Is Kent State in Denial About What Happened There 35 Years Ago?

Historians/History
tags: Kent State



Mr. Gordon (KSU 1973) is the author of Four Dead in Ohio: Was There a Conspiracy at Kent State? He can be reached at BGordonLA@aol.com.

Next May Kent State will commemorate the thirty-fifth anniversary of the May 4, 1970 killings on its campus by doing what it always does. It will change the subject. The university recently announced it will sponsor a symposium, "Democracy and the Arts," which, like previous years' programs ("Democracy and Religion" and "Media and Profits"), has nothing even remotely to do with the killings of four of its students by members of the Ohio National Guard. Once again, Kent State has decided to play it safe rather than look in the eye of the most important event in its own history.

Had the tragedy occurred on any other campus, I suspect that university would have viewed it as an educational opportunity and would have invited all the leading experts to present their findings. In thirty-fifth years, Kent State has never once brought together the leading experts, and has rarely invited anyone other than their own professors (a.k.a. cheerleaders for the university) to comment on the subject. In fact, the people who probably have the most insight into May 4--the authors of the independent studies--are persona non grata at Kent. The last time the author of any major study was invited to speak at Kent was thirty years ago. That was back in 1975, when Peter Davies, the author of one of the earliest books, delivered a speech on the campus commons.

Kent State's approach to history is to pretend that there were no legal, factual, and historical issues that were of importance, either then or today. Apparently that suits their purposes. The university seems afraid of generating even the tiniest controversy, even though more than a generation has passed.

Of course, the problem with this tack is that by constantly diverting the community’s attention, Kent State actually helps people forget precisely what should be remembered.

Kent State damages history when it consistently sends the message that the tragedy is not worth scholarly attention. It treats May 4, 1970 as if it had no impact on the war in Vietnam or American history, and as if the journalists’ and the victims’ families "search for the truth"--that is, their decade-long search for answers to the questions about what happened and why—were of no consequence.

That attitude has even filtered down to this generation of Kent State students, where reporters for the student newspaper have attacked anyone who tries to keep the memory alive. One wonders if those students would feel the same if there were any reminders on campus of the few salient historical judgments about May 4, including the principal conclusion of the President's Commission on Campus Unrest: that the shootings were "unnecessary, unwarranted, and inexcusable."

There are not any reminders, either, about the multitude of funny things that happened during the nine and a half years May 4 wound its way through the courts. Not funny in the “ha ha” sense, but funny because there were so many unusual developments in the subsequent trials.

Although the following statement needs to be heavily footnoted, the bottom line is that not one person--not a single soldier who fired inexcusably into the crowd, nor a single protestor who destroyed property, or otherwise committed a crime--ever spent a day in jail as a result of any of the criminal proceedings. To me, that qualifies May 4 as the one greatest injustices of recent times. How and why this came to be should have been one of the major subjects subjected to scholarly scrutiny.

Footnote: I am not suggesting that Kent State wallow in the tragedy or even hold colloquia every year. I just believe that, thirty-five years later, Kent State scholars should be able to recognize what happened right under their noses. It was not that hard to find the debate. Most of the journalists, litigants, and authors were able to. Why cannot Kent State?

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    John Henry Haas - 5/7/2005

    ". . . but those protestors learned something . . . Get over the 60's, they weren't really that interesting in college. . . . it was a minor and inconsequential occurrence in the larger scheme of things and changed nothing . . . had they tended to their classes and minded their own business they wouldn't have placed themselves in a hazardous position."

    I think we can see here the larger lesson that many or most today would have us learn from this incident. Kent State is actually, in this discourse, functioning as a microcosm of 'the sixties' (ie, the sixties of popular cliche: protests, concern, activism, engagement, etc.; not the sixties as a whole, or the pro-establishment-Marilyn Quayle-'not everyone was protesting' sixties). Mr. Clayson's remarks are really not designed to have us put Kent State behind us, but rather to have us learn its lesson very well: step out of line, and we'll kill you. Anyone who lived during this time can recall the (usually only near-) homicidal rage that was continually directed at anyone questioning or disagreeing with the establishment by the M. Quayle types who had chosen to support the regime in exchange for the privilege of later inclusion (and all the goodies that would entail). Usually this rage took the form of spitting. (It is one of the grand historical ironies of our times that it is universally accepted that Vietnam vets were subjected to tsunamis of saliva on their return, yet not a single vet that I have asked was spat upon or saw any others spat upon; in my high-school, however, the anti-war students were routinely spat upon by the establishment supporters without provocation. Thus is history re-written.) At Kent State, what the spitting did metaphorically was finally enacted in all its reality. As Mr. Clayson shows so well, the real offense of the Kent State students wasn't any threats to property or guardsmen; it was the offense of thinking and speaking when the powers that be had determined your role was to sit and accept. That is why they had to die, and that is why Mr. Clayson approves. The lesson, then, of Kent Stae can't be separated from this kind of defense/response (echoing the majority sentiment at the time, that "they had it coming"): do not agitate, do not speak, don't even think--it's futile, and you'll only be destroyed as a consequence. Thank-you, Mr. Clayson, for that reminder. I had almost forgotten there were people like you out there. It is interesting, is it not, that the purveyors of this cowardly-enforced-conformity model of citizenship have managed to somehow equate it with the truest of Americanism?


    Dave Livingston - 1/7/2005

    Although there is some dispute about the matter, one whom I trust, a priest who was at the time of Kent State was tezching (Latin & Greek) at St. Joseph's Univ. in Indiana, told me a few years ago that as unfornate as the event was, to a degree the students had brought it upon themselves, because they were throwing stones & other objects, including styoform or paper cups of urine, at the troops.

    Whether or no anyone in the Academy likes it, it is contrary to common sense to expect troops on riot duty to passively endure an attack of the sort described above by a mob. Students or no, that was an out-of-control and in an orderly society no mob gets free rein to literally run riot.

    Yes, kids in school are always ready for nearly excuse to duck classes, but as Bill said, students nation-wide learned that their student status didn't grant them immunity from the constraints of the law. This isn't the Middle Ages, when sometimes it was acceptable for rowdy students, gowns, to run riot.

    Another reason I've little to no sympathy for the rioting students is that at the time I was in military hospital attempting to recover from my wounds incurred during a firefight in Viet-Nam on 22 January 1970.

    Even today I strongly believe that we were correct to fight in Viet-Nam pretty much as we did. 'Bout the only thing that irks me about 'Nam is the shameful manner in which we bugged out in 1973, abandoning our South Vietnamese ally to the horrors of Communist conquest and the mass murders, concentration camps that followed as a result.

    The million and a half (or more) Boat People didn't escape from Viet-Nam because they wanted to take relaxing ocean cruises. They knew & many of them yet know the evils of Communism.

    Around here someplace I've yet a cop[y of an email sent by a fellow Viet vet, one who married a South Viet and as a consequence has remained in much closer touch with Viet-Nam than most of us. One thing he related in the email was that the conquering Communist army in 1975 murdered so many South Vietnamese that Hanoi felt it necessary to send officials south to rein in the runaway murders, so out-of-hand it had gotten.

    Anyone who thinks any South Viet who survived the killings should express sympathy for the spoiled brats on campus here in the U.S., whether at Kent State or elsewhere is crazy.

    The same goes for Yours truly! As far as I know, the kids at my alma mater, the Univ. of Kansas didn't riot. My guess is rioting was confined to schools back East or perhaps on the Left Coast as well. In short, kids at Texas, Oklahoma, etc. weren't into that sort of thing.

    It is the conventional wisdom that many Americans opposed the war, as it dragged on & on. Perhaps so, but that wasn't evident to me walking the streets of Kansas City in uniform between my two tours, 1966-7; 1969-70, in 'Nam. I had absolutely no compunctions about walking the streets of other towns in the Mid-West.

    Frequently Ohio is referred to as in the Mid-West, but as far as I'm concerned, it's back East, with East Coast values predominating. Just look at a map of the U.S., Ohio's in the East!


    Dave Livingston - 1/7/2005

    Those individuals were unfortunately in the wrong place at the wrong time (Who sez live & death are fair?). The comment evidently referred to the mob as a whole. Because they were students didn't absolve rioting members of a mob of their lawlessness.

