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Sympathy for the Devils25 October 2001
I believe in free speech. I believe in freedom of the press. I believe in the fundamental principles upon which our country was founded.
But I am not gullible.
Sometimes you get what you pay for. Free speech is worthless if the speaker is speaking from a deep wealth of ignorance; freedom of the press does not, in and of itself, mean that the press is going to be responsible. On the contrary, ever since the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon on 9-11, some speakers and some press have used their "freedom" to propound idiocy, virulent anti-American ideology, and, yes, evil.
In writing about the terrorist attack on America, many on the left have sung the leftist version of that Taliban song: "Blame the Rape Victim for Being Raped." College professors have spoken at teach-ins of "American imperialism" being at fault in the 9-11 attacks. Not a day goes by without newspaper columnists and television commentators waxing poetic on all the evils that American foreign policy has inflicted on the world, including the arming of the Afghanis in their war against the Soviet Union. Far-right religionists have blamed American gays and feminists for the attack, saying that God has lifted his curtain of protection over America as punishment for our collective sins. Even McVeighish neo-Nazis have joined the chorus and picked up the drumbeat, writing articles and posts on various Internet websites saluting the courage of the terrorists and the evils of the America in which they live.
Incredibly, some mainstream media have indirectly applauded acts of terrorism by publishing articles that show terrorists of the past to be just plain folks with different ideas.
One of the most egregious examples of such came to me free-of-charge when I got my latest issue of AARP's magazine My Generation (November-December 2001). Nestled innocently among advertisements for a cholesterol monitor, a Bose radio, a Quaker Oats Cinnamon Roll, and an AARP Life Insurance policy, was an article titled: "Radical Then. What Now? Not Fade Away." The subtitle was "How two leaders of the Weather Underground surfaced and rebuilt their lives."
It was an unabashedly upbeat, breathlessly positive account, written by Peter Meyer, of how two murderously violent, radical-leftist "activists" (a euphemism for "terrorists") from the 1960s, Bernadine Dohrn and Bill Ayers, have actually not changed very much in the past 31 years despite a few more grey hairs, a taste for Starbucks coffee and a mainstream middle-class lifestyle (she's a professor of law and director of the Children and Family Justice Center at Northwestern University and he's a Distinguished Professor of Education at the University of Illinois).
You might recall that the Weathermen was a radical leftist group that plotted to plant bombs that would kill American citizens and destroy American property. Both Dohrn and Ayers participated in such activities; in fact, they were leaders of this violent, terrorist movement who are described in the My Generation article as having been obsessed with ending the Vietnam War, ending racism, and "even bringing down the government." At one time Dohrn was on the FBI's "Ten Most Wanted" list. The tone of the article suggests that this was an accomplishment to be envied.
Reflecting on their other achievements, and that time period, author Meyer effuses: "Those were the days! Attacking the Chicago police! You'd have to be crazy! Bombing the Pentagon! Whew! Days of wine and roses, the Vietnam War, the Movement, the Weather Underground...."
As I read that paragraph, I wondered how joyful Mr. Meyer and his beloved Weathercouple were when they heard the news that the Pentagon had just been successfully bombed, with great loss of life among people who worked for the "military-industrial complex" (as radical leftists used to call it), and how gratified Dohrn and Ayers must have been to see the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center (and all they symbolize) come crumbling down. I could just hear them in my mind's ear, and in true 60's style, saying in response to all that death and devastation, "Cool."
Of course, what made the AARP magazine's article unspeakable was not only the devotional tone of its author, but the issue it was in. That issue, coming out just after the terrorist attacks on our country, opens with an editorial by editor-in-chief, Betsy Carter, telling us how her magazine is going to help Americans after this awful attack.
But the closing of Meyer's piece about Dohrn and Ayers gives the lie to Ms. Carter's sanctimony. Meyer is discussing a quiet Sunday afternoon chat he is having with Dohrn and Ayers when suddenly they hear the sound of helicopters: "...the noise is deafening....as the three dark military birds pass overhead, Ayers looks up, points his finger, raises his thumb, fires./ He grins mischievously; then, in a second, the grin is gone."
It is not hard to understand what Ayers was thinking at that moment; he wished to down the helicopters and kill their American pilots. It is also not difficult to understand what Meyer was attempting to get his readers to think -- that there is something to be said for Ayer's malevolent, anti-American position.
The closing of the Meyer piece certainly helped me, as Betsy Carter said it would; it helped me to understand that evil can be couched in cuteness, and that a pair, described in the article as living "a life of prudent American values and solid middle-class attainment," are -- at their core -- Orwellian double-speak monsters dwelling among us. Just as that article was positioned amongst the most innocuous of advertisements, Dohrn and Ayers have secured for themselves positions in our educational system. Dohrn and Ayers speak evils that, when acted upon, would cause harm to our citizens and soldiers (Do you think Ayers cocked his finger every time he saw video of the planes hitting the World Trade Center while fantasizing that he had done it?). They are "spinmonsters," however, who have the ear of impressionable students for their free speech and the applause of some journalists and editors who give them free press.
In a sidebar to the article, Meyer does a nostalgic "where are they now" about other members of this terrorist organization. Sadly, most have made out quite nicely in our repressive, capitalist society; they are teachers, professors, lawyers, environmental lobbyists, and one is even a judge. I wonder if, in 30 year's time, Mr. Meyer and AARP's My Generation will publish a nostalgic piece about Timothy McVeigh and the neo-Nazis of the 1990s?
This article was indeed worth the price I paid for it -- nothing.
This article is provided by the Frank Scoblete Network. Melissa A. Kaplan is the network's managing editor. If you would like to use this article on your website, please contact Casino City Press, the exclusive web syndication outlet for the Frank Scoblete Network. To contact Frank, please e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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