Saturday, October 20, 2012

The May 4 Visitors Center: What Kent State Left Out

Two weeks ago, when I was in Kent, I  had lunch with my old friends Dean Kahler. Afterwards Dean was able to get me into the new May 4 Visitors Center, which did not officially open until today.

As I expected, the university did not acknowledge any of the controversies that dominated the headlines throughout the years. And it seemed to reduce the sustained miscarriage of justice to a mere footnote. The center was exactly what you would expect from a committee comprised of politically disparate people who were more interested in not offending anyone than in making any kind of statement or point.

By the same token, there was nothing to excite the visitors either. I was, however, astonished by the Center's 43-page pamphlet (This We Know) which is handed out to visitors. I was so angry about it that it has taken  me the past two weeks just to collect my thoughts.

The booklet was written by Carole Barbato, Laura Davis, and Mark Seeman, three of the professors who were instrumental in making the Center possible. In telling the story of May 1-4, 1970, the pamphlet cited every important study of the shootings expect mine. It was as if I disappeared. It did not cite any of the new evidence I uncovered, or mention any of my analyses of the evidence, or acknowledge any of my revelations about what happened behind the scenes.

Even worse, the professors deliberately excluded me from its "Recommended Reading" section. This despite the judgment of Choice magazine (which reviews books for university libraries) that I addressed "the major unresolved questions of who did what and why in a manner that brings more clarity to this controversial historical tragedy than any other work to date."

Of course, this was no oversight. If anyone doubted my long-held suspicions that Kent State's scholars were deliberately trying to erase me from the university's official history, this was the icing on the cake. One of the ironies, of course, is that more than two decades after the original publication of the book, I am still the only journalist who has actually done everything expected from scholars. I am still the only person who examined the complete evidentiary record, and I interviewed more than all the other authors combined, with the exception of James Michener, who had almost a dozen researchers working with me at the time.

Ironically, while the university treats me like this, I feel like I am always waiting for their scholars at the university to catch up to me. I have no doubt that  the reason they did not want anyone to discover my book is because I ridiculed their scholars and blew the whistle on the  shameless intellectual dishonesty of Jerry Lewis, their "go-to" guy when it comes to all things May 4th.

Tom Hayden later wrote that the center was a "memorial for activists," and I am sure certain professors tried to keep me invisible because I am an old-fashioned liberal, and my values are more conservative than their guardians of the memory of May 4. Unlike Laura Davis and the (former??) anarchists she relied on as her consultants for creating the Center (Tom Grace, for one), I am not the least bit interested in making excuses for the violence that occurred before the students were killed.  According to the Daily Kent Stater, Davis actually publicly defended that violence before she realized it was imprudent to say that out loud at Kent.

I do not subscribe to any of the big "White House-did-it theories," which usually are designed to deflect action from the students' own criminal act. The fact is that I am mostly interested in a good mystery, and cannot even understand why any grown-up would be interested in glorifying what Alan Canfora calls "our revolt."

I am, I hate to say it, not only the leading expert but persona non grata at Kent State. I have never been allowed to give a speech or share my findings with members of the Kent community. Of course, I am not alone in that. To date, no author of a book on May 4 has been heard from on campus since 1975 (going on 39 years). The university seems to be following the advice of the PR crisis management consultants it hired. No one gets to be heard or seen unless they are a booster of Kent State. Dean and I discussed this, and he made the remark that someone at the university was out to get me. I have known for years --that I've been a threat to some of the scholars and the propagandists still there. Sometimes it feels like every dunce at the university is in confederacy against me.

That, of course, was Jonathan Swift's definition of a genius, which I certainly am not. I am just an A minus to B student who was more resourceful, more curious, and, coming from a family of college professors, more of a scholar than anyone there.