    From reading about the event from a military hospital bed, I had no, zip, zero, sympathy for the mob as a whole. I still retain that lack of sympathy, except for the unfornate innocents, whom you mention.

    It's easy to Monday Morning Quareterback.

    Kent State is a template of the unfornate side effects of collateral damage in wartime. Liberals are in the habit of complaining about our troops using what they the Liberals considere insufficient care & restraint on the battlefield in order to refrain from ever upsetting, let alone harming an innocent non-combatant.

    The trouble is, warfare doesn't usually cannot,function as fine-tunned as the weeping Bleed'n Heart types would have it. More often than not, it seems Liberals want wars fought with no-one getting hurt or killed--doesn't happen that way. It's silly to think it may, but that doesn't stop Liberals from whining and complaining about everything from damage to the evironment to the horrors of what human suffering they see on the evening news broadcast.


    Dave Livingston - 1/7/2005

    Charles,

    Thank you for making that, correct, or so I've read, point.

    Likewise, from time-to-tome there is muttering about the antics of the "60s generation." Of course, whenever the reference is made, it's an over-simplification, because, for starters, most, the vast majority, those millions of us in unfiform at the time weren't into protests, drugs and weird sexual experiments.

    Heck, I for instance was overseas 1962-4, 1966-70, except for a couple of stretches together amounting to less than two years & I was far from alone in being abroad much, even most, of the 60s.

    Moreover, as some here are aware, at least a few of the 60s radicals, most notably David Horowitz, once editor of the radical Leftist & anti-war magazine "Ramparts" have come to recant their earlier anti-war positions.

    David recanted in light of the horrors visited upon the people of South Viet-Nam subsequent its being conquered by the Jane Fonda/John Kerry lauded Communists.


    Alan Canfora - 1/5/2005


    William A. Gordon's attacks upon the Kent May Center and director Alan Canfora are "unnecessary, unwarranted, and inexcusable".

    As one of the nine students shot and wounded at Kent State University in 1970, and as the volunteer director of the non-profit Kent May 4 Center, I want to thank hnn.us for the opportunity to respond to the unwarranted allegations by William A. Gordon. Hopefully, these comments below can clarify the exaggerations, distortions and attacks by Mr. Gordon, our perpetual antagonist.

    I specifically respond to December 27 and 31, 2004, comments by Bill Gordon criticizing our non-profit, educational, tax-exempt charity, the Kent May 4 Center. We are a recognized 501(c)(3) tax-exempt educational charity recognized by the IRS and state of Ohio since 1989.

    If the IRS and Ohio have no problems with the Kent May 4 Center, why are we under attack by a so-called "Kent State expert" named William A. Gordon? Whose side is he on?

    Why does William A. Gordon wrongfully attack the Kent May Center when he whines above: "Tell us, with specificity, the names of any beneficiaries and explain how they benefitted. Explain why, in your 'charity's' 17-year existence, I've never once seen you underwrite anything that most people who consider to be "educational" (e.g., sponsor a symposia or lecture, or publish literature that would answer anyone's questions)..."

    Mr. Gordon, as usual, shows his own insensitivity and, in my opinion, his absolute ignorance about most events in Kent since 1970.

    Regarding our Kent May 4 Center fund-raising and contributions, here's data just from the year 2000 when we effectively assisted the May 4 Task Force students and others observing the 30th anniversary of the 1970 massacre:

    KENT MAY 4 CENTER educational contributions in year 2000--

    $2000 -- Country Joe McDonald, California singer, for May 4 Task Force students' commemoration, May 4, 2000;

    $1584 – Inn of Kent, rooms for May 4 Task Force students’ guests at commemoration;

    $1000 – THE BURR magazine by KSU journalism students, donation for May 4 issue;

    $750 – Kent Roosevelt High School, Kent, Ohio, for students’ educational program;

    $750 – student activism scholarship;

    $670 – THE LEARNING CHANNEL, May 4 documentary, 40 VHS tapes, for students;

    $300 – Kent State University teleproduction center, 50 VHS tapes, KSU faculty May 4 documentary, for students;

    $500 – Woodsy’s Music Store, Kent, Ohio, for May 4 Task Force sound system, May 4;

    $500 – Detroit filmmaker, for May 4 commemoration live internet webcast;

    $500 – Oregon film professor, for his May 4 history film project;

    $50 – Thomas Grace, wounded at KSU in 1970, travel costs (Buffalo-Kent);

    $5297 – t-shirts for May 4 Task Force students’ 30th annual commemoration, May 4;

    $1200 – Brady’s Café, May 4 Task Force student-activism reunion restaurant food costs;

    $105 – Kent State University, breakfast, May 4 Task Force, student activism reunion;

    $375 – Jim Russell, wounded at Kent in 1970, family travel (Oregon-Kent);

    $572 – Russ Miller* family travel costs (Boston-Kent), *brother of 1970 martyr, Jeff;

    $300 – Dr. George Katsiaficas, 1970 student strike expert, May 4 Task Force students’ lecture, May 2;

    $200 – Dr. Steve Moore, eyewitness 1968 Organgeburg student masscre, May 4 Task Force students’ lecture, May 2;

    $1000 – Ms. Juliette Beck, student activism expert, lecturer at annual November student forum, May 4 Task Force students;

    $400 – May 4-related and Vietnam War-related books from a NJ Vietnam war veteran;

    $159 – Kent photographer, May 4, 2000, commemoration photos.

    In particular, our donation to the KSU journalism students producing the fine student campus magazine, THE BURR, resulted in an excellent educational publication in Spring, 2000, with far more valuable information than anything offered in Mr. Gordon's Kent State-related book. THE BURR editors included a special "thank you" to the Kent May 4 Center in 2000 because we offered $1000 as well as numerous photographs and assistance with pertinent interviews and information.

    The title of THE BURR special May 4 issue in Spring 2000 was taken from a previously-unreported quotation by our martyr Allison Krause: "...The Human Side of History". We provided THE BURR with the original-document KSU history class essay written by Allison Krause weeks before her death. We also secured the four poignant photos of our martyrs as children for the cover of THE BURR. We secured the photos from our martyrs' mothers to be used by the journalism students on the cover.

    See the Spring 2000 edition of KSU journalism students' magazine, THE BURR, online at: http://burr.kent.edu/archives/may4/contents.html

    THE BURR "thank you" reads: "Special Thanks to the Kent May 4 Center, Box 3313, Kent, OH, 44240, http://www.may4.org

    *See THE BURR editors' "thank you" to the Kent May 4 Center online at: http://www.burr.kent.edu/archives/may4/sponsors.html

    In total, during 2000, the Kent May 4 Center provided …over $18,000 in education-related contributions. Additionally, we donated $3,350 to an Ohio veterans organization directed by Vietnam veterans.

    In 2000 and every year since 1989, zero dollars were spent on KM4C salaries. I am the unpaid volunteer director of the Kent May 4 Center since our charity was established by May 4 activists in 1989.

    It should be noted that the Kent May 4 Center has by-laws and founding principles on file with the Ohio Attorney General in Columbus, Ohio. Basically, we seek to raise awareness of the Kent State tragedy of 1970 as well as other educational goals, including: education regarding other student massacres, peaceful conflict resolution, raising awareness of the tradition of American student activism and promotion of continued modern student activism as a means of defending freedom and democracy.

    Mr. Gordon, a Californian and a stranger in Kent for decades, is simply unaware and does not appreciate our longstanding educational efforts in faraway Kent, Ohio. And, it should be noted, Mr. Gordon has not contributed a penny from his inaccurate book's sales to the fine work of the Kent May 4 Center nor the students of the May 4 Task Force at Kent State University.

    In closing, I just want to say our Kent May 4 Center deserves credit for working closely with the families of the 1970 Kent State victims as well as the KSU students of the May 4 Task Force and all others seeking to raise awareness of our misunderstood 1970 tragedy--as well as promoting modern student activism.

    Perhaps we have also finally helped educate Mr. William A. Gordon. I hope so. There is much he could contribute to our movement for truth and justice at Kent State if only he could resist his never-ending paranoia and attacks.


