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Bill Ayers's "Kafkaesque nightmare"

By Steven E. Levingston

An authors’ dedication written 36 years ago for an anti-government book is kicking up a stink today and reviving sensitive memories of an assassinated national icon and raising questions about the nature of academic freedom.

The dedication appeared on a 1974 book called “Prairie Fire: The Politics of Revolutionary Anti-Imperialism,” co-written by the 1960s radical Bill Ayers, whom conservatives linked to Barack Obama during the 2008 presidential campaign. A second subtitle on the book reads: “Political Statement of the Weather Underground,” which was a communist revolutionary group that Ayers co-founded in 1969.

The book controversy erupted in September when the University of Illinois at Chicago denied retired professor Ayers emeritus faculty status after the university’s board of trustees said “Prairie Fire” contained a dedication to Sirhan Sirhan, the assassin of Robert F. Kennedy. The board was swayed by its chairman, Chris Kennedy, the son of Robert Kennedy, who argued he could not support “a man whose body of work includes a book dedicated in part to the man who murdered my father," according to the Chicago Sun-Times.

Ayers initially declined to comment but this week told the Sun-Times that he did not dedicate a book to Sirhan Sirhan and blamed right-wing bloggers for the rumor. He said there was “not a shred of truth” to the rumors. Ayers retired in August after 20 years as an education professor at the university. He commented on the controversy after the university senate asked the board to reconsider its denial of his emeritus status, arguing that the decision could damage academic freedom.

Ayers admitted that the book was “dedicated to some very weird people, starting with John Brown and Harriet Tubman," but insisted that he had never dedicated any book to assassins.

The dedication page does show the name Sirhan Sirhan among many others. Here's a portion of that page.


Sorting out the truth will take time. For Ayers, who feels he’s now “caught in a Kafkaesque nightmare,” the questioning of the dedication is a sign of the “Alice in Wonderland world we all live in.”

By Steven E. Levingston  | November 5, 2010; 2:10 PM ET
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"The board was swayed by its chairman, Chris Kennedy, the son of Robert Kennedy, who argued he could not support “a man whose body of work includes a book dedicated in part to the man who murdered my father," according to the Chicago Sun-Times."

= = = = = = = = = = =

Holy CRAP!

No kidding. Bill totally got pounded flat by his own bad KARMA.

Wow, I'm just so amazed by the poetic justice of this that I can't think of anything else to say.


Posted by: ZZim | November 5, 2010 4:52 PM | Report abuse

Contrary to what the man says, it would be an Alice-in-Wonderland world if people didn't jump all over this. What a creep.

Maybe Karma is a valid concept after all. The Giants finally win a WS, but without the Buckethead. And an idiotic (but politically-correct in his strange hyper-Left world) dedication to a cowardly murderer jumps up and nails Ayer 36 years on when he's putting in for his career respectability certificate. Bet the charming Bernardine gave him guff for that.

Posted by: Labbymalone | November 5, 2010 5:30 PM | Report abuse

Come on, show the whole page! Who were those people Sirhan Sirhan was listed among?

Posted by: HardyW | November 5, 2010 6:26 PM | Report abuse

"CONSERVATIVES"? Only conservatives? What's with you. How about all who know about Ayers & wifey, irrespective of politics. Then, there are the lobotomized.

Posted by: craigslsst | November 5, 2010 6:43 PM | Report abuse

This happened in September, old news, read this months ago and WAPO just gets around to it?? Is it called not before the elections? Oh well like they say birds of a feather flock together....

Posted by: independent31 | November 5, 2010 7:03 PM | Report abuse

This is old news, really. Why would the university give him honorary title after he lied about what he had done? It is all right there for everyone to see!! Figured Ayres was stupid - he just proved it. He should never have been a professor anyway. Imagine how many minds he has messed with over the years!!! What a horrible man.

Posted by: annnort | November 5, 2010 7:47 PM | Report abuse

Bill Ayers is a liar. If he were honest he would admit that when the book was published he was committed to the violent overthrow of the United States government, which he regarded as irremediably racist, exploitative, and oppresive. Had that required the assasination of a United States senator or two he would have had no objection in principle. Thus, he could not pretend to be offended by a book dedication to Sirhan Sirhan. Insofar as the assasination of Robert Kennedy might tend to incite the people and destabilize American institutions it could only be a good thing.

Instead of that he says he is caught up in a Kafkaesque world (America) and unable to make sense of the persecution and injustice inflicted upon him. I'm truly sorry that the President had anything to do with him.

