos in a soda bottle?Posted by on 11/19 at 06:46 PM
It’s weird… I heard Ayers on Fresh Air the other day, and the dude seems to have a gigantic blind spot when it comes to his past.
I’m really not smart enough to get into the whole ‘ends vs. means’ thing here, but I don’t think blowing crap up did much to advance the cause. Of course, he did a lot of other nonviolent stuff, too—some of which was probably effective. It was a weird time. I don’t know if we’re ready to write the history of it yet. But Ayers doesn’t seem to have sufficient detachment to view things honestly. That’s what I think.
My uninformed snap judgment of the guy is that he’s pretty smart and mostly means well, but is still probably sort of a tool.Posted by on 11/19 at 07:42 PM
"As long as it doesn’t involve blowing shit up, of course.”
Where’s the fun in that? Isn’t there some militant breakaway faction of the AAUP we can join?Posted by on 11/19 at 07:54 PM
Ayers’ chronology is off. He says
So they stopped bringing dead soldiers home. So they made it an air war and a sea war that was no longer a ground war. So they withdrew troops and they punished Vietnam and pounded it into the ground.
That happened after 1973. But the Weather group was formed, and decided to adopt violent tactics, in 1969; the town house explosion, as noted above, was in 1970. Also in 1969 came the biggest antiwar demonstrations yet (the Moratorium campaign) and the first Congressional moves against the war by Representatives like Ron Dellums and Elizabeth Holtzman. Ayers seems to be claiming that the turn toward violence was warranted by the Nixon Administration’s having somehow defused the non-violent antiwar movement; that’s false.Posted by on 11/19 at 07:55 PM
Hmmmm, good point, rootlesscosmo. I did miss that part. No doubt that’s why Ayers couldn’t challenge Shapiro’s chronology of the antiwar movement and Nixon’s conduct of the war.Posted by Michael on 11/19 at 08:10 PM
thus further polarizing a society that had been thin at one end, much thicker just to the left of the middle, and thin again at the far end.
Chris Clarke’s has a theory of Vietnam War-era America. Which is his.
(If this wasn’t a play on the theory about the brontosaurus, I apologize. But only slightly.)
And yes, there’s some of “the other side was worse” going on, but if Kissinger, Cheney, Bush, Ashcroft, etc., can retire to lives of wealth and comfort instead of facing prosecution, then Professor Ayers can have his oh-so-cushy tenured position at a state college.Posted by on 11/19 at 08:37 PM
For chronology sake, Kent State was May ‘70.
I don’t think you can underestimate the impact this had on the psyche of the (us) college kids at the time. Even at Caltech, where Robert McNamara sat on the board of trustees, in the fall of ‘70 they allowed students to take time off to work for “what they believed in”.
captcha “first” as in Country uhhh… I mean Alaska First.Posted by on 11/19 at 08:42 PM
And and yes, Chris Clarke is so cool, he gets an apostrophe s even without a contraction or possessive in sight. Just one of the reasons we toyed with “Bérubéman Chrisclarke” as a name for the mdslet.
(And and and yes, I’m going to keep bringing up the mdslet at the least provocation.)Posted by on 11/19 at 08:43 PM
@ Elliot Tarabour:
You’re right about the impact (and timing) of Kent State. My problem is that Ayers seems to be implying violence was a last, desperate response to the rest of the movement running out of steam. It did start to run out of steam after most US ground forces were withdrawn in 1973, but not in 1969-70, when--as your CalTech experience illustrates--the broad antiwar movement was actually near its peak of influence on public thinking, though not (or not yet, or not that we were aware of) on the policy makers in Washington.Posted by on 11/19 at 08:59 PM
Orange: I’m just not sure why McCain didn’t add “Remember Pearl Harbor!” to his stump speech.
As I recall, his acceptance speech at the Republican convention did in fact mention his childhood memory of being told of the attack on Pearl Harbor.Posted by on 11/19 at 09:04 PM
what will the cultural criticism of the future look like for eighteen year-olds who voted for the first time for an utterly improbable and historically unlikely president who won
OK, I’ll bite. It will read less like Enlightenment as Mass Deception and more like Situationist manifestoes. (The tenure process will take into account the impossibility of your demands.)Posted by on 11/19 at 09:55 PM
Posted by on 11/19 at 10:57 PM
Posted by on 11/19 at 11:34 PM
As I remember this history, SDS got pretty radical, not radical enough for some, and they broke off and made up a new name and staged the Days of Rage, which involved wearing bicycle helmets and face-bandannas and hitting shop windows with broomsticks. In Cleveland, maybe, or maybe it was Chicago. Could have been Milpitas. Seems the really romantic ones, like Ayers, later broke off and tried to figure out a way to be real revolutionaries. Went underground, as the phrase went.