    Alan Canfora - 1/1/2005

    Instead of planning his trip back to Ohio for next spring's 35th commemoration of the Kent State tragedy, California tourist-guide author Bill Gordon spent New Year's Eve concocting more lies and distortions to submit at this history news web site. Happy New Year, little guy. Why aren't you hanging out on Sunset Strip researching tourist destinations?

    I won't waste much time with my response to Gordon's never-ending attacks, smears and slanders, however:

    1) I was chosen by our Kent State victims' families in 1975 to ask Bill Gordon to stop attending our families' meetings because he was such an immature distraction. We all remember Bill Gordon bothering everybody with his childish obsession about the number 13, among his many other petty notions. He bothered everybody often but he became just too suspicious after he became way too friendly with guardsmen's attorneys DURING our long 1975 civil trial. And if Gordon interviewed them so thoroughly, where are the quotes from these Ohio National Guard attorneys? Gordon simply has a long destructive history of doing our enemy's dirty work and he's still their rabid attack-dog. Bill Gordon is worse than any National Guard defender on the scene. Only the Kent State killers and their defenders can truly appreciate Bill Gordon's vicious attacks upon May 4 activists in recent decades.

    By the way, Bill, excuse me for shedding my blood at Kent State in 1970. And what became of your weird obsession with the number 13?

    2-3) We have the 1984 Daily Kent Stater articles about Gordon's "memorial book" scheme rejected unanimously by the May 4 Task Force students (and the KSU administration). And I notice Bill Gordon does not deny writing an article referring to the M4TF students as "children". Nor does he deny his earlier desperation as "America's most-rejected author"--a title he bragged about before he moved to California. If Bill Gordon is such a "May 4 expert", why has he alienated himself from so many key May 4 folks? Why has he not attended a commemoration in recent decades? Why has he attacked so many so often for so many years? Even now, his main concern is perpetual attacks and not seeking the truth about our misunderstood 1970 tragedy. However, Bill Gordon himself is finally starting to perhaps understand fundamental truths about Kent State 1970. I hope the new trend continues and he finally wakes up.

    5-8) Bill Gordon now says he "changed his mind" about certain whacko conclusions he writes in his twice-titled-same-book(s). He took many years to think, plan, research, edit and write his idiotic book conclusions--and he published his "book" twice--and he FINALLY changes his mind in late 2004? Have any other May 4 authors written grand conclusions and later "changed their mind"? Never. Only Bill Gordon.

    When will Bill Gordon change the errant text in his book to include the "new conclusions" after he finally changed his mind about the historic impact of Kent State and the only national student strike in US history? It's clear Bill Gordon, an anti-activist, has a bias against political and May 4 activists. For example, your continued false accusations against KSU Professor Jerry Lewis, among others, are also inexcuseable, Mr. Gordon. In this regard, Gordon emerges not as a Kent State "expert" but merely as the most vicious of the several errant Kent State/1970 fetishists.

    9) Maybe the Alaska guy who created the controversial web site outing Ohio National Guardsmen in 2001 will respond here at hnn.us and disprove Bill Gordon's strange obsession about the controversial "Kent May 4 Central" web site. Again, Bill Gordon's vindictive vendetta against Alan Canfora is revealed. Now he's reading tea-leaves on the internet to smear Alan Canfora. How pathetic. I repeat, I had zero knowledge of that "Kent May 4 Central" web site created by an Alaskan May 4 activist. Nor have I ever met that Alaska guy or learned of his guardsmen research until it was posted on the internet. So there. Enough already about this latest myth perpetrated by Bill Gordon.

    If Bill Gordon ever actually spoke with anybody in Kent he could have easily disabused himself regarding this dumb web-conspiracy idea. If Gordon continues to offer outright lies and slanders on the internet or elsewhere, he should expect a lawsuit.

    And, by the way, why title your book to take advantage of readers interest in the real 1970 Kent State massacre conspiracy and then offer so little analysis of the very real prospect of political/military conspiracy/collusion at Kent State on May 4, 1970? Your title, like your book, is very misleading and inaccurate.

    10-11) The Kent May 4 Center is a manifestation of our longstanding May 4 Movement for truth and justice at Kent State--a movement never embraced by the anti-activist named William A. Gordon. Since 1970, we have educated, agitated and fought an uninterrupted battle for hearts and minds on behalf of our fallen martyrs with hope we can prevent future tragedies. Bill Gordon has instead chosen to attack us while he simply continues to attempt making a buck off the massacre with his self-published book promoting conclusions he now disavows. I know Bill Gordon cannot understand, considering the few cherished dollars he earns occasionally from his poor-selling book, but I'm still waiting to be paid my first dollar as the unpaid volunteer director of the Kent May 4 Center since 1989.

    If the IRS and Ohio Attorney General have no problems with the non-profit, tax-exempt, educational charity known as the Kent May 4 Center since 1989, why is Bill Gordon attempting to manufacture controversy where none exists? And this guy poses as a "May 4 expert"? Whose side is Bill Gordon on? Think about it...

    13) At my web site since 1997, I merely criticize Bill Gordon's book conclusions--exactly the same as I did here at hnn.us. Many people constantly email me questions about book recommendations and I warn them about Bill Gordon's faulty analysis of factual 1970 events. Now Gordon finally admits his anti-historical book conclusions are wrong (at last). He says he "changed his mind" without explaining the reasons he offered his errant conclusions for years to his few readers. Now he admits my critique was correct. Thanks, man. Sorry if I cost you a few book sales but I'm just doing my duty as a legitimate May 4 educator.

    But maybe now we can resurrect your status in Kent. Maybe we can someday invite Bill Gordon to offer a presentation at KSU or in Kent. Has Bill Gordon overcome his fear of flying? Would he accept train-fare? Bus-fare? Gas-money? And who would he attack? We don't know. Too bad he chooses to remain the "Kent State enfant terrible par excellance" in exile in California. This is a mini-tragedy inside a grand tragedy, really, but not something we consider often in Kent. Too bad Bill Gordon NEVER shows his face here. Maybe all of his hostility could be minimized if only he came around occasionally, called on the phone, exchanged emails or offered constructive comments, suggestions or criticisms from California. But, no, not anything constructive from the stranger known as William A. Gordon. How sad. Such a waste of potential.

    As usual, we have real May 4-related work to accomplish here in Kent, Ohio. A major new national documentary is underway and other interesting new projects too. Many of us (me, my sister, Barry Levine, Joe Lewis, Doris Krause, Jerry Lewis and many others) participated in the Emmy Award-winning documentary film on The Learning Channel in 2000. We effectively educated millions of folks when it was repeatedly shown on Discovery Channel many times in recent years. Where was Bill Gordon? Out of the loop, as usual, in his self-imposed exile in cool California. Whatever.

    Still, it should be acknowledged Bill Gordon is quite knowledgeable about some aspects of our 1970 tragedy. He could play an effective role, if he changed his mean-spirited ways. He could speak well about the suspicious 1970 KSU ROTC fire and other decent aspects in his research even if he still apparently cannot clearly see the total big historical picture. Why cannot Bill Gordon just re-dedicate himself as part of the wider May 4 Movement seeking truth and justice at Kent State? I wonder.

    14) If only Bill Gordon was "the quiet one". Haha, that's a good one. Verry funny.

    Is Mr. Gordon planning to join our families of the 1970 Kent State victims, the May 4 Task Force students and our many thousands of supporters from across America at KSU for the 35th anniversary commemoration events in May of 2005? I didn't think so. We have not even seen Bill Gordon since 1984. He prefers the cowardly sneak-attack from afar. In Kent, for decades, we unfortunately only view Bill Gordon primarily as a pesky little nuisance.

    As we prepare for the massive Kent, Ohio, media invasion during spring 2005, I hope Mr. Gordon spends his time wisely--finally revising his inaccurate "history book"--and replacing the earlier false versions in the next edition published out of his home. Can we trust Gordon enough to refer news reporters to his California doorstep? What do you think? Who would he attack? Why is Bill Gordon choosing to remain the perpetual outsider? I honestly do not know.

