Episode 341 has Skyler giving his commentary on the following topics: the triple-edged sword that is vying for the government to assist you against your employer; impregnating others with ideas through writing and podcasting; what identity is and the absurdity of basing it commonalities with others instead of on what makes you unique; and more.Open This Content
As the summer of 2020 dawned, left-wing radical groups began rioting and taking over parts of America’s cities. While this specific form of left-wing violence is new, left-wing violence itself is far from new in the United States. Indeed, one of the most hidden and concealed parts of recent American history is the extensive left-wing violence that began in the late 1960s and continued into the 1980s.
At first, one might think that these were isolated incidents of small-scale “protest” or even minor violence. However, upon even brief examination, we find out that the outpouring of leftist violence over this time period was anything but minor. The most likely explanation for why you have never heard of this until now is that the events of these years have been consciously buried by those who would prefer you not know about them.
As the left once again ratchets up both its rhetoric and its physical violence, it’s time to re-explore this period of American history. What started as a non-violent student movement quickly escalated into a campaign of terrorism against the American people. And while the similarities may not be terribly striking yet, astute readers of this article will quickly see the world in which we live more and more closely resembling the Days of Rage.
The Days of Rage
The Days of Rage were in fact a short and discrete period of time – three days of demonstrations that took place on October 8 through 11, 1969. Throughout this article we will discuss events that took place both before and after the Days of Rage, but consider this period a sort of “coming out” party for the Weathermen, also known as the Weather Underground.
The Weathermen started out as a faction within Students for a Democratic Society. Without getting too much into the weeds, much of what happens during this period of leftist terrorism in the United States has its genesis in a faction fight between the Weathermen, who controlled the national SDS organization, and the rest of their faction (known as the Revolutionary Youth Movement II or RYM II), who were in opposition to the more classically Maoist Worker Student Alliance.
Tensions ran high because the stakes were high – nothing less than total control of the largest student radical organization in America and all of the spoils that came along with that. Many within the Weathermen faction of RYM II believed that they were fighting literal fascism coming to America in the form of President Richard Nixon.
Sound familiar yet? It’s about to sound a lot more so.
On October 6, 1969, a statue memorializing a police officer killed during the 1886 Haymarket riots was blown up. No one ever figured out who committed this act of iconoclasm, but the tangible effect of the act of political terrorism was the final isolation of the Weather Underground from the rest of the SDS.
The Weathermen then shifted their activity to the Days of Rage, a protest rally with the slogans “Bring The War Home!” Many wielded lead pipes and were clad in football helmets, ready for a confrontation with the police.
Turnout was disappointing. The Weathermen expected a massive turnout, but only got about 800, who stared down 2,000 Chicago police likely itching for another fight after the 1968 Democratic Convention. By the first night, about 500 had deserted the protest, with about half of the remaining 300 being Weathermen from around the country.
Abbie Hoffman and John Froines, two members of the Chicago Seven, showed up, but declined to speak and left. The remaining hardcore of Weathermen and their supporters shifted the goalposts to simply fighting the police as constituting victory.
At 10:25 p.m., Jeff Jones, one of the leaders of the Weathermen, gave the signal and chaos erupted. The crowd moved through the city, smashing windows of ordinary cars and middle-class homes throughout Chicago, as well as small businesses such as barber shops.
The next day, October 9, a “Women’s Militia” comprised of about 70 female Weathermen planned to attack a draft board office, but were prevented from doing so by the Chicago Police Department. The governor called up 2,500 National Guard members to protect Chicago, and protests for later in the day were canceled. The Black Panther Party’s local leadership attempted to distance themselves from the Weathermen, describing the group as “anarchistic, opportunistic, adventuristic, and Custeristic.”
The next day was the last day of the Days of Rage proper, centered around a march of 2,000 through a Spanish-speaking area of Chicago. The next day, October 11, the Weathermen attempted to reignite the protests, but were quickly sealed off by Chicago’s finest. Approximately half of the crowd were arrested in 15 minutes.
It was after the events of the Days of Rage that the Weathermen became the Weather Underground and began moving underground as the name would imply. At a meeting known as the Flint War Council, which was attended by Barack Obama advisor William Ayers, taking place between December 27 and 31, 1969, the Weathermen dissolved their version of SDS, changed their name to the Weather Underground and declared that they would engage in guerilla warfare against the United States government.
