Cultural Caviar

The Company They Kept

April 09, 2013

Weatherman co-founder Jeff Jones, who—don’t you hate when this happens?—”was unexpectedly caught up in a police sweep of individuals suspected of participating in the deadly robbery of an armored truck”—now runs a coalition of labor and environmentalist groups called the Apollo Alliance “and was responsible for drafting President Obama’s 2009 Recovery Act.”

I was going to type “write your own joke,” but then I stumbled upon this:

Addressing those in attendance [at the 1969 Chicago rally], Jones claimed to be the living embodiment of Marion Delgado, a Chicano boy who, at the age of 5, had placed a slab of concrete on a railroad track and derailed a passenger train in California 22 years earlier. Though Delgado had never intended to cause such a tragedy, Jones and his fellow leftists revered the boy’s act for its symbolic value….

Just as publicity for The Company You Keep was revving up, another convicted Weather Underground felon, Kathy Boudin, was appointed an adjunct professor of social work at Columbia University. Boudin served 22 years for her role in that 1981 Brinks truck robbery that left three dead, got Jeff Jones “unexpectedly caught up”—and which inspired the backstory of Redford’s new movie.

Surely not a few impeccably degreed and rap-sheet-free young graduates are wondering right about now, “Who do you have to blow up to get a job around here?”

Or not. A la Crosby, Stills and Nash, the boomers taught the children well—their kids and those of others. (Haven’t you heard? “We have to break through our kind of private idea that kids belong to their parents.”)

Even if not one Millennial ever watches The Company You Keep, they’re steeped in the seductive, romantic message that hippies were peaceful, noble idealists and even “patriots.”

Coinciding with the release of Redford’s movie is the rerelease of Larry Grathwohl’s 1976 book Bringing Down America. Subtitled An FBI Informer with the Weathermen, the long out-of-print memoir details the 22-year-old Grathwohl’s tenure as a Vietnam vet turned semi-reluctant and mostly unpaid terror-cell infiltrator.

The book is both a thrilling page-turner and a deeply depressing read. Between bombings, Grathwohl is stuck shuffling from one filthy safe house to another, forced to “rap” about the horrors of monogamy and imperialism for hours at a time, with a cadre of hyper-articulate, sociopathic, weirdly conformist “rebels.”

As the only individual who ever fully infiltrated the Weathermen—he was steadily promoted through the ranks—Grathwohl’s story would probably make a terrific movie or at the very least one the other half of America might actually pay to see.

And knowing how preoccupied the conservative establishment is with starting up yet another “news outlet” and touting this week’s Republican savior (while enriching themselves), I’ll go out on a limb and assume the movie rights are still available.

 

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