    Finally, why does Bill Gordon type his rants at a history news web site when he describes his Kent State-related book as a "satire"?

    See Mr. Gordon's bibligraphy: http://members.aol.com/nrbooks/bibliog.htm

    "Highet, Gilbert. The Anatomy of Satire. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton Universal Press, 1962. Highet notes: 'Historians do not tell the truth. They tell parts of the truth, selected and arranged by their own emotions, ignorance, or moral and political bias. Historical narratives, usually solemn, can be classified with sermons, fiction and propaganda. But occasionally there emerges a historian who, using a scornfully humorous sense of incongruity and employing certain satirical devices, writes history that can be called satire.' See Four Dead in Ohio by William A. Gordon."

    Hmmmm: "...Historians do not tell the truth. They tell parts of the truth, selected and arranged by their own emotions, ignorance, or moral and political bias."

    "...emotions, ignorance, moral and political bias"? "...scornfully humorous sense of incongruity and employing certain satirical devices"?

    Humorous? Kent State 1970? Nobody's laughing at your satire, pal.

    Shall we all simply now understand the peculiar pathology of the unfunny person known as "William A. Gordon"? All hail Bill Gordon--a super-sadistic satirist posing as a schlock-historian in search of the almighty dollar while doing the dirty work of the killers at Kent State.

    To quote the grand droog Alex in "A Clockwork Orange": "This sarcasm, if I may call it such, does not become you, oh my little brother".









    William A Gordon - 12/31/2004

    This is now a matter for the attorneys and the Ohio attorney general. In the unlikely event that anyone take his rants seriously, let me set the record straight:

    (1) His claim that I disrupted and was banned from any of the victims' meetings at the Federal Courthouse (which I never attended) is fabricated out of whole cloth.

    (2) I attended one May 4 Task Force meeting (to observe) and never stormed out of it--although I did tell Canfora in front of the students that he should stop pretending he was speaking for the parents of the dead students.

    (3) I certainly never would have asked college students to publish my book.

    (4) I never had a “close association with Ohio National Guard attorneys." All I did was interview most of the defendants' attorneys for the both the criminal and civil trials.

    (5) While Alan Canfora would have you believe I am some kind of failed writer, wannabe, or a professional tour guide, nothing could be further than the truth. In real life I am a full-time author and publisher. The first book I wrote after "Four Dead in Ohio" was a guide to Hollywood (I wanted to something completely different and light after Kent State). However, I have had four books published. Three were published by traditional publishers: McGraw-Hill, Prometheus, and Citadel Books. As a freelancer my work has been published in the New York Times, Cleveland's Plain Dealer, and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

    (6) “Four Dead in Ohio” was originally published by Prometheus Books, which allowed the book to go out of print in 1994. By then I already had my own publishing business and I decided to release my own paperback edition, primarily because I wanted to keep the book in print. This, by the way, is not something unusual or something to be ashamed of. Alan's own attorney, Joseph Kelner, came out with a print-on-demand edition after Harper & Row let his book go out of print.

    (7) Independent critics had a much higher opinion of my work. Cleveland's Plain Dealer thought I did "an excellent job of piecing the together the events that culminated in the killings and of the subsequent cover-ups." And Choice magazine, which reviews new books for college libraries, compared the book to the best journalism and scholarship. Choice thought I brought "more clarity to this controversial historical tragedy than any other work to date."

    (8) "Four Dead in Ohio" is a work of investigative journalism. I do not go around smearing people. I do, however, expose unacceptable behavior. No fair-minded third party is going to conclude that I did hatchet jobs on any of the people mentioned. Without getting bogged down in the minutia, let me suggest that if there is even one human being on this planet who takes Canfora's charges seriously, go to the index of my book
    and look up what I wrote about Peter Davies, Galen Keller, and Jerry Lewis. Even when I reported that Professor Lewis became an informant against the victims, it was "just the facts, ma'am."

    (9) Canfora’s denial that he was responsible for "Kent May 4 Central," the web site publishing the home addresses of the Guardsmen, fails the smell test. He would have you believe that this web site, encouraging the harassment of the soldiers 31 years after the fact, was placed on the Internet independently by a "concerned individual." Canfora would have you believe he was not responsible for this web site (a) even though the distinctive language and thought processes are virtually identical to his writings elsewhere; (b) the site provides links to Canfora's Kent May 4 Center and his personal web site--and no other site; (c) the site's title was "Kent May 4 Central," a play on words of his "Kent May 4 Center," and (d) there is another person on this planet who not only had access to the Guards' home addresses but a 31-year-old ax to grind. Sorry, but that list of addresses was put together by someone who had access to the Alan's attorneys' private papers. No outside that small circle of victims would have been able to track down dozens of Guardsmen as they scattered throughout Ohio and other states.

    (10) Financial records of Canfora's "Kent May 4 Center" may be available from the Ohio attorney general, but they do not answer the questions that need to be answered, including how money much he spent on whom and for what. The records provide only expenditures for broad general categories, such as flowers, plane tickets, and rent. His own admission that he spent some of it for an SDS reunion and a Joe MacDonald concert proves he misused the funds that were raised under the guise of "educating" people about May 4.

    (11) As for his claim that he volunteers his service for his "charity," that may or may not be technically true. However, he does reap other benefits from it. And he did submit a budget to the IRS telling them he would pay himself a salary of $30,000 a year.

    (12) Not that it is particularly relevant, but I was in college, not high school, at the time of the shootings.

    (13) As for Canfora's so-called offer of rapprochement, he did send me an e-mail earlier this year suggesting he'd like to in effect kiss and make up. I found that impossible to believe, so I visited his web site and saw that he was still attacking me with reckless disregard for the truth. Two days later, I happened to notice on Amazon.com that he had sent a letter under a pseudonym attacking me in even more vicious terms. This was the third poison-pen review of my book Canfora sent to Amazon. He may think he covered his tracks by pretending to be someone else, but again his distinctive language, thought patterns, and repeated use of the same phrases always give him away.

    (14) There is somebody involved with May 4 who has a history of harassing people, being disruptive, and making life unpleasant for those who crossed him. His name, however, is Alan Canfora. I was the quiet one who remained behind the scenes.

    (15) Not to overpsychoanalyze, but again he accuses me of the very things he is guilty of. In Abnormal Psychology classes, we were taught this is called projection. When he libels me and other people and suggests that we whine, engage in harassment, or try to make a living off this tragedy (who do you think has been a professional victim ever since 1984?), he is really talking about himself.


    Alan Canfora - 12/28/2004

    I'll respond below to the lies/smears offered by Bill Gordon but, first, I'll again repeat my question Mr. Gordon failed to answer above:

    ----


    You pose as a "May 4 expert" while you whine herein:

    "...Kent State damages history when it consistently sends the message that the tragedy is not worth scholarly attention. It treats May 4, 1970 as if it had no impact on the war in Vietnam or American history..."

    Mr. Gordon, why did you write in your twice-titled Kent State book(s):

    p.17: "...I am not aware of a single historian who has argued that the tragedy had that much impact on the conduct of American policy in Vietnam."

    p.17: "...we cannot conclude that the killings were a pivotal or watershed event..."

    Mr. Gordon, you cannot have it both ways. Please explain your own contradictions.

    ----

    Attack-dog Bill Gordon cannot explain the contradiction above because it exposes him and his delusion of expertise about historical events he fails to understand. His "book", by his own admission, was refused for publication over 200 times and so he now publishes his "book" himself at his in-house, self-publisher called "North Ridge Books".

    When he lived in Akron, he whined about his oft-rejected, unpublished book and publicly claimed to be "the most-rejected author in US history". Considering the weird contradictions and strange historical conclusions he offers in his Kent State "book", no wonder legitimate publishers repeatedly rejected his ineffective, mediocre commentary.

    According to Dean Kahler, "North Ridge Books" operates out of Mr. Gordon's residence in the Los Angeles area where Mr. Gordon is a Hollywood tour-guide author. Unfortunately, Gordon persists in his illusion of expertise regarding the misunderstood Kent State tragedy of 1970--and how he squeals when anybody ever appears to threaten his self-appointed expertise.