Before continuing with the laundry list of terrorist actions carried out by the Weather Underground, it is worth briefly explaining their ideology. The Weather Underground was not a classically Marxist nor, strictly speaking, a Maoist group. Their cues came more from the American New Left. Thus, much like the radicals creating chaos in American cities in the 2020s, they were far more focused on opposition to the American state, “white privilege” and “white supremacy” than they were in creating bonds across the working class.
In this regard, they differed both from the Maoism of the Progressive Labor Party (made up of former members of the Communisty Party, USA, who supported Mao against Kruschev and thus had very real ties to the American labor movement) and the so-called “New Communist Movement” (comprised of younger student activists sympathetic toward Maoism and Third Worldism, but without organic ties to the existing Communist left and the labor movement). They did not, as some other groups in both Maoism proper and the New Communist Movement did, seek either ties with the American working class (which they largely considered “bought off by imperialism”) or the official sanction of Beijing (a long-term goal of both Maoists and New Communists).
There are three important takeaways from all of this inside baseball:
- The Weather Underground considered the American government to be fascist.
- They believed that American military and civil government institutions should be treated in an identical manner to how the Viet Cong would treat the American military.
- The American working class, in particular the white American working class, was considered apathetic and useless at best, but generally more considered an active opponent of revolution – thoroughly reactionary and thus, the enemy.
The Weathermen After the Days of Rage
In the first year after the Flint War Council, the Weather Underground engaged in a series of over a dozen bombings or attempted bombings throughout the United States. While supporters of the Weather Underground generally attempt to downplay the significance of the bombings, the group attacked courthouses, the New York Police Headquarters, the Pentagon and the headquarters of the National Guard. Additionally, police found multiple bomb factories designed to aid the guerilla efforts of the group. While 1970 was a highwater year for the group, there were other years of increased activity and the Weather Underground did not disband until 1977.
There were dozens of terrorist attacks carried out in the years between 1970 and 1977. It would be impossible to talk about them all in detail without writing an entire book on the subject. However, some of them are worth pulling out from the pack to discuss individually:
- New York City Arson Attacks: The home of New York Supreme Court Justice John M. Murtagh was attacked with Molotov cocktails. Judge Murtagh was the presiding judge of pretrial hearings for 21 Black Panthers accused of planning a bombing campaign against the city. There were additional attacks against the Columbia University’s International Law Library, Army and Navy recruiting booths and a parked police car in the city.
- Timothy Leary Jailbreak: Acting as hired mercenaries for The Brotherhood of Eternal Love, a psychedelic drug distribution enterprise, the Weather Underground broke Timothy Leary out of jail for $20,000.
- United States Capitol Bombing: On March 1, 1971, the Weather Underground detonated a bomb at the United States Capitol.
- Pentagon Bombing: On March 19, 1972, the Weather Underground blew up the women’s bathroom of the Air Force wing of the Pentagon in commemoration of Ho Chi Minh’s birthday and in retaliation for the bombing of Hanoi.
In October 1973, the federal government dropped most of the charges against the Weather Underground because new restrictions on electronic surveillance (without a court order handed down from the Supreme Court) meant that the charges likely would not stick. A more complete – and voluminous – list of Weather Underground terrorist attacks can be found here.
Black Liberation Army
The Black Liberation Army was formed in 1970, by members of the Black Panther Party who operated as members of both groups concurrently. Between 1970 and 1976, the group was involved in over 70 acts of violence, including the murders of 13 police officers. Some of their attacks included:
- The bombing of the funeral of police officer Harold Hamilton.
- The hijacking of Delta Air Lines Flight 841.
- The robbery of a Brinks truck in 1981.
May 19th Communist Organization
The May 19th Communist Organization was a reorganized version of the Weather Underground that emerged after the latter began to fall apart. It included members of the Black Liberation Army, the Black Panthers and the Republic of New Afrika, as well as the Weather Underground.
The M19CO was more classically Marxist-Leninist, but no less eager to engage in terrorism. They broke Assata Shakur, convicted of the murder of a state trooper, out of prison and spirited her to Cuba. They were also involved in the robbery of a Brinks truck in 1981, along with the Black Liberation Army, as well as several bombings, including those of the National War College, the United States Senate, the Washington Navy Yard Computer Center, the South African consulate and the Policemen’s Benevolent Association.
