February 28, 2012

"New play uses oral history to craft story of the 1970 Sterling Hall bombing."

"Uncivil Disobedience, a new play from Madison’s Forward Theatre Company, examines an important event in Wisconsin’s history...."
When a bomb exploded just outside Sterling Hall in the early morning hours of August 24, 1970, it was a thunderous event in the history of Wisconsin. Intended to destroy the Army Mathematics Research Center, it caused enormous damage to the building and killed physics researcher Robert Fassnacht and injured three other people....

Mike Lawler of the Wisconsin Story Project, in conjunction with Troy Reeves of the Oral History Program at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, has spent several years conducting interviews and collecting stories from people who were there – and those whose lives were profoundly changed by the aftermath. These stories form the basis of a theatrical piece exploring the impact of the bombing on campus, and also within the larger protest movement of the 60s and 70s.
More information here, including this:
Underneath the story of the bombing and the effort to affect government policy in Vietnam, Lawler believes there is a bigger issue to explore. "For me," he says, "the central question of the story we’re telling is not ‘were the bombers justified?’ but rather, ‘why do most of us think that they weren’t [justified]?"
"Partially underwritten by the Dane County Cultural Affairs Commission."

ADDED: I'd like to go to this play so I can tell you about it, but I'm extremely put off by this:
Due to limited seating in Rotunda Studio, reservations are strongly encouraged... To reserve your seats, please email fhonts@forwardtheater.com.
They're collecting names and addresses, and you'll have to I.D. yourself at the door to be seated. I want to buy tickets anonymously and not be identified! I live in a city where people point me out and announce to the group: "Ann Althouse is here." And not in a nice way. It's creepy.

And imagine if a right-wing group were doing a play that pushed left-wing buttons as hard as that suggestion that the Sterling Hall bombers were justified.

AND: I received email from the theater group's communications director saying that you won't need an I.D. at the door. You simply need to get your name on their list and then tell them your name at the door. And if you don't want your real name on their list, you can use "a name of your choice."  Like... I don't know... Robert Fassnacht... or Leo Burt.

I said:
I didn't think of the idea of using a fake name. I can't imagine emailing and making a reservation under a pseudonym or showing up and giving a fake name. I mean, now that you've suggested it, I can think about it and see that it's not something I personally can do. I have never in my life tried to get into some place using a fake name, and as someone who gets recognized in this town (and confronted!), I'd be afraid of finding myself in an embarrassing situation.

65 comments:

Matthew said...

"For me," he says, "the central question of the story we’re telling is not ‘were the bombers justified?’ but rather, ‘why do most of us think that they weren’t [justified]?"

-- "[I]t caused enormous damage to the building and killed physics researcher Robert Fassnacht and injured three other people"

I didn't even need to conduct several years of interviews to answer that question.

Scott M said...

For me," he says, "the central question of the story we’re telling is not ‘were the bombers justified?’ but rather, ‘why do most of us think that they weren’t [justified]?"

Bare-naked, full-metal, unrepentant Jihadi logic. Give them an inch, and they'll eventually take your head.

rhhardin said...

It needs more cowbells.

Scott M said...

For me," he says, "the central question of the story we’re telling is not ‘were the bombers justified?’ but rather, ‘why do most of us think that they weren’t [justified]?"

Lawler obviously endorses bombing abortion clinics and sniping abortion doctors.

damikesc said...

Yes, asking if killing people who did you no harm is justified is silly. According to these dunces, it CLEARLY is justified.

I just wonder how they can justify that and likely oppose the killing of abortion doctors, since their killers ALSO feel it is immensely justifiable.

That is the problem with situational ethics like this. Justifiability is in the eye of the beholder.

traditionalguy said...

"Political power comes out of the barrel of a gun," said a famous intellectual leader of today's Progressive gangs.

The IED method is favored since guns are not allowed, and ammunition costs money.

Matthew said...

Well, wait. We haven't seen it yet.

It might be a scathing look at how horrible these people are, and he is showing us why we think they weren't justified. Because they are horrible people and murderers.

So, maybe, it will break ground and show us an innocent man's life cut short by people who put ideology before democracy and life. Perhaps it will show how some people within the protest movement questioned using violence to achieve their ends.

We shouldn't judge before we see it.

... Yeah, I don't really think so either.

Tregonsee said...

"...why do most of us think that they weren’t [justified]?"

I served in Vietnam, and started physics graduate school in 1975. There were still some bits of damage visible in the building at the time.

The only real question is why anyone would even entertain the idea that it was justified. Especially after 40 years for the reality to sink in.

Henry said...

For me," he says, "the central question of the story we’re telling is not ‘were the bombers justified?’ but rather, ‘why do most of us think that they weren’t [justified]?"