    Besides his repeated attacks upon Kent State University and its administrators, I am not the only May 4 activist/scholar Mr. Gordon has attacked in print. Here's a partial listing of others attacked by the paper-tiger named Bill Gordon:

    May 4 author Peter Davies, May 4 author/KSU Professor Jerry Lewis, ACLU para-legal Galen Keller, writer Cindy Barber of the Cleveland Free Times and many, many others too numerous to mention.

    Just ask May 4 shooting victim Joe Lewis' opinion of Bill Gordon. His deceased wife, Galen Keller, went to her grave angered by Mr. Gordon's spurrious attack upon her professionalism. Joe Lewis, among many others directly affected by our 1970 tragedy, properly despises the vindictive person known as Mr. William A. Gordon.

    And noted May 4 author Peter Davies, one of the most courageous individuals ever to exist in this nation, remains quite upset after he was attacked by Bill Gordon's poison-pen years ago. I defend my KSU alma mater, Peter Davies, Galen Keller and others attacked by Bill Gordon now as I defend myself.

    What is the pathology of Mr. Gordon's perpetual, predictable attacks? I think I know the answer. Here are historical facts others should understand.

    In the years after our 1970 massacre (which occurred when Gordon was in high school in Akron), Bill Gordon actually played a good role assisting KSU student leaders seeking to uncover the cover-up of murder at Kent State. In 1975, Mr. Gordon was welcomed as part of our KSU victims families' inner-circle until he became so petty and disruptive we banned him from our families' private legal meetings inside Cleveland Federal Court. Gordon's close association with Ohio National Guard attorneys was particularly suspect during our 14-week civil trial during that summer of 1975.

    When the May 4 Task Force (M4TF) student organization was formed at KSU in October of 1975, Mr. Gordon was the room-mate of our first M4TF student-leader until they fought bitterly. This was the first of many avoidable spats Gordon picked with May 4 activists--a pattern continuing in 2004 and forever, alas.

    In those early years, we assisted Mr. Gordon and his "book", nonetheless. I met with him many times, offered him many May 4 legal documents and photos and once I enjoyed his company during a dinner/interview at my home. He acknowledges my earlier assistance in his book, I think.

    What happened to Bill Gordon?

    In 1984, after years of M4TF students' political pressure, the KSU administration agreed to finally build a May 4 Memorial on campus. Mr. Gordon became very angry when the M4TF students refused his demand to publish his "book" as a "memorial book" instead of realizing a long-sought physical memorial for our martyrs. The last time I ever saw or spoke to Bill Gordon was when he stormed out of that fateful M4TF students' 1984 meeting in the KSU Student Center after we rejected his "memorial book" proposal.

    Thereafter, Gordon moved to California where he continued his sniping from afar. Since that 1984 KSU/M4TF debacle, Mr. Gordon has maintained a vendetta against KSU, certain KSU professors, the M4TF student organization and me, in particular, as well as many others.

    At one point, in his many published attacks here in Ohio, Mr. Gordon smeared the dedicated students of the May 4 Task Force as "children". And even though modern M4TF students are far removed from his 1984 insult, Gordon has continually attacked the M4TF students even in recent years.

    In the past decade, Mr. Gordon failed to intervene as a "historical consultant" inside our long-delayed Kent/1970 film project at Universal Studios. Also, Mr. Gordon has phone-harrassed members of the family of Bill Caldwell (my friend killed in Vietnam).

    After we opposed publication of his book as a "memorial book" in 1984, it's true I have been the target of Bill Gordon's sniping and wrath. C'est la vie.

    Since I was in Kent SDS in 1968, I have a long history of involvement in passionate campus politics. As chairman of my hometown Democratic Party since 1992, I know the rough and tumble of urban political passions in that political arena, too. I have known some nasty political individuals who are vindictive and mean-spirited but Mr. Gordon is in a category all by himself.

    For a slight he perceived in 1984, although I have offered rapprochement on several occasions, Mr. Gordon remains vindictive forever. A knife in the back for every occasion, forever, it seems.

    As for Gordon's predictable smears he offers above, here's my response:

    Regarding my 1970 activities, Mr. Gordon will soon learn everything in my soon-available memoir and perhaps he can finally begin to understand certain truths about Kent State/1970. No doubt, I'm in for further attacks because I'll be soon perceived as another "threat" to Gordon's home-publishing efforts.

    Questions 1-3): These are paranoid lies from Mr. Gordon. That controversial 2001 web site was created by a concerned individual who lives in Alaska(!). He never consulted with me about that web site before it was offered briefly. His choice to list personal info about the 1970 KSU killers was his alone. I do not know this Alaska individual. I assume he did his own research. I did not offer his info at my web site or link to his site. I have never "harrassed" or spied upon the guardsmen with a private detective or otherwise--another paranoid delusion from Mr. Gordon. I remain hopeful a 1970 KSU Ohio National Guard triggerman will come forward and say who ordered the massacre. If anybody seriously seeks the truth about 1970, it can only come from those who followed orders to kill. I denounce Mr. Gordon's vicious smears in this regard.

    Questions 4-6): The financial records of our non-profit, tax-exempt, educational charity Kent May 4 Center (KM4C) are available to the public via the Ohio Attorney General's office. In the year 2000 alone, the KM4C provided nearly $20,000 to assist the M4TF students. We brought Country Joe Macdonald from California, funded two film projects, paid for travel expenses of victims' family members, funded the Kent SDS reunion of 1969 activists, offered scholarship assistance and provided numerous educational activities. As the unpaid, volunteer director of our effective educational organization since 1989, I condemn Mr. Gordon's attack upon our KM4C organization, the May 4 Task Force students and all others Gordon perceives as a threat to his delusions of literary grandeur.

    In conclusion, Mr. Gordon offers no educational assistance, shares zero dollars of the funds he earns from internet suckers buying both versions of his twice-titled-same-"book" and prefers to incessantly attack, year in and year out, everybody who dares to appear as a threat to his little world as a self-published tour-guide "author" way out there someplace in sunny southern California.

    Those of us who remain here in Ohio to fight for truth and a semblance of justice have paid a dear price--in 1970 and to the present day--including false arrests, death threats, hate mail and the occasional petty smears of a little, unhappy, whiny man named Bill Gordon and others of his ilk. Still, we fight the good fight here in Ohio.

    For those seeking the truth about Kent State 1970, I suggest checking the many other legitimate Kent State books available, massive free info on the internet and, especially, my upcoming memoir which reveals the inside story of our 1970 Kent State student uprising and the only national student strike in US history.

    Finally, Mr. Gordon has the nerve, in his book, to describe our 1970 massacre as "the most popular murders ever committed in the United States". When over four million students protested and hundreds of colleges and universities shut down in those passionate weeks of the only national student strike in US history--during May of 1970 after our Kent massacre--isn't it more accurate to say these were the most unpopular murders in US history?

    Too bad Gordon shows his own personal bias so often in his self-published "history" book. Too bad Mr. Gordon was sitting in an Akron high school and still does not begin to comprehend our misunderstood history of the Kent State students' anti-war rebellion and massacre in 1970.

    Bill Gordon has pathetically evolved into just another whiner attempting make a buck while vainly attempting to "blame the victim". As I observed in 1997 at my web site, http://alancanfora.com/ :

    "Bill Gordon, a tourist-guide author living in California, is not a legitimate Kent State 'expert', in my opinion."


    William A Gordon - 12/27/2004

    Some of you may be wondering why one of the students wounded at Kent State is trying to pick a fight with the author of a major study that is highly critical of the people who shot him. After all, Alan Canfora agrees with my principal conclusion that there was an order to fire (although he consistently misrepresents the evidence to arrive at the same conclusion), and he certainly is not quarreling with my argument that the killings should be remembered as one of the great injustices of our times.

    Interestingly, while the some of the other victims have expressed their appreciation for my work, Alan has been singularly ungrateful. Readers need to know that I am far from the only victim of his incessant attacks. In fact, I call Alan an equal-opportunity smearmeister because he seems to have some deep, dark psychological need to indiscriminately abuse people.

