David Thompson


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August 27, 2008



'Ayers, now a professor at the University of Illinois, Chicago, served with Barack Obama on the board of the charitable Woods Fund of Chicago for three years and helped launch Obama's political career in Illinois by hosting in his Hyde Park home an informal campaign event for the future state senator in 1995. Ayers claimed the Weathermen were driven by "hope and love," not despair, and said he did not think the group's violent acts, targeting federal officials and local law enforcement officers, were "a big deal."'

On the right it's called fascism. On the left it's just edgy.

Steve in San Diego

I believe Ayers was peddling a memoir at the time. Here's another smarmy profile published in August 2001. Get a load of the photograph.


Steve in San Diego

Oh sorry, here is the Sept. 2001 NYT gush:


Killing people with dynamite is treated as a lifestyle choice by reporters. If somebody tried that on Ayers, I assume he would not object to having the perpetrator sent to prison.




Thanks for that. I can’t help wondering whether a comparable non-leftwing figure would find such accommodation in academia.

Mark T

Completely OT, but are you aware Harry's Place has been taken down?

Full story here -


Elsewhere Zoe Williams is bang on form -

"Are white middle-class men the most intelligent in society? Are they the only ones with the natural authority to convey complex issues to the rest of us? If not, they shouldn't dominate the landscape, even if sloughing off their hegemony entails unfairness at the level of the odd individual."



To me, it goes beyond Obama-Ayers. What we have is an influential ideology that refuses to acknowledge that it, too, can produce extremists.

Left-minded people don’t NEED to acknowledge it. So, they never need to contemplate it. They never need to measure their views against the extremists in their midst, and ask, “Am I too close to them? Should I consider the danger that my stance can be taken to an extreme? Could I become one of them if I’m not careful?”

It’s fair to say that the right does not have this luxury, and it’s probably stronger for it. Obama could have benefitted from a few warning stickers attached to the lapels of Ayers and Rev. Wright. As it is, I think he is genuinely surprised that these men became issues. Ayers and Wright are very much respected in their liberal circles because of their views. Democrats have never paid a price for associating with left-wing extremists. Never. Until now. Obama must be wondering, “Why now? Why did they change the rules now?”

The next time you’re debating a lefty about who is/is not a left-wing “extremist” try this: Tell them you’ll let THEM name a left-wing extremist. Name one. Name a group. They can pick it. Usually, you can force them to just say it – they don’t think there is such a thing. If there was, they think, surely they would have been told about them before now.



Well, I think leftwing extremism has a youthful cachet that isn’t so readily found elsewhere on the political spectrum. As a teenager I saw people wearing Lenin badges without a flicker of irony. Those wearing them no doubt imagined they were being daring and “transgressive”. For some people role-play is terribly important, and never quite outgrown.

I’m not sure what the precise level of ostracism should be for those, like Ayers, who show no contrition for past sins. But I find it remarkable that so little stigma is apparent. There is a double standard here, whereby leftwing extremism, even of the most contemptible kind, is excused as some youthful exuberance or badge of credibility. I’m trying to picture a deranged ultra-rightwing academic still being employed, even acclaimed, despite his past attempts at sedition and indiscriminate murder, and despite such “radical” statements as, “break into the homes of poor people and kill them. That’s where it’s really at.”

Well, hey there, daddio...


Poor Zoe is rarely the best ambassador for her own arguments. And, again, it’s curious how gross unfairness suddenly becomes okay if it’s inflicted to “slough off hegemony”.

virgil xenophon

Anna & CJ both pretty much hit the nail on the head. Left-wing extremists? Nobody here but us "edgy" chickens!

Mark T


I doubt unfairness to the 'odd individual' would 'obviously' become acceptable if the odd individual in question was, say.... her.


More of Zoe’s dazzling insights can be found below:




It would, I think, be entertaining to spend five minutes inside her head, just to see how it all works, insofar as it does. But not a minute longer.



I understand how the youngsters think it’s groovy…it’s the grownups that bug me. Obama was, what, 33, when he launched his career in the home of Ayers? He was but a wee tyke! And, of course, the kids wearing the Che shirts are just embracing the establishment-approved anti-establishment figures.