So it's an oral history project? I guess Robert Fassnacht won't be in it.

Scott M said...

The only real question is why anyone would even entertain the idea that it was justified. Especially after 40 years for the reality to sink in.

Is Lawler divorced? If not, is he getting laid enough? That might give us a clue why he's gripping at his 20-something straws while teetering on the verge of senior citizenship.

Matthew said...

"The idea that such an overwhelming act of domestic terrorism happened in such a seemingly quiet, intellectual place was intriguing to me," Lawler explained.

-- This guy is a real idiot. Doesn't he know that students are often on the vanguard of protest movements because they tend to be:

A) Middle to upper class, and according to the famous Davies-J curve theory of revolutions, they have the disposable income and the realization that things can be made better/changed.

B) Intellectual, and therefore most likely to find something wrong with the status quo

C) Traditionally, young men.

Schools are natural hot beds of violent revolution. It is not unusual, it is common.

Maybe he just isn't a historian though, which would explain his ignorance on the matter.

Henry said...

From the second link:

A pivotal event in the era of protests against the Vietnam War, the incident is explored in the words of the people involved. “All of the text in the play is taken directly and verbatim from source material,” explained playwright Mike Lawler. “Nothing is fiction, nothing is ‘written’ by me. The sources of the text include court transcripts, police and FBI records, oral histories, and press accounts, as well as various documents found during my research, including correspondence.”

What can Robert Fassnacht add to that? He knew nothing about the incident and was silenced before he could speak.

Matthew said...

“All of the text in the play is taken directly and verbatim from source material,” explained playwright Mike Lawler. “Nothing is fiction, nothing is ‘written’ by me. The sources of the text include court transcripts, police and FBI records, oral histories, and press accounts, as well as various documents found during my research, including correspondence.”

-- This could be very enlightening, actually, for all of my cynicism. I don't know if it makes for a good play, but it could make for a good book as a collection of research materials on the subject. As much as I have reservations, if he's telling us the truth here, it might be a good way to get a view of living in that moment.

chickenlittle said...

The reason they can never answer the question 'How could it possibly happen?' is that it's the wrong question. Given what people are, the question is 'Why doesn't it happen more often?'
~Max von Sydow in Woody Allen's "Hannah And Her Sisters"

Henry said...

For Mr. Lawler's next project how about an oral history with the Hmong? Then he can present the profound question of whether communist reeducation camps were justified and why do most of think they weren't.

Michael Haz said...

I don't need to see a play about the bombing of Sterling Hall. I was a student at UW back then, and lived six blocks from the Army Math Research Center.

The bombing was not justifiable then, and remains so, except in the feral minds of a very, very few unrepentant anarchists.

To believe otherwise is to deny reality.

X said...

still not as offensive as allowing one of the murderers to hang around campus

Pogo said...

Is it a musical?
Because that would be awesome.

Pogo said...

"...why do most of us think that they weren’t [justified]?"

Robert Fassnacht was unavailable for comment.

Pogo said...

I suppose they could ask Fassnacht's wife, Stephanie, or their three children who survived him.

Scott M said...

Is it a musical?
Because that would be awesome.


They would need a really good percussion section to pull that off.

Rusty said...

Bare-naked, full-metal, unrepentant Jihadi logic. Give them an inch, and they'll eventually take your head.



No just an attempt to control the language of an event and therefore your perception of it.And in the end how the history of the event will be viewed.
To control you, they must control the narrative.


X said...
still not as offensive as allowing one of the murderers to hang around campus

That isn't offensive. It's obscene.

rhhardin said...

The chief achievement of leftism, from Belmont Club

intellectual vaporware

(preview doesn't work for me any longer, I wonder if the link is okay)

The Drill SGT said...

The central qestion to me is why people's taxes are supporting the rationalization of terrorism...

Jon Burack said...

I was in Madison then and lived through it all (and took part in it all in my own way). I knew one of the creeps who did this. They all were celebrated by and large by the left when they came back one by one (except for Leo), all pretending to remorse. If this play accepts their pretense and the equally bogus pretenses of all too many of their admirers, I would like to go see it, openly identifed or not, and make a damn nuisance of myself in the process. I will reserve judgment as to whether they actually are going to engage in some fancy-dancy prettying up of this all. But I suspect they will. Anyone who can actually wonder why most people think the bombing was wrong or regard that as a mystery worthy of a play? I mean give me a break. Okay, maybe they will prove me wrong. But I doubt it.

Quaestor said...

damikesc wrote:
That is the problem with situational ethics like this. Justifiability is in the eye of the beholder.

Justifiability is in the eye of the perpetrator. FIFY

Mary Beth said...

Is it a musical?
Because that would be awesome.


