Academic Criminology, Pt. 3: How to Talk About Terrorists. (Hint: Call Them Professor)

(Many criminologists don’t have far to go if they want to study the habits of domestic terrorists and other convicted felons.  A quick stroll to the faculty lounge is all that’s needed.  Students with criminal records probably have a harder time gaining access to the university than professors with the same.)


An interesting corrective, by John Murtagh, to the forgive-and-forget attitude towards murder and attempted murder practiced by the faculty hiring committees of Columbia University, University of Illinois, University of Chicago, Sarah Lawrence College, Yale University, Northwestern Law School, Emory Law School, UCLA, California State, and every other institution that has rewarded violent members of the Weather Underground and the Black Panthers by paying them to speak or hiring them as faculty.

Murtagh’s home was firebombed by the Weather Underground when he was a child: his father was a judge supervising the trial of a Panther.  Such “human collateral” was routinely targeted by the Underground — police officers, school superintendents, moms making bank deposits for their church, shoppers in department stores, young soldiers and their dates, children in parking lots, children in their own homes. The death toll was limited only by striking ineptitude at bomb-making.

Had the Weather Underground succeeded in killing more of the people they tried to kill, some of them would certainly still be cooling their heels in prison, another argument for stricter attempted murder laws.

Northwestern University Law School professor Bernadine Dohrn is only one such person who belongs in a jail cell, rather than teaching the law.  In addition to committing her own crimes, Dohrn idolized Charles Manson and notoriously said of the Manson family murders: “”Dig it! First they killed those pigs, then they ate dinner in the same room with them. They even shoved a fork into the victim’s stomach! Wild!”  One of the victims Dohrn was referring to was actress Sharon Tate, who was two weeks from delivering a child when she was tortured and stabbed to death.

Imagine being a law student at Northwestern, in Bernadine Dohrn’s classroom, knowing that this is Dohrn’s view of victims of crime.  Dohrn refuses to apologize.  Depressingly, there are rewards for professing such extreme pro-criminal views in many law schools and universities.

Would Bernadine Dohrn even be a law professor at an elite university if she had not been a terrorist first?


Why is this history important?  Well, ideas matter, and the dominant ideas in academia romanticize select types of violent crime while excusing and justifying others.  It’s all of a piece, and it really isn’t possible to exaggerate the degree to which institutions of higher learning have embraced former radicals and rejected ordinary views on crime and punishment.  The only victims most university and law school faculty are able to perceive are men cooling their heels in prison cells.  Tenured radicals are only the most visible tip of this iceberg (or, in yellowed Sixties argot, the vanguard at the gates).

Watching the counter-protesters in Oakland celebrating the murder of four police officers, I can’t help but wonder how different the streets of Oakland would be today if terrorists like Mark Rudd, Bill Ayers, Bernadine Dohrn and Sarah Jane Olson hadn’t treated the inner-city there as the stage for their own violent acting-out, before going back to their upper-class lives elsewhere and continuing to promote their version of events from important academic perches.

Those they left behind in the streets of Oakland, police and residents alike, continue to pay the price.


Below are the dates for Weather Underground founder Mark Rudd’s book tour, celebrating his efforts to kill police, soldiers, and others (Stefan Kanfer’s article in the Wall Street Journal provides an excellent introduction to Rudd’s criminal past).

Rudd’s website, titled, “Mark Rudd: Yes this is the Mark Rudd from the Sixties,” and illustrated, adolescently, with a mug shot of himself, is narcissistically unrepentant.  In places, he claims to have transcended the “patriarchial” desire to commit acts of violence (through reading feminist theorists!), but elsewhere, he minimizes his actions and seems peeved only to not have succeeded in causing more mayhem.  Throughout, he reveals his contempt for ordinary people:

The government tried to use Weatherman’s puny violence as a means of labeling the entire anti-war movement “terrorist.”  We lost our moral superiority over the real murderers, the ones with enormous bombs weighing up to ten thousand pounds, delivered by giant B-52’s.  The French playwright, Jean Genet, when asked about the Weathermen in 1970, sensibly answered, “The Weathermen have little bombs, the United States has big bombs,” but that was much too logical for most Americans to understand.

I only hope that some of these illogical Americans reach out to criticize the following venues for choosing to allow a violent, unrepentant criminal to profit from his crimes.  After all, free speech isn’t really free unless it costs something, and, um, power to the people, man:


  • New York City. Monday, Mar. 23, 5:30-7:30 pm.  Book launch party at STEVEN KASHER GALLERY, 521 W. 23rd St.
  • New York City. Thursday, Mar. 26, 6-8 pm. Reading and booksigning at HAVANA CENTRAL AT THE WEST END, 2911 Broadway (W. 114th St.).
  • Albuquerque. Thursday, April 2. 6:00 Posole dinner, 7:00 showing of Weather Underground documentary film, 8:30 booksigning and discussion, GUILD CINEMA, 3405 Central Ave. NE
  • Albuquerque. Friday, April 3, noon to 1 pm.  Reading and booksigning, Central NM Community College Bookstore, Student Services Bldg, 901 University SE.
  • Santa Fe. Friday, April 3. 5:30-7:00 pm, Reading and booksigning, 7:00-8:30 pm showing of Weather Underground documentary film, 8:30 discussion, EL MUSEO CULTURAL, 1615 Paseo de Peralta
  • Albuquerque. Tuesday, April 7, 7:00 pm. Reading and booksigning at B00KWORKS, 4022 Rio Grande Blvd NW.
  • Silver City, NM. Tuesday, April 14, 5:00-7:00 pm. Booksigning party, JAVALINA’S COFFEEHOUSE.
  • Rio Rancho, NM. Thursday, April 16, 6:30 pm. Reading and booksigning, Esther Bone Library, 950 Pinetree Rd. SE, RIO RANCHO, NM.
  • Berkeley. Tuesday, April 21, 7:30 pm. Reading and booksigning, MOE’S, 2476 Telegraph Ave.
  • San Francisco. Wednesday, April 22, 7:00 pm. Reading and booksigning, CITY LIGHTS, 261 Columbus Ave.
  • Seattle. Friday, April 24.  Reading and booksigning, ELLIOTT BAY BOOK CO., 101 S. Main St. (Pioneer Square)
  • Portland. Sunday afternoon, April 26.  Reading and booksigning, LOOKING GLASS BOOKSTORE, 7983 SE 13th Ave., Sellwood.
  • Eugene, OR. Monday, April 27, 7:00-9:00 pm.  Reading, booksigning, and discussion, TSUNAMI BOOKS, 2585 Willamette St.
  • Philadelphia. Wednesday, May 13, 7:30-9:30 pm.   Reading, booksigning, salon discussion, FIRST PERSON ARTS, The Arts Bank at the University of the Arts, 601 S. Broad St., $8 available in advance at more info at


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