Episodic Notoriety–Fact and Fantasy

Day in and day out I go about my business, I hang out with my kids and my grandchildren, take care of the elders, I go to work, I teach and I write, I organize and I participate in the never-ending effort to build a powerful movement for peace and social justice; now and then (and unpredictably) I appear in the newspapers or on TV with a reference to my book Fugitive Days, a memoir of the revolutionary action and militant resistance to the Viet Nam War—the years of miracle and wonder—and some fantastic assertions about what I did, what I said, and what I believe. The other night, for example, I heard Sean Hannity tell Senator John McCain that I was an unrepentant terrorist who had written an article on September 11, 2001 extolling bombings against the U.S., and even advocating more terrorist bombs. Senator McCain couldn’t believe it, and neither could I.

My e-mail and my voice-mail filled up with hate, as happens, mostly men with too much time on their hands I imagined, all of them venting and sweating and breathing heavily, a few threats—“Watch out!”; “You deserve to be shot”; and from satan@hell.com, “I’m coming to get you and when I do, I’ll waterboard you”—all of it wildly uninformed. I’ve written a lot about the Viet Nam period, about politics, about schools and social justice, and I read and speak about all of it. I encourage people to argue, to agree or disagree, to discuss and struggle, to engage in conversation. I believe deeply in the pedagogical possibilities of dialogue—of listening with the possibility of being changed, and of speaking with the possibility of being heard—and I believe in revitalizing the public square, resisting the eclipse of the public and expanding the public space, searching for a more robust and participatory democracy. Talking to one another can help.

So in that spirit here is another attempt at clarity:

1. Regrets. I’m often quoted saying that I have “no regrets.” This is not true. For anyone paying attention—and I try to stay wide-awake to the world around me all/ways—life brings misgivings, doubts, uncertainty, loss, regret. I’m sometimes asked if I regret anything I did to oppose the war in Viet Nam, and I say “no, I don’t regret anything I did to try to stop the slaughter of millions of human beings by my own government.” Sometimes I add, “I don’t think I did enough.” This is then elided: he has no regrets for setting bombs and thinks there should be more bombings.

The illegal, murderous, imperial war against Viet Nam was a catastrophe for the Vietnamese, a disaster for Americans, and a world tragedy. Many of us understood this, and many tried to stop the war. Those of us who tried recognize that our efforts were inadequate: the war dragged on for a decade, thousands were slaughtered every week, and we couldn’t stop it. In the end the U.S. military was defeated and the war ended, but we surely didn’t do enough.

2. Terror. Terrorism—according to both official U.S. policy and the U.N.—is the use or threat of random violence to intimidate, frighten, or coerce a population toward some political end. This means, of course, that terrorism is not the exclusive province of a cult, a religious sect, or a group of fanatics. It can be any of these, but it can also be—and often is—executed by governments and states. A bombing in a café in Israel is terrorism, and an Israeli assault on a neighborhood in Gaza is terrorism; the September 11 attacks were acts of terrorism, and the U.S. bombings in Viet Nam for a decade were acts of terrorism. Terrorism is never justifiable, even in a just cause—the Union fight in the 1860’s was just, for example, but Shernan’s March to the Sea was indefensible terror. I’ve never advocated terrorism, never participated in it, never defended it. The U.S. government, by contrast, does it routinely and defends the use of it in its own cause consistently.

3. Imperialism. I’m against it, and if Sean Hannity and others were honest, this is the ground they would fight me on. Capitalism played its role historically and is exhausted as a force for progress: built on exploitation, theft, conquest, war, and racism, capitalism and imperialism must be defeated and a world revolution—a revolution against war and racism and materialism, a revolution based on human solidarity and love, cooperation and the common good—must win.

We begin by releasing our most hopeful dreams and our most radical imaginations: a better world is both possible and necessary. We need to bring our imaginations together and forge an unbreakable human alliance. We need to unite to transform and save ourselves as we fight to change the world and save humanity.