That’s mostly what I remember, the romanticism. And the television-show mixed with film noir aspect-- we all grew up watching “Have Gun Will Travel”, check it out. I used to go have a beer on Telegraph Avenue in Berkeley and watch riots when we had them, watch them through the window. Later that night you might get laid for having a thick black turtleneck somebody knitted you, the right haircut, and the special winkle-picker boots with the buckles you picked up in Paris that one year. Girls asked you if you were a revolutionary. Which, yeah, you probably were in a way. Cultural revolutionary, yo, which if I hear Ayers right on Terry Gross is about where he figures the bombing stuff fits.
None of that Weatherman reaching out made a whole lot of difference. When I thought anti-war theatre was starting to make or maybe reflect a difference was when I went to a big march in San Francisco probably around the spring of 1971 and saw my father and stepmother a few hundred feet ahead, walking with a professional group. A lot of people were getting riled up beside the fringe. I think they all looked the same to the people watching on television, and Nixon never really needed fringe radicals for boogy-men.
I think this may be an exceptionally tough history to capture, because there weren’t a lot of commonly sensed straight lines, and because of the public relations scams that started then and continue to here and now . The only book I ever read that got near the flavor of it was called “Sentimental Education”, by some French guy, about the 1840’s in Paris I think. What you guys can do as English professors, tenured or not, is keep an eye on the usage. The strongest memory I have of Weatherman is that they scolded people who called them Weathermen. You didn’t need a weatherman, not weathermen, rube. WeatherMen is a step off into the fog and should remind you it’s time to be extra careful.Posted by on 11/20 at 03:47 AM
You were right. It was a good day to do this again.Posted by on 11/20 at 05:06 AM
Michael # 9: you’re misquoting Bérubé. They had to be able to sign their names and prove that they were carbon-based. I use that line alla time.Posted by on 11/20 at 05:27 AM
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... “BIG MIKE"… !!!”Posted by Big Mike on 11/20 at 05:52 AM
Now that is indeed some awesome dancing, guy. Thanks for showing up in these here comments! It’s a good day for arguin’ about the 60s and visiting Coney Island by YouTube.Posted by Michael on 11/20 at 08:56 AM
I’m still wondering who the heck is Nixon? I have a camera from Nikon, but Nixon? Some days I eat cookies from Dixon ......but Nixon?
We need history to learn things, but we need to think about the future without wasting to much time on ....Nixon?
CheersPosted by Ronald on 11/20 at 09:20 AM
Maybe this is too dismissive and glib but I could never take the Weather Underground, whatever the exact title is, seriously. (I’m sure I’d feel differently if I were more directly affected by them.) Any group of people whose title was inspired by Dylan singing “you don’t need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows” is just cracked. Talk about failure to grasp the essential concept. And then there’s that “in order to protest violence, we need to blow shit up” thing.Posted by on 11/20 at 10:21 AM
Although I have no interest in joining an argument about old ‘60s and ‘70s assholes who endangered lives, I do want to ask, regarding the current employment situation in higher ed, what is your position on metaphorically blowing up abstractions like institutional arrangements for staffing courses? ‘Cause that shit could use some blowing up, metaphorically, and I dunno how. Just don’t advocate making those metaphors literal.Posted by on 11/20 at 11:04 AM
what is your position on metaphorically blowing up abstractions like institutional arrangements for staffing courses?
I would have to say burn, baby, burn. Because if you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem. And one institutional arrangement can ruin your entire day.
The adjuncts. United. Will never be defeated.Posted by Michael on 11/20 at 11:31 AM
Also, all hail the mdslet again! mds, if you have pix of the little creature and want to share ‘em, just let us know. . . .Posted by Michael on 11/20 at 12:16 PM
I see a huge amount on bitterness about lack of tenured opportunities in blogland, and I understand the disappointment, but why bitterness? I’ve always seen being a professor like I see opera singer, professional athlete, etc., as something that people will take their shot at, but that realistically the odds will always be against you no matter your talent or background. Are minor league ball players who never make it less bitter because they buy into the meritocratic aspects of how they’re selected? Or is there a lack of explanation of the facts of life to incoming graduate students?Posted by on 11/20 at 12:23 PM
Or is there a lack of explanation of the facts of life to incoming graduate students?
