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A Nightmare of Human Potential

Reply to Bill Ayers' New York Times Editorial

by Jared Israel
Edited by Samantha Criscione

[December 20, 2008]

Articles in the "Weathermen Redeemed" series:

Part 1: Bill Ayers: The Provocateur Exhumed

Part 2: Obama’s “I-was-only-8” Lie

Part 3: Obama Forgets the Early ’80s

Part 4: A Weatherman Dream in New York



For over a month, resurrected Weather-leader Bill Ayers has been proclaiming on TV and in newspapers that he and his Weathermen were never terrorists, attacking the people; they were self-sacrificing idealists. Now he has said it in The New York Times. But the evidence, including a picture and texts from a Weatherman newspaper, shows that Ayers and friends have indeed been terrorists, and especially harmful ones at that; and perhaps they have been something more.


The targets: working people and rational discourse


Two weeks ago, Weatherman co-founder Bill Ayers got to publish his own guest editorial ('op-ed') in the U.S. newspaper of record, The New York Times. The Times did not give Ayers' piece the title, "Ayers Answers Attacks," which would have been neutral, but, "The Real Bill Ayers," which was not.  So, the media's Weatherman Redemption Project has reached the point where Weatherman self-description is true description.

Ayers' generous evaluation of Ayers includes the lie that he and his Weathermen were never terrorists.

The truth is that from day one they were not only terrorists, they were (and still are) propagandists for terror.

Their targets?

In a precious (because rare) attempt at honesty regarding the Weathermen, on October 23, 1981 the New York Times got it partly right.  Responding to a joint Weatherman-Black Liberation Army murder of three people and crippling of one on October 20th, a Times editorial, sarcastically entitled "Up from the Underground," stated that, while the "lunatic" Weathermen had never coherently explained what they were doing or why, nevertheless their targets were clear:

"The victims, however, are easily described. Working men, white, black, parents. Ordinary people." [1]

– Editorial, "Up from the Underground," Oct. 23, 1981

I said the Times got it partly right because they could also have "easily described" two other victims: Students for a Democratic Society (SDS), and political discourse itself, both of which the Weathermen did their best to destroy.

According to "Up from the Underground," the Weathermen were amazingly incompetent except in one area:

"Their only real skill, in fact, was masterly manipulation of media. Members of a small, lunatic cell, they won a place in the national consciousness far out of proportion to their number."
[My emphasis – J.I.]


Nonsense. The Weatherman never "won a place in the national consciousness"; it was given them. They could no more have manipulated the media into making them top news, and therefore the measure of the student movement, than Ayers and wife Bernardine Dohrn could have tricked Reagan's Justice Department and the Attorneys General of New York and Illinois into not prosecuting them for publicly-confessed crimes.

And what about today? Did Ayers somehow manipulate the Times into publishing his guest editorial?

According to guest editorial ('op-ed') page editor David Shipley, the Times won't publish op-eds by people whose views are already widely available unless they "say something forthright and unexpected." No "press releases," please.

Really? Then why did Shipley publish Ayers' op-ed, which is the same as what Ayers said, in virtually the same words, on "Good Morning America," on National Public Radio (three times), on "Hardball," on "Democracy Now," in The Washington Post etc., etc.?

Every Wednesday the Times emails its subscribers five articles from the preceding week. How cunning Ayers is, manipulating those naifs at the Times into including his op-ed in their latest mailing! What a trickster, luring them into including his photo (below, extreme right) and even picking one with the right look: Abused Dignity, Weary but Unbowed.

Oh clever "lunatic"!

The Prophet Bill: Exasperated, but still holding out for Human Potential. (Ayers, extreme right).
– From New York Times email, "Top 5 Viewed Features on," Wed, 10. Dec 2008 19:34:49 -0500

Ayers' editorial begs refutation. He claims the Weathermen staged:

"attacks on property, never on people, [which] were meant to respect human life..."
[My emphasis – J.I.]

–"The Real Bill Ayers," Op-ed [3]

Bombs "meant to respect human life"!

What about that explosion in 1970, one year after Ayers and friends created Weatherman? The one that leveled a building, killing three, just before the Weathermen changed their name to 'Weather Underground'?

