The weathermen were the real fight club

Watching The Weather Underground, a documentary from 2002 about the 1960’s radical group, there was a comment about a technique of group cohesion called the “gut check” where members would challenge each other to go past wider social boundaries.

Also, the commentary about the need to know rule echos the rule about not talking about fight club. In voice over, Brian Flanagan makes the comment that, “if you didn’t need to know it, you didn’t know it.” I can’t help but wonder how much influence there might have been in the story of Fight Club.

From the fifth communique, the Weather Underground hoped to build “a culture and society that can resist genocide. It is a culture of total resistance to mind controlling maniacs.” There seems to be a lot of honest and rational philosophy behind what seems to be be intensely irrational conclusions. I see echos of this philosophy in many of the apparently more rational current responses to pervasive persuasion, such as the work of dadaists like the Subgenius and the Cacaphony Society as well as more organized direct responses from groups like adBusters.

I also see a philosophical connection between an attempt to resist social engineering and the resistance to persuasion. The susceptibility to persuasion and social engineering is the key vulnerability in any attempt to break security systems. Th

But, the documentary begs the viewer to ask about the nature and ethic of a sense of moral righteousness. What is the place of radical action as an element in social change? As Mark Rudd, in interview states, “I think that part of the Weathermen phenomenon that was right, was our understanding what the position of the United States is in the world. It was this knowledge that we couldn’t handle. It was too big. We didn’t know what to do. In a way, I still don’t know what to do with this knowledge. I don’t know what needs to be done now. And, it’s still eating away at me, just as it did thirty years ago.”

I think society as whole has this dilemma. What do we do with this knowledge? As a poster early in the movie declares: “Everyone participates whether they know it or not.”

This is the history of an important period of resistance that reflects on current events, especially in the voice commentary by Ayers and Dohrn, which I highly recommend. Among other thing, the commentary points out that the hippy culture was an edgy and humorous rejection the “three pillars of empire: militarization, materialism, and racism.” Without the war in Vietnam, the structure of resistance faded and the culture was co-opted or made absurd, or both.

From the audio commentary, self-righteousness is dangerous, but state-righteousness is more dangerous. As Ayers says, “It’s a power not to be trusted.”

Ayers: “It’s so hard for the film to end, because it’s not over.”