1. Caledonian says

    Never understood why people are so upset about that. It’s not as if we don’t do worse things than that all the time.

    But most of those things aren’t as dramatic as soldiers firing on demonstrators, I suppose.

  2. Caledonian says

    Not only did the site format just change (something ScienceBlogs did?) but the previous posts aren’t showing up properly.

    I don’t think it’s a problem with my browser, but I’ll reload the site a few times (and check it with multiple browsers) just in case.

  3. Maureen Lycaon says

    Yeah, the formatting seems to have been lost entirely. It looks like something happened to the style sheet specs for the posts.

  4. Caledonian says

    Does Darwinian theory undermine conservative notions of religion and morality or does it actually support conservative philosophy?

    How about considering whether it’s true, and worrying about how it affects your political stance afterwards?

    Better yet: if it really does conflict with your political beliefs, and it’s true, abandon your political beliefs. (I don’t hold out much hope of this happening – no one does it – but it’s what’s rationally required.)

    The real point is to realize that nobody’s actually conservative in the old sense, and everyone’s conservative in the new.

  5. autumn says

    I want to state outright that nothing I am about to say is meant in any way to marginalize the losses suffered that day, and I am not questioning the commitment or beliefs of those who assembled that day.
    What if? What if the protesters did not disperse, but used the time to organize and fortify their positions? What if, after the initial fullisade the mass of people did not run for their lives, but instead closed those fatal hundred yards and broke the lines of the guardsmen? What if every life taken from those demonstrators was paid for in the blood of government servants? What if those damned hippies had realized that a commitment to peace meant sure destruction, and opted for the good fight?
    Probabaly nothing.
    How many school-children are taught about the native American occupation of Alcatraz Island?
    Damn, but I always wonder, would I have had the courage to oppose our government’s terrorist (read the State Department’s definition of terrorism, Kent State qualifies) activity?
    No. I would have wailed and protested again, but the inertia of the system would have, and does now, prevent me from taking action. We are assured of our freedoms, and allowed to display them just enough that we forget the limits, and the depths to which those in power are willing to fathom, to keep us quiet.

  6. Kerry says

    It is hard to believe that 32 years have gone by since Kent State, I remember the anger of that time coming only 2 years after the assinations of Robert Kennedy, Rev. King and the Tet offensive.

    5 years later I was involved with the evacuation of Saigon.

    The years go by, the dates start to run together, but the memories do not fade.

  7. John Sully says

    I just can’t watch this. Just like I couldn’t (but did, with many tears) watch the American Experience program about RFK. I sat up all night watching the election coverage. I was happy that RFK won. He was the best hope for our country at that time.

    To see him laid low like that… It was a tragedy for our country.

  8. C says

    Part of what made it upsetting is that a lot of people welcomed the killings — it was a polarizing event.

    And of course there were just enough morons and provocateurs like “autumn” around that peaceful protesters *could* be portrayed as bomb-throwers.

  9. Graham says

    …Tin soldiers and Nixon’s comin’.
    We’re finally on our own.
    This summer I hear the drummin’.
    Four dead in Ohio…

    I am not a crook.

    Richard Nixon (1973)

  10. Jack says

    Autumn tells us a commitment to peace means sure destruction?

    As if a commitment to violence didn’t.

    Autumn has obviously never seen war in person.

    Autumn is a fool.

  11. says

    A few days ago, The Guardian published as article, Tape ‘reveals order’ to shoot Vietnam protesters saying that on a recently found (copy of) a reel-to-reel audio recording made that day, the following can be (clearly?) heard:

    “Right here. Get set. Point. Fire.” Then came 13 seconds of gunfire. When it ended, four students were dead and nine injured…

    If true, it rather clearly proves what has long been suspected (by some): The unarmed students were deliberately murdered.

    The original recording apparently still exists, but interestingly, the owner (who is also the student who made the recording) was surprised to learn this. Via a spokesperson, he said:

    …he was unsure whether there were sounds of an order to open fire on the original recording.
    “It was never heard on our version of the tape, but maybe nobody ever listened. It’s unusual that nobody has heard it before in 37 years. Other people have heard this tape in the past, and maybe they weren’t listening for it,” he said.

    The (copy of?) the recording is apparently available via the link at (I have not downloaded nor listened to it myself (yet!) so cannot confirm that). I presume the story has also been published elsewhere, but have not done a search.