According to Real Bill that was:

"an accidental explosion that claimed the lives of three of our comrades in Greenwich Village."
[My emphasis – J.I.]


Whoever wrote Ayers' copy picked his words with care:

A) The phrase "accidental explosion" gently guides readers to imagine a leaking gas line or some such. An accident; nobody's fault.

B) Notice that the construction, "an accidental explosion that claimed the lives," makes Providence responsible, not Weather-leaders Ayers, Dohrn and Mark Rudd.

Perhaps Bill has forgotten that in his book, Fugitive Days, he stated that what blew up was sticks of dynamite, sufficient to level the four-storey, brick building, with more dynamite found unexploded in the rubble, enough "to level a city block"
[4] .

Where did the Weathermen get all that dynamite? Fugitive Days says they stole it (a felony), taking it across state lines (a felony), to make bombs (possibly prosecutable under Federal racketeering law). They planned to pack the bombs with:

"a box of carpenter nails to transform this into something deadly, something unspeakable."

– William Ayers, Fugitive Days, p. 273 [5]

For what targets? The Times interviewed Weather-leader Brian Flanagan and:

 "When pressed, he said he regretted the deaths of the three Weathermen Ted Gold, Diana Oughton and Terry Robbins [killed in that "accidental explosion" – J.I.] and the plan to bomb the dance at Fort Dix and the library at Columbia, which could have taken lives."
[My emphasis – J.I.]

The New York Times, August 24, 2003 [6]

Notice that, sticking to the line that the Weathermen made "attacks on property, never on people," Flanagan (or the Times interviewer) states that, "the plan...could have taken lives," as if death would have been a possible, unintended side effect.  Nonsense. Nobody packs bombs full of dynamite and carpenter nails unless their goal is to maim and kill, and successfully exploding such bombs in busy Butler Library (the target at Columbia) and a non-commissioned officers' dance full of young soldiers and their non-soldier girlfriends, would have meant two massacres. No "could" about it.
Butler Library. The bomb was to be many sticks of dynamite packed with carpenter nails. Image from

Thus, if, as Ayers wrote in his book, the Greenwich Village explosion resulted from human error, then it was an error made constructing bombs for mass murder, and it is absurd to describe the explosion and resulting deaths as "accidental."

Ayers claims the Weathermen never killed anyone; they just placed "several small bombs in empty offices" to protest the Vietnam War. Try telling that to Josephine Paige, widow of  Brink's guard Peter Paige, executed by a Weatherman-Black Liberation Army gang robbing an armored truck. That was on Oct. 20, 1981, six years after the end of the Vietnam war. In an article entitled "World Shattered for Slain Guard's Widow," the Washington Post reported:

"As Kelly pushed the button to open the back compartment [of the Brink's truck – J.I.], a red Chevy van screeched up and three masked robbers jumped out. In seconds, without a word spoken, they shot Paige, who fell face down and died without having drawn his gun. Trombino's left arm, riddled with bullets, was permanently crippled."
[My emphasis – J.I.]

The Washington Post, April 23, 1984 [7]

Gunned down without a word!

Mrs. Paige asked:

"Why did they have to kill him? Why couldn't they just take the money?"
[My emphasis – J.I.]


Weather-leader Kathy Boudin and at least four other Weather-members were in that gang, which had been staging major robberies since 1976.

After the robbery, one getaway truck was stopped at a police roadblock. A police witness testified that Boudin got out and persuaded Sgt. Edward O'Grady to have one of his men put away his shotgun:

"Seconds later, the officer said, two gunmen burst from the rear of the truck and began shooting at the officers [killing two, including O'Grady – J.I.]."

The New York Times, October 6, 1982 [8]


Conceived in terror


Ayers' writes that the Weathermen were not terrorists because:

"we were not engaged in a campaign to kill and injure people indiscriminately, spreading fear and suffering for political ends."

– "The Real Bill Ayers," Op-ed [See footnote 3]

Contrary to Ayers, terrorism does not necessarily involve killing (although, as noted above, the Weathermen are guilty of murder).

Terror is correctly defined as:

"The use of violence and threats to intimidate or coerce, esp. for political purposes."
[My emphasis – J.I.]