And while I’m at it…the media description of Ayers as “a 60s radical” is beyond misleading. It’s inaccurate. They planted their bombs in the 1970s. Ayers’ wife went to jail for refusing to testify against the driver of a getaway car in a robbery in which two police officers and an armored-car guard were murdered. In 1981. So, Ayers and his lovely wife can’t claim “youthful” exuberance, and neither can Obama.

You’re darn right there’s a double-standard regarding the stigmatization of right-wing vs. left-wing extremists, but only if you believe that left-wing extremism is possible. I think that mainstream interpretations of U.S. history argue that it is simply not possible. “Radicals”? Sure. “Revolutionaries”? Maybe. “Extremists”? No way.

Horace Dunn

From the Chicago Magazine article cited by Steve, above:

"There you have the complexity of Ayers: a man who once tried to overthrow his country's government and now works for a state university; an opponent of the bourgeoisie who has been married for 20 years; a left-wing radical who loves a good cup of imperialist coffee."

Complexity? Does she really mean complexity? Surely what she's descibing here is mere hypocrisy. Or am I missing something?



“Does she really mean complexity?”

People who find Ayers vaguely titillating are unlikely to describe him as he actually is. That would reflect badly on them. Hence “complexity” instead of the more obvious alternatives: hypocrisy, incoherence, jaw-dropping pretension. That kind of thing.

Steve in San Diego


Perhaps a comparable case would be a right-wing militia type who killed some people in a bank robbery or a bombing, e.g. Timothy McVeigh et al; who then escaped retribution on a legal technicality. The lawmen did not read Miranda rights after apprehension on the rim of the smoldering crater or something.

Oh, never mind. Those sorts of people don't get advanced degrees, don't have millionaire parents, and therefore would not teach at universities. I can't complete the thought experiment.

Maybe said lucky weirdo could teach a course at the local Learning Annex. ("Black Helicopters, Jews, and the NWO - What White People Need to Know. All students welcome. Cash or debit card only.)"

The Ayers case is as sick as that.

I think a crucial thing to keep in mind is all the years the Ayers/Dohrn case cooled while they were on the run. Our society has a memory problem. Half-life (tau) of a shocking news event is about six months. A(t) = A0*exp(-t/tau), where "A(t)" is of course notoriety as a function of time, A0 is notoriety at time zero, and t is the corrosive variable time. Five half-lives and you're pretty much home free, in average public opinion.

Statute of limitations is a different subject. Yet, it seems to be distantly related for some reason.


It’ll be interesting to see what traction this has in terms of Obama and his “some guy in the neighbourhood” line. (See update, above.) But I’m more interested in the broader amnesia regarding Ayers and, as pointed out earlier, the minimising of his actions and those of his wife and associates. I still doubt that a comparable figure with extreme rightwing politics would receive such a gentle interview or be photographed in a similar, vaguely salacious, way. Would Chicago magazine opt to photograph, say, a former fire-bomber as he held a match outside a modern abortion clinic? Or would that be regarded as being in poor taste?

Horace Dunn


'Hence “complexity” instead of the more obvious alternatives: hypocrisy, incoherence, jaw-dropping pretension. That kind of thing'

The other alternative to add to the list might be ridiculousness. Leaving aside the morality, or lack thereof, in Ayers's views, surely the sight of a comfortable, middle-aged establishment figure showing all the political sophistication of a “smash-the-system” school-boy ought to elicit a snort of laughter rather than the earnest response of the Chicago mag’s reporter.



Indeed. Ayers is ridiculous, as people like him generally are. But his pretensions are hardly uncommon and I think the avoidance of terms like “ridiculous” tells us something about the interviewer. And, perhaps, the intended readership.


"Complexity? Does she really mean complexity? Surely what she's descibing here is mere hypocrisy. Or am I missing something?"

She illustrates, once again, how so many journalists are always ready to peddle propaganda on behalf of left-wing thugs.


"It would, I think, be entertaining to spend five minutes inside her head, just to see how it all works, insofar as it does."

OK if you like rabbits and wide open spaces. Anyway, she can't have her eyes open - in the liberal media it is white, middle-class women who dominate. Let's slough off their hegemony by sacking 99% of them. Even 1% of patronising leftist shit is bad, but it would be manageable.

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