Cultural Caviar

The Company They Kept

April 09, 2013

Multiple Pages
The Company They Kept

Jane Fonda uttered the words, “I will go to my grave” last week and I thought: “Finally!”

Fonda recently talked to Oprah about that “one unforgiveable mistake” she made when she visited North Vietnam in 1972: allowing herself to be photographed while perched giddily on an anti-aircraft gun, looking positively post-coital when she wasn’t pulling goofy faces.

The fact that “Hanoi Jane” now insists this infamous image “belied everything that I was” displays psychopathic chutzpah; during that same era, Fonda headlined a “Fuck the Army” comedy tour and married shameless soixante-neuf opportunist Tom Hayden. Just a few years ago, the supposedly repentant Fonda showed up at Mr. Chow’s wearing a T-shirt screen-printed with her also-infamous (and much more flattering) mug shot, her then-much-younger fist raised in a revolutionary salute across her now-much-older boobs.

Fonda’s contemporary Robert Redford kept his “progressive” politics mostly to himself until old age. A wise move: We’re more prone to indulge the elderly’s cranky outbursts.

Lefties joke ad nauseam about crusty right-wingers shouting, “Get off my lawn!” (It’s one of those fanciful sentences such as “You lie, boy!” and “I can see Russia from my house!” with which liberals construct entire worldviews.)

“They’re steeped in the seductive, romantic message that hippies were peaceful, noble idealists and even ‘patriots.’”

Ironically, Redford in his dotage now embodies that liberal stereotype of the other side, swooping down in his private jet to try to halt pipeline construction and the like (on someone else’s “lawn,” but still).

Of course, you’re allowed on his “lawn”—the Sundance Film Festival, that is—as long as you can afford to go, and few ordinary folks can.

Most average Americans can, however, probably scrounge together the ticket price for Redford’s new film. Whether or not they’ll bother is another matter.

I first wrote about The Company You Keep here at Taki’s over a year ago. It’s finally set for release and is generating lots of buzz, mostly because the aging boomer narcissists who run the media (and pretty much everything else) wouldn’t have it any other way.

The Company You Keep is about “a former Weather Underground activist who goes on the run from a journalist who has discovered his identity.”

(I’m sure the curators of the highly regarded and widely influential Internet Movie Database meant to write “terrorist” instead of “activist,” but their fingers must have slipped.)

As I joked in 2012, that fictional premise is a stark contrast from the fates of all the real Weather Underground terrorists who now teach at major universities, hang out with the president, get lovingly profiled in The New York Times and elsewhere—do everything except disguise their identities and hide from the authorities.

Hell, they are the authorities.

Just a reminder: Unrepentant Weatherman bomber Bill “Kill Your Parents” Ayers is a highly respected “educator” and a longtime associate of Barack Obama; members of the Weather Underground and other Aquarian terrorists such as Ayers’s wife Bernardine Dohrn, Eleanor Raskin, and Kathleen Cleaver teach at various American law schools, even though not all of them have law degrees.

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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