Random House Unabridged Dictionary [9]

In order to coerce a group one must of course choose what group to coerce, so, again contrary to Ayers, successful terror cannot be indiscriminate.

Terrorist intimidation works by the creation of a directed atmosphere of threatened violence, which has been the Weather-leaders' modus operandi since they opened shop, leading a minority of delegates to bolt from the SDS National Convention in June 1969.

Terrorist leaders may actually desire their stated goals, or they may have quite different, hidden goals.  Observing the atmosphere of threat that the soon-to-be Weather-leaders created at the 1969 SDS convention, it was my opinion – I was co-leader of the Worker student Alliance (WSA) caucus, which opposed them there – that the Weather-leaders wanted: a) to intimidate and drive away the uncommitted, thus isolating the student movement;  b) to induce a state of pliable hysteria among their followers (a couple of said followers are paying for said pliability by spending their lives in jail) and c) to ensconce violent irrationalism on the Left.


Another 40 years?


Having told the lie that the Weathermen were just antiwar protesters who "did carry out symbolic acts of extreme vandalism" – so, idealistic vandals – Ayers assures us that:

"I cannot imagine engaging in actions of that kind today. And for the past 40 years, I've been teaching and writing about the unique value and potential of every human life, and the need to realize that potential through education."
[My emphasis – J.I.]

– "The Real Bill Ayers," Op-ed [See footnote 3]

Two thoughts:

1) Notice the generosity of spirit with which Ayers describes Ayers.  Who could be angry with a man who has spent 40 years seeking out that very special something buried in each and every child?

2) What is it with "40 years"?  As you may recall, Obama repeated "many times" (his words) the false claim that Ayers only did despicable things 40 years ago.
[10] And now here comes Ayers saying he has been teaching and writing about "unique value and potential" for – how long was that? – 40 years! What, do these guys have the same writers?

Ayers says he co-led a group that carried out "symbolic acts of extreme vandalism," but then, for the next 40 years, he championed "every human life," especially kids. Taking him at his word, that has him 'championing the child' starting December 1968, i.e., six months before he, future wife Bernardine, Mike Klonsky and Mark Rudd led the future Weathermen out of the SDS convention in June 1969.

Following said exit, the majority, which remained, continued  publishing the SDS newspaper New Left Notes, while the several hundred who left declared they were SDS and published what amounted to a pirated version of New Left Notes.

According to Ayers' timetable, he was ten months into teaching people to realize their unique value through education when his pirated version of New Left Notes proudly reported:

– Weatherman version of New Left Notes, Aug. 29, 1969

Regarding this, the New York Times accurately reported that in:

– "Vandals [sic!] in the Mother Country," The N.Y. Times, Jan. 4, 1970

Likewise, ever in pursuit of changing and growing, Ayers' newspaper published the following self-criticism from some Columbus Ohio Weathermen (Weatherwomen, really) who invaded a woman's home during a 'Stanley Party,' where one invites friends over and the Stanley company sells them house wares.

– Weatherman rip-off of New Left Notes, Aug. 29, 1969

So: invading people's homes and putting their guests "up against the wall" is "organizing," just as breaking into their exams and attacking them with karate is 'education,' and blowing up buildings is "respect[ing] human life."

And Ayers was 'on the side of the child' when he, Dohrn and Rudd ran the following picture and caption on the front page of their rip-off of New Left Notes:

Under the picture was the caption: "With a defiant smile, 5-year old Marion Delgado shows how he placed a 25-pound concrete slab on the tracks and wrecked a passenger train." According to the Weathermen, there were fatalities.
– Published by the Ayers/Dohrn/Rudd pirate version of New Left Notes, August 29, 1969

Notice the slogan over the picture: "Bring the War Home!" The picture made it clear how Ayers was telling people to do the 'bringing,' but in case anyone missed it, Weatherman adopted the slogan, "Marion Delgado, Live Like Him!"

Is it surprising that Weatherman called its maiden demonstrations in Chicago in October 1969, "Days of Rage"?


Once again, a media creation stalks the earth


Everyone in the campus student movement made mistakes and/or had at least some mistaken views. I could write a book about my own.  But as the picture and texts above show, Weatherman came to life in a tantrum of hostility to the people. And the Weather-leaders took their horror show on the road.