  12. says

    PZ I appreciate you’re taking the time to remember this. I was a first grader in Kent when this happened (Dad and Grandpa were on the faculty at Kent, Dad in Art, Grandpa in Math.)

    When my grandfather retired from the Math Department in the late sixties, he was the only Math professor on record as being against the war in Vietnam.

    Needless to say things in the Art Department were a little different.

    Thanks again.

  13. says

    Part of the reason that people got upset was that the students expected that the National Guard would be using rubber bullets to disperse the crows. Why would they be loaded with lead? I was only 9 at the time, but I remember it vividly.

  14. Caledonian says

    I wonder if the soldiers also thought their guns had rubber bullets – or at least, the person who (seemingly) gave the order to fire.

  15. says

    What where the available calibres of “rubber bullets” at the time?
    And… was the National Guard, again at the time, nominally issued “rubber bullets”?

    I do not know about the second question.
    As for the first, it’s always been my understanding that, until fairly recently, “rubber bullets” were only available in shotgun-sized (or larger) calibres. I.e., the guardsmen who loaded and/or fired the rifles would have no (rational) reason to think “rubber bullets” were being used.

    The Wikipedia entry on “rubber bullets” broadly backs up my belief/contention that the available calibres would be highly unlikely to have been used: and indicates that “rubber bullets” were a fairly new invention at that time, with so-called “teak bullets” (wooden bullets) having been the (British) form of semi-lethal crowd control.

    Indeed, the entry on the shootings states:

    The Kent State incident forced the National Guard to re-examine its methods of crowd control. The only instruments the Guardsmen had that day to dispel demonstrators were bayonets, CS gas grenades, and .30-06 ball ammunition.

    Tear gas (CSgas) was used during the 3-4 days relevant days. I doubt bayonets were. That leaves the live ammunition as the only plausible shot–something the guardsmen would have damn well known. Some of them did fire into the air or into the ground, but the clearly not all. They had to know they were shooting with live ammo. So why did (the ones who did not shoot into the air or ground) allegedly aim and clearly fire…?

  16. CCP says

    Any number of dead is appalling. But 4 is… well… peanuts.

    Peanuts??!? “What if you knew her and / found her dead on the ground…”

    It’s not about the body count. Kent State and Jackson State remain significant because Americans cannot look at Tien An Men and Gwangju and tut-tut “barbarians…it can’t happen here.”
    It did happen here.

  17. says

    I was 16 the day it happened. I didn’t see it live, but they did show a part on the evening news. It changed things.

    Both sides realized that things had gone too far. The anti-war crowd would push for withdrawal from Vietnam through Congress. The pro-war group would be more cautious, and more disciplined about how they handled demonstrations. The number of demonstrations dropped off, and what actions did occur were better organized and focused than before.

    Kent State did a lot to turn people against the war. People started to see that supporting a corrupt regime in Saigon was not worth the lives of young people in the United States. Young people who had not agreed to risk their lives, and thought it was their right to speak out on matters they thought important.

    It should also be noted that the order given to fire by the Ohio National Guard lieutenent was aired on national TV in the days after Kent State. A shame your teachers didn’t think it important enough to tell you about when you where growing up.

  18. Caledonian says

    Peanuts??!? “What if you knew her and / found her dead on the ground…”

    So? Any person’s death is monumental if you knew that person. How many people die every hour from horrible things? Do you spend your life in constant agony for all of the senseless deaths?

    Four people is inconsequential. That has little to do with how the killings played out in the general consciousness.

  19. jufulu says

    Four people are not inconsequential for the time that it happened. It was probably the seminal event that focused on what America had become. It was people shooting their own. Yes it happened to Blacks and other minorities. Yes it happens all around the world. But something like that just “doesn’t happen in America”, this is what happens in those other contries, you know, the communist ones.

    It completed the destruction of my relationship to my Grandmother when she told me that it wouldn’t have happened if the students hadn’t been there. WTF, it was their fault for getting shot.

    I still tear up when I hear the song Ohio. I still tear up when its our own shooting our own.

  20. Baratos says

    Oh god, this reminds me of the Brezhnev Doctrine. Rule through force, order through death.

  21. khan says

    I was a college sophomore at the time in NY. Nothing like watching a college have a collective nervous breakdown.

    Also remember the attitude mentioned in the song: “should have been done long ago”.