    He does not just go after the people who put the small hole in his wrist (visit his web site and you will find references to a "death squad", a "beady-eyed . . . despicable" sergeant, and "the butcher of Kent State.") He has also attacked several KSU officials too. Most recently, on the 30th anniversary he viciously (and without provocation) verbally attacked a retired university administrator, Fay Biles--in a Florida newspaper. This was 23 years after she refused to yield to his incessant bullying.

    Alan has even gone after some of the tiny handful of friends the victims had--and his fellow victims. He has lashed out against at least two other survivors, Dean Kahler and Robert Stamps, who have tried, with varying degrees of success, to distance themselves from Alan; one of the victims' strongest supporters (I will not repeat and dignify the slanderous accusations Alan made against Greg Rambo); and the very researcher he now quotes (in the 1980s he accused Charles Thomas of being a charlatan). This is one of the reasons why a number of people associated with May 4, present company included, stopped talking to him. He is simply a toxic individual.

    Although he carefully avoids mentioning it, I have no doubt that the real reason he is unhappy with my study is because in addition to documenting wrongful behavior by authorities, I also documented his own pattern of deceptions and outright lying, both under oath and to the media. When I interviewed him for my book, he admitted to me that he lied to the FBI (a federal offense) when he told them he was shot a good 75 feet further away from the firing line than he actually was. He lied again (this time under oath) when he tried to convince a civil jury when that he was just an innocent bystander during the shootings and the three days of protests preceding it. Since then, he has admitted to Eric Kosnac, a reporter for Kent State's student magazine, that he was "in the thick of things" and surprised he was only indicted for second degree rioting. (Canfora has not specified what other crime he should have been prosecuted for--he is saving that for his book--but one witness told me Alan physically assaulted a fireman who tried to put out the fire to the university's Army R.O.T.C. building.)

    Alan lied, too, when he denied under oath that he was an activist and a member of Kent's Students for a Democratic Society. He now proudly admits this, and demonstrates that he still has a fond place in his heart for anarchists (again, see his web site, especially his link to "Support anarchist Fabrizio Acanfora.")

    I could go on and on about Alan's history of deceptions, but this is probably enough for now. Since he is constantly seeking the spotlight (he told one writer for The New Republic "I need the publicity"), I'd be happy to send interested reporters an even more detailed documentation of Alan Canfora's May 4 activities, and its pathological underpinnings.

    What I am going to do here is just raise some important questions I challenge Alan to publicly answer. These questions are far more consequential than the simple change of mind he asks me about. Apparently, in his black-and-white world, he cannot entertain the possibility that authors who seriously reflect on historical issues might change their minds over the course of a decade.

    My first question to Alan is multi-part. Alan, tell the world:

    1. Why, on the 31st anniversary of Kent State, did you put on the Internet a web site that published the home addresses and in some instances the social security numbers of the Guardsmen? This site (Kent May 4 Central) urged activists to go to the Guardsmen's homes, "remind them of the deaths they caused...take photographs [and] ask about their health."

    2. Why, 31 years after the fact, were you still trying to harass the Guardsmen? And where did you get these addresses, which do not always match the addresses on a roster of Guardsmen the Ohio National Guard provided to his attorneys for the civil trial? I used that roster to track down and interview these soldiers, and it looks to me that you have continued to track the soldiers' whereabouts.

    3. Did you hire a private detective to spy on these former soldiers? If so, did you pay for them out of your own pocket, or out of the funds you raised for your so-called "charity," the Kent May 4 Center (not to be confused with your aforementioned Kent May 4th Central, which, thankfully, has been removed from the Internet.)

    4. Speaking of your Kent May 4 Center, I've had a chance to review the records released by the Ohio Attorney General's office. They indicate that over a four-year period you raised at least $88,000 in the names of the four students killed at Kent State. The final figure is undoubtedly higher, since a complete set of records is not yet available.

    Please identify any individuals other than Alan Canfora who have benefitted from your "charity." Tell us, with specificity, the names of any beneficiaries and explain how they benefitted. Explain why, in your "charity's" 17-year existence, I've never once seen you underwrite anything that most people who consider to be "educational" (e.g., sponsor a symposia or lecture, or publish literature that would answer anyone's questions). The only things I've seen you spend money on are your two web sites (your personal site and the Kent May 4 Center's sites). Both promote you and you alone.

    5. Why are not any educators at Kent State--or for that matter, any other institution of higher education--involved with your "charity"? Why did you exclude them, as well as all the other victims of the tragedy--and name members of your own family to your board of directors members of your own family (which means you are essentially unaccountable)?

    6. Will you immediately open all financial records of the Kent May 4 Center so that my accountant, reporters for Ohio papers, and other interested individuals can review them?

    William A. Gordon
    Author, "Four Dead in Ohio"

    P.S. Nice try trying to pass yourself off as "Mr. Respectability." Should you or I tell the folks about your long and colorful history of brushes with the law (especially that indictment in 1984), your threats to shut down Kent State, your insistence that a convicted cop killer be allowed to be heard on the 30th anniversary, and your continuing defense of violence as a means of protest?


    Alan Canfora - 12/26/2004


    You pose as a "May 4 expert" while you whine herein:

    "...Kent State damages history when it consistently sends the message that the tragedy is not worth scholarly attention. It treats May 4, 1970 as if it had no impact on the war in Vietnam or American history..."

    Mr. Gordon, why did you write in your twice-titled Kent State book(s):

    p.17: "...I am not aware of a single historian who has argued that the tragedy had that much impact on the conduct of American policy in Vietnam."

    p.17: "...we cannot conclude that the killings were a pivotal or watershed event..."

    Mr. Gordon, you cannot have it both ways. Please explain your own contradictions.

    It's true that previous years of official Kent State University insensitivity deserved criticism. However, the current administration is credited for inviting legitimate scholarly interest in the 1970 tragedy--as well as recently creating memorials where our martyrs fell.

    The KSU symposium next spring is appreciated much more than earlier KSU attempts to contribute to the cover-up of murder. Maybe Mr. Gordon is always simply miffed because he perpetually feels threatened by other May 4 scholars--especially those who seriously seek to get it right.


    Alan Canfora - 12/26/2004

    I would appreciate hearing from Glenn Scott Rodden regarding your interview with a Kent State 1970 guardsman. My email address: alan@alancanfora.com/

    Your interviewed guardsman told the truth when he admitted he was ordered to shoot at Kent State University on May 4, 1970. The order to fire is a key aspect of our misunderstood 1970 Kent State tragedy.

    I was an eyewitness to the massacre when I was shot through my right arm by an M1 bullet during the Kent massacre. I was also a plaintiff during the 1970-1979 civil case in Federal Court where we heard Ohio National Guard triggermen testify in court. For my details, see my web site: http://alancanfora.com/

    Several members of the death squad -- TroopG -- admit hearing orders to shoot just before the massacre at 12:24pm on May 4, 1970. The late Charles Thomas researched the guardsmen's after-action reports and offers exact quotations of guardsmen admitting hearing the order to fire.

    See Charlews Thomas' online book research available free at the KSU library arcives web site: http://speccoll.library.kent.edu/4may70/62.html


    In Chapter 6, "The Blood of Isaac", Charles Thomas writes about the order to shoot unarmed Kent State students. Here's quoted excerpts from this generally excellent research by the late Charles Thomas:


    "First Sergeant Pryor whirled in a crouch and fired his .45 automatic pistol back down the hillside. He continued squeezing the trigger until his clip was empty. The dull boom of his first shot (unlike the higher-pitched, cracking report of the M-1 rifle) startled General Canterbury – who despite his repeated, sworn statements was not looking back at the “mob”, but straight ahead toward the Commons.

    At Pryor’s first shot, the soldiers wheeled around to their right to face back down the slope – as a unit, without a single man turning counter-clockwise[545] -- as if “there was some kind of order or a pre-arrangement from among them.”[546] Some held their rifles at the hip and fired into the air or the ground. Others locked their rifle butts into their right shoulders and sighted, suggesting “they were trying to hit specific individuals, that is they were trying to ‘shoot to kill’.”[547] Because these men took several seconds to lock on to their targets, their comrades fired before they did, causing the students to turn and flee or throw themselves flat on the ground. Thus all but three of the victims were shot in the side or the back.


