Something We Did

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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.[1] 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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  • swathdiver

    Property not people, Bill Ayers gives the same lame excuse.

    Was she in the room when Ayers told the undercover G-Man that he had no qualms murdering tens of thousands of conservatives in camps after the "revolution"???

    As usual these people ignore reality and vainly struggle to live in utopia and apart from God.

  • Chezwick_Mac

    Cogent, comprehensive, and morally unambiguous. Nice response, David. How sad you had to endeavor to write it in the first place. The author of the play ought to be ashamed.

    • Guest

      Don't you realize radical Lefties are pathologically incapable of shame? They are likewise incapable of admitting error of any kind. Until you understand that they are driven by a barely suppressed rage which issues from their fear of the world you'll never comprehend their actions or their words.

  • Marvin Cohen

    How about a play about YOUR life that is accurate! Or a movie based on it. I bet it would be thought provoking, exciting, and controversial. I'd go see it.

    • Chris

      I've thought for a long time that someone should make a movie of Radical Son.

  • Ed Hart

    Yes, I think it is time for a movie about the Weather Underground.

    • tagalog

      Emile De Antonio already did one. Somebody did another one sometime after the turn of the century.

  • jbtrevor

    David's response sheds light on something I've thought for some time: It's time for conservatives to take over the artistic media. I'm tired of holding my nose and buying tickets for entertainment that is more ire inspiring than exhilarating!
    I know an artistic creation titled: Radical Son would be widely successful! Do it!!!!

    • Indioviejo

      I agree with you 100%. I grew up with John Wayne and Hollywood erased anything good in the perception of the American character a long time ago. I refuse to pay money to see my country and our people constantly denigrated for the world to misjudge us. It is so sad that they set the perception so far from reality. Redical Son should be a historical watershed. We can only hope.

    • Bill Kerney

      There is a way to take over the media. Broadband wireless to the home using the new free White Spaces technology. Produce content in 1080p and send it right to big screens in homes. Direct. David knows a ton of talent to fill the pipes to the home screens and capitalized cost of the system is less than than a national Wi-Fi system.

      What will slow this down or halt it altogether is the inability of conservatives to figure out where up is. What is important vs not important. Movies and TV have always depended on technology and now the technology is here to end the dominance of the left over our culture.

      But much like David had no help trying to get balance into colleges from conservative leadership I expect no reaction to the fact that media is controlled by the left only because conservatives don't/won't act.

      • jbtrevor

        Methinks the conservative leadership is changing…or we'll change them. David has the American people on his side..

    • tagalog

      A few years ago (maybe I should say many years ago at this point), somebody made a movie called A Small Circle of Friends. It was not a particularly memorable movie, although it wasn't as bad as the critics say either. It was about some Harvard students who entered the university in the 60s as ordinary people and then moved to the far left, then grew up. Somebody could make a really good movie about that, and the experiences of David Horowitz would be an excellent foundation for the story.

  • Alex Kovnat

    Here's an interesting idea for a play: One on how Eldridge Cleaver turned from horrid leftwinger to a somewhat more moderate guy. Said play should also mention how another radical, one Mr. Charmichael, stoked the fires of hatred until the very end of his life.

    • tagalog

      It could have the David Mamet Story as a subplot.

  • antifascist18

    Bill Ayers should have been hanged years ago as both a traitor to the USA and a terrorist. The fact that government attorneys botched that case should have made no difference – but that does speak volumes about the attorneys the government hires – including the current crop trying to sue Arizona.

    People call President Nixon many things. The fact is too, he really wasn't tough enough or the bastard the Neo-Nazis of the Left say he was. If he were he'd stay in power, hang Ayers and all of his associates and outlaw the Democratic Party. As a result of his decision to abide by the Constitution, something the current fraudulent occpant of the WH refuses to do, we've gotten Carter, Clinton, and the Kenyan Monkey – and his pals like Ayers and Boudin treated as respected, legitimate people when they are still scum.

  • tagalog

    About Kathy Boudin: this compassionate lover of the people conspired to make a bomb to kill people at a dance at Fort Dix. She was a highway robber and murderer who, like all criminals, will lie about anything to advance her agenda. And evidently she's chosen as friends those who will lie for her.