123 Responses to Episodic Notoriety–Fact and Fantasy

  1. allah karim says:

    A lot of us who ardently opposed the Vietnam war, opposed U.S. involvement in central America, oppose U.S. support for Israel, and oppose the war in Iraq, still think you’re an evil son of a bitch. Maybe not a Hitler, or even a Pol Pot. No, you don’t quite those levels of evil. You rank about the same as Abimael Guzman, except perhaps not quite as honest. Like the proctologist said above, you’re another spoiled academic rich kid, who likes to get pompous and self-righteous, but really disdains working class Americans.

  2. roberrt trajan says:

    Fibs Floppy: why should I defend imperialism? I guess that you defend Ayres’s definition of terrorism. Good for you. Fibs, Ayers’s words are fine with me. I have issues with his acts. That may be a bit difficult for a fibber to comprehend. So don’t even try. It will only confuse you

  3. roberrt trajan says:

    Fibs floppy wants me to take my meds. This is so typical of the left. Should someone have the audacity to disagree with the party line, why, that comrade must be sick. Throw that deviant bouguise bastard into the Cancer Ward.

    Fibs is your real name Ramón Mercader ?

  4. red mask says:

    Great clarification but people will want to believe what they believe and will continue to do so even if opinions overrides logic.

  5. Jack Janski says:

    Wow!! Great analogy!! Will Ayers’ buds condemn Eric Rudolph but continue to embrace their own Leftist domestic terrorist??


    BTW guys, just because Ayers was not convicted of a crime doesn’t mean he is innocent. In fact, Billy boy admitted setting the bombs. What else do you need, people!!!?????

  6. Bob from Boston says:

    Bill: Man, you got a LOT of hateful responses to this post. I don’t know how you manage to keep your cool with all these Right Wing nuts threatening you with bodily harm.

    I must admit I don’t know very much about your past with the Weather Underground, but you seem like a decent guy. I’m currently reading “Fugitive Days” to get an idea of what things were like back in the day.

    Keep fighting the good fight! God bless.

  7. David Carew says:

    One of the great ironies of this is that the dominant global power, the America of the 60’s , that was violently opposed by the Weather Underground is collapsing from within without being attacked by armies from within or from outside. What has destroyed America is an unholy alliance between its Government and Corporate America to promote the latter’s interests at the expense of the welfare of vast majority of the American people. It is truly tragic to see loyal foot soldiers like Janski and trajan, the cheerleaders for the handful of beneficiaries of a corrupt government, do their masters’ bidding, and being in total denial. At least the rest of us who are not fooled by the fairy tales from the right, KNOW we’re being screwed by the Americas ruling elite. Janski, trajan and the rest of their ilk, have no idea.

  8. Leo Regan says:

    The catchphrase of right during the period of civil unrest in the last 60’s was “love or leave it”. Rather than taking personal decisions to leave the United States, the Weather cult of maniacs succeeded in creating a faction of elite, self-indulgent maniacal deluded hysterics who were only successful in destroying themselves and providing a hammer to hit left wing politics with for forty years, which even now continues. Having left in 1972, and lived in Ireland where a substantial physical force movement battled the British to a standstill, and succeeded in changing the balance of power after the loss of 3000 lives, mostly non-combatants of course, the cult of the Weather underground cannot be considered in comparison with any of the murderous factions operating in Europe in the ’70’s under the guise of liberation. The use of rhetoric from a political tradition can provide the delusional basis for maniacal behavior of hysterical groups completely disconnected from any popular base or active tradition to which the group is accountable. These groups pose more danger to their own members than the larger society, as is now demonstrable with suicide cells.

  9. Robert Willett says:

    Don’t Hillary Clinton and George Stephanopolous (as well as a host of right wing media goons like Sean Hannity) owe you a PUBLIC apology for calling you a terrorist and murderer on national television?

  10. N E Freeman says:

    I have witnessed several serious criminal acts of terrorism by our government, its agents, and the police. I think that the central semiotic issue is that Hannity and ilk object to anyone outside the power sphere using tactics that are not ‘acceptable victim’ behavior.

    More flowers to the invaders.

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