I hope not. I always made a point of a frank discussion of the academic job market when I was DGS. But I also always made it clear that the academic job market was only one of the markets open to humanities MAs and PhDs.Posted by John Protevi on 11/20 at 12:27 PM
I think that if I were to harbor any grievance over the course of Bill Ayers life*, it would be more around the fact that second (and third) acts in life are a lot easier to come by if you happen to be the son of a philantropist who was the Chairman and CEO of Commonwealth Edison. The access to the social capital (not to mention capital capital) to pull that off (independent of whatever made it necessary)is not universally available.
*And I certainly do not harbor any such grievance, or at least not any that registers on a scale that also measures my grievance againt the way Obama’s asociation with him was abused during the campaign.
On 1968. I vaguely (and stupidly) resent that it has become such a political cliché. The cumulative WTF? of the cultural and political shocks that I received simply by being a somewhat sheltered, suburban 14-year-old watching TV and listening to the radio in a small midwestern city were in fact quite transformative for me personally (I know ... me and 40 million others). But I’ll just say that it continues to boggle my mind that the big “takeaway” from that year for some people seems to be what a few thousand essentially powerless kids said, wore and waved.Posted by on 11/20 at 01:39 PM
Oh, and just to be clear: my comment @ 48 was an attempt to respond to the comment @ 47 by reciting shopworn slogans. I know, no one’s reading this far down today. But sometimes my little jokes misfire when they get kinda involuted, and of course the situation of adjuncts is no laughing matter.Posted by Michael on 11/20 at 03:58 PM
53: Ha!Posted by on 11/20 at 04:09 PM
(And no, this is not about Horowitz. Jeez already.)Posted by Michael on 11/20 at 05:22 PM
Horowho? Dangeral what?Posted by on 11/20 at 05:54 PM
What do we want?
Tenure-track faculty positions in Comp Lit!!!
When do want ‘em?
Like, about seven years ago woud’ve been nice!!!
(captcha: also.)Posted by on 11/20 at 06:15 PM
This far down in the thread is like the crumbs and paperclips at the back of the drawer. Why does Ho Chi Minh keep borrowing my stapler?Posted by on 11/20 at 06:21 PM
if you happen to be the son of a philantropist who was the Chairman and CEO of Commonwealth Edison. The access to the social capital (not to mention capital capital) to pull that off (independent of whatever made it necessary)is not universally available.
Or, as in Hayden’s case, marry an Oscar winning actress, with lots of disposable money, whose political ambitions exceeded her intellect. Jerry Rubin found the rubicon trail to eureka land, while Abby hid in plain sight stealing books. Not all that surprising then that radical leftists of the 60s and 70s mellow into Democratic party leadership positions (and high level staffers) across state and national vistas. But the really hard core visionaries: Chet Helms, Doug Green, Bill Graham, Emmett Grogan, Peter Coyote, Peter Berg, Richard Belzer, et al--seemed to have either died off, moved into mainstream media, or gone deeply underground. The Diggers provided a model of a community-based sustainable lifestyle, and watched the Nixon/Reagan conspiracy destroy them at every level. There is still deep anger and resentment for that among those connected in the community. We had a good thing, they trashed it; and some felt that trashing was an appropriate response.
What is the legacy of Ayers, et al? WTO protests that get distilled down to 47 acts of random anarchic expressions of anger. Vicious raids in homes of innocent people in St Paul to “prevent” possible WTO like trouble. Massive arrests of a thousand people in a park practicing Tai Chi and Yoga to “quell” possible disturbances. Environmentalists designated by Federal law as “eco-terrorists” and facing decades in prison. And for good measure, LSD is still illegal.Posted by on 11/20 at 06:47 PM
On the Cathy Davidson quote: One swallow does not make a summer.
I take her point on this election and it is a *great* result, but I am not sure it holds when I compare the sense of political and overall possibilities for the world that shaped my experience versus my children’s.Posted by on 11/20 at 07:06 PM
I gotta say, I’m a big fan of the Weather Aboveground. Did you know the Weather Channel has an HD version now? Satellite and Doppler radar never looked so good. And the good folks of the Weather Aboveground always hope that the big storms damage only property and not people, too.Posted by Orange on 11/20 at 07:15 PM
Seconding the call for mdslet pix! Getting all misty, in fact. I recall when the mdslet was but a glint in mdsletmom’s eye.
