Jerry West writes: "I was a bit impressed with the New World Liberation Front who tried to make a point of not hurting anyone while they were blowing things up. " In this regard, they but carried on a recent national tradition. In 1971, Scanlan's (I:8) published an issue devoted mainly to itemizing domestic bombings. I forget whether it was from there only or other sources also that I derived a cumulative estimate of 5,000 - 8,000 for the period 1965-72; whether the peak average was 6 or 8 bombings per day; and whether this total referred only to bombings or included also "fire-bombings" and other arson at military and commercial targets. Whichever, the total was staggering -- but scarcely incredible, given the widespread and anarchic character of our dissent; the agonizing political textures of that period; and the paradoxical tendency of mainstream media to suppress reference to this national phenomenon as such, which perhaps extended to underground media as well. (*) In retrospect, this cumulative figure -- which I suspect dates almost entirely after the first violence against the anti-war movement in April 1967, and perhaps not till after that fall -- is so significant that I hope someone more knowledgeable than I will confirm or discredit it. As it stands, it implies several things. One is that this massive wave of bombings was carried out with remarkable caution and regard for human life. So far as I know, the fatalities were limited to one late researcher in the U. Wisconsin math building bombing, an unwished accident; and several Weatherman in the Manhattan townhouse explosion. Here again, as my knowledge and recollection are quite fragmentary, I hope that someone better informed will tally up the scores. As these stand here, this wave of largely-unpublicized sabotage may be said to have been quite scrupulous in distinguishing between people and property -- or in other language that may draw reproof, to have been quite pure of heart, and quite responsible in this regard, howsoever inefficient otherwise in execution. In such qualities, I venture to suggest, lay the organic connection between this front of activity and the peace-love-good-vibesness of the "hippie" axis. Another implication of the cumulative figure is to emphasize the tendency of Sixties apologists and allied historians to avert consideration of this dimension of activism; and to undermine their tendencies to attribute the wave of "reckless" bombings (or such of it as they recognize) largely and merely to a perverse alliance of police provocateurs and sectarian vanguardists crazed with vainglory. Granted, that "intelligence" agencies throughout the nation infiltrated provocateurs into radicals' open ranks to inspire discrediting actions, including many bombings where such connection was exposed and doubtless many more. But if the sum of such were really some thousands, or even many hundreds of bombings, I find it hard in the first place to conceive that some among this array of undisciplined, uncontrollable, and merciless agents of power would not have recognized the discrediting value of bombings that killed innocents -- and hard in the second to conceive that the recklessness of such agents, putatively driving and leading this wave, would not have occasioned some deaths accidentally even without their intention. In sum, I doubt that the afore-specified "perverse alliance" accounted directly for more than a small fraction of the cumulative total of bombings and arson. One might argue that their examples stimulated and directed imitation. But even this requires us to consider, in effect, a "popular mainstream" of independent actors and action extending far beyond surveillance and infiltration or direct contact with small, tightly-ingrouped ideological bands; and requires an accounting of their motivations for engaging in such sabatoge, less superficial than merely describing them as mesmerized, undisciplined, and reckless. If we instead subtract such oh-so-readily-identifiable agencies as police and idelogical provocateurs from their presiding, distracting post in the center of our attention to this subject, and instead locate their influence at some remove on the periphery of this "popular mainstream"'s consciousness, though nearer than the romanticized influence of international guerrillas -- as if we were turning a world-map inside out on the pivot of personal consciousness -- we get a quite different picture. Though such peripheral influences were magnified by our own media, we remained more nearly a diverse **public** than a **mass** as we digested them independently in our own feelings and decisions. To speak personally, as one who never so much as broke a window or kicked over a trash-can in protest, I noted in my book in 1971 that some of us had already discussed sabotaging power-lines during the terminal sit-in of the FSM in 1964, well before provocation of such provocation began. The first bombing of the Berkeley draft board office occurred, if I recall aright, after mass frustration with the stifling of VDC marches towards Oakland in fall 1965, but well before hundreds were beaten there while blockading the Induction Center two years later. Conceivably, some police