Posted by: Roytex | November 5, 2010 8:03 PM | Report abuse

Bill Ayers is a self-admited communist and terrorist. Sirhan Sirhan is clearly shown on the list Ayers didcated his book to.

Big Barack Obama was associated with Bill Ayers no doubt about it...they worked together and lived together in the same neighborhood.

What is it with communist/marxists that is so appealing to Barack Obama? His parents who were Marxists, his grand parents who were Marxists or his friends who are Marxists like Bill Ayers and Van Jones?

Posted by: Chuck8764 | November 5, 2010 8:05 PM | Report abuse

So we find this out about Billy now?

Posted by: IamWright | November 5, 2010 8:27 PM | Report abuse

It is absurd and repugnant in the extreme that a legitimate institution would consider filth like Ayers for any honor or recognition of any kind whatsoever.

Posted by: thebump | November 5, 2010 8:54 PM | Report abuse

Well darn, Professor emeritus for Ayers? Since we're in the era of diversity, UIll Chicago should also hire David Duke and make him a Professor emeritus. You know what is Khafkaeque and Alice-in-Wonderland? The fact that Ayers was hired to begin with.

Posted by: wjc1va | November 5, 2010 9:17 PM | Report abuse

The Kafkaesque nightmare is the fact that Ayers has been a professor at Chicago, and that he would have been granted Emeritus status were it not for the fact that Bobby Kennedy's son was on the board.

In a sane world, anyone would find that never-recanted dedication, and his many other never-recanted actions and statements, repugnant, and unworthy of a professor associated with a major university. This tells you a whole lot about the state of American academia.

And, "conservatives" did not "link" Obama to Ayers. Obama linked himself to Ayers; conservatives merely highlighted those links.

Posted by: S8thRd | November 5, 2010 9:50 PM | Report abuse

Pretty tacky and stupid, although I'm pretty sure not everyone on the cover of "Sargeant Pepper" was chosen as a role model either.

Posted by: BurfordHolly | November 6, 2010 3:28 AM | Report abuse

Excuse me, barack obama linked barack obama to radical ayers. Blame conservatives if you like, but I am grateful for the attention they were trying to bring to BO's anti-American leanings and associations. Heaven knows the MSM refused to vet him. As to the hateful sirhan dedication, either ayers burned through a few brain cells and forgot, or more likely, he's just challenging us to believe our lying eyes.

Posted by: wmpowellfan | November 6, 2010 5:04 AM | Report abuse

Your photo looks potentially out of context. What precedes the truncated text at the top?

Ayers' "To Harriet Tubman..." dedication Follows that list of names.

Posted by: Bartolo1 | November 6, 2010 8:09 AM | Report abuse

Not only does the photo of the page looks potentially taken out of context, but deliberately so, as it appears that someone actually took the trouble to crop the top of the page. Leaves one wondering why.

It's clear the dedication is to Harriet Tubman and John Brown. But the other names? It could be a denunciation of them for all we know. C'mon cowards, show the whole page!

Posted by: pjs1965 | November 6, 2010 8:20 AM | Report abuse

Maybe someone should ask Ayers if he considers Sirhan Sirhan a "political prisoner".

He shot Robert Kennedy because he was too "pro-Israel".

Posted by: corco02az | November 6, 2010 8:48 AM | Report abuse

Best regards for you all,

Looking forward to your visiting.

Posted by: fsafs19 | November 6, 2010 10:46 AM | Report abuse

Old news. Obama's sou lmate should have been executed YEARS ago.

Posted by: illogicbuster | November 6, 2010 10:47 AM | Report abuse

Ayers has some kind of extraordinary chutzpah -- or dimmitude -- to deny what's out there in print, easy for anybody to find. The link above goes to a picture of the full dedication page of the Ayers book, showing unmistakably that Ayers included Sirhan Sirhan on a list of the "political prisoners" to whom his book was dedicated. I googled one of the other names -- "Ruchell Cinque Magee" and found that he is serving a life sentence for his role in a 1970 armed courthouse invasion in which he and several buddies used guns to take a judge, prosecutor and jurors hostage -- and then blamed police when some of the hostages and criminals were killed in an ensuing gun battle. That's the sort of person Ayers admires -- and the sort of person Obama befriends. I don't have the stomach to google the rest, but I'm sure that Sirhan Sirhan fits right in.

What stuns me is not that Ayers was turned down for "emeritus" status. What stuns me is that this man -- who told the New York Times in 2001 that his only regret about the violence of his youth is that he didn't do more -- could ever have been hired in the first place by what used to be one of the finest universities in this country.