A September 1969 Harvard Crimson article describing the widespread antiwar activities by various groups that fall, reported that Weather-leaders Bill Ayers and Mark Rudd were speaking on campuses around the country to recruit students for their demonstrations, the "Days of Rage," in Chicago in October:

[Excerpts from Harvard Crimson start here]

At Boston University last week, Mark Rudd told his audience, "You're fools if you don't get guns and join the Revolution."


Bill Ayers, an organizer for RYM's ['RYM' stands for 'Revolutionary Youth Movement,' the Weathermen – J.I.] national action, told a Marquette University SDS chapter to bring baseball bats, clubs, helmets, and firecrackers to Chicago.


Students in different parts of the country have reported different instructions, but general policy seems to favor coming armed with any weapons short of guns. These may range from clubs and baseball bats to firecrackers and black widow spiders in jars. There are, however, some planning to bring guns as well; Mark Rudd flatly told his B. U. audience that people will be killed in Chicago.
[My emphasis – J.I.]

– The Harvard Crimson, September 30, 1969 [11]

[Excerpts from Harvard Crimson ends here]

As you can see, Ayers self-criticism, that he and his Weather-fodder were vandals, really does not capture the spirit of the thing.

According to the Crimson, Ayers predicted that around 20,000 would descend on Chicago for the Weathermen's "Days of Rage."  In fact, only several hundred, mainly hard-core supporters showed up. This could not have come as a big surprise to Ayers and Rudd. Going from campus to campus, telling students to bring clubs, baseball bats and black widow spiders in jars to the 'Days of Rage,' and that "you're fools if you don't get guns" because "people will be killed in Chicago," and trying to give people buttons with the slogan, "Marion Delgado, Live like Him," Ayers and Rudd had to notice that anyone who was neither suffering from a tragic mental illness nor too stoned to know whether he was at a meeting or a Halloween party had reacted with disbelief or outright horror to this pitch.  Indeed, given the overwhelmingly negative reaction (as evidenced by the turnout: about 2% of Ayers' prediction), one wonders what could have sustained Ayers and Rudd, going from campus to campus, turning people off to the student movement, unless of course that was their purpose.

Be that as it may, in the fall of 1969 – a crucial time – the Weathermen did reach many students, with a predictably horrendous effect.

In 1970, the Weather-leaders changed tactics, switching from "organizing" (preaching insanity to students, to get them involved in action, which action consisted of launching terror attacks on working people, in order to educate them) to "going underground" (bombings, bizarre taped 'communiqués' from Ayers' future wife, Bernardine Dohrn, and armed robberies/murders).  All of it, the 'organizing' and the 'underground,' was mass-reported by newspapers and TV.

Inflated by media coverage, the Weathermen smeared the student movement and promoted black-white enmity. In addition, the Weathermen and allied black groups were utilized to promote irrationalism on the left: the gangsterization of the politics of dissent. 'Militant,' once used as an adjective to describe enthusiastic trade unionists, morphed into a noun, meaning 'gunman.'

Today, amidst increasing economic and political discontent, the media has exhumed the Weather-leaders and is portraying them as 'champions of the child' with a history of self-sacrificing idealism – visionaries of the Left.

If you find yourself drawn to this vaseline-coated-lense view of Weather-leaders such as Ayers, Dohrn, Mark Rudd and Jeff Jones, shake yourself and consider the following:

1) Why was Weather-member Cathy Wilkerson sentenced to three years for illegal possession of explosives in the Greenwich Village explosion, but Weather-leaders Ayers, Dohrn, Mark Rudd and Jeff Jones were never even charged, although all were admittedly involved?

2) There is no statute of limitations for bombing Federal buildings. Weather-member Laura Whitehorn got 20 years for being part of a conspiracy in the 1983 bombing of the U.S. Capitol.
[12] In his book, Fugitive Days, Ayers admitted being part of a Weatherman conspiracy that bombed the Capitol and the Pentagon in the 1970s. The book came out in 2001, during a Republican administration. Why is Ayers writing from Hyde Park instead of Leavenworth?