Symbionese Liberation Army
Most people know of the Symbionese Liberation Army, if at all, as the group who kidnapped and brainwashed Patty Hearst. Beyond this, they are an excellent example of how a small, but committed, cadre of left-wing activists can wreak havoc far and beyond their numbers, which never exceeded 22.
Their first major action was the assassination of Oakland, CA superintendent of schools Marcus Foster and badly wounding his deputy Robert Blackburn. The pair were attacked with cyanide-packed hollow point rounds as they left a school committee meeting. Foster, the first black superintendent of schools in Oakland, was assassinated because the SLA believed he was going to introduce identity cards in the school system, which they considered “fascist” and which he, in fact, opposed.
Their most famous action was the kidnapping of Hearst publishing heiress Patty Hearst in 1974. She was held by the group for 19 months before she was apprehended by authorities. At first, the SLA demanded the release of Foster’s assassins, but when this proved impossible, they demanded the Hearst family distribute $70 worth of food to every needy person in California. The Hearst family took out a loan to do so, which would have cost $400 million, but the operation descended into chaos and the SLA refused to free her. The group sometimes restricted Hearst to a dark closet for weeks at a time. She was raped both by leader Donald DeFreeze (“Cinque”) and Willie Wolfe (“Kahjoh”).
When recovered, Hearst had an IQ of 112, as compared to 130 before her abduction. She chain smoked, had a flattened affect and had trouble remembering significant parts of her pre-SLA life. She weighed 87 pounds when apprehended.
The group committed a number of bank robberies both before and after Hearst’s kidnapping.
The Lost History of American Leftist Terrorism
Most Americans have never heard of these acts of terrorism from leftist groups that were so numerous throughout the 1970s. But this is a prime example of “those who don’t learn from history are doomed to repeat it.” The urban unrest, which has rocked America in the early 2020s, is nothing new. The 1960s saw both race riots and left-wing terrorist groups looking to exploit animosity between racial groups in America.
The question is what are we going to do about it? The answer so far from our elected officials is “not much.” If leftist terrorist cells were willing to go this far when they had active opposition from government and corporate figures alike, what are they going to do when confronted with apathy or encouragement from elected officials and the business sector?
The answer remains to be seen, but will certainly be some variant of “nothing good.”
Many people think that if Hillary Clinton had won in 2016, the coronavirus crisis would have been less severe. On reflection, this is a drastic understatement. If Hillary Clinton had won in 2016, it is near-certain that the coronavirus crisis never would have started.
To see why, let’s review what philosophers call the Non-Identity Problem. Consider the following statement: “If my parents had won the lottery before my conception, I would be rich today.” Sounds true, right? On reflection, however, you should rather say, “If my parents had won the lottery before my conception, I never would have existed.” Why not? Because winning a pile of money would have changed when you parents had sex, which would have changed which of your father’s hundreds of millions of sperm impregnated your mother. Indeed, even if the timing of the sex was unchanged, winning the lottery would have led your father to jump for joy, reshuffling his sperm, and again nullifying your existence.
Philosophers often invoke the Non-Identity Problem when they imagine one of our descendants moaning, “If only our ancestors had stopped polluting, I’d be better off.” While it’s true we can help our descendants, the very acts of helping them changes who our descendants will be. If we had cared more about the future, the moaners wouldn’t have been around to moan.
What on Earth does this have to do with coronavirus? Simple: The birth of a new pathogen biologically parallels the birth of a new human. A new virus is the result of a perfect genetic storm – DNAs ultra-improbably combine, then ultra-improbably get into a human body, then ultra-improbably infect that body with an ultra-low viral dose instead of being destroyed by the host’s immune system. That’s why new pathogens are so thankfully rare; the odds are stacked massively against the rise of any specific strain. If matters were otherwise, virologists would detect what arson investigators call “multiple points of origin” for novel pathogens. To the best of my knowledge, they almost never do.
Given this knife-edge origin process, it is extremely likely that any major change in the events prior to the rise of coronavirus would have precluded the rise of coronavirus. Hillary’s election would have led to different Chinese policies, which would have reshuffled human behavior in China, implying no coronavirus.