A Wisconsin version of "Springtime for Hitler"?

MadisonMan said...

"Ann Althouse is here." And not in a nice way. It's creepy.

Ugh. Sorry to hear that.

Christopher in MA said...

I presume they've already got a VIP section set aside for Bill Ayers and Bernadine Dorhn.

At the end, the audience can all join in a stirring singalong of "Those Were The Days."

bagoh20 said...

The left are a scary, creepy yet sad bunch of fanatics.

CJinPA said...

Bill Ayers tried to set off a nail bomb at Ft. Dix social dance.

He admits it would have done a lot of damage. Picture the dozens of young ladies - civilians - in their bloodied dresses.

The only reason he did not succeed - and the only reason he became a respected Chicago scholar who would welcome aspiring politician Barack Obama into his living room - is because his henchmen cross a wire and blew themselves up instead.

A quarter-inch was the only difference between our president launching his career in the home of a "radical leftist" and launching it in the home of a mass murderer.

The Drill SGT said...

Christopher in MA said...
At the end, the audience can all join in a stirring singalong of "Those Were The Days."


Nope: Internationale

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fCFibtD3H_k

David said...

"you'll have to I.D. yourself at the door to be seated."

Dumb fucking lefties. The new storm troopers.

Richard Dolan said...

" I want to buy tickets anonymously and not be identified!"

It's interesting that all of the comments concern the play (sounds more tendentious than historical but who knows), while ignoring Ann's addendum about the importance of anonymity. Anonymity is a recognized First Amendment value, and for exactly the reason Ann invokes here. McIntyre v. Ohio Elections Comm, 514 US 334, 357 (1995) ("Anonymity is a shield from the tyranny of the majority."). Its virtues were once expecially apparent to those on the left, see NAACP v. Claibourne Hardware, 458 US 886 (1982), particularly after the McCarthy era. But, so far, it remains only a shield that an organization may offer those dealing with it, rather than a right which anyone is entitled to expect or demand when dealing with such organizations. Have you tried anonymously demanding anonymity? In monocultures like Madison, it simply many not occur to the lefites that there are folks who might be interested in their offerings but only on an anonymous basis.

Lem said...

(preview doesn't work for me any longer, I wonder if the link is okay)

The link is good rh.. and the post at the link is also good..

you are two for tuesday.

Scott M said...

you'll have to I.D. yourself at the door to be seated

Why do they want to disenfranchise people?

Matthew said...

"Why do they want to disenfranchise people?"

-- Art is more important than voting, clearly.

PaulV said...

Order tickets in name of Robert Fassnacht to see what happens. Should all the reader here do so?

Matthew said...

Paul, I think that would be a brilliant statement, and if I lived in Wisc., I would do so.

MadisonMan said...

I think a question for the County Commissioners (okay, I almost wrote Commissariat) would be: Why is identification important? Why are County Funds being used for this event if you cannot be anonymous to see it?

virgil xenophon said...

Rusty@9:03 is on the hunt. It's ALL about re-directing the narrative. Facts mean nothing to the left (see Wretchards art. @Belmont Club rhhardin references) it's ALL about the "narrative," i.e., the "intellectual vaporware."

edutcher said...

This is the campus commandos of the 60s reliving their glory days.

The same thing as the Gray Lady interviewing on 9/11 Barack's "guy from down the street", William Ayers, about how he stood by his actions.

Lem said...

The American left has a history of cozying up to violent revolutionary movements like Shining Path (Sendero Luminiso) the Black Panthers and the FALN..
I'm leaving out the ones I dont remember.

This look back (in Madison) has a nostalgic fingerprint.

Pogo said...

I'm thinking something like an updated Godspell, but the guy stays dead.
Something relevant.

Music by Bruce Springsteen, like Nebraska.


"From the town of Lincoln Nebraska with a sawed off .410 on my lap
Through to the badlands of Wyoming I killed everything in my path
"

Petunia said...

The central question is NOT what Mr. Lawler thinks it is, and his attempt to make it about him and what HE thinks is just pathetic.

The central question for EVERYONE is, "why would anyone attempt to justify the bombing of a building, especially a bombing that killed and injured people?" Period.

Stuff like this is part of the reason I don't donate any money to the UW, despite having two UW degrees.

Pogo said...

They should make a large paper mache head of Robert Fassnacht and blow it up onstage with special effects and then sing a dirge-like folksong about how they feel really really bad but that's what it takes to make omelets.

Man, I'm getting goosebumps.

William said...

