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June 18, 2004 3:43 PM   Subscribe

From Terrorist to Community College? Weather Underground (previously commented on here) co-founder Mark Rudd gives an interview to Salon.
posted by protocool (25 comments total)

 
Boy was I confused, when I started reading the Salon interview thinking they were talking to the founder of my favorite internet weather site, wunderground.com. That's not the same thing. At all.
posted by ewagoner at 4:04 PM on June 18, 2004


I think that article is like a year old - Kathy Boudin got out of prison a few months ago. Mark Rudd seems quite thoughtful and nice, as he did in the film.
posted by goneill at 5:06 PM on June 18, 2004


Young people: get down on your knees and thank heaven that you are free to enjoy your salad days without having to worry about your obligation to organize "revolutionary working class youth," cut cane in Cuba, or be bullied by the Black Panthers. I believe Rudd when he says the war drove him crazy. Actually, it's more like Vietnam drove everyone into a frenzy of self-righteousness -- on both sides -- just like today's war. The principled pacifism Rudd espouses today is the right answer. Good for him.
posted by Faze at 5:16 PM on June 18, 2004


I spoke with Mark a few times while working on a different documentary in college. I often wondered if the movie Running on Empty was loosely based on his life, but I never got the guts to ask. Seemed crass, I guess.
posted by whatnot at 6:42 PM on June 18, 2004


if you didn't live through it, you can't understand...

the bitch of it is, it's still happening...only more so... now it's haliburton instead of the united fruit company...

"if either martin king or bobby kennedy had survived 1968, america would be a different place today." andrew young
posted by aiq at 9:13 AM on June 19, 2004


The only person in the film to invoke Sept. 11, Flanagan compares himself and his former comrades to Islamist terrorists and to Timothy McVeigh, suggesting that all shared the conviction that their own knowledge of what was right for society entitled them to break laws, to kill, to engage in terrorism. He is not particularly eloquent, especially compared to some of his more "glamorous" co-conspirators, but he stumbles onto the film's more profound utterances. "When you feel that you have right on your side," he says at one point, "you can do some pretty horrific things."

Amen.
posted by jonmc at 11:16 AM on June 19, 2004


If you look at activist movements in history, the ones that are most successful are the ones that are most disciplined, that say, 'We will not harm people, we will not harm property.' Because then you capture that moral high ground.

What the hell does harming property have to do with harming people? What a stupid, burnt out hippie. The only activist movements that have succeeded in history are the ones that have made it economically detrimental for the state to continue it's abusive and coercive behaviour, and the successful methods sure do include property destruction.
posted by cmonkey at 12:01 PM on June 19, 2004


In the movie Flanagan seems like a complete moron, who is slightly afraid that if he holds an unpopular opinion people won't patronize his bar.

A person has a RESPONSIBILITY to break laws if he/she feels that they are unjust.

Tsk Tsk cmonkey, corporations are people too.
posted by goneill at 12:47 PM on June 19, 2004


A RESPONSIBILITY to whom, goneill? Why am I beholden to some random persons views on what is right and wrong, regardless of what we, as a polity, determine we use as the rules of our country?

Does what you say apply to the Bush and Reagan administrations?
posted by Snyder at 12:59 PM on June 19, 2004


A person has a RESPONSIBILITY to break laws if he/she feels that they are unjust.

Yes, but do they have a "responsibility" to use violence? Which the Weathermen publicly stated they were ready and willing to do?
posted by jonmc at 1:00 PM on June 19, 2004


I feel I should qualify the responsibility part.

At best, the law is a social contract, it informs people about what is expected of them, it sets the framework for a society, but it can also be used for repression. It's only as good as it actually is at a given time. 'Just doing my job' or 'just following the law' don't release someone from responsibility.

For instance, in Zimbabwe 40 women had a meeting without permission from the government. They were all all arrested. I think we would all agree that it should be their perogative to have the meeting, and therefore their arrest was 'unjust'. We wouldn't go so far as to say that everyone in Zimbabwe has a responsibility to have meetings without permission.