Saturday, June 2, 2012

The Kent State Shootings: Another Professor is Careless with the Facts

The Kent State Shootings: Another Professor is Careless with the Facts


I just discovered a post on the Facebook site "Kent State May Fourth," which contains one of the dumbest statements I've seen in a while. There, in a post by Greg Payne, a professor of rhetoric at Emerson College in Boston (I like to call him"The Professor with the Suspicious Footnotes" because his footnotes do not check out) , was a photograph of Dean Kahler, Tom Hensley, and Carole Barbato, along with Payne's caption: "Heroes for Justice at Kent State."

Of the three individuals Payne portrays as heroes, only one, Dean Kahler, fought fro see that justice was done after the fact.  Just before the third anniversary of the shootings Dean was invited by then fellow students Paul Keane and Greg Rambo to join their efforts to get a federal grand jury investigation empaneled. Keane and Rambo, who were on friendly terms with Kahler, understood he was a living symbol of the shootings and they figured they could use him as a visual in their renewed efforts for the grand jury. At that time, I was a go-between behind Rambo and Keane, whom Rambo could not stand. Over a three-year period Keane, Rambo, and I worked with about six other individuals, including author Peter Davie, the Rev. John P. Adams of the United Methodist Church, and Arthur Krause, the father of slain student Allison Krause. A few others made occasional contributions, now and then,  but the core group of "justice fighters," "truth seekers," or whatever you want to call them (saps?), did include anyone on the Kent State faculty. Neither Barbato, Hensley nor anyone else on the Kent State faculty showed much interest in those efforts,. Even though one dishonest professor, Jerry M. Lewis, tried to convince me he helped the parents get justice, again, no one on the faculty did anything of any real consequence. (Neither, for that matter, did any of the other wounded students. They were all missing in action, and the only wounded student who sought a federal grand jury investigation three and a half decades later did so after double jeopardy applied and the statute of limitations of other federal offenses had long expired. There really was not any legal action the Justice Department could have taken at that point.)

Not only were Barbato and Hensley not involved in what journalist Bill Moyers called "the struggle for justice,"  but Hensley viewed the shootings in a different light than the victims. In his essay "The May 4 trials," which appears in one of the two May 4th textbooks he wrote, Hensley actually argued that the American court system did not fail. This despite the fact that all the Guardsman and  the students who committed serious crimes that weekend escaped punishment for anything they did.

Even more disturbing, in his more recent essay, "The May 4 Shootings at Kent State University: The Search for Historical Accuracy," Hensley and his co-author, Jerry M. Lewis, refused to even acknowledge that there was a so-called "struggle for justice" or the ongoing debate over whether or not an order to shoot. 

Barbato, at least, deserves credit for her role in creating the markers surrounding Taylor Hall. Those markers, at least, tell a visual story and are probably the most effective memorials on campus to date. However, unless there has been a major change of plans since I saw the mock-up for the May 4 Visitors Center last year, I suspect the victims'  more sophisticated supporters--those who actually struggled for justice--are going to be mighty pissed with what Barbato, Hensley, and others the university have done. Relying heavily on the same professors who could not see what took place right in front of their noses, the Center does not acknowledge the "struggle for justice" or the contributions made by Arthur Krause, Rev. John P. Adams, and the others who tried to rectify one of the most sustained injustices in modern American jurisprudence. There will be no recognition of the people who tried to find out why their loved ones or classmates were killed. They have all been erased from the university's official history.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

The Saboteur of Kent State University

There is  a professor at Kent State who has a rather nasty habit of sabotaging anyone he perceives as a professional threat. Although he does not dare say anything publicly, he has been quietly trying to discredit his competitors by claiming their work is riddled with errors.


For example, in 1990, when American History Illustrated published an article he wrote, he vehemently tried to convince Geneva Politzer, the magazine's editor, not to publish an accompanying article by freelance writer Lesley Wischmann. The professor claimed her article contained numerous errors of fact. Politzer then asked the professor to itemize the mistakes. When push came to shove the professor had to back down and admit he could not even cite one single example. Wischmann's article was subsequently published and, would not you know it? Neither I nor anyone else found any errors or problems with anything she wrote.