And re: 29, I’m working on splitting off a breakaway faction of the AARP. Working name: the Revolutionary American Association of Workers Who’ve Retired (RAAWWR). Motto: An injury to one lawn is an injury to all lawns!Posted by Chris Clarke on 11/20 at 08:19 PM
I appreciate the calls from radical leftists to catapault the propaganda with action photos of the mdslet. Having just made the leap to digital photographism, I now probably need to figure out how to Flicasa, or whatever the heck it is.
On the other hand, the touching enthusiasm from certain quarters may soon turn to turgid contempt. In an electronic exchange with Mr. Clarke some time ago, I realized that Margit’s name appeared in the e-mail header, so I removed it (as far as I know) and carried blithely on. However, it seems a long-ago lark of pseudonymity has bitten me like the proverbial cornered aardvark. From Professor Bérubé in the Lieberman thread:
Congratulations to mds and Mr. mds!
and from Chris Clarke above:
I recall when the mdslet was but a glint in mdsletmom’s eye.
It has gradually sunk in that eminent internet personalities believe me to be female. Which I am not, despite my claims in the earlier days of this blog of being Celine Dion’s sister, and despite my (entirely understandable) stated desire to bear Chris Clarke’s children. I apologize to all and sundry for the situation, and will slink away in embarrassment for a while.
(How’s that for off-topic? Please carry on discussing the stink-bombing of tenure committees, which I wholeheartedly endorse.)Posted by on 11/20 at 10:21 PM
Wow. It pays to read these damn threads until they die. Will mds’s child turn out to be Chris Clarke’s? What gender will mds turn out to be? Will mds ultimately bear Chris Clarke’s children? And what role, pray tell, does Dr. Bérubé play in this intricate web of deceit?
Stay tuned, perhaps twice a week or so, to find out.Posted by on 11/21 at 12:19 AM
#63 the updated cyber-version of the scene in Tootsie where Dustin Hoffman reveals himself to be a man instead of Dorothy????
I have to send S. Carroll a special thank you for turning me on to this blog. As we used to say down south “Its a hoot”....Posted by on 11/21 at 12:26 AM
when people could get jobs and tenure for being carbon-based.
They had to be able to sign their names and prove that they were carbon-based. I use that line alla time.
Nice little computer-mediated discussion you got going here. Be a real shame if anything were to happen to it…Posted by on 11/21 at 12:58 AM
I’m just wondering how mds managed to give birth if she’s not a woman. Or did Chris Clarke really FedEx
herhim those babies after all?Posted by on 11/21 at 01:58 AM
What, men can’t be moms now? That is just 20th-century thinking, people. Get with it! It’s a new era!
(It’s not a new ERA, though. That would be asking too much. Co-ed bathrooms on the front lines? Ew.)Posted by Chris Clarke on 11/21 at 04:14 AM
We’re all Michael Keaton now.Posted by on 11/21 at 10:14 AM
That post-op trans man who kept his uterus from before (why chuck a perfectly good uterus, after all?) and had a baby this year is pregnant with his second now. I think it’s mds. Is mds gestating another mdslet now? Is Chris Clarke the father? Time will tell. If the baby urgently requests a trip to the desert after birth, we’ll know.Posted by Orange on 11/21 at 10:31 AM
A couple things to do with radicals, Presidents and the CIA:
JFK wasn’t the first President in office when the CIA spied on American citizens. The CIA was violating its charter right out of the gates in the 1940s. And early on the CIA was acting independent of Presidential directives (see Francis Gary Powers, U-2, Eisenhower-Krushchev talks). Too many people presume that the tripartite model of American government (executive, legislative, judicial) taught in grammar school is what actually exists, but in reality it’s not so clean. Any good reading of the Kennedy Administration will reveal that there was a constant struggle between the Agency and the President trying to rein it in. At least until that fateful day in Dallas (coup anniversary tomorrow, folks).
As far as dangerous sixties radicals, Daniel Brandt wrote a great essay about fifteen years ago about the wholesale infiltration of the anti-war movement in 1968 by the FBI, CIA and military intelligence agents. I got to college in 1968 and jumped into the anti-war movement on my campus. Not at the time, but looking back you can tell who were the infiltrators. They were always the ones telling others to throw bricks through the windows and chanting “up against the wall” and generally alienating the public. Sort of like the Weathermen blowing up trash cans outside the Capitol Building. Carl Oglesby’s recent book (I think it was RAVENS IN THE WIND, it came out in the last year) covers the same territory.
