THE COMPANY YOU KEEP

Poor entertainment, fantasy history, no character is credible, directed by Robert Redford.

This movie is set in the present day. Since there are big stars in the film it is easier to refer to the stars rather than the names of the characters each portrays.

Susan Sarandon is arrested for a murder she committed during a bank robbery while she was with the Weathermen in the early 1970s. I note that there seemed many surveillance cameras in the bank during the robber and murder, suitable for today but the 1970s? Scruffy aging looking guy comes up to Robert Redford, playing an attorney in the movie. He tells Robert, represent Susan. Robert refers the case to a Philadelphia lawyer.

It turns out that Robert is connected to Susan. He was a Weatherman, who knew all the bank robbers, who dropped out of the movement and who reentered society as an attorney in New York in 1979. Robert goes on the run and visits former Weatherman friends who help him; some of them get arrested for present and past transgressions. The FBI (Terrance Howard, Anna Kinrick) is really cleaning up. Robert wants to find a Weathergirl, now woman, Julie Christie who can testify he was not in the bank and didn’t shoot anyone. Julie was in the bank and responsible. 

This trite story never should have become a movie. A far superior movie about radicals trying to life a normal life underground and having to flee is Running on Empty (Judd Hirsch, Christine Lahti). Behaviors and development of fugitive Weathermen are absent in this movie. It becomes a chase movie with no cars following one another.

The characters – Susan, Julie and Robert – are sell outs. They can still talk revolution, anarchy and radicalism, but they enjoy the good, prosperous life. The dialogue about the purity of the good old days is phony and false. All the comrades who Robert mets cherish their current lives; they flourish in American society, except for the scruffy looking guy at the beginning. The audience never sees him again; the FBI never catches up with him.

The movie has the major premise that the Weathermen split from SDS (Students for a Democratic Society) because they wanted to the bring the Vietnam War home, fight violence with violence. This is complete crap, a falsehood. The Weathermen separated from SDS for personal reasons: The Weathermen were megalomaniacs, mentally ill sociopaths and psychopaths willing to use any tactics but avoid jeopardy to themselves.(Praise for Charles Manson) They learned their social and political skills in junior high school and never progressed from there. After the split, SDS and other radicals said about the WeatherVain, “You don’t need to be a Weatherman to know who the assholes are.” Jane Alpert’s Growing Up Underground, Morrow, 1981, is an excellent book about those lives and those people. The SDS and Weatherman split is recounted in many books, most notably Todd Gitlin, The Sixties, Bantam, 1989.

Many other sources from time to time have chapters and passages telling of the persons within the Weatherman and similarly violent groups. A fair representation of the personalities (without the seedy, lustrous life) is found in Katherine, with Sissy Spacek. It is known and occasionally mentioned in Robert’s movie that the Weathermen could not agree among themselves and were unwilling to agree with anyone else. The Weathermen were individuals who Lenin described in What Needs to Be Done: “Let them call themselves Social Democrats to their heart’s content. I am not a child to get excited over a label.” Lenin himself was caught up in those pettinesses. Purportedly near death Lenin was arguing with Julius Martov, (Russian revolutionary Social Democrat living outside the Soviet Union) carrying on a disagreement of 10 or 20 years before. Lenin was for for Leninism; Martov inclined to leftist social democracy.

Problems in the late Sixties, cooking and typing were shitwork. Life was a bitch! The Weathermen had many things to argue over: money, who would do the laundry, who would wash the dishes, why they were always eating hippie food (vegetables), whether bugs in the bathroom ought to be killed, who would kill and skin the pet bunny to eat for that night’s dinner (Don’t add squirrel to the stew!), whether love meant cleaning the toilet after someone else vomited into it and mostly hit the bowl, who would do what in bed, or on the kitchen table, in the car with whom and with which species and how many people could watch and who could listen to the narration and who could talk without being interrupted.  It was a time for a lot of back to nature stuff.

