Meanwhile in Ann Arbor....

The things I miss, being here in Berkeley!

Back in Ann Arbor, terrorism has been redefined -- by two experts on the subject. I refer to Bill Ayers and Bernardine Dohrn -- who were promoting their new book to a standing room only crowd at the University of Michigan:

...when their talk at the University of Michigan on Monday evening was opened up to questions, the audience wasted no time in asking it.

Did the two former leaders of the Weathermen, a violent anti-war group that bombed banks and government buildings in the 1960s and '70s, reject their own acts of terrorism, a member of the packed audience wanted to know.

"We don't think, individually or as a group, that we were terrorists," Dohrn replied.

"We never did, and we don't think terrorism is a good idea. But the Weather Underground broke through a lot of barriers - there were 2,000 people dying a week in Vietnam, and we had 500,000 soldiers occupying a tiny country, involved in acts that would be considered war crimes by today's framework. I don't defend it, but I do insist on explaining it."

Ayers pointed to his 2001 book, "Fugitive Days: A Memoir," as "one long explanation and reflection on how people like us could be put in a place like that."

"It's not so easy to say, 'I am completely nonviolent,' because there is violence being carried on this minute in the names of everyone of us in this room. So to sit on your couch and think you're exempt from violence because you're not doing anything ... well, that's too easy."

The couple, who married while fugitives in the 1970s, were in Ann Arbor to promote their new book, "Race Course: Against White Supremacy" (Third World Press).

I was told that the place was completely packed, with long lines and no way to get in. Obviously, they're very popular.

Certainly they're good with words, and the eager college kids no doubt look up to them.

As a former rhetoric major, I must say I enjoy the false dichotomy between terrorism and nonviolence. Such conflation! And the line "how people like us could be put in a place like that" (as if other people were responsible for their actions) is also very, um, clever.

But where were the clever student Republicans?

I mean, you'd think someone in the crowd could have asked Bill whether he wrote Obama's book....

posted by Eric on 01.28.09 at 11:07 AM


"Scenes We'd Like to See:" Someone in the back of thr room, concealed behind a bookcase, exhales into a paper bag until it inflates like a baloon, twisting it shut so it stays inflated, and then smacking it hard with the palm of one hand to make it explode like a very large firecracker. Then--after everyone picks themselves up off the floor--joking, "Bill, Bernadine--you crazy kids up to your old tricks again?" Wouldn't that be funny?

Bilwick1   ·  January 28, 2009 12:31 PM

As a former psychology major, I think people's admiration for and envy of those who wink from under the veil of politics, while living it as it really is -- a shifting set of rationalizations for any kind of violence -- is way underestimated.

I always thought Ayers was a bad campaign target for the Republicans, not for the usual reasons, but because so many voters are moved by a repressed desire to be that guy, at whatever degree of vicarious remove -- or they wouldn't be voters.

In Ann Arbor, a capital of American pussification, his show was "packed." One of a hundred stops on a dime-a-dozen academic book tour, packed? Why? Because the tame line up to be touched by the glow of the sovereign killer.

Of course, if you told them (or almost anybody) so, they'd react like Benicio Del Toro did recently to a reporter's questions about his Che hagiography -- with the exaggerated shock Freud noted when subconscious desire is held to the light of consciousness.


Man, that's some cynical shit.

guy on internet   ·  January 28, 2009 2:26 PM

I, too, enjoyed the way they claimed to have been "put" in their situation. Clever, dishonest and incredibly annoying.

RR Ryan   ·  January 30, 2009 3:36 PM

Living in Ann Arbor, I can concur that this is a silly, ridiculous town. But things are not as silly as they were ten years ago when in-classroom propaganda seemed to peak. While Ann Arbor and lefty politics go hand-in-hand, I notice that the current generation of students are far less engaged politically. They are far more interested in Facebooking than Che. Sure, they spontaneously flooded the streets after the Obama victory, but even that seemed un-political, more about having a party. The social and political forces unleashed by UofM et al. in the 60s are the new establishment. Ayers will always be able to pack a room in A^2 full of shaggy looking professors, but most of the kids I come across here would seem to care less.

A2_is_silly   ·  February 3, 2009 6:17 PM

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