3) In 1984, Weather-member Susan Rosenberg was sentenced to 58 years for illegal possession of weapons (she served 16 before Clinton pardoned her). In 1982, Weather-leader Jeff Jones and wife Eleanor Raskin were arrested on a 1979 charge of running a New Jersey bomb factory, plus illegal flight. Multiple felonies. She was released on $100,000 bail; he was kept in jail.

What was Jones' final sentence? 18 months probation plus 6 months community service, as if he were a petty thief arrested for the first time.

Jones' explanation?

"'The judge, I believe, saw us as a family that was coming out the other side of this political experience,' Jeff recalled recently."

– AP, January 18, 2005 [14]

Ah, of course. No judge would jail a struggling bomb factory proprietor with a family. (After all, the judge has a family too.)

4) On February 16, 1982, star New York Times journalist M. A. Farber reported evidence that Bernardine Dohrn was an accessory in the Brink's-Black Liberation Army gang's crimes.
[15] Dohrn never sued the Times or even protested; the Times never retracted; the government never charged Dohrn. Why?

Why have the Weathermen been jailed in inverse proportion to their positions of leadership?

And why are the New York Times and other leading establishment media giving tens of millions of dollars worth of free, indeed reverent, publicity to Bill Ayers, a top leader of a group which the Times accurately described in 1981 as lunatics targeting working people?

Jared Israel
Editor, Emperor's Clothes (TENC)


Footnotes and Further Reading


TENC is in the midst of a series on the Weatherman whitewash. Four articles are posted, with more on the way:

Part 1: Bill Ayers: The Provocateur Exhumed

Part 2: Obama's "I-was-only-8" Lie

Part 3: Obama Forgets the Early '80s

Part 4: A Weatherman Dream in New York

Part 5: St. Joan of Arc, and Broadway Baby
In progress – will be posted at

[1] "Up From the Underground," The New York Times, October 23, 1981, Friday, Late City Final Edition, Section A; Page 30, Column 1; Editorial Desk, 350 words

[2] "And Now a Word From Op-Ed," by David Shipley, February 1, 2004, at  [query_nytimes_com]

[3] "The Real Bill Ayers," The New York Times, Dec. 5, 2008

[4] "Ex-radical leader starts 3-year prison term," UPI, January 15, 1981, Thursday, AM cycle, Domestic News, 388 words, by Paula Schwed

[5] William Ayers, Fugitive Days, Boston, Beacon Press, 2001, p. 273

[6] "Quieter Lives for 60's Militants, but Intensity of Beliefs Hasn't Faded," The New York Times, August 24, 2003, by Daniel J. Wakin, at

[7] "Surviving: World Shattered for Slain Guard's Widow, The Washington Post, April 23, 1984, Monday, Final Edition 
First Section; A1, 1464 words, by Margot Hornblower

[8] "News Summary," The New York Times,
October 6, 1982, Wednesday, Late City Final Edition
Section B; Page 1, Column 1; Metropolitan Desk, 925 words

[9] Unabridged (v 1.1). Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2006

[10] "'Why don't we just clear it up right now,' Obama told ABC News' Charlie Gibson in an exclusive interview for World News. 'I'll repeat again what I've said many times. This is a guy who engaged in some despicable acts 40 years ago when I was eight years old.'"
[My emphasis – J.I.]
"Democratic Contender Discusses Economy in Post-Debate Exclusive with Charlie Gibson," by Katie Escherich and Lauren Sher, October 8, 2008
Archived at

[11] "Must Be the Season of the War; At Least One October Protest Will Mean Guns," The Harvard Crimson, September 30, 1969, by Carol R. Sternhell
Archived at

[12] "Two Are Sentenced in 1983 Capitol Bombing," The Washington Post, December 7, 1990, Friday, Final Edition, Metro; Page B10, 452 words, by Tracy Thompson

[13] United Press International, October 29, 1981, Thursday, AM cycle, By Dan Collins, Domestic News, 767 words, New York

[14] "Son's book chronicles a radical family tree," The Associated Press, January 18, 2005, Tuesday, BC cycle, , Entertainment News, 1419 words, Dateline: Woodstock, N.Y., by Marc Humbert

[15] "Behind the Brink's Case: Return of the Radical Left," The New York Times, February 16, 1982, Tuesday, Late City Final Edition, by M.A. Farber, Section A; page 1, Column 2


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