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Kent State Redux
October 9, 2010 1:13 PM   Subscribe

Did an FBI provocateur fire the first shots before the Kent State killings. New audio analysis shows this might be the case. Dennis Kucinich wants answers.
posted by Xurando (42 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite

 
The FBI's doing a great job proving the maxim that it's impossible to observe a population without also changing it.
posted by 2bucksplus at 1:19 PM on October 9, 2010 [6 favorites]


Forgot to link this.
posted by Xurando at 1:25 PM on October 9, 2010


This seems like it undermines the FBI causation somewhat (from the article above):
The apparent order for the Guardsmen to fire that is captured on the recording, as well as passage of more than a minute between the last supposed pistol shot and the Guard's gunshots, raises doubts about a connection between the two events.
posted by jenkinsEar at 1:32 PM on October 9, 2010


[Bunch of shit removed. Joe, less with the predictable tangents. Everybody else, less with the responding overtly to the predictable tangents.]
posted by cortex at 1:50 PM on October 9, 2010 [10 favorites]


One thing interesting about this is that there's quite a bit of analysis being done to very old recordings of various sorts (Zapruder film probably the most famous) as people still try to piece together a clear picture of exactly what happened during recorded events.

This says interesting things about the possibility of truth finally winning out even more regularly with our ever increasingly recorded lives today.

Or is that something terrifying? Hrm.
posted by hippybear at 1:52 PM on October 9, 2010 [2 favorites]


I would also like answers. It's amazing that a complete and thorough investigation still has not been completed.
posted by wierdo at 1:55 PM on October 9, 2010


Honestly, if this is what happened I don't understand why he lied about it. That weekend, the students had been vandalizing the buildings in town and looting. The next day, they set fire to the ROTC building on the campus. The whole town was under an emergency curfew. The day of the shooting, they were throwing rocks at the police.

Of course, the shooting was horrible and wrong, but the students were expressing a willingness to hurt others. So it's not hard for me to imagine a student-turned-informant being terrified in this situation and doing this: "He was working as an FBI informant, taking photographs of student protesters. The students figured this out during the protest as he snapped pictures. They hated him. Some rushed him as he was taking photographs. Terry fired a warning shot into the air. Then the Guardsmen volley erupted."

It seems reasonable that he feared for his safety and fired a shot in the air. He didn't shoot the students. So why lie about it?
posted by Houstonian at 2:16 PM on October 9, 2010


Well, because by taking that shot, he provided the impetus for the actual shooting to occur.
posted by Pope Guilty at 2:26 PM on October 9, 2010


It appears he was the very definition of an agent provocateur.
posted by Ron Thanagar at 2:28 PM on October 9, 2010


Wouldn't being an agent provocateur mean pretending to be one of the protesters and starting trouble?
posted by freebird at 2:35 PM on October 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


What baffles me is that the Guard has been able to get away with the excuse that they were in fear of being attacked, and the distances at which the students were shot has been known since day one.
posted by Xoebe at 2:36 PM on October 9, 2010 [2 favorites]


Agent Provocateur
posted by Xurando at 2:44 PM on October 9, 2010


The day of the shooting, they were throwing rocks at the police. [...]the shooting was horrible and wrong, but the students were expressing a willingness to hurt other.

The part about the goings-on at the time of the shootings have vanished into the collective mists of time, and gives a very important context to why the response was to shoot. As you point out, it doesn't make it right - at the time, no tasers or bean-bag guns, but shooting over the heads and getting the fire hoses out was a viable solution. Has anyone ever talked to the person in charge on the ground of the troops to find out what his standing orders were?

What I find interesting is that the apparent "agent provocateur" has vanished, and even if someone locates him, after 40 years, would he even remember the proper order of things?

I was a little young to understand much of what was going on at the time, but I do recall my father (ex-Korea) and grandfather (ex-WW2, the current police officer) getting pretty upset with my uncle (then currently serving) over this, where my uncle though the ratty students got what they deserved, and my father+grandfather saying it was a a horribly inappropriate response.
posted by Old'n'Busted at 3:19 PM on October 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


Should've been done long ago.
posted by ZenMasterThis at 3:27 PM on October 9, 2010 [3 favorites]