Posted by: MrsWhatsit | November 6, 2010 12:33 PM | Report abuse

A little more googling makes it clear that Ayers has admitted in the past that he intended, at least, to "honor" Sirhan Sirhan by naming him in that list, and, without apologizing, acknowledged that to do this was "stupid." (Probably because it hurt his career . . . ) Then he denied it again, and admitted it again, and denied it again, and admitted it again, and now he's back to denying it. The man is about as honorable as what you might expect -- he's a coward, lacking even the courage of his convictions. Yuck.

Posted by: MrsWhatsit | November 6, 2010 12:37 PM | Report abuse

Mr Levingston, Are you a journalist ?

I googled and found the dedication wrapped by dozens of names that include Sirhan Sirhan. Why did you deliberately misrepresent the dedication in this article ?

The dedication can logically be assumed to extend to all of the names listed... since they wrap around the dedication box.

Given the book is a terrorist manifesto... It is a reminder of the ugliness of this Professor and his wife who narrowed escaped life in prison due to a botched FBI terror investigation.

You write "radical Bill Ayers, whom conservatives linked to Barack Obama during the 2008 presidential campaign"

Linked ? Ayers and Obama live in the same neighborhood, their families socialized together for years, it is alleged Ayers started a fund-raiser in his living room for Obama, and Ayers and Obama together mismanaged $130 million in educational grants to Chicago schools circa 1999- 2002... the only budget experience Obama ever had... found by auditors for the Annanburg Foundation to have failed to help students one iota.

Are you a journalist ? or a leftist sympathizer ?

Posted by: pvilso24 | November 6, 2010 12:51 PM | Report abuse

Bill Ayres has had a significant effect on Barack Obama's intellectual growth, but he was not the originator of Obama's philosophical development. There was an article by Dinesh D'Dsouza a few weeks ago about the origin of Barack Obama's "Progressive"/ Very Left philosophy.

In retrospect, after this 2010 midterm election, I believe Mr. D'Souza was exactly on target. I am old enough to remember the 1960's when most of Africa shed its colonial state as a result of the defeat of most of the European colonial powers by Nazi Germany especially France and Belgium followed by U.S. pressure on its ally Great Britain (the biggest colonialist). The vaccuum left by the withdrawal/death of colonialism was very quickly filled by the U.S.S.R. throughout the "Dark" continent along with the legitimacy accorded to the "Socialist" movement, which was in fact "Communism Lite".

I am sure Obama's father was the product of the anti-British Mau Mau movement in Kenya and it is not too much of a stretch to postulate that during his first few years of life he was steeped in this way of thought. In addition, the Britsh considered Kenya to be a "Colony" while they considered the rest of their colonies in Africa as "Protectorates" etc. (I spent my teen-age years in Uganda from 1959 to 1966) The history of Obama's childhood, teen-age and young adult hood has been superficially covered in the media but not in enough depth.

The most recent statement by Obama about his achievements in the past 21 months that "didn't explain adequately" to the people what he was trying to achieve, confirms for me the extreme left/progressive/socialist/communist philosophy that he represents.

In closing, I am glad that Robert Kennedy's son was instrumental in exposing Bill Ayres for the Communist that he was AND IS.

Posted by: wpcdias | November 6, 2010 1:04 PM | Report abuse

Ayers is indeed in a Kafkaeque world -- the hall of mirrors that is early twenty-first century academia. Bombing the Pentagon and decades later expressing regret "we didn't do enough" is no impediment to a distinguished, tenured position. But offending a Kennedy carries dire career consequences.

Ayer might reflect on the role he and his compatriots played in building this world he now finds so uncongenial.

Posted by: coastofutopia | November 6, 2010 1:28 PM | Report abuse

The likes of Bill Ayers are what is wrong with this country. The fact that he remains unrepentant speaks volumes for those, such as Obama, who associated with him.

Posted by: JohnRice | November 6, 2010 6:21 PM | Report abuse

This is 36 year old news. Why did WaPo publish this column? Answer: To Keep Pandering to the American Taliban.

Posted by: BBear1 | November 6, 2010 6:43 PM | Report abuse

Just to be clear, Ayers was at the U of Illinois-Chicago, not at the U of Chicago.

Posted by: pioneer1 | November 6, 2010 6:48 PM | Report abuse

Bill Ayers must be very proud of his dedication list. Wonder why he left Lincoln off his list.

Posted by: georgegarrett | November 6, 2010 6:55 PM | Report abuse

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