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[Editor’s note: Below is David Horowitz’s response to “Something You Did,” a play recently shown at Theater J which praises convicted Weather Underground terrorist Kathy Boudin and slanders Horowitz by making him a sinister character in the script.]
Just before Labor Day this year, a theater review in the Washington Post alerted me to the fact that someone had made me, or a fictional representation of me, into a principal character in his play. Something You Did purports to be a drama about the parole appeal of an actual person, Kathy Boudin, who forty years ago was a member of two violent organizations and was directly involved in the violent deaths of six human beings (although the play mentions only one). Despite the fact that I myself was never the member of any violent group and never so much as threw a rock in the Sixties, the author has cast my character as the bad guy in his fiction, complicit in her crime, and an embodiment of the forces that Boudin opposed at the time and that he opposes now.
The day after the review appeared, I received a confirming email from my friend of nearly sixty years, Ron Radosh, who had just attended a performance and who sent me a scanned copy of a statement by the author explaining his play. The author identified me as the villain of his drama and said he had chosen me because I had written what he called the most “corrosive” attack on Kathy Boudin when she came up for parole; also because I was “a former radical turned outspoken neo-conservative” and it was his intention to have his play make a statement about the present. Finally, he described the play as asking (and answering) this loaded question: “Whether the radical sins of the past can be forgiven even as the reactionary sins of the present multiply.” Since this is self-evidently a loaded question there is no suspense as to the answer. Boudin caused the deaths of three innocent people and left nine children fatherless. But she is to be forgiven, because she has remained a radical and therefore her heart was and is in the right place. Whatever mistakes she committed, her intention was to save the Vietnamese and other oppressed people from conservatives like myself.
A fiction based on reality can provide useful insights but only if the structure of the facts remains intact. Here are some of the facts, which the author of the play so distorts or misrepresents as to deprive his fiction of the ability to provide insights that are useful for understanding what happened.
To begin, allow me to clear up his malicious claim that there is a moral parallel between Kathy Boudin’s criminal acts and David Horowitz’s “contribution” to the death of Betty van Patter at the hands of the Black Panthers. Kathy Boudin knowingly joined the Weather Underground a radical group whose purpose was to conduct an actual war inside the United States. The Underground set bombs, possibly murdered two police officers (there is a continuing cold case investigation into this) and inadvertently blew up three of its members, when an anti-personnel device intended for others went off prematurely. When the Underground disintegrated and most of its leaders surfaced to return to civilian life, Kathy remained at war, joining a second violent group with identical goals. As a member of the “May 19 Communist Organization,” she participated in an armed robbery in Nyack New York to finance “the revolution.” In the course of the robbery, three officers were murdered, and nine children left fatherless.
There is no parallel in Kathy’s criminal career to what I did as a New Left radical. I never broke a law or plotted to injure another human being. I was the editor of Ramparts, the largest magazine of the left. Although I raised money for the Black Panthers, I never joined their organization. The money I raised was to purchase and build a school. I offered to help only after their leader, Huey Newton, publicly proclaimed that it was “time to put away the gun” and “serve the people.” When I recommended Betty van Patter as a bookkeeper for the “learning center” I had helped to create, I accepted the left’s view of the Panthers as victims of white racism and a noble force in the struggle for racial justice. I had no idea they were capable of cold-blooded murder. At the time I set out to help them, the New York Times was comparing Huey Newton to Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther. Literally.
In retrospect, after Betty was murdered, I realized I should have read the signs and known the dangers, and that is what the conservative part of my life is about. I have written an extensive memoir of these events in which I tried to warn others, and have taken full responsibility for what I did, and in particular for not knowing what I should have known. If Kathy Boudin had done the same, if she had attempted to re-examine the premises that led her to commit her crimes and had made a full accounting, I would not have judged her as harshly as I have.
A crucial fact the play ignores is that I did not need to become a conservative to become a critic of Kathy Boudin and the Weather Underground. In 1971, I wrote a widely read article in Ramparts attacking the Weather Underground for its terrorist ideas and practices. My article focused on the explosion of a bomb that Kathy Boudin’s Weather Underground cell was building and was planning to detonate in a terrorist act. Three members of the cell were killed in the accident, which destroyed the Greenwich Village townhouse they had turned into a bomb factory. Boudin was in the townhouse at the time and survived – and went on to continue her chosen path of radical violence.
The townhouse episode includes crucial facts, which the playwright suppresses in order to load his case for redeeming Boudin, through her character in the play Allison; and also for defending the leftist views that inspired her. In the play, Allison claims that her terrorist acts were aimed at property not people. She is presented as someone innocent of the purposes for which the bomb is to be used. In the play it is my character who persuades her to buy the nails that will be used to turn the bomb into an anti-personnel weapon. The black policeman who becomes the inadvertent victim of the bomb is killed by one of those nails. In the play Allison’s alleged innocence of the bomb’s malicious purpose is central to the plot and to the playwright’s plan to create sympathy and forgiveness for Allison/Kathy and to indict me as the villain.
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