« Darwinian Dating and the Moral Cop Out | Main | 'Oh Lord, It's Hard To Be Humble' Caption Contest »

December 08, 2008

Bill Keller: Deceiver in Chief

Bill Keller is outraged. Color me unimpressed:

It was skin crawling to hear him tell Mr. Gibson that the thing he will really miss when he leaves office is no longer going to see the families of slain soldiers, because they make him feel better about the war. But Mr. Bush’s comments about his decision to invade Iraq were a “mistakes were made” rewriting of history and a refusal to accept responsibility to rival that of Richard Nixon.

This, from the editor of a paper that just gave space to Bill Ayers so he could engage in what is arguably the most flagrantly dishonest and self-serving re-writing of history in recent memory:

I never killed or injured anyone. I did join the civil rights movement in the mid-1960s, and later resisted the draft and was arrested in nonviolent demonstrations. I became a full-time antiwar organizer for Students for a Democratic Society. In 1970, I co-founded the Weather Underground, an organization that was created after an accidental explosion that claimed the lives of three of our comrades in Greenwich Village. The Weather Underground went on to take responsibility for placing several small bombs in empty offices — the ones at the Pentagon and the United States Capitol were the most notorious — as an illegal and unpopular war consumed the nation.

The Weather Underground crossed lines of legality, of propriety and perhaps even of common sense. Our effectiveness can be — and still is being — debated. We did carry out symbolic acts of extreme vandalism directed at monuments to war and racism, and the attacks on property, never on people, were meant to respect human life and convey outrage and determination to end the Vietnam war.

Peaceful protests had failed to stop the war. So we issued a screaming response. But it was not terrorism; we were not engaged in a campaign to kill and injure people indiscriminately, spreading fear and suffering for political ends.

Ayers is, not to put too fine a point on it, lying through his teeth.

That the readers of the Times have no idea of the truth (just read the comments) can be laid right at Bill Keller's door. The truth about Bill Ayers is ugly:

1. The Weather Underground was formed in 1969, not 1970. Ayers lies about even easily checkable facts... not that anyone at the Times is going to call him on it:

Starting his narrative in 1970 allows Ayers to omit the time when Weatherman was not trying not to harm people: for instance, the Days of Rage:
""The Days of Rage," as the 1969 protest was called, brought several hundred members of the Weatherman—many of them attired for battle with helmets and weapons—to Lincoln Park. The tear-gassed marches, window smashing, and clashes with police lasted four days, during which 290 militants were arrested and 63 people were injured. Damage to windows, cars, and other property soared to hundreds of thousands of dollars. Around this time, Ayers summed up the Weatherman philosophy as "Kill all the rich people. Break up their cars and apartments. Bring the revolution home, kill your parents—that's where it's really at.""

Nor should we forget Bernardine Dohrn's comment on the Manson murders at the Flint War Council in 1969: "Dig it! First they killed those pigs and then they put a fork in their bellies. Wild!" At the same meeting, Weathermen "debated the ethics of killing white babies, so as not to bring more "oppressors" into the world, and denounced American women bearing white babies as "pig mothers."" (p. 159) And they sang songs about a lawyer, Richard Elrod, who had broken his neck during the Days of Rage: "Stay Elrod stay/ Stay in your iron lung/ Play Elrod play/ Play with your toes a while." (p. 159)

2. More of Ayers' non-terrorist activism against buildings, not people:

Early on the morning of February 21, as my family slept, three gasoline-filled firebombs exploded at our home on the northern tip of Manhattan, two at the front door and the third tucked neatly under the gas tank of the family car. (Today, of course, we’d call that a car bomb.) A neighbor heard the first two blasts and, with the remains of a snowman I had built a few days earlier, managed to douse the flames beneath the car. That was an act whose courage I fully appreciated only as an adult, an act that doubtless saved multiple lives that night.

I still recall, as though it were a dream, thinking that someone was lifting and dropping my bed as the explosions jolted me awake, and I remember my mother’s pulling me from the tangle of sheets and running to the kitchen where my father stood. Through the large windows overlooking the yard, all we could see was the bright glow of flames below. We didn’t leave our burning house for fear of who might be waiting outside. The same night, bombs were thrown at a police car in Manhattan and two military recruiting stations in Brooklyn. Sunlight, the next morning, revealed three sentences of blood-red graffiti on our sidewalk: FREE THE PANTHER 21; THE VIET CONG HAVE WON; KILL THE PIGS.