In short, Bill Ayers helped to hurt the public perception of the Vietnam anti-war movement back then, and he reappeared this year to help hurt the public perception of the candidate who ran against the Iraq war. I have no evidence of any checks coming to him from Langley. Maybe he’s just a useful idiot at appropriate times.Posted by Bob In Pacifca on 11/21 at 11:14 AM
I’m just wondering how mds managed to give birth if she’s not a woman.
A man. A plan. A canal. Panama!
That post-op trans man who kept his uterus from before (why chuck a perfectly good uterus, after all?) and had a baby this year is pregnant with his second now.
Well, there’s that cover blown.
And there’s a sense in which Chris Clarke is indeed the father of this child. For you see, if we are one with nature, we all participate in the world soul. From the day we arrive on this planet, and blinking, step into the sun; there’s more to see than can ever be seen; more to do than… No, hold on. Sorry, that’s The Lion King. But the point still stands.
In short, Bill Ayers helped to hurt the public perception of the Vietnam anti-war movement back then, and he reappeared this year to help hurt the public perception of the candidate who ran against the Iraq war.
While I would tend to agree with the “useful idiot” appellation to many such counterproductive members of the old antiwar set, I must take issue with “reappeared this year,” since “reappeared” means “dug up by mendacious shits trying again to smear a Democrat with guilt by association.” Unless you’re accusing Ayers of meeting Obama in 1995 retroactively. Neat trick, that.Posted by on 11/21 at 11:25 AM
Or is there a lack of explanation of the facts of life to incoming graduate students?
One (another one) also hopes not, but it’s hard for a professor to actually describe the job situation in language dire and gloomy enough to make the truth clear, without also sounding like we are trying to drive students away, which is something the institution frowns upon. And, in my personal experience, the kinds of folks who go for advanced degrees in English are not all that practical-minded. They are more the types who might revisit old blog comment threads just to laugh at the jokes when they should be filling out travel expense vouchers so they can be partially reimbursed at a time when the checking accounts on empty . . . so. You know.
Hey, hey, MLA
How many adjuncts did you hire today?Posted by on 11/21 at 12:18 PM
The critique Cathy Davidson wonders about probably won’t look like <a href="billayers.wordpress.com>Bill Ayers’s blog</a>.Posted by on 11/21 at 11:50 PM
Hell. Blog.Posted by on 11/21 at 11:51 PM
Peace Corps, and then Bay of Pigs!
At the time, as I recall (I was but a child), we were all just confused by the Bay of Pigs. No Great Disappointment. That didn’t arrive until much later, accompanying the Johnson ennui which, in retrospect, was undeserved (by Johnson).
Chou En Lai was right. He’d have been righter had he said it about Kennedy and the Bay of Pigs. Kennedy’s great sin in the event was in allowing plans inherited from the Eisenhower administration to go forward. He should have just killed the plan the first time he heard about it.
But that’s what Bush II did with the plan to hunt down and kill Osama bin Laden. Refusing even to get a full briefing on the work of the previous eight years to kill the man, Bush killed the anti-bin Laden hunt on January 22, 2001.
Who knew? Who knows, now? Obama’s first 100 days will be different. He doesn’t inherit four years of depression as FDR did. He doesn’t inherit stupid Nixon policies (much) as Kennedy did. He doesn’t inherit a mildly depressed economy like Clinton did, an economy that could be cheered up back to health
It’s as if time moves on to other things. Obama will have to make his own mistakes.Posted by Ed Darrell on 11/24 at 10:55 PM
I thought you should know that bad things are happening in Colorado.
Thanks! I love the blog.Posted by on 12/11 at 03:17 AM
Wow. It’s as if someone realized that conservative thought is different from rational thought, conservative scholarship different from academic scholarship, conservative ethics different from ethics, etc.
There are any number of Marxist economists outside the U.S. who probably have publications in the area. I’ll wager that’s not what they had in mind.Posted by Ed Darrell on 12/11 at 07:34 AM
There are any number of Marxist economists outside the U.S. who probably have publications in the area. I’ll wagerPosted by Cheap Evening Dresses on 04/12 at 07:55 AM
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