This says interesting things about the possibility of truth finally winning out even more regularly with our ever increasingly recorded lives today.
Actually, academics find that videos play little part in truth deciding. It turns out people apply quite a bit of bias to how they view the videos and seemingly clear events, even if the ambiguity is very small, will be interpreted differently by different observers. A classic example is the Rodney King trials where the lack of interpretation in the video led to police being able to insert their own interpretation (i.e. it wasn't a video of someone getting beaten by the cops, but a video of cops applying necessary force). A good book on this is True Enough by Farhad Manjoo, a better article on it is Professional Vision by Charles Goodwin (found in American Anthropologist, New Series, Vol. 96, No. 3 (Sep., 1994), pp. 606-633).
posted by Enekk at 3:38 PM on October 9, 2010 [3 favorites]


One hell of a backfire.
posted by telstar at 3:41 PM on October 9, 2010


The next day, they set fire to the ROTC building on the campus.

If you ignore that whole arrow of time thing I guess, yeah, you could argue that the victims of every serial killer we've ever executed had it coming and the Japanese were perfectly justified in attacking Pearl Harbor. I wouldn't try it in a court of law.

Or a 200 level philosophy class.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 4:45 PM on October 9, 2010 [6 favorites]


hippybear: "One thing interesting about this is that there's quite a bit of analysis being done to very old recordings of various sorts (Zapruder film probably the most famous) as people still try to piece together a clear picture of exactly what happened during recorded events."

Xoebe: "What baffles me is that the Guard has been able to get away with the excuse that they were in fear of being attacked, and the distances at which the students were shot has been known since day one."

The real truth of recordings is often found not in their explicit contents, but in their context (cf Errol Morris' Standard Operating Procedure). While this new revelation is bad, it escalates the overall moral badness of the Guard's actions at Kent State from 7 to 8, not from 2 to 8.
posted by l33tpolicywonk at 4:48 PM on October 9, 2010


Kid Charlemagne, you are misunderstanding what I wrote. I am not saying that the students "had it coming." I said it was horrible and wrong. But these articles have not convinced me that Terry Norman was an agent provocateur. He sounds like a scared kid, who was impressed with the access the FBI gave him (as put in one of the articles, "Terry 'liked the opportunity to hang around with 'us guys.' We did this for a living. He liked access to press conferences and blending in as a reporter.'"), and who felt like he might be under attack by a mob of angry people. In the recording, you do hear them say, "Kill him" and one of the other articles says this: "Shaking, Terry said, 'I had to shoot. They were trying to kill me.'''

That his shots in the air were misunderstood by the National Guard does not, to me, implicate Norman. It tells me perhaps the FBI and local police should not have been using untrained students to infiltrate groups, and it tells me that the National Guard did not have adequate training to be under those specific circumstances (that is, with untrained but armed people snapping photos during a riot).
posted by Houstonian at 4:59 PM on October 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


Is anyone else finding the majority of the links on this page are broken?
posted by simms2k at 5:26 PM on October 9, 2010 [2 favorites]


perhaps the FBI and local police should not have been using untrained students to infiltrate groups

They should not have been using trained or untrained students. Back then, the FBI used hundreds, if not thousands, of agents to infiltrate groups with a gripe against the US. government. Now it's the Department of Homeland Security, and who knows what other governmental agencies. The USA is a relatively free country, but these incursions into our freedom to question government policy is criminal. We are not China. Tea party members, (as if you read Metafilter!) take note.
posted by kozad at 5:35 PM on October 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


Total unrelated derail tangent - where are the good guys who are our agent provocateurs inside the Tea Party? Or would that be a very, very bad idea indeed?

/derail, begs forgiveness.
posted by digitalprimate at 5:46 PM on October 9, 2010


Seems like a stupid thing for the FBI to do. It shocked the nation and helped the antiwar cause, not the pro-war cause.
posted by Ironmouth at 5:51 PM on October 9, 2010


Is anyone else finding the majority of the links on this page are broken?

same here
posted by clavdivs at 6:34 PM on October 9, 2010


Pretty much part and parcel the spirit of the times.

Note the deniable agent was also in contact with the NSWWP, a neonazi group.

