arranged by Kayley Hoffman
By Eric Sorensen
Even Mark Rudd, who led a student rebellion at Columbia University, as a leader of Students for a Democratic Society, and later joined the Weathermen to bomb military and government sites around the country, thinks the activist movement will only be successful once it appeals to the masses.
"I don't see that violence builds a movement," Rudd said last week. "And anyone in this country who engages in armed action is suicidal."
That sentiment was evinced last Tuesday when Inprint hosted a discussion with Rudd at Wollman Hall titled "Media & Activism: Then & Now." Rudd began with a short talk on the suggested theme—the media coverage of the protests at Columbia in the spring of 1968—and then opened up the floor to the audience, saying that he preferred interactive discussion to dictation.
"The media coverage of the Columbia protest was phenomenal," Rudd said. "But the media got it wrong."
According to Rudd, the student press did the best job of covering the protests because they covered the students' demands and reported accurately, whereas media outlets like The New York Times painted the protestors as anarchic disruptors and vandals.
He offered this advice to the crowd of journalism students in attendance: "Study the mass media, and then do the opposite."
Rudd then transitioned smoothly to the virtues and limitations of activism in America, drawing on his experiences as a member of SDS and the Weathermen with great introspection.
"The Weathermen's error was to believe that you could only claim to be against the war in Vietnam if you had the most radical position," he said.
As a former leader of SDS, Rudd also eagerly introduced the leaders of the New School's chapter, urging them to proclaim their cause. SDS members announced a campus-wide walkout on March 12 to mark the fourth anniversary of the Iraq war.
Among the more salient issues raised at the discussion was the effectiveness of abrasive rhetoric in winning moderate support and young peoples' apathy toward the indefinite detention and torture of terrorism suspects at Guantanamo Bay and abroad. Rudd offered that the hegemony of entertainment culture has contributed to students' ambivalence and disinterest, but added that the advent of the internet has provided an opportunity to more easily gather information.
As Rudd passed around the microphone, students soon piped up in defense of the Animal Liberation Front and pressed Rudd on his stance towards Israel. A wave of groans periodically rolled over the audience when the microphone stayed in one hand too long.
Throughout the discussion, however, Rudd argued for action and more dialogue, and demonstrated a genuine adoration of youthful idealism.
Tuesday, February 27, 2007