    David Horowitz: he participated in publishing a left-wing magazine that always had a small strain of contrarianism (remember the article about hippies called The Children's Crusade? How about the skeptical article about Bob Dylan? Remember those?). He said a lot of stuff that millions of others also believed. He didn't harm a hair on anybody's head. And as best I can tell, as one who lived through the late 60s/early 70s days in New York City, on the fringes of the Left, and read Horowitz's books, I don't think he's lied about anything.

  • Chuckray

    Some day the "Horowitz story" will be a compelling one in our great nation's history. And perhaps he will be considered a patriotic hero of considerable significance.

    • ajnn

      It would be nice. But without holding elected office or writing an enormous best-seller, his name is not likely to be remembered by other than students of the era.

      Who remembers Chernikovsky ? Moreau is only remembered because of a painting.

      LASTING fame is tougher than we like to think.

      • Chezwick_Mac

        You may very well be right, but here are some legitimate reasons why David might be semi-immortalized by his work…

        1) The body of David's work far transcends any single effort. Had he written a best seller and then wrote little else, it wouldn't equate the prodigious volume of his work

        2) The subject matter: His is no idle prose. David is tackling some of the most important sociological issues of our time. If conservative ideals ever triumph in our culture, he will be lionized as a guiding spirit. Should they remain on the periphery, he will be a cult hero to a large "counter-culture".

        3) David's humanity distinguishes him from many polemicists of our age. Its exposition is unmistakable in 'The End of Time', 'A Cracking of the Heart', and even in 'Radical Son'. This gives him a personal connection with the reader that can only enhance his stature.

  • crackerjack

    A political radical remains a political radical, fancy he himself Leftist or Zionist. Radicals in politics substitute personal inferiority complexes and insecurity with a political "message" they hope to impose on others and in many cases, like Horowitz , an over exaggeration of their own role in scociety coupled with a saviour complex towards a nation or people.

    Many of these characters show their true colours with age.

    • ajnn

      And so the behavior of David Horowitz shows a man who is honest and compassionate in his heart and not like the 'kathy boudin's' of this world. Good comment !!!

    • Tom Cole

      Actually Zionism is rather rational. It says that after the Jews were dispersed from their land, their guest countries did not always make them welcome. When they were not welcome, sometimes they were herded into ghettos, sometimes they were murdered. So why not go back to the homeland, where they would not be at the mercy of the whims of the mob?
      The problem was that Palestine had a substantial population of people who did not want Jewish immigration, or a Jewish state. The problem was also that the many neighboring Moslem countries did not want a Jewish state either. Other than that, it was a rational idea.
      A leftist radical who sees the error of his past passion for leftism may end up being more rational than a non-thinking type who accepts the political fads of the day and the info of the mass media and colleges without thinking skeptically about them.

      • crackerjack

        We need to differentiate here. Horowitz' radical Zionism is not rational in putting Zionism before Judaism. In fact, its just a new form of anti-semitism, rendering Jews who question of challenge Zionist goals as "self hateing".

    • Radegunda

      Try putting down the Psych 101 textbook and thinking for yourself.

      • crackerjack

        Nobody needs a textbook to see the irony in this case. Obviously one of the leading figures of America's "Restoring Honor" movement, one who is constantly lashing out against alleged radical connections of his opponents, was himself deeply involved in subversive, terror activities. Why should we forgive and forget in the case of Horowitz, when it is he who refuses to forgive and forget in the case of others?

    • tagalog

      Horowitz has never hidden his view that the right should use many of the tactics the left uses to advance its agenda.

      • crackerjack

        The spot on description of a radical ! The use of radical tactics and methods to advance ones agenda, be it left or right. Horowitz views may have changed, his approach hasn't; destruction of the opponent by any means necessary.

  • jacob

    After reading the concept in which who signs ANTIFASCIST 18 holds the present occupier of the White House, makes me wonder how come the FrontPage censor considered offensive my qualifying OBAMA as the White House's Muslim "Socialist" Demagogue….

  • Aubrey

    Why arn't there cold case files still open for Bill Ayers and his wife? I though the time for the crime of murder never expired.

  • Lisa_H

    "He [the playwright] is a perfect example of those radicals who inhabit a separate reality, which makes them unable to understand how others see them and therefore unable to comprehend themselves."