Of course, all that sort of stuff was cleaned up years ago. It was just a few bad apples and not a reflection on the current institution.
posted by warbaby at 6:47 PM on October 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


So sad, tragic.
posted by ClaudiaCenter at 8:34 PM on October 9, 2010


I can still hear the strains in my head of CSN's recording of Neil Young's "Ohio" from June 1970:

"Tin soldiers and Nixon coming, we're finally on our own.
This summer I hear the drumming, four dead in Ohio."
posted by Seekerofsplendor at 11:12 PM on October 9, 2010


These students are going to have to find out what law and order is all about.-General Robert Canterbury, Kent State, 5/4/70

Thanks to General Canterbury, every time I have heard the words "law and order" come out of a politician's mouth, I have known exactly what they were talking about.
posted by Enron Hubbard at 7:30 AM on October 10, 2010 [3 favorites]


Interesting sidenote: A crucial assist to the cleanup of the Kent State recordings came from none other than Fugazi's Ian MacKaye.
posted by mcgordonliddy at 7:38 AM on October 10, 2010


My father and a colleague in the Slavic Languages Department used to run a Slavic culture club at the University of Michigan, where they would have potlucks with stuffed cabbage and pierogies and paint Ukrainian-style easter eggs and play folk songs on the accordion. My father used to wonder at this one club member who would come to meetings but showed no enthusiasm for painting eggs or preparing blini. He seemed to have no affinity whatsoever for Slavic culture. Many years later my father found out that the student was a spy planted by the State Police looking for subversive elements in the university. I'm glad no tragic shootings occurred.
posted by acrasis at 7:57 AM on October 10, 2010 [4 favorites]


Of course, the shooting was horrible and wrong, but the students were expressing a willingness to hurt others.

No, the students who did this may or may not have expressed a willingness to hurt people. But the four who were murdered did not. For the record, I knew Bill Schroeder, the ROTC cadet shot in the back in the parking lot, and my father, who was a member of the Ohio National Guard, was an alert for Kent State.

When you have politicians screaming about thugs and teaching kids a lesson, you set up a scenario where nothing good can happen. Take a look at all the photos of who had the weapons and what kind, go back and read the really threatening language authorities were using at the time, and maybe you won't think that this was an accident or just an unavoidable tragedy.
posted by etaoin at 8:56 AM on October 10, 2010 [4 favorites]


After 40 years, it's damned near impossible to figure out EXACTLY what happened, especially when each 'new' bit is open to interpretation and spin depending on your particular political and sociological orientation and pre-believed theories. There's evidence, enough to figure out what happened - but never quite enough to answer all possible questions. At some point you just have to go "Okay, a broad picture will have to do."

Did it happen? Yes. Was the government the cause? Who knows. Did someone provocatively fire a shot? Maybe. Did someone fire a shot? Yes, apparently. Did it trigger the Guard response? Hard to say. Accident or unavoidable tragedy or staged incident? Again, it depends on what you want to believe.

And it won't get any easier to interpret, either. This isn't ever going to be 'solved' and put to rest.

The whole event SHOULD be seen, I think, as a cautionary tale that no matter the motives of whatever side you align yourself with it's good to remember in the end you're dealing with people who each have their own agendas (ranging from trying to make themselves look like heros, to trying to change things, to trying to impress the babes to get laid) - and individuals are nowhere near as predictable as a group. But groups - being made up of individuals, WILL be unfortunately prone to random behavior. Flight, fight, freeze - possible reactions to a threat are going to vary.

"When you have politicians screaming about thugs and teaching kids a lesson, you set up a scenario where nothing good can happen."

When you have folks screaming about thuggish government and teaching the politicians a lesson, I suppose it all depends on which side you're on whether you're going to see it as a good or bad thing.

The Tea Party, to my thinking, doesn't differ much from the Kent State students. They both want(ed) to have the government stop doing what it is/was doing, and found the government unresponsive. Let's hope there's no massacre of Tea Party folks by police or military - it'd be a damned big mistake, and with cell phone video and the internet a lot easier to determine what actually happened.
posted by JB71 at 9:53 AM on October 10, 2010


Dennis Kucinich wants answers.

Seriousness aside, I wish this instilled some fear in me, or others. Instead, it kind of makes me giggle.
posted by fyrebelley at 10:03 AM on October 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


Even in the official report, without any talk of a FBI agents, I am surprised that the commanding officer of the guardsmen was not found guilty of homicide. He led his men to a spot where the students were trapped, and the students "pursuing" them as the guard retreated was the inevitable result.

Giving the troops live ammo because of property damage the day before? Insane. Not maintaining control over his troops? Nor knowing terrain, nor the situation well enough to prevent his own men from firing into a crowd? He failed to do his job in multiple ways, where any one of these done properly would have saved four lives.
posted by zippy at 12:11 PM on October 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


Just a little taste of the flavor of the time:

I was close to PJ O’Rourke when he was doing his masters at Johns Hopkins in Baltimore. He was from Ohio and in touch with a woman who was at Kent State on that day. I hooked PJ up with my philosophy professor, who was on the Baltimore organizing committee, and they brought her to speak at our demonstration 2 or 3 days after the massacre.