But there are cases where it is the responsibility of the individual to break the law. I mean, should those police have arrested the women?

We all have a responsibility to ourselves, and to our citizenship.

I guess on preview you guys kind of beat me to that trying to qualify thing.

I think, Snyder, that it's not up to some random 'other' person, but it's up to you to decide for yourself if something is unjust, and where your own definitions lie. If you believe that we as a polity didn't make the laws but that they were made by other people then you aren't as beholden to those laws. I guess I'm thinking about sitting in the front of the bus, and about disobeying orders that you know are unjust. I agree that the Bush Administration is using some form of this argument, but that they aren't citizens of the country whose law they are trying to change. GWB is hardly one man engaging in civil disobedience.

jonmc - i think that the definition of 'violence' isn't clear. I think that all of the weathermen (in hindsight) think that it is wrong to hurt or kill people. That was what they were upset about in the first place.

--
It's also interesting to have discussions about what 'does' work. Mark Rudd asserts that revolutions work the best when they are pacifist. Our own, American Revolution wasn't pacifist, and it worked out ok. I don't think that there are absolutes in this discussion.
posted by goneill at 1:24 PM on June 19, 2004


jonmc - i think that the definition of 'violence' isn't clear. I think that all of the weathermen (in hindsight) think that it is wrong to hurt or kill people.[emphasis mine] That was what they were upset about in the first place.

Oh well, that makes it all OK, then.

And while Mark Rudd may be somewhat repentant, Bernadine Dohrn has publicly said that she has "no regrets" about planting bombs, and has publicly praised Charles Manson.

Plus, the bomb that went off in their townhouse was intended to be set of an enlisted mens club dance at Fort Dix. And Kathy Boudin (Weatherman alumni) took part in a robbery that ended the lives of three innocent men.

All ideologies aside, is there some bizarro universe that exists where these actions are not to be roundly condemned and answered for? Yet instead these people are praised and rewarded with documentaries and tenure-track positions.

I'm sorry but I don't care how much Guevara and Mao they read or where they got their degrees, people who do (or encourage) these things are nothing more than thugs.
posted by jonmc at 1:39 PM on June 19, 2004


jonmc: That's a little disingenuous. Are you against all fights for freedom? South Africa considered Nelson Mandela a terrorist, and now he is roundly praised for helping end apartheid. Which is to say, things look different when you win.

Personally, I'm a pacifist, but unless you are willing to condemn *all* fighting, I have trouble seeing who you are to pick and choose whose cause was okay enough to fight for.

N.B. This is not a defense of the Weather Underground
posted by dame at 3:50 PM on June 19, 2004


jonmc: That's a little disingenuous. Are you against all fights for freedom? South Africa considered Nelson Mandela a terrorist, and now he is roundly praised for helping end apartheid.

I am not a pacifist, but you'd have a hard time convincing me that these people are not thugs.

There's a huge difference between an imprisoned man in a blatantly oppressive society defeneding himself and his people and a bunch of college kids who got fanatical and decided to kill innocent (or at the very least agreed to take that risk) people to make a point.

We don't accept the "we didn't mean it/collatoral damage" defense from our government, why should we accept it from those would actively destroy us?*

*Bernadine Dohrn did read "A Declaration Of War On Amerikka" so I'd say that does qualify her.
posted by jonmc at 4:56 PM on June 19, 2004


But to members of the Weather Underground, America was a "blatantly oppressive society," and Afrikkaners considered Nelson Mandela a man who would "actively destroy [them]."

Is the difference between a thug and a freedom fighter simply whether or not they would hurt you or people like you?
posted by dame at 7:56 PM on June 19, 2004


If we follow your line of reasoning to it's logical conclusion, nobody can condemn the actions of anyone, since somebody somewhere might consider their cause worthy. But we are humans, we have our opinions and my opinion of the Weathermen, based on their actions and statements is that yes, they were indeed thugs. One can be a idealist and still be a thug.