    I would go even further: "You can only see others as clearly as you see yourself." (quote from Stephen C. Paul) It was only after I looked within that I was able to see where others were coming from. This has been a long painful yet rewarding and never ending process. This (out of the personal) is what has ultimately led me to my now-held political convictions–as opposed to the left's conviction that the political is personal.

    • ajnn

      me too !!!

  • Seek

    The memes of any radical political or religious group can be intoxicating to young adherents. Repetitious phrases attain a halo of absolute truth. The Weathermen needed a reality check back then; David Horowitz did what he could to create one. Plays like this merely keep old illusions alive. But they won't work to those who seek truth.

  • Eddina Symns

    “Whether the radical sins of the past can be forgiven even as the reactionary sins of the present multiply.” IS THE WRONG QUESTION TO ASK. The answer to it is obvious.

  • Tar_n_Feathers

    Old Leftists die hard. Long since discredited, most will go to their graves convinced they were right. Honest introspective reevaluation is something they dare not attempt. To do so would render their very purpose of existence into a cartoonish sham. One reason Horowitz still gets crap from the Left is that he has effectively deconstruct the Left's mythology, and therefore the fantasy world in which they live.

  • LibertyLover

    David – I've read most of you works, but "Radical Son" is one of my all time favorites by any author. I was a college student in the SFO Bay Area during the '60's but I guess I'd be called a Paleo-conservative. I was a chapter president of YAF. At any rate, your biography was moving to me. My wife also read it a was likwise moved. BTW, she was raised in San Francisco during the '50s & '60s. You really are one of our heros.

  • Rifleman

    You must be getting under someone's skin. I'd take such a play from such a person as a flattering compliment, but I'm weird like that. If bad people hate me, I'm doing something right.

  • USMCSniper

    The Left makes a provocative film “Death of a President,” which depicts the assassination of George W. Bush and they award and honor each other as of it were some achievement and it is even shown in Canada. Make the same film about Obama and show it in Canada and watch the hate speech charges come.

    • Guest

      See my comment above to ChezwickMac

  • John Doba

    David, your life and thought are an inspiration. You're the most interesting writer in the country, substantively, and your prose style is just gorgeous to boot. It's amazing the dreck coming out of the Left—thank goodness you're here to help focus and channel the movement to contest that. Keep up the fine work.

  • crackerjack

    Let's be honest here. Horowitz would have been the most prominent stone thrower had news of a connection with radical terror groups croped up among his opponents and his buddies from FOX News would be up in arms 24/7 demanding consequences.

    In the case of Horowitz, all is to be forgiven and forgotten. Why?

  • rihanna britney

    Horowitz did not murder anyone. Thats the difference.

    • crackerjack

      He collected money and posted propaganda for those who murderd. Where is the outcry in America, where the primetime with Beck, where is FOX?
      This is an important and exposing episode in the life of a notable political figure.

  • topeka

    Thank you David, just for being. You're a liberal with an open mind – and once one's mind is open…. reality replaces fantasy. As it happens, we live in a time when simply standing up for what is right makes one a target. Hang in there.

    Meanwhile, back on the farm, many of us have paid for our sins too. Often, without any comfort, forgiveness, or hope. To be targeted by a lefty as a villian in a play is an honor, and a privilege of an effective prophet. Consider the rest of us, who have only broken dreams.

    As for the critics of David's blog – Mr. Horowitz did not murder anyone, true. But just as important, he changed so that he could continue opposing oppression – and yes, even murder. American policies do not make haters hate, but Liberal policies allow violent people to kill others. Liberals oppose simple, basic policies which would stop violence, and mitigate famine, disease, pestilence, war, crime, rape and even slavery. Mr. Horowitz opposes all of these things every time he opposes whacky radicals re-inventing Kool-Aid on college campuses, which makes him dangerous, and an object of ridicule.

  • PAthena

    Check Kathy Boudin's relationship to I. F. Stone. I think she was a close relative. (I.F. Stone worked for the KGB, as John Earl Haynes, Harvey Klehr, and Alexander Vassiliev have shown in their book, SPIES: The Rise and Fall of the KGB in America.)