For the next 18 months, I went to school in an unmarked police car. My mother, a schoolteacher, had plainclothes detectives waiting in the faculty lounge all day. My brother saved a few bucks because he didn’t have to rent a limo for the senior prom: the NYPD did the driving. We all made the best of the odd new life that had been thrust upon us, but for years, the sound of a fire truck’s siren made my stomach knot and my heart race. In many ways, the enormity of the attempt to kill my entire family didn’t fully hit me until years later, when, a father myself, I was tucking my own nine-year-old John Murtagh into bed.

Though no one was ever caught or tried for the attempt on my family’s life, there was never any doubt who was behind it. Only a few weeks after the attack, the New York contingent of the Weathermen blew themselves up making more bombs in a Greenwich Village townhouse. The same cell had bombed my house, writes Ron Jacobs in The Way the Wind Blew: A History of the Weather Underground. And in late November that year, a letter to the Associated Press signed by Bernardine Dohrn, Ayers’s wife, promised more bombings.

3. The "peaceful protest" continues... In March of 1970 3 Weather Underground members blew themselves up with anti-personnel (note: not for use against buildings) weapons armed with roofing nails and enhanced with dynamite. Contrary to both the NY Times' dishonest characterization and Mr. Ayers' lies, the Weathermen had planned to harm actual human beings:

Professor Klehr also took a dim view of the often stated account that after the town house explosion, the Weathermen resolved to take no lives, and that in the string of bombings that followed, no one was seriously injured. He points out that members have said the explosives at the town house were intended for an officers' dance at Fort Dix in New Jersey and for Butler Library at Columbia University.

''The only reason they were not guilty of mass murder is mere incompetence,'' he said. ''I don't know what sort of defense that is.''

Years later, Weatherman Brian Flanagan regretted the Fort Dix and Columbia plots:

When pressed, he said he regretted both the deaths of the three Weathermen -- Ted Gold, Diana Oughton and Terry Robbins -- and the plan to bomb the dance at Fort Dix and the library at Columbia, which could have taken lives.

4. More "extreme vandalism":

On Feb. 16, 1970, my partner and I were on the 1700 block of Haight Street in San Francisco, when a bomb went off at Park Police Station, where I was assigned.

It killed my sergeant, Brian V. McDonnell, age 45. My partner and I were the first car on the scene, and the first sight that we saw, upon arrival in the parking lot of the station, was a friend of ours getting up off the ground.

His partner was still on the ground, propped up on one arm and dazed. They had been blown down by the concussion of the bomb that had been placed on the window of the station by, it is suspected, members of the Weather Underground, a radical organization affiliated with and allied with the Black Liberation Army.

McDonnell's police car, which was between the window sill, where the bomb was, and the car that my two fellow policemen were preparing to get into, took the brunt of the blast, and it saved their lives. The inside of the station looked like it had been hit by a couple of hand grenades, windows shattered, blood on the pock-marked walls and dazed cops wandering around disoriented.

The bomb was so powerful that fragments, which consisted of barbed-wire fence post staples, were found on the roof of Polytechnic High School which was located near Kezar Stadium and Frederick Street, about two blocks away. Polytechnic High School was three stories high. It has since been replaced by a housing complex.

At least one undercover FBI operative, who infiltrated the murderous Weather Underground organization, the same organization that was also involved in other bombings, including a bombing of the Pentagon, reportedly revealed that the person who planted the bomb, at Park Police Station, was Bernardine Dohrn. Dohrn is married to admitted bomber and non-repentant anarchist Bill Ayers, who has boasted of the Pentagon and other bombings and has shown no remorse for those acts.

5. But the most egregious omission in the Times' "investigative reporting" on Ayers regards the goals of the Weather Underground: the violent overthrow of the democratically elected government of the United States of America and the formation of a communist-run dictatorship of the proletariat:

We need to battle for a correct ideology and win people over. In this way we create the conditions for the development of a successful revolutionary movement and party. We need a revolutionary communist party in order to lead the struggle, give coherence and direction to the fight, seize power and build the new society. Getting from here to there is a process of coming together in a disciplined way around ideology and strategy, developing an analysis of our real conditions, mobilizing a base among the US people, building principled relationships to Third World struggle, and accumulating practice in struggle against US imperialism.