It was a time when rape was described as “an attack with a friendly weapon.” In 1970 for a journalism class I reported on crime on the UC Berkeley campus and spoke with a supervisor of the UC Police Department. About rape he advised, “The woman should not resist. She ought to lay back and enjoy it.” It was a time when No did not mean No. No meant, yes, maybe, go ahead slowly. Berkeley communes and houses had free sex in the late Sixties; there are articles. Yet women found the arrangements very unsatisfactory. It is no wonder that the next “political” move was to Women’s Liberation and to Feminism.

The Weathermen were Neanderthals. They rejected monogamy and personal relationships. They adopted a new way written up by a German neanderthal, Frederick Engels who wrote that monogamy was akin to owning private property and the personal relationships were anti-socialist. All that would change under socialism. Society would become more friendly to males, as Bill Clinton aptly demonstrated. (See Engel, “The Origins of the Family: Private Property and the States.” From Feminism to Liberation, Altbach, Edit, Hoshino, Ed., Cambridge, Schenkman Publishing Co, 1971, p. 47-52 including smashing monogamy cartoon.)

Robert, actor and director, plays an attorney with a child. I know hundreds of attorneys. Robert’s first bit of dialogue involves land use and taking title to private property under the due process clause of the U.S. Constitution. Ten minutes later Robert is identified as a “public interest” lawyer; later he has a “private practice.” Robert has nice offices. Everything is modern and upscale around his assistant with a desk top computer. On Robert’s desk no stacks of files clutter the desk; there is no laptop; there seemed to be no notepads; there were no piles of messages; the phone seemed inconspicuous. There are a few diplomas on the walls and a few ” good work,” plaques. There are no photographs of his daughter or Robert’s dead wife. There is a set of Martindale & Hubbel behind Robert – Martindale is seven volumes with listings of attorneys by community and state. Inside is a brief description of law, but they are not books of law, certainly not for a “public interest” lawyer. 

PARAGRAPH A. In his office Reporter (Stupido) asks Robert whether he will represent (defend) Susan. No brainer. Robert is a “public interest” lawyer, not a criminal defense lawyer trying to handle a difficult case, murder in the 1970s. Robert would commit legal malpractice if he tried to defend Susan. His defense would result in an automatic reversal of any guilty verdict based upon inadequate representation of counsel. Robert himself would be disciplined by his state bar – attorneys get disbarred for taking cases they cannot handle. Finally, this whole interview is nonsensical, as the audience learns later. Robert is a member of the bar of New York; Susan was arrested in Vermont. Neither New York nor Vermont are where the bank robbery occurred. (Michigan) Trial will be in Michigan. Robert presumably is not licensed to practice in Michigan; he would have to jump through hoops to get permission to represent Susan there.

Susan is a sell out. She is represented by the Philadelphia attorney Robert recommends. She has the bucks because we all know Philly attorneys work cheap. Robert is an idiot. He’s supposed to be underground, avoiding publicity. But he’s a “public interest” lawyer, getting “good work” plaques, gallivanting around New York state helping on this cause or that. When he learns Susan is in trouble, he recommends a lawyer and jabbers with Stupido rather than say, I know nothing about it.

The young reporter, Stupido, approaches Robert. He wants to know why Robert won’t defend Susan. Being a reporter he knows everything that is in PARAGRAPH A. Obviously, this reporter would go to a podiatrist when a urologist is needed. But to carry the movie along, Robert is very accommodating; he lets Stupido make a complete moron of himself. At the end of the interview Robert says too much: “Thirty years ago the movement could have used a smart guy like you…”

I’m addressing Robert, the director, now. 2 + 2 = 4. The movie is set in the present day. The crimes leading to Susan’s arrest happened in the early seventies, meaning 42-44 years ago. SDS and the Weathermen split in 1968 after the Columbia University occupation in May 1968. [Most women split from SDS in the summer of 1967 after a brute told Shulamith Firestone, approaching the microphone with a feminist socialist agenda, “Go away little girl. We’re talking about important matters.”] Robert should know that when he and Paul Newman were making Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid was the time when the Weatherman were plotting their moves – the Days of Rage in Chicago (fall 1969) and blowing themselves up in New York City (March 1970.) It was not 30 years ago. It was 45 years ago. Robert, the director and the actor playing a character, should also know that Robert came from the Underground to become an attorney 30 years ago – that was 10 -12 years after the bank robbery.

