Charles Manson And The SDS Celebration

Bill Ayers and Bernardine Dohrn deny it, but shortly after Dohrn was elected President of Students for a Democratic Society (SDS — soon to become the Weathermen) in 1969, many attendees to their Flint, Michigan, "War Council" remember her speech where she celebrated the Charles Manson murders as a revolutionary act. Raising four fingers in the air to represent a fork, she said:

Dig it! First they killed those pigs. Then they ate dinner in the same room with them. Then they even shoved a fork into the victim’s stomach! Wild!

Professor Paul Kengor, a bestselling Cold War scholar whom I have often worked with over the years, recounts talking to one man who was at the event. It was Larry Grathwohl, a Vietnam veteran who infiltrated the Weathermen for the FBI.

As we spoke about this particularly gruesome event, Grathwohl told me that he had been there and witnessed the entire spectacle. I noted that there has been some debate as to how much the rest of the room celebrated in Dohrn’s bloodlust. There’s an obvious reticence by the radicals to today step forward and admit they once celebrated the infamous four-finger salute. Bill Ayers has been asked to comment on the episode many times. The best face that Ayers has tried to put on the event is to claim that his sweetheart was being “ironic” or had employed “rhetorical overkill” (bad choice of words) or was speaking “partly as a joke” (but never fully). Among the radicals from that period who have investigated the incident is David Horowitz, himself a former communist who today is a leading conservative. Horowitz has set the record straight: “In 1980, I taped interviews with thirty members of the Weather Underground who were present at the Flint War Council, including most of its leadership. Not one of them thought Dohrn was anything but deadly serious.”

And so, when I asked Larry Grathwohl if Dohrn and the others were indeed serious, and whether the rest of the radicals had joined in the salute, he confirmed vigorously. “Absolutely!” he said. “No question. Remember, I was there. I saw it.” As further proof, he added a tidbit that made me nauseous: Larry said that the rest of the evening, as the peace-loving “flower children” danced, they gleefully danced with their fingers in the form of the four-finger salute, moving their arms up and down and back and forth, laughing joyfully. Larry demonstrated for me.

Keep in mind that SDS was the largest and most celebrated "anti-war" group of the '60s. The Left's nostalgia is as selective as their outrage.


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