PRAIRIE FIRE is written to communist-minded revolutionaries, independent organizers and anti-imperialists; those who carry the traditions and lessons of the struggles of the last decade, those who join in the struggles of today. PRAIRIE FIRE is written to all sisters and brothers who are engaged in armed struggle against the enemy. It is written to prisoners, women's groups, collectives, study groups, workers' organizing committees, communes, GI organizers, consciousness-raising groups, veterans, community groups and revolutionaries of all kinds; to all who will read, criticize and bring its content to life in practice. It is written as an argument against those who oppose action and hold back the struggle.

PRAIRIE FIRE is based on a belief that the duty of a revolutionary is to make the revolution. This is not an abstraction. It means that revolutionaries must make a profound commitment to the future of humanity, apply our limited knowledge and experience to understand an ever-changing situation, organize the masses of people and build the fight. It means that struggle and risk and hard work and adversity will become our way of life, that the only certainty will be constant change, that the only possibilities are victory or death.

We have only begun. At this time, the unity and consolidation of anti-imperialist forces around a revolutionary program is an urgent and pressing strategic necessity. PRAIRIE FIRE is offered as a contribution to this unity of action and purpose. Now it is in your hands.

Bernardine Dohrn
Jeff Jones
Billy Ayers
Celia Sojourn

In several places throughout the book, the fact that armed revolution is the goal is made quite clear:

The only path to the final defeat of imperialism and the building of socialism is revolutionary war.

Revolutionary war will be complicated and protracted. It includes mass struggle and clandestine struggle, peaceful and violent, political and economic, cultural and military, where all forms are developed in harmony with the armed struggle.

Without mass struggle there can be no revolution.

Without armed struggle there can be no victory.

For the Times to portray Ayers and Dohrn as misguided Vietnam activists whose only goal was to end the war when, in fact, their goal was to effect the violent overthrow of a democratically elected government is shameful. For the Times to cover up the fact that as late as 2002, when Barack Obama was openly associating with William Ayers and (in fact) had his political career launched from the man's living room, Ayers openly continued to characterize himsef as an anarchist is inexcusable.

And if there is the least doubt in your mind what these people were willing to countenance, in the list of the book's dedications (among others) appears Sirhan Sirhan, who assasinated Robert F. Kennedy.

People can make up their own minds about what, if anything, this all means. The fact that readers of the Times have absolutely no idea about any of this speaks volumes.

Posted by Cassandra at December 8, 2008 08:19 AM

Trackback Pings

TrackBack URL for this entry:


Truth is overrated as a vehicle for popular sentiment.

Posted by: spd rdr at December 8, 2008 01:09 PM

There is a maxim that history is always written by the winners. Bill Keller, and many others like him, thinks that thhe are "winners" in the great debate about the Iraq War.
That too may change with time.

"the only certainty will be constant change, that the only possibilities are victory or death. "

I thought the only certainties were death and taxes, and one only gets worse when Congress is in session (to paraphrase Mark Twain).

Posted by: Don Brouhaha at December 8, 2008 01:33 PM

I never killed or injured anyone.

Maybe, maybe not -- but the Weather Underground *did* and several went to prison for doing so.

We did carry out symbolic acts of extreme vandalism directed at monuments to war and racism, and the attacks on property, never on people, were meant to respect human life and convey outrage and determination to end the Vietnam war.

First time I've ever heard bank robberies and armored car heists "symbolic acts." And killing a dozen people during the course of them kinda negates that whole "respect human life" thing...

Posted by: BillT at December 8, 2008 02:42 PM

They were symbolic of their desire to kill people :p

Bill you fail to understand their rage, which puts whatever they may have done in a different historical "context" (of course any "rage" W. may have felt towards Islamofascists does not place his actions in a different context - if you were progressive, you'd understand).

As spd said, there is a deeper emotional truthiness here somewhere that transcends things like facts.

Posted by: Cassandra at December 8, 2008 02:59 PM

He was instrumental in forming a group that did kill and injure people. His hyperbole is astonishing. Bill Ayers is a terrorist.

