walkitout (walkitout) wrote,

Movie/documentary review: The Weather Underground (DVD)

I've had some disks out from netflix for so long it would have been much cheaper if I'd just bought them all. Oh well.

Like just about everyone who has watched this documentary and then written about it, the Weathermen and Women don't really seem all that impressive, right up until three of them die in a townhouse in Greenwich Village. Their ensuing decision to go underground and _not_ kill people (innocent or otherwise) moves them out of the just-a-bunch-of-young-idiots-making-trouble category and into more ambiguous category of being simultaneously provocative and increasingly irrelevant.

The irrelevance wasn't because their causes were not just or important -- they were just and very important. Looking at the list, it's hard not to cheer them on. But wave after wave of boomers born a few years after them were maturing and teenage cohorts go from one thing to the next about every three years, tops. By the time WU members were hitting 30, about the only people engaging with them were increasingly badly behaved FBI agents.

I knew that in the decades before sunshine laws like FOIA, documents had gotten out by being "leaked" by people who had legitimate access to them to the press. I had _not_ realized that a bunch of significant revelations were the result of activists breaking into FBI offices and then taking the documents over to newspaper offices. Wow.

The documentary covers where-are-they-now: who turned themselves in when, and of course with Ayers, Dohrn and others participating in the documentary, a fair amount of comments on terrorism now versus the bombings they engaged in then. Very entertaining to learn that when WU folk turned themselves in, the major effect was the FBI getting into huge trouble and none of the WU being successfully prosecuted (assuming I understood that part correctly -- there were some kiddie distractions).

If you get a chance to watch it, I'd highly recommend it, particularly if you were, say, to contemplate some direct action of your own. I'd say it is _extremely_ important never to cross that boundary of crimes against property to crimes against people. Crimes against property will cause The Law to lose their heads. Crimes against people galvanize everyone. Lesson learned, I guess.

Also, mid-November through the first week of December 1969 has to be one of the worst periods of bad news ever: the murder at Altamont, My Lai finally hit the news as did the Manson family. There were worse things that have happened, obviously, but for news items that just drilled middle-class American ideas of Things You Can Count on, that was a bad few weeks.
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