    But Pryor’s shot was not the only signal to fire. Major Jones gave a verbal order to turn and fire, as well as a hand signal with his riot baton. Jack Albright, an electrical contractor closest to the firing line, heard it clearly as “Turn around and fire three rounds!”[548] Because of the muffling effect of their gas masks, the wind, and the crowd noise, his men heard it differently depending on where they were on the line, or as scattered words, “part of a longer order”. (1, 2, 225) Sergeant Sholl, who had heard a suggestion to fire a volley over the students’ heads while the formation was on the practice field, now heard it repeated as an order.[549] Several others caught it as “warning shots” (1, 8, pp. 526 and 523, resp.), or firing over the students’ heads. (1, 8, 530) Others only heard the word “Fire!” (1, 8, 120 and 419).



    The following variations appear in the Guard’s After Action Report:



    Sgt. Sholl: I heard someone yell ‘fire over their heads’.

    Sgt. Lloyd Thomas: At this point the order was given, ‘Fire – over their heads’.

    Lt. Dwight Cline: However several heard one of the Commanders of the flank unit yell, ‘fire’.

    Lt. H. R. Fallon: However several heard one of the Commanders of the flank unit yell ‘fire’ and thought this ment [sic] them.

    Sgt. Roger A. Maas: I thought I heard the command to ‘Fire’.

    PFC Richard Shade: I heard the commaned [sic] to ‘Fire’.



    A student too far away to hear the command saw the Major’s lips form it. (1, 9, 745). Simultaneously he gave the hand and arm signal with the riot baton which witnesses interpreted as a command to fire. (1, 11, 1356)."



    Glenn Scott Rodden - 12/23/2004

    Charles: "Scott, you are right about the last argument--Kent State is an important part of the history of anti-war protest movement, especially on college campuses. Following Kent State, there were far fewer college riots, or, having it your way, legitimate exercises of free speech."

    Nice to see that we found something to agree on.

    Charles: "By the way did you expect the guardsman you interviewed to tell you he had fired without an order?"

    I did not approach the interview with any expections of what the guardsmen would or would not tell me.


    Charles Edward Heisler - 12/22/2004

    Scott, you are right about the last argument--Kent State is an important part of the history of anti-war protest movement, especially on college campuses. Following Kent State, there were far fewer college riots, or, having it your way, legitimate exercises of free speech.
    By the way did you expect the guardsman you interviewed to tell you he had fired without an order?


    Glenn Scott Rodden - 12/22/2004

    Charles:

    "Scott, you obviously are not aware of all the tensions that had mounted for days both on and off campus, tensions that lead to this shooting. Unless you intend to simply take the moment of the shooting as the entire history of the incident, it is really important that you study the events that led up to the guard reaction."

    Obviously I am aware of the situation at Kent State before May 4th, 1970. But "tension" does not inevitably lead to violence. If it did, more students and many campuses would have been shot and killed. The question is: what happened and Kent State University on May 4th, 1970?

    I did study the guardsmen who were sent to Kent State on May 4th, 1970. There is no evidence that the guardsmen felt threatened by the students. If you can produce that evidence, please present it. Otherwise, you are speculating and theorizing.

    Charles:

    "There is no evidence that a Guard officer ordered these shootings--the troops were being taunted, tear gas canisters were being heaved at them, rocks were being thrown."

    This statement is false. The guardsman I interviewed told me that he was ordered to fire. If you have interviewed anyone who was at the event, please tell us.

    I have found no evidence that the guardsmen were "taunted." That may work as excuse for rioting at NBA games, but it is not an excuse for shooting unarmed people exercising their constitutional rights. Students did throw tear gas cannisters at guardsmen, but those were the cannisters that the guardsmen (gas masks) shot at the students. I found no evidence that rocks were thrown at the guardsmen by any student.

    Charles:

    "The students were part of a mosaic of violence that had surrounded the campus and the town of Kent for days--violence was present before the guardsmen arrived on campus--that is why they were called to Kent in the first place."

    What is a mosaic of violence? The only violence that took place at Kent State in 1970 was the burning of the ROTC building on May 1st, 1970.

    Charles:

    "You cannot single out this single act to judge the reaction of the Guard or the students--like all of history, the act must be put in context of all that had happened at Kent State and the town of Kent prior to the shooting."

    I am doing nothing of the sort. What I am arguing is that there was not mosaic of violence, the guardsmen were not attacked by a large mob of students, etc. I am also arguing that someone is responsible for the shootings at Kent State. I am also arguing that Kent State is an important part of the history of the anti-war protest movement.


    Glenn Scott Rodden - 12/22/2004

    Vernon:

    "Kent State in 1970 pertinent now?? Students at any time and any place are not a permanent class of individuals, it's something like Hillary Clinton and her silly "for the children" programs treating children as if they are a permanent class."

    Following this logic we should also forget about the
    Great Depression and WWII. And who said anything about a permanent class? Whatever that would be. And what does Hillary Clinton have to do with Kent State?

    Venon:

    "They grow up quickly, much like the protesting students at Kent State in 1970 who are now middle aged and learned a valuable lesson 35 years ago - stupid actions in the face of authority can have serious, if unintended, results. It wasn't like France or Russia with brave peasants revolting against their masters no matter how you twist the story, it was a minor and inconsequential occurrence in the larger scheme of things and changed nothing."

    The weak anaologies and the leaps of logic in the above paragraph are astounding. How in the world is Kent State connected in any way with peasant wars in France or Russia? I am not interested in twisting any story. Historians are supposed to discover what happened. Not what people want to hear.

    Vernon:

    "I felt bad for the parents who sent their students off to college with high hopes that were dashed by the heedless and careless actions of those students - had they tended to their classes and minded their own business they wouldn't have placed themselves in a hazardous position."

    This is more blaming the students logic that I rejected earlier in this thread.


    Charles Edward Heisler - 12/21/2004

    Scott, you obviously are not aware of all the tensions that had mounted for days both on and off campus, tensions that lead to this shooting. Unless you intend to simply take the moment of the shooting as the entire history of the incident, it is really important that you study the events that led up to the guard reaction.
    There is no evidence that a Guard officer ordered these shootings--the troops were being taunted, tear gas canisters were being heaved at them, rocks were being thrown.
    The students were part of a mosaic of violence that had surrounded the campus and the town of Kent for days--violence was present before the guardsmen arrived on campus--that is why they were called to Kent in the first place.
    You cannot single out this single act to judge the reaction of the Guard or the students--like all of history, the act must be put in context of all that had happened at Kent State and the town of Kent prior to the shooting.


    Vernon Clayson - 12/21/2004

    Kent State in 1970 pertinent now?? Students at any time and any place are not a permanent class of individuals, it's something like Hillary Clinton and her silly "for the children" programs treating children as if they are a permanent class. They grow up quickly, much like the protesting students at Kent State in 1970 who are now middle aged and learned a valuable lesson 35 years ago - stupid actions in the face of authority can have serious, if unintended, results. It wasn't like France or Russia with brave peasants revolting against their masters no matter how you twist the story, it was a minor and inconsequential occurrence in the larger scheme of things and changed nothing. I felt bad for the parents who sent their students off to college with high hopes that were dashed by the heedless and careless actions of those students - had they tended to their classes and minded their own business they wouldn't have placed themselves in a hazardous position.


    Glenn Scott Rodden - 12/20/2004

    The guardsmen were ordered to fire on the students? The question is why? This was not a spontaneous act and none of the guardsmen were threatened by the students.

    The State of Ohio actually settled with the families of the students who were killed by the guardsmen.

    I am not sure what riot you are writing about. The anti-war protest that took place was not violent until guardsmen started shooting at a handful of students.


    Charles Edward Heisler - 12/20/2004

    Glenn, I did not suggest that the guardsmen did not fire their weapons, I questioned whether they had been ordered by a superior to fire those weapons--to my knowledge they were not so ordered. It was a spontaneous reaction to fear by armed men--unfortunate but true.
    Were they justified--a federal court found them not guilty of violating the civil rights of the wounded students. Justice was done.
    Several protestors, some faulty members of Kent State were successfully prosecuted for their involvement in the riot. Justice was done.
    My point is that, considering the nature of these violent and destructive protests, it is a wonder an incident such as Kent State had not happened earlier.


