The Weathermen Underground – Will History Repeat?
Author: Josh Valdez
The Weathermen Underground group appealed to those who were young and looking for a purpose in life. This group started as a large student organization known as the Students for a Democratic Society (SDS). The Weatherman Underground group started with leaders of the SDS who had branched off of the traditional way of the SDS with the goal to form a revolutionary group, giving power to the minorities and opposing the war in Vietnam. They recruited heavily on college campuses where the idea of social reform is enticing. They also reached out to those who were perhaps socially depressed. They had a wide range of cultures present throughout the group as well as people with a free spirit who were either looking to dodge the draft or to have an adventure. This group used unconventional ideas of sexual relations and drug usage that pulled in those who were curious, while also fueling an underlining cause that all could relate to. Many of their recruits were dazzled by the charisma of many of the Weathermen leaders being known for their upper class status and their access to funding provided by family relations. Many were promised that they would have all their monetary needs would be meet and they would be known as a key player in one day overthrowing the US government.
Such a promise was not one to be easily believed or understood until the group moved toward recruiting and strengthening their recruits with an emotional appeal tactic as they displayed the horrific results of war. They showed propaganda that made many think differently about the US government and their war tactics in Vietnam. They showed video of homeless refugees and the causalities of the war many of which were women and children. It wasn’t until the group held what was known the “days of rage” that lead to them being recognized and treated as a serious group. They continued to reach out to groups such as the “Black Panthers” to try and attach themselves to the social support and resources this group had available. This struggling attempt to create this alliance it was not as successful as they hoped.
The Weathermen group had many recruiting tactics that perhaps were unconventional but successful. Their use of charisma and free spirit mentality lead many to believe in a low risk exchange. Nonetheless, many of the recruits perceived this low risk mentality incorrectly. The group did benefit in the loyalty and confidentiality that existed inside of the group, however, they did not weigh the lasting effects of what they were doing. They should have continued to recruit heavily like they were doing in order to keep the “spirit” of what they were doing alive. If we were to analyze the potential the weathermen group could have had if they would have constructed a firm alliance with other social groups they would have been able to hold on longer than they did. Some of the things they could have done to continue to recruit successfully was to find a way to keep the head leaders out of hiding and out of jail. They were the faces of what they were trying to achieve and one cannot be convinced in the passion of their movement if they aren’t able to see the people that were passionate enough. That is one of the differences prevalent between people like Hitler and Che Guevara and the reason they were so successful is they were the face of recruitment, present at the rallies and letting new recruits know that they were standing together with them in the cause. With the Weathermen group, we saw the presence of the leaders at first, but as the group slowly moved toward terrorism acts by blowing up empty buildings or helping a convicted criminal escape from prison. Once we saw active warrants out for those in power of the group, they realized that they did not have the power over the law. They didn’t have the strong recruitment base that would hold up under the added pressure of running from the law. They went from a radical way of recruitment to a conservative self-preservation mode of the group.