Social justice, economic efficiency, and personal liberty are the goals of government. They are not necessarily antagonistic, but they are certainly not complementary. Throughout my time on earth, the grand crimes against humanity have all been committed by those committed to social justice, and the big exposes have all been about capitalists seeking economic efficiency. The VietCom expropriated the property and physically expelled over a million ethnic Chinese from a country they had lived in for hundreds of years. Don't hold your breath waiting for any movie or play about this. Instead, go to the documentary about the dozens of kids with birth defects as a result of Agent Orange. The ethnic cleansing of the Chinese, like the starvation of the kulaks or the bombing of the lab were all done in the pursuit of social justice. It would be unfair to look upon these acts as anything but misguided idealism. Agent Orange, however, was made by capitalists in pursuit of profits. It's high time that the officers of Dow Chemical (or whatever manufacturer) were tried by a War Crimes Tribunal. Social justice: good. Making money: bad.....The people who prepare oral histories are by and large the people who believe in social justice as a priority. People who want to make money by and large do not prepare oral histories.

Moose said...

Relax - you probably get a ticket anyway once they know who you are.

cubanbob said...

To add a touch of realism the theater ought to be bombed during the performance. You know, performance art.

Synova said...

You don't invite strangers to a mutual jerk-off, do you?

Or maybe it's just projection. Everyone knows what they would do to disrupt something similar from the other side, so they want to control access. Could they actually anticipate something disruptive?

Bill said...

Althouse--it's not exactly hard to spot you. You purchase your clothing at the same place that the Wizard of Oz dress managers purchased the costumes for the movie.

Pogo said...

Bill = Mary
Right?

Scott M said...

You mispelled 'bile', Pogo.

Pogo said...

Ha!

carrie said...

Anyone who is interested in the Sterling Hall bombing should read "Rads" by Tom Bates. If the book was about NY or LA, it would have been a best seller. Rads is a great read, but it makes you see that the bombing was just 4 bumbling guys making a statement. For me, I start out thinking that statements that kill aren't justified. There is a pictures of the inside of Sterling Hall after the bombing on exhibit at the Chazen right now and the picture really made me feel like it was not justified.

dbp said...

""the central question of the story we’re telling is not ‘were the bombers justified?’ but rather, ‘why do most of us think that they weren’t [justified]?""

Logically, 'why do some of us think that they were justified?' is the same question. Yet somehow the different wording gives the opposite implication of what you are supposed to think about it.

The Drill SGT said...

Can somebody explain to me why the bombing wasn't terrorism?

Rabel said...

If anyone goes to the play, look for this guy. 150k reward.

http://www.fbi.gov/wanted/dt/leo-frederick-burt

The ring leader, Karleton Armstrong, served seven years and as of 2010 was selling smoothies from a cart in downtown Madison. Really.

Rusty said...

William said...
Social justice, economic efficiency, and personal liberty are the goals of government. They are not necessarily antagonistic, but they are certainly not complementary. Throughout my time on earth, the grand crimes against humanity have all been committed by those committed to social justice, and the big exposes have all been about capitalists seeking economic efficiency. The VietCom expropriated the property and physically expelled over a million ethnic Chinese from a country they had lived in for hundreds of years. Don't hold your breath waiting for any movie or play about this. Instead, go to the documentary about the dozens of kids with birth defects as a result of Agent Orange. The ethnic cleansing of the Chinese, like the starvation of the kulaks or the bombing of the lab were all done in the pursuit of social justice. It would be unfair to look upon these acts as anything but misguided idealism. Agent Orange, however, was made by capitalists in pursuit of profits. It's high time that the officers of Dow Chemical (or whatever manufacturer) were tried by a War Crimes Tribunal. Social justice: good. Making money: bad.....The people who prepare oral histories are by and large the people who believe in social justice as a priority. People who want to make money by and large do not prepare oral histories.

2/28/12 10:51 AM



See my comment on narrative and appropriating language above.
Comrade.

Mr. Forward said...

"The place is lit up like a Christmas tree! We had kept a last minute surveillance on the area, but we had mess up. When I drove the truck up to the building I observed a car that was parked. I observed two bicycles. I observed a light on in the computer room...
I didn't know if there was anyone in the building. But the light was on in the computer room. And I would have to honestly say that... the probability was that there was someone in the computer room."
Karlton Armstrong
P. 303 Rads, Tom Bates
1992 Harper Collins

Quaestor said...

Bill wrote:
Althouse--it's not exactly hard to spot you.

You're easy to spot yourself. People wearing dunce caps tend to stand out.

Michael Haz said...

A better and more enjoyable thing to do would be to see Act of Valor.

Calypso Facto said...

A better and more enjoyable thing to do would be to see Act of Valor.

I like the way you think, Haz.

MadisonMan said...

Can somebody explain to me why the bombing wasn't terrorism?

Because it occurred in 1970.

Danno said...

Another great example of the bizarre freakshow that is called Madison!