Daniel Greenfield, a Shillman Journalism Fellow at the Freedom Center, is an investigative journalist and writer focusing on the radical Left and Islamic terrorism.
There is a scene in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, Quentin Tarantino's revisionist take on the Manson murders, in which the fictional members of the family blame movies for their crimes. The real answer is less cinematic and more political. The Manson family’s crimes were part of a culture of leftist violence.
Once Upon a Time in Hollywood is one of the many ways that American leftists evade that reckoning.
After the murders, one of the Manson family wrote “pig” in Sharon Tate’s blood on the door. The radical act carried out in California thrilled fellow Weathermen radicals halfway around the country.
"Dig It. First they killed those pigs, then they ate dinner in the same room with them, they even shoved a fork into a victim's stomach! Wild!" Bernardine Dohrn gloated at a Weathermen war council.
Dohrn and other members of the leftist group understood the horrifying murders as a radical act that normalized violence. And Dohrn, a Weatherman terrorist, saw violence as an inspirational tool for shattering the norms of society. That was why the Weathermen adopted the ‘fork salute’.
The horrifying reality of the sorts of people that would do that is at odds with the media’s normalization of leftist radicals as principled activists reacting to racism and the Vietnam War. The radicals are routinely humanized and their victims are forgotten. History is entombed with the dead.
And so The Tablet decided to give Jonah Raskin, who had participated in the Weathermen, and later promoted the hateful works of the violent Communist terror group, a forum for his fond memories.
"I could wallow in nostalgia about my days with the Weather Underground in the early 1970s: at Coney Island with Bernardine Dohrn, eating Bill Ayers’ soufflés and Jeff Jones’ homemade breads," he begins.
Dohrn’s fork celebration of the murder of a pregnant woman had taken place in 1969.
But surely old Nazis also have fond memories of eating soufflés and homemade breads. Himmler’s wife probably made a mean ham sandwich. And the Manson family no doubt had some great chili. But outside of Neo-Nazi publications, they don’t get the space to share fond food and murder memories.
Old Communist killers and their cohort however get ample space for their horrifying nostalgia.
"I was in love with the romance of the underground but hated the bombings," Raskin writes.
And some of Manson’s followers liked the pot, but hated stabbing pregnant women.
A better title would have been I Was a Stooge for a Communist Terror Group That Murdered Americans. But instead, ‘Prairie Fire’ Memories is titled as a book review. Raskin, a professor emeritus, describes himself as a "reviewer of books, movies and restaurants", but the book, Prairie Fire, is the manifesto of the Weathermen, a Communist terror group, and its reviewer admits to his complicity.
Prairie Fire was dedicated to Ted Gold, Diana Oughton and Terry Robbins, "three of our comrades who gave their lives in the struggle."
Gold, Oughton and Robbins actually died in a botched effort to detonate a nail bomb at a military dance.
Instead of killing and mutilating hundreds of members of military, and their wives and girlfriends in New Jersey, they blew up a Greenwich townhouse and themselves with it.
Prairie Fire is also dedicated to “political prisoners” such as Sirhan Sirhan, who killed Robert F. Kennedy.
These are the sorts of ugly realities that Raskin and much of the coverage of the Weathermen elide for interfering with the central myth of the Boomer Left that it was Nixon and some nameless culture of “right-wing hate” that brought down the golden era of liberalism, rather than the culture of leftist violence that claimed the lives of JFK and RFK, ended the organistic celebrations of the Age of Aquarius, and paved the way, not for utopia, but for the Reagan revolution and the normalcy of the eighties.
Raskin has built his literary career on playing off his closeness to the Weathermen while bemoaning some of their extremes. The Tablet essay strums the same nostalgic chords accompanied by a few trills of criticism. The institutions that effectively run the country can’t openly countenance a mass campaign of bombing, but they can, and do, evoke sympathy for and solidarity with its perpetrators.
The complicity of many leftists with the Weathermen lay not in their unqualified support for the crimes of the Communist terror group, but for their sympathy with the principles that underlay their actions. It was exactly the same sin that led so many leftists to defend the Soviet Union as morally good, if tactically misguided, a revolutionary system of positive change responding poorly to a real crisis.
"I didn’t make or transport any bombs but I think I played a useful role," Raskin admits, after describing seeing a bomb maker at work.
Confessions like these come without social or legal penalties.
Confess to watching a Klansman assembling a bomb meant for a black church without tipping off the authorities, and the social and economic penalties would be severe. But there are plenty of social and economic rewards in writing, yet again, about protecting leftist terrorists while occasionally urging them to stop killing people, without actually going to the authorities to stop them from killing people.
"I supported my wife financially when she was underground, met with her immediately after the townhouse explosion, and on and off for the next six months," Raskin notes.