    Those troops shouldn’t have been there, they had just come off duty from a truckers’ strike dealing with snipers. There is no way they should have had live ammo in a residential area (bullets his some of the housing).

    Governor’s Rhodes (spit) was just proving what a good rightie he was. Just before his second set of term as governor ended, he put up a statue to of himself and awarded himself a medal.

    Like Tricky Dick and St Ronnie the Senile, I wish Rhodes was buried with a stake through his heart.

  22. John says

    I was at Firebase Nancy in Vietnam in May of 1970 and the news about Kent State was just another numbing bit of bad news. Then sometime later I read that the National Guard unit had been walking around the Kent State campus with rounds in the chamber for a day or so before the shooting. That alone should have justified a court martial for the commander, even if the soldiers never fired their weapons.

    Although Nancy had been overrun by the NVA three weeks earlier, the rules of engagement were that no one chambered a round until they intended to shoot. That order was routinely disobeyed by everyone on guard duty, but American soldiers at Nancy were up against enemy soldiers armed with assault rifles and explosives rather than American citizens throwing rocks. Some of those killed and wounded were too far away to have thrown a rock at the National Guard.

    What happened at Kent State was murder.

  23. jackd says

    Likewise a child when the Kent State killings occurred, I recall reading about it back in about 1984. There was no crowd by the time the Guards started shooting. They marched through a crowd, then turned around and marched back to a higher spot, turned again, set, and fired (simplified: an accurate description would be longer and more chaotic.) They were not faced with an angry crowd when they opened fire. The nearest victim was over 100 yards away. At least one victim wasn’t even involved in the protests, just walking to class.

  24. car says

    Caledonian – I actually see your point, but I think the reason those four were so stunning in a larger sense was that not only were they kids, but that they were killed specifically because they were engaging in a peaceful protest, a form of expression that is not only protected, but often viewed as one of the best examples of our democratic society. Look, we’re not like the controlling Communists! We’re not like the other oppressive regimes! We let people express their own opinions! ….Well, except when we decide to kill them for it.

  25. Carlie says

    Sorry, that was me just now – I hit enter as I was typing my name in and didn’t get it finished.

  26. Caledonian says

    It’s just that I’ve never understood the “It can’t happen here, we’re not like them” belief. Human nature is almost certainly the same everywhere, and I know too much about human cognition to fool myself into thinking that there are any behaviors we’re above.

    We are them, and we make it happen everywhere.

  27. jufulu says

    Caledonian @ 31. Thats the point isn’t it, we perceive ourselve to be different, thats what made it so shocking. However, trying to fight human nature is what is all about isn’t it. Its about setting goals, we just sometimes fool oursselve thinking we have made it. A thought that always comes back to me is that civilization is only a very thin veneer applied to humanity. Sometimes I’m an optimist.

  28. autumn says

    First of all, wasn’t a building burned by the “peaceful” protesters (I could be conflating different campus protests, but I’m in a hurry)?
    Secondly, the assertion that the alternative to a commitment to only peaceful means is a commitment to only violent means is a wonderful example of a false dichotomy.
    Thirdly, I think my final point was missed, i.e., more bloodshed, as much as my personal sense of justice seemed to cry out for it, would not have made any large difference in the historical outcome.
    Finally, if I can assume that most of the posters on this particular commentary are American, have you forgotten our own provacateurs and terrorists? The founding fathers operated in an environment of outright sympathizers with the Crown, and a vast majority who believed that the colonies were being wronged, but that peaceful means could prevail. I forgot that it’s only when the bomb-throwers win that we’re allowed to applaud them.

  29. khan says

    First of all, wasn’t a building burned by the “peaceful” protesters (I could be conflating different campus protests, but I’m in a hurry)?

    An empty building that was scheduled for demolition.

  30. DocAmazing says

    Autumn does make one excellent point:
    Bullies are less inclined to attack those who are likely to fight back. There were a number of incidents in the early ’70s when cops waded into an apparently peaceful protest and started kicking ass–and got the shit knocked out of them, which outcome was not reported in the next days’ papers. See, the victimization narrative so beloved of the right wing today was anathema then, and any loss of control wasn’t going to be acknowledged by the authorities.

    Is a law-enforcement officer being beaten a good thing? Well, I can think of occasions when it wouldn’t necessarily be all bad…