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Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Bookselling With Terrorists

posted by on October 7 at 11:24 AM

This LiveJournaller named Rachel, who until recently worked as a bookseller at 57th Street Books in Chicago, has previously written about encountering Barack Obama in her bookstore.

Obama’s been a regular customer at 57th Street for years. I have a friend who works there, and it seems like a great bookstore; it’s a co-op, and it’s fairly highbrow because it’s so close to the U of Chicago. Yesterday, Rachel wrote a great post about the awful turn McCain’s taken in his campaign and the whole Ayers issue. It puts things into perspective as far as Ayers’ presence in Chicago goes. Here’s a taste:

Two fairly frequent shoppers there are Bill Ayers and Bernadine Dohrn. … It occurred to me, reading the news today, that if Barack Obama is a terrorist by association with Bill Ayers, then I, too, am a terrorist, or at least a terrorist by association. I took money from him, money which later paid my paycheck — I profited from this connection! I smiled at him, and treated him like any other customer — and much more respectfully than some of the Nobel Prize winners (to be fair to me, there are so many). Besides just working there, I was — and remain — a member of that co-op bookstore; we are members and shareholders together, and the profits from the store (if ever there are any) are distributed among each shareholder. I’ve certainly spoken to him more frequently in the last year than Barack Obama did; the senator was barely in Hyde Park this year.

Rachel admits that this is “a fun sort of sophistry,” but I think it’s important to note, and her post is definitely worth reading all the way through. Ayers is part of the community in Chicago, and a whole lot of people would have to be considered “pallin’ around with terrorists,” if having an Ayers connection is the only qualification.

(Thanks to Slog tipper Christin.)

RSS icon Comments


A co-worker of mine is having lunch with Bill Ayers's brother today. I'm been calling him a terrorist all morning....

Posted by Julie in Chicago | October 7, 2008 11:32 AM

Vomit; LiveJournal.

Posted by Non | October 7, 2008 11:32 AM

I thought Palin implied just being involved in Chicago politics made you some sort of criminal. They must watch The Untouchables on TV a lot in Wasilla.

Posted by elswinger | October 7, 2008 11:50 AM

elswinger @3, McCain was on TV yesterday using the phrase "Chicago politician" like that alone was some kind of epithet of un-Americanness. My reaction: "This guy's really got to be living in a bubble if he thinks that phrasing is going to work with anyone but the completely converted."

Oh, and starting to read that blog post, I came across: One of the Deans at my school, on the other hand, bought Gossip Girl #2, which was creepy.

No, what's creepy is a bookstore employee dishing on customers' book-buying habits.

Posted by cressona | October 7, 2008 12:20 PM

Of all the militant '60s relics out there, Bill Ayers is the nicest by far. He was a rich white kid whose youthful efforts to draw attention to the plight of those less fortunate than himself was sincere and brave -- although his methods were, in fact, dangerously unacceptable. I can't help but wonder what is more scary about him: his scattered pipe bombs attacks from 40 years ago (that never killed anyone except members of his own group); or his efforts to undermine/overthrow white supremacy. The KKK did far more and far worse shit that Ayers and his little group of militant rich white kids, but has somehow avoided the lable of "terrorist organization." Ayers' objective was to change the status quo, not preserve it -- methinks that makes all the difference.

Posted by Cat in Chicago | October 7, 2008 12:43 PM

God I love that bookstore. Let me loose in there with a credit card and I could do major major damage.

Posted by gnossos | October 7, 2008 12:45 PM

The KKK did far more and far worse shit that Ayers and his little group of militant rich white kids, but has somehow avoided the lable of "terrorist organization."

The Klan and Ayers both wanted to use indiscriminate violence against civilians to achieve political effect, which falls under the category of terrorism. True, that the Klan is/was a much worse organization than Ayers and his band of yahoos, but Ayers actions were vile, and the blogs seem to be excusing his actions, which is also vile. As a military guy hoping to go home today and not get nail-bombed, I find this a little disturbing. Stick with the Obama-Ayers connection being tenuous, it looks like it will be a winner for you Obama folks.

Posted by LT Nixon | October 7, 2008 12:49 PM

Why are you sloggers always so bad about internet ettiquite? Why am I the one who told her that she'd been linked at The Slog and not you?

Posted by dee in sf | October 7, 2008 12:51 PM

Oh no! I live in Chicago and I've been to Hyde Park a lot...I breathed the same air as Ayers...I'm a terrorist!!!!