She did an admirable job... then the black People segued into War What is it Good For... Absolutely Nothing, and we started our march.

Unbeknownst to just about everyone else involved, the red dogs had planed from the beginning to trash banks and assault cops, to get people beat up or, better yet, shot by the cops in hopes of radicalizing the people. Then someone hit a cop over the head with a 2x4 and it was on.

I made my living driving a cab back then and I understood that we already had one main downtown artery blocked and that all we needed to do was to move people a block East and then South and we could gridlock the city and keep the cops from moving in. It worked and it took the cops a couple of hours to get in, and then they had to use horses to do it.

PJ was on the frontline and some asshole in a new Cadillac tied to run him over. He leapt on to the hood and grabbed the windshield wipers. Too bad he now sides with the Cadillacs. He was one of the most entertaining people I have ever known.
posted by Huplescat at 3:40 PM on October 10, 2010 [5 favorites]


Sorry, I know people who were there that day, too, innocent people walking to class or covering the story from the journalism building. Someone set off the shooting and people who had nothing to do with that day's events, which didn't involve violence, ended up dead, hundreds of feet from where the National Guardsmen had marched. The Guard later put out a story that they had been firing at a sniper on a roof; no evidence was ever found of such a person. You had to be in the area and hear the outrageous rumors and listen to the asshole radicals, the Jerry Rubins, claiming credit for provoking the situation, people who had nothing whatsoever to do with what had gone onThen I watched Guardsman after Guardsman testify that he had fired out of fear for his life which was the one defense considered acceptable, and then walk away. I blame the individual soldiers less than the people who sent them there with the intention of flattening students. By the way, the university professors had opposed allowing the Guard on the campus and if that had been followed, those four people would be approaching retirement age.
posted by etaoin at 7:00 PM on October 10, 2010


It tells me perhaps the FBI and local police should not have been using untrained students to infiltrate groups, and it tells me that the National Guard did not have adequate training to be under those specific circumstances (that is, with untrained but armed people snapping photos during a riot).

It tells me the United States shouldn't have bombed Cambodia.
posted by leonard horner at 7:04 PM on October 10, 2010 [4 favorites]


Bombing Cambodia was not one of our finer moments. I guess nor was Kent State.
posted by Madaman at 11:30 AM on October 11, 2010


OK, this is the one thing I never understood about the shooting:

..the guardsmen had fired sixty-seven rounds and four students lay dead or dying with at least another nine having been shot.

That means 13 out of 67 shots hit their mark, ignoring the chance that someone was hit twice or a bullet passed through someone and hit another person.

And the Guardsmen were firing into a crowd. Were these guys total amateurs at riflery? Their hit rate was 19.4%, just under one shot out of 5 hit someone. If you're firing into a crowd, almost every shot should hit someone.

Now don't mistake my observation as an argument that they should have been more effective at gunning down the protesters. What I'm saying is that the Guardsmen were more of a menace to the innocent bystanders than the protesters. 4 out of 5 shots hit something other than their target. The Guard was so incompetent that I'm surprised they didn't shoot each other by accident.
posted by charlie don't surf at 6:36 AM on October 12, 2010


wow, your really crass. They were shooting at Americans. They may have been a little nervous.
i bet you could'nt hit a barn from 300 yards with a sniper rifle.

Don't mistake my comment as sarcasm, because stupidity is not for ever.
posted by clavdivs at 8:20 AM on October 12, 2010


Their hit rate was 19.4%

I think the odds are high that the Guardsmen were unable to fire level, repeatedly, into a crowd of students, even if they did continue to pull their triggers.
posted by zippy at 11:29 PM on October 12, 2010


i bet you could'nt hit a barn from 300 yards with a sniper rifle.

You completely missed my point. A large force of armed men shooting basically at random in the midst of the public is a menace to everyone for miles around. Just another reason why the Guard should not have been shooting. It is well established that some of the wounded and killed were not part of the protest and were actually on their way to classes.

And actually, I have an NRA Sharpshooter rating and was in tryouts for the Olympic Riflery team until I found out they were a bunch of ROTC Nazis. I haven't fired a gun since.
posted by charlie don't surf at 10:11 AM on October 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


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