Monday, June 22, 2009

Next-up in the terrorist-battle™/James Carafano/ Washington Examiner

Click on the heading below and read the article by James Carafano. He uses the Steunenberg assassination for comparative purposes. Following that article are my comments that may or may not get posted on the Washington Examiner site. As of this posting, they have not.

Next-up in the terrorist-battle™/James Carafano/Washington Examiner
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Comments by John T. Richards
Considerable documentation exists regarding the trial of “Big Bill” Haywood for conspiracy in the murder of former Governor Steunenberg of Idaho. Most recently, the assassination and trial were documented in a public television program titled, Assassination: Idaho Trial of the Century. You can read about it at:

As Mr. Carafano mentions, Big Trouble by J. Anthony Lukas “chronicles this crime.” However, Lukas, sometimes to the point of criticism of his minute detail, goes far beyond just a single crime as he documents the struggle between labor and capital during the 20th century industrial revolution and the mining exploration in the West. This struggle was a pivotal time in our nation’s history that would greatly influence the course of labor relations in the century ahead.

Regardless of one’s view of Bill Haywood, or where you fall in terms of labor and capital, to call the assassination of Steunenberg as a “one-off” demonstrates the shallow nature of Mr. Carafano’s knowledge of these events. We know that Steunenberg’s assassin killed some seventeen or more men during a western reign of terror that included a number of accomplices. Hardly a "one-off." I doubt Mr. Carafano read anything more of Big Trouble except reviews, cliff notes or perhaps listened to the very abridged recorded version. He certainly has missed grasping even a basic understanding of this epic discussion about 20th century America.

Big Trouble, though imperfect, is a detailed and exquisite exploration of the industrial revolution, the rise of labor and capital and the inevitable struggles (violent and non-violent). To categorize “Big Bill” as not being part of a broader social movement, comes, I am sure, as a surprise to both Haywood’s supporters and detractors. To summarily excuse a period of great social upheaval as amounting to “not much” is a rather surprising and uneducated view for a person of Mr. Carafano’s stature.

Are there "lone wolfs" out there? Certainly, and I concur that it is the terrorist networks that require our utmost vigilance and attention. However, a lone wolf, in these days of WMD, can cause great destruction and death and also requires our vigilance. Words do matter, and throughout history we have an uncountable number of individuals and groups that have been inflamed to sometimes unspeakable actions by the mere words of others.

The implications of those early 20th century events continue to influence us today. The struggle between labor and capital, as so intricately dissected by Lukas, and using the assassination of former Governor Steunenberg as the anchoring event in the story, cannot be thrown into the category of a “one-off.” The historical importance, and the human suffering and sacrifices on all sides, remains too important to be rendered such a dismissive attitude.

I will not belabor the historical content of Big Trouble. I do suggest that Mr. Carafano or those with historical interests, or that plan to use past history as a basis for argument, take the time to obtain at least a cursory understanding and appreciation of the topics under discussion. Read Big Trouble and/or the many other accounts of that period in history. In doing so, you will find many lessons that continue to be applicable today.

For more information and links to these resources, go to my blog at:

John T. Richards, Jr.

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