Posted by Scott in Chi-town | October 7, 2008 1:00 PM

@7 Indiscriminate violence? Ayes and his group attacked mostly property, not people - as evidenced by the lack of death toll from their efforts.

Posted by Cat in Chicago | October 7, 2008 1:05 PM

So I guess the people that bombed the UW Urban Horticulture Center are a-OK in your book, too?

Posted by Greg | October 7, 2008 1:15 PM

@8: I asked her if it was okay before sending it to Paul. But yes, it's always good in general to let people know that you're linking others to them.

Posted by Christin | October 7, 2008 1:16 PM

Cristin- I just got a reply from her that you did tell her and was coming back here to post an apology. Sorry about the mistake.

However, I do remember the LJ-er whp wrote about Wall-E who was linked here and I was the person who told her, in the comments, about that linking.


Posted by dee in sf | October 7, 2008 1:24 PM

... And I can't spell today.

Posted by dee in sf | October 7, 2008 1:26 PM

The interesting thing about Ayers is that his goals--an end to war and US imperialism and the creation of a more just society at home--were and are ones I agree with. It is his methods that are the problem.

Obama doesn't share Ayers' methods, obviously, so if anything the distant association they have is a slight positive for how I view Obama. It makes it slightly more likely that Obama might actually be interested in changing big things in this country and not just rolling back the Bush years.

But for the people who are the audience for these attacks, it's really not Ayers' methods that are the problem--many of them blithely support right-wing terrorists who have used even more violent means. It's his goals. They resent that Ayers, and by association Obama, might actually give a shit about poor people, black people, and progressive social change in general.

Posted by Cascadian | October 7, 2008 1:37 PM

the ELF bombing & the WU bombings, even though they were DISCRIMINATE violence, are not A-OK.

what is objectionable is that lefty violence is loudly labelled "terror", whereas rightist violence (abortion clinic bombings, doctor murders, mcveigh, the KKK) is not. even though rightist violence certainly is closer in philosophy to Al Queda's campaign.

all violence is terror. war is terror. torture is terror. ultimately, mccain is a terrorist as sure as ayres. ask those who the bombs got dropped on, he was just better at it.

but if obama says war is terror, he will lose. you (amurka) can't handle the truth.

Posted by max solomon | October 7, 2008 2:09 PM

I think many fewer people in general would be at all concerned about Mr Ayers if he hadn't spoken out and said: "I don't regret setting bombs ... I feel we didn't do enough," in remarks published on 11 September 2001, uncannily enough. It might be one thing if Mr Ayers had put the past behind him and kept his opinions to himself and his private circle. But even if that were not so, it still might be another thing if Mr Obama didn't happen to be seeking the office of President of the United States. But Mr Ayers didn't, and Mr Obama is.

Normally I consider politicians on their political records only. I look at Mr Joe Biden in terms of his political record, and Mr McCain, too--yes, I know about the Keating Five and all the rest of it--he's no knight in shining armour. But Mr Obama, like Mrs Palin, has a very short political record, with him not having served even one full term on the national level, and her none at all. So with both of them I think it is more important to look into their pasts before they reached national politics--at the State and citizen level. It's like considering hiring a young person for a job. If you're thinking about hiring someone who's been in the workforce twenty years, you look at their career. But if you're hiring someone twenty years old, you ask about their school and whatever else, because they don't *have* a proper career record yet.

Speaking of school, have we seen Mr Obama's university record yet? Or his thesis? Have we seen a list of clients he represented while at Miner, Barnhill, & Gallard? Or his Illinois State Senate records, as Hillary Clinton demanded? Or his medical records? We HAVE seen his 1991 application to the Illinois State Bar Association: asked if he had outstanding parking violations, he said "no." In fact, he had seventeen. Personally I don't worry about someone's parking tickets, but the ISBA does, and presumably they don't ask anything irrelevant to being admitted to the bar. He could have admitted to them--'Yes, I have some, but I'll take care of them immediately,' but he didn't. It's that last that bothers some people. Yet in 2007, Mr Obama's spokesman Ben LaBolt said that "Obama has a track record of leading the way on reform and disclosure." Well, does he? Instead, voters are asked to take a great deal about him at his own word. Many people feel that's trustworthy. Others aren't so sure. So why not do something to reassure the others? Unless, of course, you consider the mere act of asking someone for information as a hostile attack.

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