Word also reached me that the professor emeritus, Jerry M. Lewis, has been conducting a whispering campaign against my book, making the same unsubstantiated charges. Again, he would only talk in generalities and could not cite one single example. It was, of course, deliberate slander, pure and simple.


One of the reasons Lewis' lies infuriated me is that I take great pride in my journalism. In the 22 years since my book was originally published, no one--not a single scholar, journalist, or groupie--has ever identified any error of fact, either significant or nitpicking. No one has ever claimed I misquoted them or did not accurately report what was in any historical documents. No one has ever suggested that I was less than conscientious with the mountains upon mountains of raw material that attorneys deliberately created and preserved for historians to study. And, of course, I am still the only chronicler of this event who has actually studied and written about them. 


The failure to find errors in my book is something that cannot be said about most other books about the killings, including books by two Pulitzer Prize winners, James Michener and Philip Caputo. Kent State professors, fellow journalists, and attorneys for the defendants found numerous problems with Michener's reporting, and Caputo committed a few sloppy errors that his more radical critics blew out of proportion because he was not one of them.


I have no problem with people disagreeing with my conclusions. May 4 certainly was not a black-and-white case, and disagreements are to be expected any time a writer tackles a highly controversial cause celebre. But as far as my basic reporting is concerned, I feel I deserve to be commended for treating an enormous body of evidence in such a conscientious manner. Instead, I found myself the subject of a smear campaign, and I do not like it one bit.


A few things need to be said here. First, Lewis has several reasons to be unhappy with my book. Not only did I not praise his scholarship, but I skewered his tortured subdisciplinary reasoning for recommending the main campus memorial be built. While others felt the memorial was needed because four students were killed in a tragedy a presidential commission called "unnecessary, unwarranted, and inexcusable," Lewis felt a memorial was needed because it "sensitized America to regimented lines of communication and authority. May 4 changed forever how future demonstrations--peaceful or otherwise--must be perceived, analyzed, understood. and settled nonviolently." 


I also ridiculed him and his colleagues for their obstinate refusal to acknowledge the real debate. I also did not feed his supersized ego. One year Jerry, apparently confusing himself with a celebrity, actually gave his students a handout of his schedule of  his upcoming TV appearances.


And perhaps most importantly, my book contains some highly embarrassing revelations about the nutty professor. On pages 256 and 257, the book reveals how, in a matter of a few days, Lewis shapeshifted himself from a champion of campus radicals who opposed a federal grand jury investigation, to someone who voluntarily became a secret informant against the victims. Jerry briefed then KSU President Glenn A. Olds about a confidential meeting among the victims in which their legal strategy was discussed. Four Dead in Ohio discloses a document I discovered in the archives which demonstrated this happened at a time when the victims were suing the university. It was akin to someone infiltrating a legal defense. Jerry did this after he spoke out in defense of the radicals who opposed the grand jury investigation, and was roundly humiliated by Arthur Krause, the father of slain student Allison Krause, who exploded: "Jerry, that is the stupidest thing I've ever heard!" Lewis kept quiet for the rest of the meeting, but he later retaliated against Krause by briefing Olds and again later by telling me that Krause was crying on cue during a television interview, as if Krause was faking his grief.


And, of course, Jerry has also been threatened by my research. I did not quite understand why he urged me so strongly to give up seeking publication until the president of a U.S.-Canadian textbook distribution company told me that my book was perfect for classes in "Social Problems." That happens to be Lewis' field of expertise. Incidentally, he assigned his own May 4 textbook in that class. Jerry will not be happy to hear that my book has been adopted for classes at nine or ten universities.


I hope there are a few professors at Kent who are wise enough to challenge Lewis the next time he pulls this crap. As far as I am concerned, he is shamelessly intellectually dishonest. And an absolute disgrace to his profession.


POSTSCRIPT


My recommendation for a new word in The American Heritage and other dictionaries:


to "jerrylewis" someone


Definition: To sabotage one's competitor,  especially one who has far surpassed his own work.