    Glenn Scott Rodden - 12/20/2004

    "I can't quite figure what your first question is but the girl in the "famous" picture was a 15 year old runaway from Florida."

    My question is: why does it matter that the girl was a runaway from Florida?

    "On the second question, the "protestors" were less than complex individuals who were doing their best, albeit clumsy, imitation of the larger scale protests in the more newsworthy centers, e.g., Chicago."

    What evidence do you have to support any of these claims? Did you know any of the students who were at Kent State? Have you interviewed any of them? Have you talked to guardsmen?

    "If the National Guard, I admit they were too quick on the trigger, hadn't killed and wounded anyone, no one outside of the local Kent State area would have heard of the Kent State protest. A very small percentage of students in a lot of colleges staged protests but the majority escaped notice - because they just did not matter. Then, as now, with the media, if it bleeds, it leads. Get over the 60's, they weren't really that interesting in college."

    But guardsmen did shoot, kill, and wound thirteen students at Kent State on May 4th, 1970. We can play all the "what if" games your want, but that fact will not go away. And this incident does matter. It mattered in 1970 and it matters today.

    The fact that the shootings took place at Kent State and not on the campus of a more well known university made the incident more perplexing and more profound.

    Finally, what am I supposed to be getting over?


    Vernon Clayson - 12/20/2004

    I can't quite figure what your first question is but the girl in the "famous" picture was a 15 year old runaway from Florida. On the second question, the "protestors" were less than complex individuals who were doing their best, albeit clumsy, imitation of the larger scale protests in the more newsworthy centers, e.g., Chicago.
    If the National Guard, I admit they were too quick on the trigger, hadn't killed and wounded anyone, no one outside of the local Kent State area would have heard of the Kent State protest. A very small percentage of students in a lot of colleges staged protests but the majority escaped notice - because they just did not matter. Then, as now, with the media, if it bleeds, it leads. Get over the 60's, they weren't really that interesting in college.


    Glenn Scott Rodden - 12/20/2004

    "Glenn, I think the leaders of the protest at Kent State were probably responsible for those deaths,"

    Charles, you do not seem sure of yourself here, but I want to know how are leaders of protests responsible for the shooting of protestors? I thought that the right to assesmble was guaranteed under the US Constitution.

    "without the large protest--at times reaching by some accounts 3000 students---the burning of buildings the leaders created a climate where this unfortunate incident was likely to occur."

    Charles, there is no evidence that 3,000 people took part in any protest at any time at Kent State. The demonstration that took place on May 4th 1970 was a group of three to five hundred students. A good turn out for a protest on a Monday morning.

    The building that you refer to was the ROTC building and it was burned Friday, May 1st. The guardsmen did not arrive until the next day and I can find no evidence that they were intimidated by the a burnt building or that they were somehow afraid of the students at any time. It sounds like you are pyschologizing here.

    Charles, please tell me why protest likely lead to the shooting of protestors?

    "The threatening of order and destruction of property throughout the United States was bound to bring a deadly response eventually."

    Charles, what order was being threatened at Kent State on May 4th 1970? Were students threatening to overthrow the government? What?

    "Further, it is my understanding that there was no direct order to fire on the Kent State students as most of the guardsmen in the subject group did not fire their weapons during the shooting--didn't the investigation show that only a few guardsmen fired into the crowd??"

    Your understanding is wrong. As I stated above, I took the time to actually interview a guardsmen who was at Kent State on May 4th and he did fire his weapon. The susbsequent investigations showed that about a dozen guardsmen fired weapons that day. Some fired into the crowd, some fired over the crowd and some refused to fire on the crowd. That is not unusual and it does not mean that no order was given.


    Glenn Scott Rodden - 12/19/2004

    Why is the fact that the girl in the famous picture was not a Kent State student? And how were the protestors "screwing" with anyone?


    Charles Edward Heisler - 12/19/2004

    Glenn, I think the leaders of the protest at Kent State were probably responsible for those deaths, without the large protest--at times reaching by some accounts 3000 students---the burning of buildings the leaders created a climate where this unfortunate incident was likely to occur. All of us that were on both sides of these protests in the 60's were not surprised that it happened--it is a wonder that it took so long. The threatening of order and destruction of property throughout the United States was bound to bring a deadly response eventually.
    Further, it is my understanding that there was no direct order to fire on the Kent State students as most of the guardsmen in the subject group did not fire their weapons during the shooting--didn't the investigation show that only a few guardsmen fired into the crowd??


    Glenn Scott Rodden - 12/19/2004

    I can do that.


    William A Gordon - 12/19/2004

    Glenn, could you e-mail me privately at BGordonLA@aol.com? I'd like to find out which Guardsman you interviewed, and for what publication.


    Glenn Scott Rodden - 12/19/2004

    "Then they must have told you why they were "ordered" to fire on the "small group" of students and the explanation was?"

    No, the guardsmen were never told why officers gave the order to fire on students who were no where near them when the shooting started.

    "You are suggesting that these National Guardsmen were so well trained and so on "automatic" that they would fire simply because an officer (a captain as I recall) ordered them to do so without a threat being present? Interesting."

    I was not remarking on the training of guardsmen. My original post was aimed at the common Kent State myth that somehow the students were responsible for provoking the guardsmen. My point is that there is no evidence to support that claim.


    Charles Edward Heisler - 12/19/2004

    Then they must have told you why they were "ordered" to fire on the "small group" of students and the explanation was? You are suggesting that these National Guardsmen were so well trained and so on "automatic" that they would fire simply because an officer (a captain as I recall) ordered them to do so without a threat being present? Interesting.


    Glenn Scott Rodden - 12/18/2004

    The Ohio National Guardsmen who fired on students at Kent State University were not under threat. There was no "mob" attacking them, no weapons were fired on them, and they were not surrounded. They fired on a small group of students who were protesting the war. The guardsmen were order to fire on the students by an officer.

    How do I know this? I took the time to interview a guardsmen who shot at the students.


    Chris Lee - 12/18/2004

    Exactly how did Sandra Scheuer (who was walking to class) and William Schroeder (an ROTC member who stopped to see what was going on)"bring it upon themselves"?


    Charles Edward Heisler - 12/17/2004

    Actually Dave, polls taken at the time show that the military had the support of most Americans during the 60's and 70's. That support did not waver throughout the long years of the Vietnam War. Hell, George McGovern can tell you real quick how popular the Anti-War Movement was in America. The Leftists never seem to learn the basic lesson of how loyal Americans are to military ventures--we were formed in violence, preserved in violence, became great thru violence, and have preseved our interests thru violence or the threat of violence. Most Americans obviously support belligerance. The poo-pooing of the left concerning this reality is simply a media driven conceit that keeps deluding the Left into making political mistakes--except in Massachusetts and a few other out of step areas of the country.


    Vernon Clayson - 12/17/2004

    Kent State and students indeed, the most notorious photograph from that infamous day was not of a true student but a runaway girl posturing over one of the wounded. It may not have been a pretty or pleasant situation but those protestors learned something, do not screw with people who use live ammunition. Reality bites!


    Rick Perlstein - 12/15/2004

    Mr. Heisler, I would like to interview you for my book about the 1960s. Can you contact me at perlstein@aol.com?

    Regards, Rick Perlstein
    Author, BEFORE THE STORM: BARRY GOLDWATER AND THE UNMAKING OF THE AMERICAN CONSENSUS.


    Charles Edward Heisler - 12/14/2004

    Having faced a mob as a policeman on a large Midwestern university that very week in 1970, I can tell you without exemption that justice is served by having no soldier tried for the unfortunate incident at Kent State. Only those that never participated as a member of the mob or as a protector of order would suggest such a resolution.
    Been there, did that and I know that the nature of these things were such that the indiscriminate firing into a crowd on a campus, somewhere, sometime was the inevitable outcome of several years of this mob behavior on college campuses. You might note that following Kent State, large violent campus protests quickly ground to a halt throughout the nation. That the students at Kent State were the sacrificial lambs of the organizers of these "protests" is sad indeed, but it was bound to happen.