agent was involved; but it's much more likely to have been an independent, personal action, and it was taken as such in popular understanding. I confess that my heart leaped at this, as at later report of the bombing of a particular PGE tower, in uneasy tension with my other, frowning feelings. Being technically-minded and apt to tinker, I enjoyed browsing the recipes in the various versions of The Anarchist Cookbook as these evolved and circulated in the political and then countercultural community. That I never got round to trying any myself, even in a vacant field, may speak less to my innate inhibitions than to circumstance; for I was quite confident that I could do so readily, and a few times -- most noteably after being in Chicago in August 1968, being shot-at during People's Park in 1969, and being gassed by a government helicopter during protest of the Kent/Augusta/Jackson murders in May 1970 -- I clearly imagined and foresaw doing so if things got worse. Had I gone to live in rural isolation as many of my countercultural friends did during this period, I might well have turned sooner and more readily to practical mischief, back in the city or in my locale, perhaps for environment's sake. In putting the matter personally, I mean to suggest two things. One is that my case was more representative than isolated, or was at least quite widely and independently duplicated in every stream and locale of activism, in younger cohorts as in mine, among people as qualified and motivated as I to pursue such tactics in that era's surges of despair. The other is that although it is convenient to characterize the massive tapestry of bombings as the work of a distinct catagory of duped and misguided Bombers, including at most two thousand such, the phenomenon can scarcely be understood in this perspective. More nearly, I think -- or at least also, in significant ways -- this scattered array of volunteers for the assignment represented a tendency that enlisted a thousand times as many among us in more partial degree, as it enlisted me. In this sense, despite all fastidious efforts at disavowal, I think the bombers were truly among my representatives and ours, though not to be misjudged as such simplistically in single mind. Moreover, I think their exploration of sabotage was **necessary**, in a sense somewhat stronger than **inevitable**. So to speak, they occupied a fundamental niche in the political ecology of the time, exercising a distinct form of political speech in a manner quite responsible in some regards, as I've remarked. (To describe the bombings so is not to dignify them falsely, nor to confess a more simplistic sympathy than I've expressed, which some may already find cause for pillory.) Insofar as they expressed popular sentiment and impulse, I imagine that if these few thousands of actual Bombers had been literally removed from the overall scene, or neutralized by religious conversion, a tapestry of bombings and other sabotage not greatly less extensive would have resulted from other actors among us, moved as obscurely as these were to their roles. Michael Rossman <firstname.lastname@example.org> (*) Re this last point: One might think that mainstream media would automatically have exploited the sensationalism of these incidents and their overall development. But one effect of the Scanlan's study was to document instead the degree to which they held back from this -- for the very premise of the Scanlan's issue was to publicize the repressed subject of "guerrilla war in the U.S." Granted, there were enough local and national reports of particular bombings and arson to stimulate public fears of anti-war activists, Black Panthers, and hippies as violent crazies. But in retrospect, and thinking back to the easy mechanisms that whipped up anti-Red hysteria in the preceding era, that Scanalan's issue makes it evident that a far more systematic and vicious campaign of dyscreditation and hysteria-mongering could readily have been mounted against us by coordination of "intelligence" and media forces. If I am correct in this assessment, the fact that its force was deferred begs for explanation. The only obvious factor I can see amounts to this: In sharp contrast to the previous situation with Reds, key authorities feared that publicizing such incidents and activity would encourage their multiplication -- not only by advertising such tactics as popular, but also by inadvertantly publicizing the low risk of their perpetration, for perpetrators were so rarely identified or caught.( Insofar as this line of reasoning holds, it implies a picture of us in minds from Nixon and Hoover on down as the agency of chaos, almost the Devil incarnate, that accords with what other evidence suggests, unless one misjudges them simply as cynical rationalists.) Such inhibitory motivation may have strongly determined the overall pattern of mainstream media exploitation of the overall pattern of bombings and arson during this period. As for underground media, I suspect that review will show that these also made less of bombings, severally and as a wave, than they well might have made, for reasons presently obscure to me.
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