Doesn’t the same go for thousands of other changes? Absolutely. If Trump had negotiated a different trade deal with China, coronavirus would never have happened. If China had left the Uighurs alone, coronavirus would never have happened. Indeed, if Avengers: Endgame had been released a week later, coronavirus would have never happened; the movie grossed $614M in China, so it must have indirectly changed the space-time positions of a bunch of people in Wuhan. If something alters which humans are born, it can also easily alter which pathogens are born.
Wait, does this mean that if Hillary had won, we could have had a worse virus instead? Absolutely! Given how bad this virus has been, however, that’s unlikely. If Hitler had never been born, maybe Germany would have been taken over by an even more bloodthirsty dictator, but smart money says otherwise. Nevertheless, over the very long-run, the uncertainty becomes great indeed. Without Hitler, World War II could have been fought fifteen years later… with nuclear weapons. As Tyler explained a while back:
For small changes to translate into large final effects, we need only postulate that some individuals, or some leaders, play a significant role on the global stage. Even if most individuals do not matter, or most small changes wash out, some of the small changes today will alter future identities, once we look a generation or two into the future. So the argument requires only that a very small number of personal identities matter for the course of history. If Hitler’s great-great-grandfather had bent down to pick one more daisy, many of the effects might have washed out; nonetheless Europe today would be a very different place.
In my experience, non-philosophers stridently resist non-identity arguments. But that’s their problem. The arguments are sound. Whenever the conception of a crucial critter is on the line, small events have massive consequences. The crucial critter could be a human or virus. Strange but true: This whole mess could have been avoided if Chris Hemsworth had a minor accident while shooting the latest Avengers movie.Open This Content
Consider the following specimens of Social Desirability Bias.
1. This is my country, I would never want to live anywhere else.
2. Patriotism matters more than money!
3. I couldn’t bear the thought of my children not growing up as citizens of [my country of birth].
4. This is the greatest country in the world.
5. Nothing is more important than keeping our whole family together.
6. We’re nothing without our traditions.
7. Our identity matters more than gold.
8. We’ve got to solve our country’s problems our own way.
9. We don’t need foreign help to build a better country.
10. My country, right or wrong.
Claims like these are popular all over the world. No matter how awful their country is, people love to proclaim their undying devotion to folk and land. Why then have hundreds of millions of people left their countries of birth? Because the migrants don’t literally believe this flowery talk. Though almost everyone voices these sentiments, actions speak louder than words. The act of migration says something like:
1. My country is subpar, I want to live somewhere better.
2. Money matters more than patriotism.
3. I can bear the thought of my children not growing up as [citizens of my country of birth].
4. This is not the greatest country in the world. Not even close.
5. Enjoying a higher standard of living is more important than keeping our extended family together.
6. We’re going to dilute our traditions and adopt some foreign ones.
7. I would like more gold and less identity.
8. Our country isn’t going to solve its problems “its own way,” so I’m moving to another country that has its act together.
9. I need foreign help to build a better life.
10. My country is a major disappointment to me.
Quite a list of heresies! You could demur, “This may be what migrants say with their actions. All the people who don’t move, however, are saying the opposite.” But this overlooks the glaring reality of draconian immigration restrictions. At least a billion people would migrate if it were legal. And since migration is a drastic step, belief in these heresies must be widespread indeed.
My point: Immigrants do what people aren’t supposed to say. They are the living embodiment of the fact that nationalism and identity politics are mostly doth-protest-too-much rhetoric rather than earnest devotion. As I’ve explained before:
[Note] the stark contrast between how much people say they care about community, and how lackadaisically they try to fulfill their announced desire. I’ve long been shocked by the fraction of people who call themselves “religious” who can’t even bother to attend a weekly ceremony or speak a daily prayer. But religious devotion is fervent compared to secular communitarian devotion. How many self-styled communitarians have the energy to attend a weekly patriotic or ethnic meeting? To spend a few hours a week watching patriotic or ethnically-themed television and movies? To utter a daily toast to their nation or people?
The main reason people resent immigration is probably just xenophobia. But a secondary reason, plausibly, is that every immigrant is a tiny beacon of unwelcome candor. The act of immigration says, “Trying to fix my country of birth is a fool’s errand. The people I grew up with are hopeless. Instead, I’m going to personally fix my own life by moving to a new county that works. It won’t be perfect, but I’m willing to suffer for years to make the switch.”
