Activist-scholars Bill Ayers and Bernardine Dohrn, who were preeminent — and controversial — figures in the ’60s-’70s New Left, were our guests for a very energetic and provocative hour on Rag Radio, Friday, January 17, 2014.
Rag Radio is a weekly syndicated radio program produced and hosted by long-time alternative journalist and Rag Blog editor Thorne Dreyer, himself a veteran of SDS and the ’60s New Left. Rag Radio is engineered and co-produced by Tracey Schulz and is recorded at the studios of KOOP 91.7-FM, a cooperatively-run all-volunteer community radio station in Austin, Texas.
Multi-media magus Bob Simmons, who was a pioneer in “underground” FM radio in the ’60s and ’70s, produced a handsome and compelling video of the spirited session, which is posted at YouTube and embedded above. The video was edited by Simmons and Jasper McCollum.
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A podcast of the show can be downloaded at the Internet Archive.
Bill Ayers and Bernardine Dohrn were leaders in SDS and the Weather Underground from the late 1960s through the ’70s. Dohrn was on the FBI’s Ten Most-Wanted List from 1070-1973. The two have been together for nearly 50 years and have been active in progressive causes through all the decades since the fugitive days. They are grandparents and live in the Hyde Park neighborhood of Chicago.
Bill and Bernardine were in Austin to headline a hugely successful launch party at the 5604 Manor Community Center for The Rag Blog‘s new expanded website at TheRagBlog.com. The Melancholy Ramblers performed at the event.
Ayers also did a reading from his recently-released Public Enemy: Confessions of an American Dissident at Austin’s leading independent bookstore, BookPeople.
In our Rag Radio interview we discuss Ayers’ acclaimed two-volume memoir — and the era it documents. Bill also addresses the 2008 presidential campaign, when his alleged friendship with Barack Obama emerged as a right-wing-media-driven “issue” — as well as the larger question of guilt by association that it begged.
We talk about Dohrn’s work in criminal justice reform and the tragic impact of mass incarceration in the U.S.; the status of the peace movement and the surprising cross-party public reaction to proposed plans to bomb Syria; and the endangered state of our public education system and the threat posed by the “educational reform” movement.
They also emphasize in the interview what they see as a strategic need for progressives to build a strong and active presence outside electoral politics and the Democratic Party.
Bill and Bernardine also address the significant legacy of the Occupy movement; the impact of journalist Glenn Greenwald and Edward Snowden’s NSA revelations; and the critical importance of progressive and alternative journalism today — and its parallels to the radical and underground media that proliferated in the ’60s and in which Austin’s legendary paper, The Rag, was a major player.