Days of Violence

Book Review

days of rage

Days of Rage:  America’s Radical Underground, the FBI, and the Forgotten Age of Revolutionary Violence (2015)

Secret cells of bombers in the U.S. didn’t start with Islamic terrorists in the 1990s. We had a host of them throughout the 1970s and into the mid-’80s, a fact that is now little remembered. Bombing buildings, killing police, staging prison breaks, robbing banks—but rather than aiming to terrorize the population, these crimes were aimed at sparking a revolution.

Maybe you’ve heard of Weatherman, later known as the Weather Underground. You may even remember the Symbionese Liberation Army, which kidnapped and brainwashed heiress Patty Hearst. But what about the Black Liberation Army? The New World Liberation Front? FALN? The Sam Melville Jonathan Jackson Unit? The Family?

Bryan Burrough tells the fascinating story of these interlinked groups in his book, “Days of Rage: America’s Radical Underground, the FBI, and the Forgotten Age of Revolutionary Violence,” a title almost as wordy as the communiqués these groups released. He’s produced a thorough, even-handed, and nicely written history, featuring new information about what the home-grown revolutionaries did while they were “underground” (that is, acting secretly and living under false identities), gleaned from interviews with key players.

Those who didn’t travel in countercultural circles in the late ’60s and early ’70s may find it hard to understand how people could actually believe the U.S. was on the brink of a revolution. Those who did might understand, but still have trouble believing people could hang onto such beliefs well into the 1980s. Count me among the latter. I had no idea there were still holdouts at the end of the first Reagan administration. It blew my mind, man. Continue Reading