They were going to plant a bomb at an enlisted man's dance. Even if you buy (which I don't) that these men we soldiers makes them a fair target, what if the bomb killed a civilian bartender or custodian or cabdriver who happened to be there? They planted bombs in government buildings which could've killed some secretary or delivery guy. It was only dumb luck that they didn't. The fact that they were willing to plant these bombs anyway shows callous disregard for human life and/or a belief that their amorphous cause was more important than these peoples right to live. In Kathy Boudin's case it actually did lead to three men losing their lives and nine children losing their fathers. I'm sorry, but by any reasonable definition this constitutes thuggery.

I'm sure someone will accuse me of having some kind of right-wing bias here, but that's because MeFi is the only place on earth that I could be considered a right-winger. I believe in puncturing smugness and deflating fanatacism no matter where it comes from. The Timothy McVeighs, William Calleys, Lynndie Englands, and Tom Metzgers of the world are thugs, too.

But MeFi is a predominantly left-wing website so much of the stupidity comes from the far left, so when I attack it, I get labeled a rightwinger. If I were hanging out at Free Republic I'd be happy to do the same thing there.

And I don't buy the "if you weren't around then, you can't understand" argument. The '60's were not the only time of turmoil in human history. And I'vetalked to many sixties veterans and read nearly every piece of litearture on the time available. Almost all chroniclers of the time considered the weatherman misguided fanatics at best.

Also, when I met you at the meetup, you seemed like a nice person, so don't take any of this personal. Just stating my opinion.
posted by jonmc at 8:24 PM on June 19, 2004


I'm not on a particular side here. Once I make up my mind, I hold pretty firmly, but here I'm not so sure.

Generally, I think violent revolutions are a poor because anyone who assumes power through violence tends to be pretty shit at actually governing. I also know some people who hold the Weather Underground (I prefer the de-sexed version) in fairly high regard. To them, many things are achieved through violence, and they don't see why they shouldn't use violent tactics to acheive their ends. (Not that anyone I know has, Mss. Ridge and Ashcroft.)

You are somewhere in the middle of that, so I wonder where your line is. Is it just a question of *you* being threated, *you* finding the cause just, general humanity consensing that the cause is just? If the last, how does that square. General humanity thinks lots of really stupid things and throughout history ends up on the wrong side more often than not.

I suppose I prefer the easier answer of saying all violence is dumb. (It does have the great advantage of helping one make up her mind.) I don't think any cause is worth taking someone else's life, though there are those perhaps worthy of sacrificing one's own.

And don't worry, I don't take arguements over ideas personally. I think they are interesting. But don't call me nice; I'm not, I promise (besides, it always seems smarmy). Despite your affection for Mr. Goad, I think you are a pretty good guy too.
posted by dame at 9:02 PM on June 19, 2004


It's a pretty good bet that jonmc has never read the writings of the people he doesn't like.
posted by interrobang at 1:31 AM on June 20, 2004


You'd lose that bet.
posted by jonmc at 6:34 AM on June 20, 2004


I don't know that I have a codified philosophy on violence. I certainly think nations and individuals have a right to defend themselves, and people have the right to try and free themselves from oppressors, and police have a riht to use violence when neccessary to defend society from criminals. Of course where that gets murky is how oppression and criminals is defined.

In this particular instance I went with my gut feelings, that yes, I felt sympathy for the policemen and their families in the Brinks case and my sense that the Weather Underground considerd just about everyone but themselves fair targets.

In general I just think that tactics that drag innocents into the fray undermine any cause since people will more often than not empathize and sympathize with the victim, wiping out any belief they might have for whatever cause.
posted by jonmc at 6:49 AM on June 20, 2004


How do you define innocence? If you live under and benifit from a corrupt system without protest (in the broader sense) aren't you supporting that system? Could that not be construed as guilt?

I guess I find the gut approach insufficient. People can make very poor decisions with their guts (like when I decide to have vodka and cokes and popcorn for dinner). Questions of violence and social change seem too big to be left to what is, essentially, chance. Lots of people end up really miserable that way.

