Author Topic: Bill Ayers: Terrorist or academic?  (Read 4043 times)

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Offline Sal Atticum

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Bill Ayers: Terrorist or academic?
« on: March 30, 2008, 01:13:00 pm »
If you don't know who he is, I'm sure you can Google a half-dozen sites that explain him as either one.  The DS comments have some points of view.

The question I would like to ask is whether or not a person should be judged on one action in their life, or on one belief.  Does Ayers' involvement in bombings decades ago have anything to do with his actions as a professor?  Contrariwise, if someone is a truly excellent person up until a certain age and then snaps, do we judge him as having a lapse in judgement or do we condemn him for their most recent actions.

Does a person's actions effect the truth or falsity of their speech (or vice-versa)? 

I admit I haven't formulated a good opinion in this case yet, but I'm interested in what people think.
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Offline Sal Atticum

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Re: Bill Ayers: Terrorist or academic?
« Reply #1 on: April 01, 2008, 05:12:44 pm »
A recent article in the Grand Forks Herald calls for the new SDS to not follow the "fanatic" path of the old one.  It does not allow comments, so I'll comment here.

Frankly, the loose connection between Bill Ayers being at one time part of SDS and him later being part of Weather Underground (which resorted to violence against property in an attempt to get their point across), therefore meaning that SDS is on the brink of being a fanatical anti-American terrorist cell, is rather over the top.

If SDS invites Bill Ayers to UND to speak, does that mean they are violent?  No.  It doesn't even mean they support whatever views he holds on the subject of violent opposition to the government.  It just means that they are interested in what he has to say--not that they are going to follow in his footsteps.

"What company SDS keeps" is not for someone else to decide--it is for SDS to decide.

The Herald Article has "slippery slope" written all over it--and reeks of condescension.  Yes, those of us who are students today were not alive when Ayers was trying to blow up buildings, but give us a little credit, and let us make our own mistakes.

Changing topics a bit, the DS article (by Ryan Johnson) today on the subject cites Harald Brevik (president of Young Americans for Freedom, ironically) as saying "that he wasn't concerned that Ayers would sway students, because he knew that they are too well educated from their time at UND to be 'brainwashed.'"  So why all the fuss?  If you trust students to make their own decision, why try to block Ayers from speaking?  Why not let everyone have their free speech (remember, Young Americans for Freedom!) and let students make their own choices?  If you don't want to listen, you don't have to go.

I may not agree with Ayers' methods, but I think he should be allowed to speak.  I'm just wondering what those opposed to him speaking are really afraid of.
JUST EXTRA POLISH. I DO SOME WORK WITH EXCELL SO I KEEP THE CAPS LOCK ON :-P

Offline Sal Atticum

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Re: Bill Ayers: Terrorist or academic?
« Reply #2 on: April 05, 2008, 03:33:35 pm »
Since I'm still sort of doing research in this area, here's an interesting quotation:

Quote
Theophrastus Bombastus said...

    With only a few exceptions American universities and colleges have been taken over by committed Leftists who are sympathetic to all the fringe groups and radical individuals that hate America and advocate its destruction. It seems to be worse at state institutions where there is little oversight of activities and practically unlimited financial resources.

    The only people that can change the situation are the taxpayers who finance the marxist/anarchist demagogues on campus and students and parents who demand an education and not indoctrination for their hard-earned dollar.

    Mike Adams (on townhall.com) and David Horowitz (frontpagemagazine.com)have done a good job chronicling these abuses in our colleges and universities and exposing the worst of the moon bat activists.
Source

What do you think of the bolded part?  Do you think that students at every college and university are being indoctrinated against their will?  I would contend not, since it's everyone's right to attend what they want to attend.  It's everyone's right to contest their professors if they appear to proselytize.  It's everyone's right to plug their ears and go "LALALALALALALALA" when they hear an idea they don't agree with.  So why all this fear of different ideas?  Do people in the "real world" not trust students to make good judgements?  After all, you are (as you say) paying for their education, and why would you do that if you had no faith in it making them decent, well-rounded, intelligent adults who can tell the B.S. when it comes flying their way?

I invite you to try to shut down free speech of any sort on a college campus, especially if you're saying it should be shut down because those ideas might actually change people's minds.  Indoctrination is the problem here, but not the way this person is advocating it--you're indoctrinated if you believe one thing and will accept no alternatives.  THAT is what the person quoted is afraid of: that his careful indoctrination of everyone around him will fall apart once those people realize the wool is being held over their eyes to protect them from something that he thinks is too complicated for them to make their own decisions about.

You don't have to believe everything you hear, contrary to what some people might tell you.  Judge ideas for their own merits, not for whether they go against what you believe.
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Offline Sal Atticum

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Re: Bill Ayers: Terrorist or academic?
« Reply #3 on: April 07, 2008, 08:44:27 am »
Letters in the Grand Forks Herald:
Quote
GRAND FORKS — The headline of the the March 30 editorial reads, “New SDS must shun fanaticism” (Page D1).

The editorial implies that the invitation SDS members extended to former Weather Underground member Bill Ayers belies a tacit approval of fanatical violence.

I would like to suggest another possibility: namely, that the invitation represents a sincere attempt for the new SDS to come to terms with and move beyond its own, sometimes violent, history.

