April 1 2022 — In its 1970 April Fool’s issue, The Spectator — Columbia University’s newspaper — ran a few hilarious pranks, including a fake letter from William M. Kunstler. Almost a decade later, the legendary civil rights activist found that letter in his FBI file. And he was not amused… Follow us on Twitter: @INTEL_TODAY
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UPDATE — “A republic, if you can keep it.” — I realized that the youngest readers are perhaps unfamiliar with story of the Chicago Seven. So, I thought I should write a quick update.
With “The Trial of the Chicago 7”, film director Aaron Sorkin gets a lot right even if he took a few liberties along the way in order to bring some fun in an otherwise awful story.
1968 was a bad year in America. Martin Luther King was assassinated on April 4 1968. Robert Kennedy was assassinated on June 6 1968.
And in the background of these tragic events, the Vietnam war was dividing the country. Anti-war activists decided to meet in Chicago… And demonstrate peacefully.
What was supposed to be a peaceful protest turned into a violent bloody clash with the police. What followed was one of the most notorious trials in US history.
For those with knowledge of this case, the movie is still worth watching as the story is a good and simple reminder of the dangers of a pseudo-democracy.
Upon exiting the Constitutional Convention, Benjamin Franklin was approached by a group of citizens asking what sort of government the delegates had created. His answer was: “A republic, if you can keep it.”
The brevity of that response should not cause us to under-value its essential meaning. Democratic republics are not merely founded upon the consent of the people.
The survival of Western democracies critically relies upon the active and informed involvement of their people. And that fight is never won.
Secrecy is the worst enemy of Democracy. The fine tuning of secrecy between the interests of National Security and the needs of Democracy is perhaps the most important question of our time, which is why this issue is never debated.
PS — Even if it must be lived forwards, life can only be understood backwards. After 5 decades, certain events begin to make sense: the Gulf of Tonkin incident, the Pentagon papers, Watergate (the mother of all ‘gates’ to come), Deep Throat & the fall of Nixon , Reagan & the Iran-Contra scandal… On and on it goes.
END of UPDATE
The April Fool “letter” attributed to Mr. Kunstler reads in part:
“When the time comes for trashing buildings, throwing stinkbombs and burning banks, I’ll let you know.”
The fake letter reversed sentiments expressed by Mr. Kunstler at a demonstration on campus earlier that year.
Mr. Kunstler had told 1,400 students that “burning banks and breaking windows do no good.”
Many years later, Kunstler discovered the letter among almost 1,000 pages of documents he obtained in a civil suit against the F.B.I.
A spokesman for the F.B.I. confirmed the story.
“Maybe the agent threw it in there, realizing it was a joke issue, Maybe not. I don’t know what the attitude was of the agent who worked on it. Just because something is in a file does not mean it would not be taken in the right light.”
Hemingway had repeatedly called Hoover the head of “the American Gestapo.” The FBI simply dismissed Hemingway as a drunken phony.
Obviously, this story scores a point for the 1954 Nobel Prize.
No Sense of Humor — Men in Black (1997)
April Fool — The New York Times (March 25 1977)
April Fool — Beware : The FBI has no sense of humor! [UPDATE — “A republic, if you can keep it.”]