Yes, he wants to be the leading expert on the Kent State shootings so badly that I am going to oblige him. I intend to make him into a household name.









Monday, April 30, 2012

The Strubbe Tape: The FBI Flubs Its Kent State Investigation

CNN aired a major story last night about Terry Strubbe tape, and it provided the clearest enhanced version of the tape I have heard so far. The segment clearly did one thing: it made the FBI's analysis of  the tape look absurd. The sounds that preceded the shootings--which Stuart Allen identified as gunshots believed to have been fired by FBI informant Terry Norman--do not sound anything like doors slamming (the FBI's conclusion). The sounds resemble gunfire, which is why Allen dubbed the FBI's explanation "beyond ludicrous."

70 seconds later, some of the words that preceded the gunfire were sometimes difficult to make out, but they certainly were not unintelligible, as the FBI's experts had claimed. You can distinctly make out a voice with an apparent accent telling the soldiers to "prepare to fire," followed by the words: "Get down," and then "Guard . . . " Although CNN accepted Allen's analysis that the words were "Guard, fire," there was too much noise to convince me that there was a second, follow-up order to fire, as Allen told me. Those words would have to isolated and magnified several times before I would accept that explanation.

In any event, it is hard to believe that the FBI listened to the same version of the tape that Allen did, and we cannot say for sure if the bureau actually did. That the FBI came to these conclusions only raises additional questions about its own objectivity. It makes me wonder if the FBI agents were simply looking for ammunition to provide the Justice Department with a reason to close the case forever.

Congressman Dennis Kucinich has already asked Justice to provide him with the FBI report, and today I filed a Freedom of Information Act request for the entire Justice Department and FBI review. As might be expected at this late date, the public is simply tired of hearing about it (as evidenced in the letters to the editor to the Cleveland and Akron newspapers mostly condemning any further investigations.) There is talk that some of the surviving wounded students might appeal to the governor of Ohio (a conservative Republican who is highly unlikely to do anything) or appeal an international court to further investigate the matter. (The Hague only settles international disputes.) As far as I am concerned, the wounded students are grasping at straws. The best they can hope for is additional testing by the National Academy of Sciences, which investigated the tapes of the JFK assassination. Even then, there is no guarantee that another study would result in a scientific consensus.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

The FBI Disputes The Claim There Was an Order to Fire at Kent State

The Plain Dealer published another front-page story today, and this one threw cold water on the audio experts' claim that they could discern an order to fire on the tape of the Kent State shootings. Apparently the Justice Department quietly asked the FBI to re-examine the Terry Strubbe tape, even though it already closed the case almost two years earlier. The FBI's experts supported Justice's decision by referrng to the previous evaluation of the tape conducted 38 years ago. That earlier analysis concluded that rather than demonstrating a clear order to fire, the voices on the tape were unintelligible. The FBI's analysis also conveniently exonerated FBI informant Terry Norman by claiming the sounds that Stuart Allen concluded were gunfire were actually the closing of doors in Strubbe's dorm room.

Almost immediately after the story hit the papers, Cleveland Congressman Dennis Kucinich asked the Justice Department to release the FBI's complete report on the tape so it could be determined whether the FBI used the same advanced technology that Stuart Allen and Tom Owen used when it reached completely opposite conclusions. Allen denounced the FBI's conclusion as beyond ludicrous and there seems to be some question as to whether or not the FBI, in analyzing the tape, relied on the outdated 1974 study. In other words, we do not know whether the FBI compared apples to apples or apples to oranges.

I will have more on this latest development once the details of this FBI analysis is released. In the meantime, John Mangels' story in the Plain Dealer can be found at:

www.cleveland.com/science/index.ssf/2012/04/justice_department_wont_re-ope.html

A Plain Dealer editorial arguing for the need for "a full and proper investigation of the tape's contents" can be found at:

www.cleveland.com/opinion/index.ssf/2012/04/close_official_examination_of.html