Posted by: Cricket at December 8, 2008 03:02 PM

Ms. Cassandra,

Maybe a note to the Ombudsperson of the NYT is in order. Ayers' words are total misrepresentation of the facts.....oh wait, facts no longer matter. *smacks forehead*----------------------------------

I am waiting for world peace and the end to world hunger. These should be easily attainable goals for our Messia...President Elect.--------------------------------------------------

"Virtous motives, trammelled by inertia and timidity are no match for armed wickedness."

Sir Winston S. Churchill
"Memoirs of the Second World War"

Posted by: CW4 KGP at December 8, 2008 03:22 PM

As spd said, there is a deeper emotional truthiness here somewhere that transcends things like facts.

I propose an experiment.

I posit that a fact of sufficient duration will transcend whatever deeper emotional truthiness happens to reside within Ayers.

The fact: stake the sucker out on an anthill.

The duration: for as long as it takes...

Posted by: BillT at December 8, 2008 03:42 PM

Actually you left out the worst of it...

the attempted teaming up with black nazi's (black national socialists), they would rob a brinks truck in nanuet ny...

if your looking for things with dead and extremes that top the rest, read the description of that day...

The 1981 Weather Underground, Black Liberation Army-related Triple Murder in Nyack, NY

a great read on it here...

The Weathermen were radicals. They wanted their people to get involved, demonstrate, get arrested and force change down the throat of the "establishment." They fought at the Democratic Presidential Convention in 1968 and converged in Chicago in 1969 for an event that came to be known as "Days of Rage." The more violent extremists during that era were responsible for a score of bombings in places like Harvard University, various corporate headquarters and a number of government institutions. They praised Charles Manson and freed Dr. Timothy Leary from prison. Wherever there was violence and chaos in the name of dissent, the Weathermen were there. But after the townhouse explosion in New York City in 1970, the group was forced to go "underground" and remove itself from the prying eyes of law enforcement and public scrutiny.


Posted by: artfldgr at December 8, 2008 03:46 PM

Susan Rosenberg, formerly of the Weather Underground. was pardoned by clinton...

Posted by: artfldgr at December 8, 2008 03:48 PM

"You don't need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows."

No, Mr. Zimmerman, you sure as hell don't.

Posted by: spd rdr at December 8, 2008 04:52 PM

The ironic thing, is Bill Ayers should be lucky that the Ft. Dix officer's club bombing fell through. That likely would have provoked such a reaction from the Nixon Administration; that it would like meant the end of the far left, in very substantial ways. Bill Keller, should hide his hands in shame, for perpetuating such a craven lie.

Sorry, that I probably broke that last thread, Cassandra; I guess I'd been mulling over what
happened these last few monthes and it all spilled out

Posted by: narciso at December 8, 2008 09:08 PM

FYI -- A more complete analysis of Prarie Fire from Zombietime.

Posted by: Obloodyhell at December 8, 2008 10:10 PM

And here's one of the most telling quotes from an infiltrator of the WU, buried down towards the bottom (I cite it specifically because one might break off reading beforehand):

I bought up the subject of what's going to happen after we take over the government. We, we become responsible, then, for administrating, you know, 250 million people.

And there was no answers. No one had given any thought to economics; how are you going to clothe and feed these people.

The only thing that I could get, was that they expected that the Cubans and the North Vietnamese and Chinese and the Russians would all want to occupy different portions of the United States.

They also believed that their immediate responsibility would be to protect against what they called the counter-revolution. And they felt that this counter-revolution could best be guarded against by creating and establishing re-education centers in the southwest, where we would take all the people who needed to be re-educated into the new way of thinking and teach them... how things were going to be.

I asked, well, what's going to happen to those people that we can't re-educate; that are die-hard capitalists. And the reply was that they'd have to be eliminated. And when I pursued this further, they estimated that they would have to eliminate 25 million people in these re-education centers. And when I say eliminate, I mean kill. 25 million people.

I want you to imagine sitting in a room with 25 people, most of which have graduate degrees from Columbia and other well known educational centers, and hear them figuring out the logistics for the elimination of 25 million people.

And they were dead serious."

-- Larry Grathwohl, former member of the Weather Underground

Yeah, Ayers was just a "bit misguided".

Give ME the fuckin' button. I'll push it, without a moment's hesitation.

