Image copyright © by Marcus Trahan

The Weather Underground


One of the most depressing documentaries I’ve ever seen. Did I ever think these people were worthy of following? Well, not actually, I was never a radical activist, but I believe I mostly enjoyed it when these wackos lashed out at the government … and just about everything else in sight. The Weathermen hijacked the Students for a Democratic Society in 1970, and proceeded down a well-worn path I’ve since seen all too often in my life, toward frothing fanaticism. They never killed anybody but each other, partly because of the deadly explosion in the town house in New York that sobered them up just enough to realize they didn’t really want to kill anybody, and partly from sheer dumb luck. And for smart people, they sure were dumb. We see the whole miserable history here, starting with the “Days of Rage” in Chicago, where they hoped for thousands of angry radicals and got about 150. They built a bonfire and smashed some windows. The government trembled.

The funny thing is, it did tremble, and promptly set out to smash the Weathermen, with or without laws to back them up.

They became the Weather Underground. They blew up things. In the late ‘70s most of them got tired of it and turned themselves in. And here we can see that they were not completely off the mark in their assessment of the government: for all the laws the WU broke, the government was able to prosecute very few charges against them, because just about all their evidence had been obtained illegally. Most of them walked.

We see them then and now. Two of the women say they regret nothing, they’d do it all again. Bernadine Dohrn doesn’t say much at all one way or the other about the past. Brian Flanagan regrets a lot, he often goes to the site of the town house, ruminating on his mistakes. Mark Rudd, fiery good-looking absolutely self-assured Mark Rudd, is a ruin of a man, a teacher at a small community college who seems to realize that everything the WU did played perfectly into the hands of Nixon’s thugs, and turned the American people against him and his causes to an extent that we’re still suffering from it. Poor Mark. Poor “revolution.” Did they really think they could overturn the richest, most successful nation in history with a few sticks of dynamite? Yep.