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The Symbionese Terror and the Academic Left By: Bruce S. Thornton
FrontPageMagazine.com | Monday, January 21, 2002


TWENTY-SIX YEARS after a bank robbery that left a mother of four dead from a shotgun blast, five former members of the terrorist Symbionese Liberation Army of the '70s are finally going to court for their implication in the crime. As the victim's son said, it's about time.

In fact, this should be just the beginning of the accounting owed by all the ex-"radicals" and "activists" and fellow-traveling apologists for murder and terror. For years now people who rationalized and championed everything from torture to genocide, as long as these crimes were perfumed with leftist idealism, have enjoyed the good life created by the culture they once wanted to destroy. Indeed, in the university some have been rewarded for those activities and beliefs, which to this day still have adherents in the looking-glass world of the academy.

Examples abound. Ex-Weatherman Bill Ayers-to the shame of the state of Illinois--is on the faculty of the state university, and has written a book crowing about his youthful exploits and the fact that he got away with them. A one-time advocate of murder of the innocent, in other words, at the cost of a few crocodile tears, is given a free pass, presumably because of his youthful "idealism" or "good intentions" on behalf of the oppressed and downtrodden.

Well, the Nazis were idealists too. So was Jim Jones. So were segregationists in the old South. So are the Al Qaeda terrorists. But in the American university, the political flavor of one's idealism, not one's actions, is what counts. Any belief or even rhetoric allegedly "progressive" functions like a plenary indulgence. Just say that you are full of righteous indignation over the suffering of the oppressed, and you will be forgiven a multitude of sins, including attempted murder-especially if your victims are the culprits (the police or other "bourgeois" enemies of the people) dehumanized by the left. Then even cold-blooded murderers like Mumia Abu-Jamal can be canonized by the international left, the same people who once groveled before mass-murderers like Chairman Mao.

Ex-terrorists like Ayers, however, who at least acted on his corrupt ideals, are rare. More numerous in academe and the media are those fellow-travelers who, at no cost to themselves or their comfortable lifestyles, consistently have rationalized and excused the evil of leftist thugs and killers. As every year passes, their lies and ignorance are exposed, their ideological spin shredded by facts, their double-standard laid bare. Rather than the cutting edge of historical inevitability, their great Marxist god "history" has in fact shown them to be at best Lenin's "useful idiots," naïve idealists whose politics was their cargo-cult, at worst collaborators with the most murderous dictatorships in the history of the planet.

Yet how many have acknowledged their errors, recanted their lies, and owned up to their complicity in terror? Why should they? They pay no price for failing to take responsibility for their stupidity and moral idiocy. Indeed, they are rewarded and considered morally superior to so-called "conservatives" and "reactionaries." Chairman Mao has more fans in the university today than does Ronald Reagan. The mystery is why the rest of the nation lets them get away with it.

Perhaps most Americans ignore these apologists for tyranny because they romp in the playhouse of the university, which is sort of like the medieval church, the repository of the ruling class's disgruntled second string. But September 11 should have shown us that ideas have consequences. The cultural relativism, moral nihilism, and knee-jerk anti-Americanism, which still dominate the university and much of the media, helped pave the way for that disaster, and it remains to be seen if we have experienced the last effects of those pernicious ideas.

So let the accounting begin. Let's make those who rationalize murder and terror acknowledge the consequences and costs of their idealism. And let's make clear one fundamental truth: that murder of the innocent, no matter what the ideal motivating it, is an inexcusable evil.


Bruce Thornton is the author of Greek Ways and Decline and Fall: Europe’s Slow-Motion Suicide (Encounter Book}. He is 2009-2010 National Fellow at the Hoover Institution.


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