Bryan Burrough’s Days of Rage

The following is a relatively long collection of quotes from the recent David Hines‘ Status 451 post on Bryan Burrough’s book “Days of Rage”.
days_of_rage
“People have completely forgotten that in 1972 we had over nineteen hundred domestic bombings in the United States.” — Max Noel, FBI (ret.)
Recently, I had my head torn off by a book: Bryan Burrough’s Days of Rage, about the 1970s underground. It’s the most important book I’ve read in a year.
Days of Rage is important, because this stuff is forgotten and it shouldn’t be.”
“This is the difference between the hard Left & hard Right: you can be a violent leftist radical and go on to live a pretty kickass life. This is especially true if you’re a leftist of the credentialed class: Ph.D. or J.D.
The big three takeaways for me about Weatherman, when it comes to political violence in America as we might see it in 2016:
Radicalism can come from anywhere. The Weathermen weren’t oppressed, or poor, or anything like that. They were hard leftists. That’s it.
Sustained political violence is dependent on the willing cooperation of admirers and accomplices. The Left has these. The Right does not.
Not a violent issue, but a political one: ethnic issues involving access to power can both empower and derail radical movements.”
“Jackson wasn’t the only black radical of the period to meet a violent end. The contrast in the fates of 70’s black radicals and white radicals is pretty stark. A lot of white radicals came out okay. A lot of black radicals came out dead.
But Angela Davis did great. She’s had a successful career and remains celebrated. Arrested for her part in Jonathan’s plot, Davis was acquitted, and became a radical icon.
I think an underappreciated factor in Angela Davis doing so well afterward is her position as part of the credentialed class. Like the Weathermen — and unlike most black radicals — Angela Davis had access to Institutions.
Institutions are one of two major assets that the Left has and the Right lacks. The other is Shock Troops.
Institutions are organizations the Left controls that operate for the benefit of the Left’s people. The Right doesn’t really have these. As an example, there are occasional hard right lawyers, but so far as I know there is no such thing as the Reactionary Lawyers’ Guild.
The other thing that the Left has that the Right doesn’t are Shock Troops: unshameable actors.
Institutions and Shock Troops are important resources for the Left. They work together. The Left’s Institutions accept, cater to, train, and/or employ its people, including Shock Troops. And, in the cases of several Weathermen (and Davis), give them cushy jobs in their Shock-Troop retirement.
What happens when you have Shock Troops, but no, or few, or short-lived Institutions? That’s the story of black radicalism in the USA.”
“Weatherman had tried to rally the working class. No luck. They weren’t into being radicalized. But black prisoners really, really were.
And white radicals — many the kind who’d be really into privilege confession today — started getting into the idea of black leadership. I mean: really into the idea of black leadership. To the point of fetishizing it. Fetishizing black convicts, especially.
In 1972, a group called Venceremos, from the Bay Area, literally broke out a black convict named Ronald Beaty during a prison transport so he could train them in guerrilla tactics and lead a revolution.
That was their actual plan. That was their entire actual plan.
Exactly that one bit from South Park, but a bunch of ’70s white Bay Area radicals going, “Token, you’re black; you know guerrilla tactics.” (Spoiler: when Beaty got arrested again, he promptly rolled over on the white radicals.)”
“But because I keep coming back to the power of Institutions to shelter leftist radicals, to close our time with the Family: Kathy Boudin, accomplice and facilitator to multiple murders, was paroled in 2003.
She is now an adjunct professor at Columbia University’s school of social work.
So, looking at the BLA, SLA, the Family, wth a detour to NWLF — what do we learn about political violence? Looking, in particular, through the lens of our the concepts of Institutions and Shock Troops, and why these matter:
Institutions are crucial to the longevity of organized campaigns of political violence by Shock Troops.
Shock Troops that don’t have Institutions fare worse and have shorter careers than Shock Troops that do.
Shock Troops without support from Institutions tend to turn to crime, often violent crime, for money.
Doing violent crime to raise money eventually bites Shock Troops in the ass.
The bigger a Shock Troop army, the more financial support it needs, whether from an Institution or from criminal activity.
The Shock Troops that succeed without Institutions have as few members as possible & avoid violent crime (the NWLF guy didn’t do robbery; he grew tons of reportedly amazing weed), and keep a low profile outside of their Shock Troop actions.
Having an Institution is no guarantee of keeping it; Institutions can be attacked by adversaries or other outside forces (see: Lincoln Detox).
All of which is to say: in some respects, a resurgence of political violence in the United States would look similar to previous versions — but in others, it’d look very different.”
“What does it mean for us? First, let’s be blunt: most political violence is not going to be as well-trained & highly disciplined as FALN. You’re not going to see that level of skill again, unless the Cubans decide they want to come to play. What you might see, on both sides, is what to me is the most amazing part of the FALN story: its parasitization of the Episcopal Church.
Organizations don’t have to fully capture institutions. They can latch onto them, and come to be seen as limbs. One person in a position to hire effectively suborned the Episcopal Church to give violent radicals jobs, stability, and even protection. As with everything, the Left will be much better at this kind of operation than the Right will. But the Right might do it on occasion.
The other takeaway: again, Lefty radicals have more opportunities and more acceptance from their mainstream than Righty ones. I don’t see Eric Rudolph getting clemency, no matter the administration. He shouldn’t. Nor should have FALN.”
“I am afraid that the United States is in for political violence in 2017. It could be as bad as or worse than the 1970s. I have some ideas as to what some of it may look like. It really isn’t pleasant to think about.
Political violence is like war, like violence in general: people have a fantasy about how it works. This is the fantasy of how violence works: you smite your enemies in a grand and glorious cleansing because of course you’re better.
Grand and glorious smiting isn’t actually how violence works. I’ve worked a few places that have had serious political violence. And I’m not sure how to really describe it so people get it.
This is a stupid comparison, but here: imagine that one day Godzilla walks through your town.
The next day, he does it again.
And he keeps doing it. Some days he steps on more people than others. That’s it. That’s all he does: trudging through your town, back and forth. Your town’s not your town now; it’s The Godzilla Trudging Zone.
That’s kind of what it’s like.”
“Let’s not mince words: the United States of America is currently engaged in a cold Civil War.
In North Carolina, the Republican governor lost re-election, so the Republican legislature convened a special session to limit powers of the post. Democrats nationwide howled with justified outrage; as we all know, legislators who dislike a governor should flee the state to block quorum, facilitate occupation of government buildings by mobs, and have allies execute secret raids on homes on the governor’s supporters. All of those are things that the Democrats did to oppose a Republican governor in Wisconsin, and the Democrats were pretty cool with it.
This isn’t a cutesy “both sides” argument. Nor am I calling out the press for bias, or politicians for hypocrisy (that’s later).”
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