He fails to note that his wife, Eleanor Raskin, a red diaper baby, had advocated violence as far back as 1969, had allegedly aided the escape of one of the townhouse fugitives, and was indicted for possession of a bomb and explosive devices with unlawful intent in 1979.
Raskin, like most leftists, describes his ex-wife as a fugitive. The romanticized language is commonplace and inaccurate. He was financially supporting and protecting a violent terrorist.
But Raskin was hardly alone in that.
After being busted in 1981, his ex-wife graduated law school and became an Administrative Law Judge. Despite Raskin’s claim of a “a decade-long FBI manhunt that bordered on the pathological”, Dohrn, Ayers, his ex-wife, and other Weathermen, received a lighter slap on the wrist than Jeffrey Epstein, and were quickly embraced by the academic world. They became wealthy professors and even judges.
Their victims were not so lucky.
Just as in the Epstein case, law enforcement did its job. But the justice system chose not to. Like Raskin, the system protected its own. And, not long after, the radicals joined the system.
That was what Raskin and other leftists had urged them to do all along.
The issue was never a true disavowal of violence.
“They never totally ruled out mass action and I never totally ruled out ‘armed action,’ we came down on opposite sides of the divide between the two,” Raskin writes.
The ultimate issue was the best route to taking over the United States.
We live in a country run by the radicals who entered the system. And the radicals in the system eventually used their influence to bring members of the Weathermen in out of the cold.
This isn’t their greatest crime. But it is an obvious and bloody one. That’s why it’s rarely discussed.
The governments and political figures who gave sanction and shelter to Nazi figures were revealing something dark and disturbing about themselves. Ours gave sanction and shelter to Communist killers. Like the Nazi collaborators, the Democrats and other leftists who did so showed us who they are.
The Manson family, like the Weathermen, like all radicals, had sought to shatter the norms of a comfortable society with acts of horrifying violence. The leftists who actually won, want to maintain the outward comforts and norms, while using their power to transform society into a socialist tyranny.
Setting off nail bombs and stabbing pregnant women disturbs people. And they don’t want that.
Unlike the Manson family, the Weathermen faced few consequences and their crimes were forgotten, because even though they killed more people, they did so in the name of the ideology of the Left.
“It’s not the crime, it’s the cover-up,” was the key quote of the end of the Nixon era.
But the real cover-up went on. Every member of the Weathermen who wound up in academia, pardoned by Democrats, elevated to high positions, is evidence of the cover-up. And the cover-up is evidence of the fact that the allies of a Communist terrorist group are running much of the country.
Raskin, predictably enough, also wound up in academia. His review is yet another of the endless political critiques that define his radical movement and fill the pages of its history with endless, inane scribblings.
His 5,400-word essay mentions everything except the victims.
At the end, he writes of Dave Gilbert, in jail after the "death of two police officers", passive voice and nameless, and his "comrade-in-arms", Judy Clark, who both "lived the politics of Prairie Fire and paid with their freedom." The victims of the politics of Prairie Fire however paid with their lives.
The officers have names. They are Edward O'Grady and Waverly "Chipper" Brown.
O'Grady had been a Marine during Vietnam. He left behind three children and was working on his BA in criminal justice.
Unlike the members of the Weathermen, he never got to finish it.
Brown was an African-American Air Force vet. He left behind two daughters who followed him into the Air Force.
Raskin indicts Weathermen members for their “white privilege”, just before he fails to mention their murder of a black man. He is wholly preoccupied with ideological assessments, rather than moral ones. The victims of the Communist terror group don’t matter to him. No more than Tate mattered to Manson or Dohrn. Or the millions murdered by Stalin, Mao and the leftist killers that the American Left admired.
"Today, the ex-Weathermen and former members of the Weather Underground belong largely to the pages of myth," Raskin writes.
It is a myth, but not as the professor emeritus means it. The Weathermen have been mythologized by the Left. Its members are cult heroes and the subjects of endless articles and essays.
Their victims have been denied justice and will be forgotten.
But what the collaborators of the Weathermen have failed to realize is that a reckoning is coming. The sins of the Weathermen are part of the DNA of the Left.
They are not just the myths of the past, but a foreshadowing of the future.
“Murder will out,” a poet far more ancient than Bob Dylan wrote.
The Left repeats the same patterns of crimes and follies, revolutions and oppressions, lies and reckonings, that destroy its utopias. Camelot falls again and again. Because it was always tainted.
History can be buried. But the evil of a regime and a movement lives and rots within its soul.
A reckoning will come, not in academic papers or reviews, but in the crimes that have never been repented, and will therefore come again, until the tide of lies, blood and treachery bring down the same system that covered up the crimes of the Weathermen, and brings a revolution against the revolution.