Having lost credibility as an arithmetic student, Robert the attorney loses all credibility as a counselor to trust when he says Stupido is a “smart guy.” This is a very inept reporter who looks like he’s lost 20 IQ points by smoking too much dope. (He’s jittery and defensive) What Robert did not say is the truth: The Weathermen were dolts and dullards. Kirkpatrick Sales in SDS reports that Weatherman leaders, Mark Rudd and Bill Aryes (Obama’s friend), bragged in meetings that neither of them had read a book for more than a year. The actor playing Stupido looks like he didn’t read the script and certainly he did not comprehend it.

The big plot twist yielded no suspense and destroyed any connect with reality: Robert is underground himself. He has the new identify as a lawyer since 1979, ten years after all the criminal acts happened. Robert is a man wanted by the pigs for murder in the Michigan robbery.

The first fallacy of the movie cannot be swallowed by the most gullible person in the audience: When one person of a dormant underground cell is found and arrested, the other members of the cell or network do not contact one another. They do not contact old friends. They are prepared to go on the lam – get cash, get disguises, have a car ready. But not Robert. He’s Robert Redford forever. Robert runs from one former Weatherman to another, endearing them to him – some get arrested. Of course, they whole point of going underground is to disappear and not see anyone who may know you. Indeed in the movie for a while, the FBI does not cancel Robert’s credit cards and ATM machine card, so they can learn where he’s going. Yet Robert always seems to have food, transportation and comfort. I inferred he was using his cards, but the FBI was slow – to keep the movie going. Anyone underground fleeing the cops would know, use no electronic devises, have no electronic transactions to allow the cops to know where you are use burn phones.

The reason Robert is on the lam is to find Julie Christie. Julie Weathergirl is still full of anarchist/radical crap. What she says is true. Obama’s Wall Street friends are looting the country. She makes her money trafficking drugs.

Julie runs to Robert. She knows about the recent arrests because the press broadcasts everything. It’s magnetism and magic to go, see Robert whom she hasn’t seen for 30 years, [45 years], [12 years], [last week?]. She wonders what the audience wonders: Why am I going? Nothing good will come of it because she knows Robert wants her to turn herself in – implicate herself and tell the cops that Robert was not in the bank during the robbery/murder. Of course Susan who is already arrested could testify to the same facts, but no one ever expects Susan to tell the truth. She’s a sell out.

Robert and Julie meet in the cabin, cold outside but not warm inside. Robert left his Viagra in New York, so Julie is disappointed. Again, why did Julie drive from California to Michigan? [For a high school reunion among the losers?] In their cabin scene it is clear that Robert was involved in the planning of the bank robbery; he just didn’t make it to the bank. If Julie admitted guilt, she would also tell about the planning. That makes Robert guilty of conspiracy to commit robbery and murder. This legal point makes the whole movie fake, phony and fraudulent. Robert is going to prison if anyone talks. Yet Robert runs around contacting people who can talk about him and the bank. Robert is not a very good lawyer. He’s dense; he should be disbarred.

Julie says she will not turn herself in. It’s the first sensible action by anyone in the movie. She leaves Robert in the cabin and runs to a pier, to a boat. She motor and sails away to the end of her life. But she’s troubled. Robert is going to prison for a robbery/murder he helped plan but wasn’t directly involved in. It is horrible. Robert Redford in the hoosegow. Watching Brubaker was hard enough. Julie turns the boat around: VOICE OVER RADIO BROADCAST: Julie turned herself in. Robert is free. It’s a sad ending. I hoped Julie would have the smarts to save Robert’s daughter from a lifetime of a further life with Robert, rather than with Chris Cooper, her uncle, openly established, less criminal and closer to her age.

Equally preposterous are the role of Stupido and the FBI. Stupido follows a very simple trail to wind up at the cabin after Julie leaves. REMEMBER the Weathermen are fugitives who want to be underground and untraceable – no public records, no trail of any kind, no revisiting of old haunts. Yet, Stupido easily learns much about Robert and his Weatherman activities and buddies and follows, whereas the FBI are steps behind. The Bureau also loses the ability to follow Robert through his credit cards. 

