The Midnight Ride of Larry Grathwohl

Larry Grathwohl, the man who informed the world of the coldest truths about Bill Ayers, Bernardine Dorhn, and the Weather Underground, has died.

When I say "informed the world," I mean that he made the truth available, although most people blithely ignored it. When I say "the coldest truths," I mean, among other things, his report of the Weathermen leadership's icy calculation that after their communist counter-revolution, approximately ten percent of the U.S. population would be recalcitrant to their Marxist re-education program, and would therefore need to be killed.

And when I say "most people blithely ignored it," I am not thinking of the diminished infants and illiterates who have already made their way in good standing through Ayers' actual re-education camps -- i.e. American public schools in their latest stage of degradation -- and have thus been rendered morally and intellectually incapable of recognizing inhumanity and tyranny, perceiving them only as "new rights" and "the safety net," respectively. I am thinking, rather, of the reasonably intelligent members of the Washington elite who were capable of understanding Grathwohl's words, and knew of Barack Obama's connection to Ayers, but who chose to keep these two realities tucked away in separate mental compartments, rather than face the fact that the man they were actively or passively supporting for the presidency in 2008 began his political career in the private home of a communist terrorist and advocate of mass execution.

I never met Larry Grathwohl in person, but I had the great honor of becoming an e-mail acquaintance, and of interviewing him at long distance this year. In January, I wrote an article about public education that paid ironic homage to Grathwohl's famous firsthand report about the Weathermen's projection of the need to kill twenty-five million Americans. The article, Good News: You May Be Spared Execution, appeared at American Thinker, and also at Patriot Post, where, to my surprise, I found the following reader's comment:

Great article and analysis of what has happened during the time since Bill Ayers made those comments to me. I'm not certain I agree with the estimate of how many will be "eliminated" but do believe the number has decreased due to the educational system run by individuals trained by Ayers and many others who are former members of the weather underground. I will not go quietly when they come for me as I'm certain that I will be eliminated. God Bless America and those who defend Her. Larry Grathwohl

Needless to say, though flattered, I was skeptical as to the true identity of the commenter. However, a friend, radio host Guy Green, who had interviewed Larry, passed along an e-mail address. Swallowing hard, I sent a message inquiring as to whether the comment was really his. It was, and Larry could not have been more gracious -- so much so, in fact, that I was immediately struck with the idea of tying my interests and his crusade together, and interviewing him with particular emphasis on the relation of former Weathermen to the public education establishment. He expressed enthusiasm for the idea -- he relished any opportunity to inform a new audience of his startling and vital information -- and, once I'd had some time to figure out how to conduct an interesting interview with someone who had already been interviewed five million times, the result appeared as a three-part series here, here, and here.

Looking back over his answers to my questions, I continue to be impressed at how dedicated he remained to the cause of exposing the truth about Ayers, Dohrn, and the others. He had seen them in action, and heard them speak in unguarded contexts, and was therefore immune to the excuses and apologies we typically make for bad men in our midst -- "he seems so normal," "he's a respectable educator now," or "he's just a guy in my neighborhood."

In fact, I asked him about this precise point. His answer fascinated me at the time, and still does:

DJ: Please give me some insight into this issue: did the WU, even during those violent early days, sometimes seem like relatively normal people? Could someone meeting them in a non-WU context see Bill Ayers or Mark Rudd as ordinary, or even likable?

LG: While there were some members of the WU that I took a personal liking to, I cannot say that of the individuals that I knew as members of the leadership collective. This would have included people like Bill Ayers, Mark Rudd, Bernardine Dohrn, Jeff Jones, and others. These people were absolutely vicious in their dedication to overthrow the government by any means necessary, including the use of bombs and shrapnel in order to create the greatest injury and death to people they deemed enemies. There were some whom I knew as part of the operational personnel who were more to my liking, and the difficulty surrounding these individuals was knowing that I was betraying them and their friendship as I continued to pass information to the FBI. So the answer to this question is yes, there were some who were relatively normal and therefore likable, but this did not include the leadership, which was extremely focused and intent upon destroying every remnant of democracy, including innocent bystanders who might unfortunately be in the way.

Perhaps it is only now, looking back at this exchange, that I understand to what extent Grathwohl's answer spoke to a reality much broader than the ugly little world of the Weathermen. There is always a distinction to be made between the progressive leadership, political and intellectual, and the larger mass of progressive dupes, the "operational personnel," as it were. The latter may lack practical reason, critical skills, and a moral compass, but they are not intrinsically evil -- or, to say the same thing another way, their evil is borrowed. The former, smaller group, the leading progressives, cannot and must not be given the same benefit of the doubt. They know their own hearts, which is to say they know what they hope the rest of us will never realize, namely that progressivism is not, and never was, a political philosophy, so much as a propaganda campaign or set of rationalizations for authoritarianism. In identifying this social dynamic and hierarchy among the Weathermen, Grathwohl had provided the perfect Petri dish view of progressive politics.

Grathwohl's detailed description of his time as an FBI informant within the Weather Underground, Bringing Down America, was rereleased this year. I know that this project meant a great deal to him, and was a major preoccupation at the beginning of 2013. (He sent the new cover design, provided by Tina Trent, around to some of us, canvassing opinions.) How satisfying that he was able to see it through to completion.

It has become common of late for today's American patriots to compare one another to Patrick Henry or Paul Revere. This has inspirational value, as well as reminding modern men, suffering through their nation's darkest hour, what real steadfastness and dedication look like. Larry Grathwohl was the genuine article, a real latter-day Paul Revere.

See whether these words of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow do not ring true, as you reflect upon the life, courage, and patriotism of Larry Grathwohl:

So through the night rode Paul Revere;
And so through the night went his cry of alarm
To every Middlesex village and farm, -
A cry of defiance, and not of fear, -
A voice in the darkness, a knock at the door,
And a word that shall echo forevermore!
For, borne on the night-wind of the Past,
Through all our history, to the last,
In the hour of darkness and peril and need,
The people will waken and listen to hear
The hurrying hoof-beat of that steed,
And the midnight-message of Paul Revere.

Larry has done his part. It remains to be seen whether America, in its present hour of darkness and peril and need, will once again waken and listen to hear the midnight-message of Paul Revere.