"A reverence for life does not require a man to respect Nature's obvious mistakes."
- Robert A. Heinlein, 'Have Space Suit, Will Travel' -

Probably not quite what Heinlein was thinking of, but I consider Ayers to be a murderous traitor, and clearly guilty of treason.

Posted by: Obloodyhell at December 8, 2008 10:16 PM

Interesting title -- Prairie Fire.

When we heard that on the radio, it meant that an American unit was about to be overrun. All available combat assets were diverted to that unit until the enemy was neutralized.

In layman's terms, "Pile on and kill everyone who's not one of us."

Like I said -- interesting title.

Posted by: BillT at December 9, 2008 05:12 AM

Interesting how the usurp the terms and the actions, like hanging the US flag upside down.

You'd think they'd be burning it, but instead, subverting a symbol to appeal to the masses and hiding their real intent.

One of the reasons I detest the peace symbol isn't because it is a symbol of the left; it is because it is really Christ crucified upside down; distressed or perverted Christianity.

I guess I need to reread the Manifestos again.

Posted by: Cricket at December 9, 2008 08:37 AM

Oh helk. I so did not use a redundancy...

'read again.' Not, 'reread again.'

Sigh. I really detest William Faulkner and will never, ever get within ten miles of Tupelo, MS if I can possibly help it.

Posted by: Cricket at December 9, 2008 08:39 AM

...will never, ever get within ten miles of Tupelo...

Isn't that redundant?

Posted by: BillT at December 9, 2008 08:54 AM

One of the reasons I detest the peace symbol isn't because it is a symbol of the left

It's also the so-called *Toten-rune* -- the symbol of death -- used by the 3rd SS Panzer, and was carved on SS grave markers.

In the '60s, we just called it The Chicken Track.

Posted by: BillT at December 9, 2008 09:18 AM

I lived through those days of the 60s, as did my wife and ex-wife. We each generally agreed with the politics of Bill Ayres.

None of us ever blew anything or anybody up. I was something of a rabble-rouser.

I once had it in the fingers of my hands to make a city run red with the blood of fresh-faced 18-year- olds. I twice had delegations of young people come to me asking me to make the blood flow.

I turned them down flat.

I have nothing but contempt for Bill Ayres. Perhaps in his defense, he was born into far greater privilege than I and just couldn't figure out to handle it. He still hasn't.

When one walks back through life, some best actions are actions which one chose not to take.

Posted by: levi from queens at December 9, 2008 12:38 PM

Good on you, levi.

Posted by: BillT at December 9, 2008 01:30 PM

I would say that I disagree with Bill and Bloody's extreme take on this issue... but that would be a rather obvious lie.

Btw, I think the female of this species is more deadlier than the male. Bernadine Dohrn has the priority when it comes to killing the two of em.

Posted by: Ymarsakar at December 9, 2008 01:37 PM

Bill Keller needs to get the Axe too, btw.

Posted by: Ymarsakar at December 9, 2008 02:35 PM

> I would say that I disagree with Bill and Bloody's extreme take on this issue

Sorry, I take issue with the notion that someone who would casually discuss the overt extermination of 25 MILLION people for political reasons has any standing as a human being with any claim to rights of any kind. They've already expressed no connection to humanity or Western moral principles.

I see nothing wrong with holding them to their own standard.

Posted by: Obloodyhell at December 10, 2008 09:42 AM


OBH -- Ymar was being facetious.

Totally out of character, you realize...

Posted by: BillT at December 10, 2008 09:54 AM

I see nothing wrong with holding them to their own standard.

I see nothing wrong with staking them out on an anthill, except that they'd probably give the ants acid reflux.

Posted by: BillT at December 10, 2008 09:58 AM

Stop it with the animal abuse... well insect abuse.

Here's the real deal. Strap Bill (there are a lot of Bills going on here, Bill...) and his wife to two chairs facing each other. Give both of them a controller with a button, that if they release pressure off of, will activate the electricity in the other chair.

If they both hang unto the button, then both gets zapped. Let's see how long before one or the other hits the suicide switch.

Posted by: Ymarsakar at December 10, 2008 10:26 AM

Totally out of character, you realize...

True, in one sense, but deception operations are in my character ; )

Posted by: Ymarsakar at December 10, 2008 10:40 AM