As an iconoclast myself, I love what the act of immigration says. Most people, however, hear the implied heresy and recoil.Open This Content
“I’ve occasionally encountered mass hysteria in other countries,” Nicholas Kristof writes at the New York Times. “In rural Indonesia, I once reported on a mob that was beheading people believed to be sorcerers, then carrying their heads on pikes. But I never imagined that the United States could plunge into such delirium.”
Kristof’s writing about panic over suspected “antifa activity” in the Pacific northwest, but I think he’s selling America short. We’re a nation built on mass hysteria. From the Know-Nothingism of the 1850s, to the Palmer Raids of a century ago, to the McCarthyism of the 1950s, to the New Red Scare (“Russiagate”) of the last four years, mass hysteria has been the perennial bread and butter of mainstream American politics.
I personally find the current freak-out over “antifa” — short for anti-fascist — revealing.
With respect to fascism, there are three possible orientations: Fascist, anti-fascist, and politically neutral. If the whole idea of antifa has you up in arms, you’re clearly neither of the last two. Kind of narrows things down, doesn’t it?
Fascism isn’t an historical echo or a distant danger. It’s the default position of all wings of the existing American political establishment, from the “nationalist right” to the “progressive left.”
Those warring political camps are increasingly identity-based rather than ideological. They’re more interested in seizing the levers of power for the “correct” groupings — racial, sex/gender/orientation, economic, partisan, etc. — than they are in the nature of, and inherent dangers in, that power.
It’s that kind of vacuum of ideas that Lord Acton probably had in mind when he warned us that power tends to corrupt. And it’s certainly that kind of vacuum of ideas which the ideology pioneered, named, and described — “all within the state, nothing outside the state, nothing against the state” — by Italy’s Benito Mussolini most easily fills.
Yes, many of those advertising themselves as “antifa” are just as much authoritarian statists — in a word, fascists — as their most bitter opponents.
And yes, both wings of the American political mainstream are actively attempting to co-opt the term for their own uses at the moment — the “left” as a term of fake resistance to be channeled into business as usual voting, the “right” as an object of fear to be likewise channeled.
But false advertising, panic-mongering, and hostile takeoverism don’t negate the existence of the genuine article. If you’re not “antifa,” you’re “fa” or “fugue.” Pick a side.Open This Content
Nobody asked but …
We are desperate for labels and niches. In an ever-changing world, we humans want consistency, certainty, warmth, guarantee, comfort, predictability, safety, and assurances. We often partially calm the whirlwind by convincing ourselves that we are in a protected shelter, labelled “safe,” a niche we can call our own. When we find a shelter, we can become very chauvinistic about it.
Some of the labels, niches we strive for are those of political identity. Are we right, middle, or left? Are we religious, agnostic, or atheistic? Do we wear school colors, or those of a professional sports team? How many of us wear tee shirts and hoodies with the names of exotic places, where we have vacationed? Are our closets full of designer clothes with logos? Are those closets in homes that make statements about social status.
I must admit that I am a product of a culture that lets its freak flag fly, yet that culture makes such a fetish of it as to create normal appearing gangs. Almost any day, you may see me wearing the blue of the University of Kentucky or the green of Ireland or the black of the New Zealand All Blacks national rugby team. You may hear me claiming small-l libertarianism, or voluntaryism, non-partisanship, or even anarchism. I will readily confess to being a philosopher, a farmer, a software engineer, an educator, a bookworm, a railfan, a lighthouse aficianado, and a polymath. But I will reject being known as only one of any of these.
As you can see, no one person is captured by a single label or group. But politicians, news media, and the least secure among us find it a lazy shortcut to group and label individuals into collectives. This richly diverse country is now being riven by exploiters to destroy our heritage of individualism, to make us all toe the lines of various self-serving collectives. The current wave is to get everyone to think of themselves as rightwingers or radical lefties. If persons can be convinced of the urgency of this, over time we will become two armed camps, certain that there is no room for individuality. Some would have us believe that there are only republicans and democrats. All other distinctions are insubstantial and are only explained as gradations of democrats or republicans. The old saying goes, “there are two types of people in the world; those who divide people into two groups, and those who do not.”
I challenge anyone to find any human who fits only into one or the alternative oversimplified, misrepresented category.
— Kilgore ForelleOpen This Content