Everything Stupido does and the FBI doesn’t is a plot contrivance.

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HONESTY AND TRUTH FOR ONCE

This blog is both promotion of my own novel, Bitch., of which I’ll write more in other posts, and criticism of Radical Son by David Horowitz. Bitch. ($10) is published on the iBookstore. It is about events in Berkeley during the Nixon years (1968-1974) from the standpoint of five first year students.

Horowitz attempts to soft-pedal those years in Berkeley; he lives on Northside, the safest part of town. He is reasonable; he did everything reasonably; he made rational decisions; he understood everything; he was noteworthy enough to write a memoir. Reading his book, Horowitz sounds so plausible and sometimes reasonable, 30 years old, innocent, working for good against evil, using the purest motives while striving for justice and never being critical or judgmental of a thought, an act or plan. Everyone liked David Horowitz. He’s oblivious to dates, short on details, unaware of events, and unwilling to be honest. Horowitz and others of his ilk were phonies, or perhaps they were mentally ill.

Horowitz was part of the Berkeley radical circus, in a coterie of radicalness, a radical party cadre – the people who were responsible for ripping up Berkeley for five years. How do I know this? Bitch., 215,000 words, reading more than 3,000 books including Horowitz’s, years of writing, and having lived through it.

After reading Horowitz’s book, Radical Son, the public will understand why I entitled my book, Bitch., a period not a dot, a verb not a noun. Other than running a magazine called, Ramparts, Horowitz and his buddies colluded with “people” in Berkeley. Throughout Bitch.I call Horowitz and his pals “white radical shits.” The public can understand that term, too – mentally deranged dumb shits who constructed idiot scenarios for “street people” to perform street theater [riots].

Horowitz returns to Berkeley in January 1968 and tells of his Road to Damascus Conversion to the radical cause and its revolutionary ways. He took his son to a local elementary school, where they heard a rock band (Purple Earthquake) perform. Horowitz “felt: A new world is possible.”

Why is that is bull shit and an outright lie? Horowitz has told the reader how smart he is, and that he is well-connected with the left-people in Berkeley. He has come from London, where there is no shortage of electronic instruments and excellent rock music; he has undoubtedly heard the best rock music there. Has anyone ever hear of the Purple Earthquake ever again? [They didn’t become Creedence Clearwater, did they?] Did the band play so loudly that Horowitz broke a blood vessel in his head? Horowitz’s son, a youngster, did not have the same epiphany as his father. Horowitz did not say that he was sober or straight at the performance.

There is another explanation, somewhat goofy but with Horowitz one never knows. It comes from Charles Reich, The Greening of America, p. 260: “Music has become the deepest means of communication…When someone puts a dime in the jukebox…there is a moment of community. [P]eople begin to move, some nod heads, some drum fingers, others tap feet, others move their whole bodies…many sing…” This explanation is improbable because it suggests creativity and art, yet there is nothing in Radical Son which is creative or artistic.

Horowitz was well-connected with the left-people in Berkeley. His manner was agreeable; he was calm and voluble. Throughout Radical Son Horowitz tells about meeting wealthy people, outsiders to Berkeley, and getting money. Horowitz was the “money guy,” for that Berkeley clique as well as for Ramparts. In another book (The Destructive Generation), Horowitz tells about picking up Jane Fonda at the San Francisco Airport and getting her to Alcatraz Island. Why did Horowitz drive? Money beyond taxi fare.

Horowitz rightly criticizes Todd Gitlin’s book, The Sixties, but at least Gitlin tried. He observed the pervasive, on-coming influences from the street and hippie, youth culture including drugs. The Leftists, New Left, Weathermen and others couldn’t manage all that, and Gitlin couldn’t describe it. Horowitz avoided those agency-setting effects completely and disregarded the influences: He lived a normal middle class family life, doing middle class stuff in an upper class neighborhood. His job was a plaything; his ideals and principles – did one need ideals and principles? He was so remote and detached he never understood revolution was not possible and one could not write about it well, if loaded on drugs, blasted by iron-rock, trashed by women and among people whose business acumen didn’t extend beyond the street mantra: “grass, speed, acid.”