Also, I suppose I see the murkiness in the Brinks case for two reasons: I don't like or trust cops, and Boudin didn't pull the trigger (which makes her somewhat culpable still, but I'm not a fan of holding people just as responsible for actions someone else committed).
posted by dame at 9:51 AM on June 20, 2004


I was going to leave this alone, but I'm afraid my curiosity is itchy:

How, with your great affection for puncturing hubristic idealism, do you manage to give cops such a free pass, Jon? As far as I can figure, people become cops so that they can save the world from evil as they see it. Isn't that pretty absurd, that they imagine they know who is "bad" and think they deserve carte blanche to pursue those people?

Less charitably, people may become cops because they like wielding power (reason number one why they shouldn't be allowed to, in my opinion).
posted by dame at 10:04 AM on June 20, 2004


How, with your great affection for puncturing hubristic idealism, do you manage to give cops such a free pass, Jon?

I don't. I don't consider cops superheroes or above the law. But I do respect the fact that they are doing an unpleasant and dangerous job, but one that is eminently neccessary.

As far as I can figure, people become cops so that they can save the world from evil as they see it. Isn't that pretty absurd, that they imagine they know who is "bad" and think they deserve carte blanche to pursue those people?... Less charitably, people may become cops because they like wielding power (reason number one why they shouldn't be allowed to, in my opinion).

I'm sure some do, but I'm willing to give people the benefit of the doubt until they prove otherwise. And I've been on the busines end of unpleasant interactions with police in my squandered youth as well. Iam neither a cop-worshiper nor a cop-hater. But at the same time, it's foolish to deny that there are dangerous (to persons and property) people in the world who we need some realistic defense against.

Now, I've given serious consideration to joining the PD, and my best freind is a cop in Honululu. I can assure that neither one of us has these impulses out of desire to oppress our fellow citizens. The reasons are manifold, desire to protect fellow citizens, to do some good, and less meritorious reasons like enjoying the excitement and diversity of experience that the job brings.

In the Brinks case there's no indication that the three dead men were doing anything other than their jobs-protecting their community from violent criminals. Even Boudin herself has said "They were honorable. I was not"

How do you define innocence? If you live under and benifit from a corrupt system without protest (in the broader sense) aren't you supporting that system? Could that not be construed as guilt?

Well, then ultimately absolutely nobody is completely innocent and all our asses are up for grabs and we're living in complete chaos. Obviously ethical qualifications need to be taken into account but there is the hazard of becoming so enmired in them as to become feckless in the face of real and present danger.

I'm not gonna pretend to know the ultimate answers to these questions but I suppose I'm just explaining my leanings.

Questions of violence and social change seem too big to be left to what is, essentially, chance.

They aren't. We do have systems (imperfect and sometimes corrupt ones, agreed) of laws and courts and legislatures and democracy to try to address them.
posted by jonmc at 11:03 AM on June 20, 2004


I'm not gonna pretend to know the ultimate answers to these questions but I suppose I'm just explaining my leanings.

I know. Like I said, I'm not entirely sure what I think, but you seem to lean differently from me, so you were a good person to ask questions of. Thanks for answering them so well.
posted by dame at 2:12 PM on June 20, 2004


I know. Like I said, I'm not entirely sure what I think, but you seem to lean differently from me, so you were a good person to ask questions of. Thanks for answering them so well.

*tips hat*

No sweat, miss.

And I realize that differences in perception come from differences in experience. And believe it or not, I can relate. I knew a guy in a high school who was a total paramilitary/Rambo freak who used to openly laud the Kent State shooters and lovingly refer to various weapons as "ultimate killing machines." A few years ago, I ran into him at the local Staples. He was wearing a police uniform.

But at the same time there's men like Frank Serpico and Bill McCarthy who convince me that it's still an honorable profession.
posted by jonmc at 4:13 PM on June 20, 2004


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