YDS: The Clare Spark Blog

November 17, 2013

Rehabilitating the Weathermen

The_Company_You_Keep_posterhttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Company_You_Keep_(Robert Redford film) (no Jews)

http://www.counterpunch.org/2003/07/25/a-review-of-neil-gordon-s-the-company-you-keep/.

From what I read of the Wikipedia description of the movie based on Neil Gordon’s novel  THE COMPANY YOU KEEP, it seems that Jews as red-diaper babies have been purged from the screenplay. Hence Counterpunch can safely allege that the movie is about Love, and [uncontaminated Christian love] at that. This blog dissents: the original novel is really about the rehabilitation of William Ayers and Bernadine Dohrn, whose names are mentioned frequently in the novel, along with other outlaw celebrities who have allegedly gone straight, and who are associated with POTUS. (I don’t know if these names appear in the movie, which I have not seen, but which was received well overseas.)

Neil Gordon’s thesis (in the novel) is stated by one of his characters, an FBI agent and Viet Nam vet whose genitals have been destroyed in Nam. Obviously a mouthpiece for the author, “John Osborne” views the Weatherman faction that grew out of Students for a Democratic Society, as motivated less by ideology or any thought out political strategy than by loving attachments, by “the company you keep.” Hence the intense value placed on loyalty to one another as the various characters live as fugitives from the law after a bank robbery where a guard was murdered by one of their hotheaded associates .

In the novel, there are several “Jewish” characters, whose names are anglicized in the Redford movie (for instance, the nosy reporter Ben Schulberg becomes Ben Shepard). Moreover, in the novel they are the children of “Jewish” communists, one a suicide after being harassed by McCarthyism. And from the outset, Israel is mentioned as irretrievably lost to the ethics of Amor Vincit Omnia: love and community solidarity are the theme of the novel.

It is odd that Gordon’s characters are identified in any way with the Left or New Left, unless you take into account that the prewar British Right also contained within its many factions, equally anticapitalist, antistatist types, such as G. K. Chesterton, Hilaire Belloc, and T. S. Eliot. [I learned this through reading G. C. Webber’s The Ideology of the British Right 1918-1939 (London: Croom Helm, 1986), who deemed this type to be “aristocratic backwoodsmen.” All three (the Distributists Chesterton and Belloc, and Eliot) were elevated by Seward Collins’s American Review, a publication of the mid-1930s that was explicitly pro-fascist, agrarian, and even pro-Nazi. Readers might be surprised to see FDR’s New Deal State grouped by Webber with right-wing movements, along with Mosley’s fascists, the aristocratic backwoodsmen, and Tories.]
For much of the novel takes place in woodland settings: the Hudson Valley near Woodstock, and the woods of Michigan—Ernest Hemingway country.

Make no mistake: this novel rehabilitates the Weathermen as well as weed. We learn that the characters are essentially monogamous (despite much late adolescent free love alluded to), are knightly rescuers (they got Timothy Leary out of jail and safely to Algiers), and are willing to sacrifice themselves for their children. And of course their political opinions coincide with the politics of this administration and with the most anti-American propaganda as churned out by New Left anti-imperialists who view Amerikkka as dominated by murderers and warmongers.

In a prior blog (https://clarespark.com/2010/11/13/the-porgy-controversy/) I claimed that Nature was a character in DuBose Heyward’s popular novel. The same could be said of Gordon’s ingenious characters, whose knowledge of woodland lore, maps, and survivalism, enables their hairbreadth escape from the law and the FBI until the semi-happy ending.  Were we to compare Gordon’s heroes and heroines with prior individuals and movements, I would be inclined to include in that company, the “honest Anglo-Saxon populism” of the upper Midwest, with Frederick Jackson Turner, with Ernest  Hemingway’s early stories that were located in the same region and that were equally primitivist and tribal, and with the often anarchistic OWS movement. (My dissertation director advised me to watch out for those writers who wrote romantically about Nature, for it was a sign of upper-class identity that they not only appreciated “Nature” but sought to preserve it.)

Perhaps the most disturbing aspect of Gordon’s novel is the emphasis he places on the cooperation of ordinary Americans as the Weatherman fugitives attempt to evade capture by the authorities. Gordon imagines that these young people, born to privilege and educated in the best universities, had the support of the locals wherever they might flee.

And of course there is a happy ending, for Amor Vincit Omnia. Just ask the ferociously anti-Israel publication Counterpunch.

Ascoli_Satriano_Painter_-_Red-Figure_Plate_with_Eros_-_Walters_482765

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4 Comments »

  1. […] Indeed, academics sometimes link the New Left spirit to that of the Jazz Age in the 1920s. There is the same primitivism and the same fantasy that pre-capitalist or “Third World” societies are closer to Nature, are uncorrupted by technology, and hence are instinctually liberated. It is imagined, incorrectly, that there are no rules about sex or aggression amongst, say, South Sea Islanders. (I have written about this misunderstanding ad nauseum. See for instance https://clarespark.com/2011/05/12/the-great-common-goes-to-the-white-house/, retitled “Rappers, primitivism, and ritual rebellion.” Or try this more recent blog on Robert Redford’s movie The Company You Keep, with its fantasy of a reconstructed happy family close to Nature: https://clarespark.com/2013/11/17/rehabilitating-the-weathermen/. […]

    Pingback by Reflections on the Ferguson aftermath | YDS: The Clare Spark Blog — November 25, 2014 @ 8:15 pm | Reply

  2. “Perhaps the most disturbing aspect of Gordon’s novel is the emphasis he places on the cooperation of ordinary Americans.”

    Consider the assistance which the younger Boston Marathon bomber received from his school chums.

    Comment by Rachmiel ben Ariel — November 23, 2014 @ 6:08 pm | Reply

    • The punkishness of youth is well known. Recent discussions of fascism in Europe all emphasize the importance of youthful defiance. It is a miracle to me that anyone survives adolescence and young adulthood.

      Comment by clarelspark — November 23, 2014 @ 7:31 pm | Reply

  3. It’s hard for me to think of anything more reprehensible that Redford could do than glorify terrorists.

    Comment by Bob Ennis — November 21, 2013 @ 10:02 pm | Reply


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