But if an author recognizes “a new world is possible,” shouldn’t the author develop the point – observe, do, influence, watch? On which bases was “a new world possible?” Horowitz raised the point and let it rot, in intellectual venality. He didn’t bother to wonder how people, culture and society were divorced from the narrow confines of selective, opportunist Leftist politics whose financial supporters were deceived with every check. Toward the end of his “radical” days, Horowitz met a backer who asked, “Is the revolution possible?” Radical Son proves that Horowitz is the last person in the world to know whether the revolution was possible. Strangely enough, Horowitz does not have the self-reflection and the wherewithal to phrase the setting of that meeting and the question as a joke.

Supposedly, Horowitz had a defining moment in his life when a friend with a job at a Black Panther run school in Oakland was murdered. Throughout the first half of the book Horowitz was chummy with the Panthers, visiting the Party big-wigs. He accepted Huey Newton’s statement that Eldridge Cleaver was too violent for the Party. Horowitz lied about Bobby Seale fleeing Oakland to get away from Huey Newton. Before and after the murder Horowitz casts allegations and theories about who did what, when, where and how. When he tries to talk to the pigs [police], they don’t believe him.

Horowitz was the money man. He liked talking to the top people, but everyone else wasn’t worth a shit and was a trifle. Horowitz initially recommended his murdered friend work at the Panther school. Why? He doesn’t say, but probably so he could have input, influence and control over things there, and the money. The Panthers didn’t need him; they didn’t need the woman who could have been fired and sent packing, not murdered. There is no answer, but it is a scenario which arises from circumstances. It is entirely possible that Horowitz pressed his case too hard, revealed too much and made threats. Horowitz didn’t say this in the book, but he may as well have written he was responsible for the woman’s murder, a personal message to him. [This assumes the Panthers were as irrational as Horowitz claims. They knew if he broke with them, there would be no more money, but they also knew he couldn’t prove anything. Why murder the woman?]

The murder and Horowitz’s role in pre-killing activities were a final revelation for Horowitz after being deaf, blind and mute for a decade. The Panthers had an unsavory side, and everyone but Horowitz knew it. The cops saw the street activities, gang style. Indeed the son of the murdered woman, not a cop, warned his mother. Apparently Horowitz had greater influence, and she worked for the Panthers. In books Black leaders wrote with distrust about the Panthers; Horowitz was illiterate. Black student groups kept their distance from the Panthers who were so entwined with white radical shits to become self-destructive. While Chancellor at San Francisco State, S.I. Hayakawa said, publicly, “The black radicals want a better America. And they may use revolutionary methods at moments, but they are willing to give them up as soon as it’s clear that the administration is willing to do something to improve the quality of their education and their opportunities within the system. White radicals, like the SDS, don’t want to improve America. They just want to destroy it and louse it up in every way possible. So I have nothing to offer them.” (Orrick, William, Shut It Down! A College in Crisis, Washington DC, 1969, p. 147.)

It is obvious that Horowitz would not change from his Mommy-and-Daddy brainwashing to get away from white radical shitism. And he wouldn’t support Black organizations which were trying to improve circumstances in 1968-1969. Instead, he liked the Panthers, isolated friends so long as they could be useful. He liked and likely laughed at their jiving – Martin Luther King was Martin Luther Coon. Radical Son, p. 161.

Essentially, Radical Son, is about Horowitz’s retarded progression from Pinko-Commie to Fascist. He was raised by educated Communist parents, and he believed their crap like it was Gospel. The book does not admit whether he kept his Communist rooting from parental love, or whether he was just an idiot. I’ll go with the latter. Unlike many kids of the Sixties, Horowitz never told his parents they were full of shit, which they were. A reviewer’s comment on the outside of the book says, “A courageous book, full of self-revelation.” That is erroneous. It is more accurate to say, A cowardly book, full of slow-revelation. More accurately, the book should be entitled, Memoirs of a Moron. Horowitz chooses not to be honest, to tell the truth and give a fair portrayal of himself. Instead, he displays an imbecilic rigor, revealing a lack of intellectual discipline and an idleness when seeking the truth.

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