The first thing that should be acknowledged is that inviting someone to speak does not in itself constitute an endorsement of that person’s current opinions and actions, much less his/her opinions and actions of some 40 years ago. The only thing we are justified in assuming about such an invitation is that the organization extending it must consider the speaker’s viewpoint to be an important one for the discussions that organization wishes to further.

One such discussion potentially furthered by the invitation from SDS to Bill Ayers (and it is a discussion to which the editorial itself contributes) concerns the role of violence in political protest. Given the history of SDS, this is a pivotal discussion for the group to be engaged in. The fact that they have opened up this dialogue signals their acknowledgement of the burden of their own history.

The editorial questions whether the new SDS ought to bring Ayers into this discussion. But it seems obvious to me that a movement newly dedicated to peaceful protest has a profound interest in speaking with people who have, at times, found violence appealing. There are the conversations from which SDS would learn much about moving beyond the temptation to seek political change through violence. Such conversations certainly would prove more helpful to that end than the one the editorial proposes through its simplistic dismissal of political violence as something only fringe groups such as Klansmen and anti-Semites engage in (as if our current war in Iraq does not constitute violence unsanctioned by the majority of American citizens).

Unfortunately, the editorial seems more concerned with the symbolism of SDS being associated with Ayers than with any actual conversations and possible enlightenment that could be brought about on these complex issues.

I believe SDS should be seen as trying to take responsibility for its history so as to move past it. This is the assumption we must make if we are to take at face value the words of the UND chapter of SDS that they are a “nonviolent social action group.” The only other option is to assume the worst and doubt the sincerity of SDS members, as the editorial does. But to insist on such doubts is to place a stumbling block in front of new positive possibilities for political engagement.

June Panic
Source

Quote
VIEWPOINT: Violence, no; direct action, resisting injustice, yes
By Brian James Schill, Grand Forks Herald
Published Sunday, April 06, 2008
GRAND FORKS — The March 30 editorial is correct to suggest that, as the headline declares, the “New SDS should shun fanaticism” (Page D1).

But the editorial itself is problematic for several reasons, the least of which is the double standard it seems to apply to grass-roots groups when compared to the state itself.

First, despite the student group’s documented disavowal of violence, the editorial questions its sincerity to the point of fear-mongering, calling SDS’s invitation of Bill Ayers a “wink and a nod” to violence. Absent evidence that the new SDS has engaged in violence, however, the editorial’s equation of “SDS” and “violence” in the same piece is irresponsible in that it infers a correlation when none exists.

Although the editorial is free to imply that SDS acted with a certain naivete in calling the Old Guard out, connoting an affinity for violence on the group’s behalf is presumptuous.

On the contrary, would a Herald editorial decry, for instance, the College Republicans (who oppose Ayers’s visit) for inviting Henry Kissinger or Robert McNamara to campus? Both men endorsed violence to advance narrow political agendas in the 1960s and ’70s. The fact that these examples are “statesmen” should not excuse their horrific use of violence to achieve political goals.

With that said, it is peculiar the editorial ignores the current administration’s actions in Iraq when it condemns political violence and warns SDS that “You can’t use coercion when persuasion doesn’t work.” The privileged earnestness of this line is maddening: Did not the state, lacking reliable intelligence, coerce the public and media into endorsing war with Iraq? Even the mainstream media admits this.

I do not advocate violence and have no affiliation with SDS. However, if the issue raised by the editorial is violence, let us state two obvious, if often ignored, facts:

- Political violence is at times necessary and even can be justified. This is as true for nations as for individuals or groups under oppression, whether 19th-century slaves or contemporary Chinese dissidents.

Violence is not the preferred choice for the vast majority of dissenters, but we must recall that it often is violence and coercion by the state to which groups such as the Weathermen respond.

Thus, the second point:

- States often use force, if not unjustified violence outright, against their own citizens. Obvious recent examples include the horrendous treatment of civil rights marchers in the 1960s and social justice movement protesters in Seattle, Miami and elsewhere in the new century.

Finally, the editorial suggests that we must call for change in exclusively systematic ways, arguing America “has an honorable system for citizens to influence the government.” But the editorial never says what this system is. And if the paper is referring only to a system that allows citizens to vote once every four years, it sounds as undemocratic as the current administration, which basically wants the taxpaying public to butt out of government work.

For instance, when a journalist informed Dick Cheney of a recent poll that showed a majority of Americans do not believe Iraq was worth fighting, he responded with, “So?” Asked by reporters about Cheney’s remark, an annoyed White House press secretary explained, “The American people have input every four years, and that’s the way our system is set up.”

One cannot help but recoil at the notion that grass-roots organizing and activism, public opinion and maybe even physical resistance to injustice are somehow irrelevant to democracy and that the state alone has a say in how affairs of state are handled.

The frivolity with which the editorial treats democratic, free and nonviolent dissent is troubling and itself hints at coercion. Direct action is hardly a synonym for violence; it suggests a refusal to be a mere spectator or object of state and is perhaps the most democratic action citizens can take.

Schill is undergraduate research coordinator for the UND Honors Program.
Source
JUST EXTRA POLISH. I DO SOME WORK WITH EXCELL SO I KEEP THE CAPS LOCK ON :-P

 

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