Liz Glover just sent us this morbid reminder: “Tomorrow is the 40th Anniversary of the Kent State Massacre. Here’s my interview with a couple of the members of Devo who witnessed it.”

Did we know DEVO’s Jerry Casale was a member of SDS who watched the whole horrible quadruple murder of Kent State anti-war protesters back in 1970? It is difficult to keep track of everything weird & awful in our Recent American History. Anyway …. [The Newsroom/]

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  1. Best thing ever about Devo. Back when they were beginning their popularity their was a town on the Philadelphia Main Line “Devon”. This town had the Devon Horse Show, big mansions, etc…
    One of the ways to get to devon was down Route 202, a very well traveeled road.
    A few pranksters got together and painted over the N off the big highway exit sign, leaving “DEVO” as the name of the town.
    Well, its not like they were Led Zeppelin or something.

  2. I love Liz, but she needs to get BHO to lend her a tele-prompter. And also, I’m tired of these whining boomers, whining about being “murdered” because they were “unarmed”. Geez, in my day we ate live ammunition for snacks and took our hard line political repression like men!

  3. One of the things Wonkette is good for is making me think about stuff that the lazy, cowardly side of me (side?!) would rather not think about–such as, say, the week of Kent State and Jackson State, one of the most hateful and infuriating “moments” in American history as some of us have experienced it. Thanks to Liz for the interview and thanks to Ken for linking to the heartbreaking piece by Elaine Holstein.

  4. Whaddya wanna bet there aren’t some teabaggers who were cheering the Ohio National Guard murderers on that fateful day in 1970? Now, they call the Obama administration “fascists” because they want to save their fucking Medicare. Dumbfucks.

  5. not to make light of history, and certainly it would be better to have not had 4 students massacred than to have an incredible cover version by the isley bros. of an incredible neil young song. but, that said, ernie isley’s guitar work on this song will knock your dick into your watch pocket.

  6. If we’re all gonna be serious…I was too young to understand Kent State when it happened, but when I read about it in college, it was, and remains, incomprehensible to me. The iconic picture of the woman near the body of her classmate with her hands out, as if to say, “Why?” gets me every time. I will never understand how it could have happened, and if I ever do, I will know my heart has shriveled and died.

  7. I was shot in the chest one week after the kids at Kent State got theirs — innocent bystander, liquor store holdup, lasting nerve damage, yada yada. So I could relate to them. And the kids we were sending off to ‘Nam.

    It did give me a great deferment, though: “They can’t send me off to get shot on that side of the Pacific ‘cuz I already got shot on this side of the Pacific.”

  8. [re=569255]germansteel[/re]: Ayup, there were people who thought Kent State was a good thing. If you read the news stories from back then, or books about it, it’ll either disgust you or break your heart. Or both.

  9. My favorite Kent State reading material (sorry, three years before I was born) was the Rolling Stone run-down by Joe Estzerhas (of all people) trying to take on the hopelessly square establishment, who had hired James Michener (!!) of all people to pin the blame on The Jefferson Airplane. Also notable and alluded to by Katydid was the hate mail received by the parents of the deceased from Nixon’s Silent Majority of Giant Fucking Assholes.

  10. [re=569261]Katydid[/re]: I think that’s what got me in Holstein’s piece, particularly her observation that a lot of people thought the National Guard didn’t kill nearly enough of them. Of course, you see this same kind of mentality today, what with Teabaggers and such praying for Obama’s death so that they can take their country back.

  11. I think the DEVO connection was talked about a bit in Heylin’s book “From The Velvets To The Voidoids”. The college towns in Ohio were a hot bed of progressivism and activism, apparently. The friggin Velvet Underground got better crowds in Cleveland than they did in NYC, and all of their fans grew up to be Devo, Pere Ubu, Rocket From The Tombs, etc.

  12. That’s it, I’m going to restrict my memories of those days to the music only. Funny how todays politcal climate is considered tense. Pfft. Those were the freaking end-times.

  13. [re=569270]queeraselvis v 2.0[/re]: Yeah, the teabaggers are the modern descendants of Nixon’s silent majority; and in fact many are the same people, pissed off back then because of the civil rights protests and law, and those young people with their nonconformity and sex and shit. Of course, now they’re even angrier, as they look around and see that they are not the majority any more.

  14. [re=569255]germansteel[/re]: How much you want to bet that there are Teabaggers that are equating themselves as the murdered Kent State students and are posting on Redstate as we speak that it is only a matter of time before Obama sends out the National Guard to gun them down in cold blood?

  15. [re=569287]JMP[/re]: The teabaggers ARE the very same people that wanted more kids shot, at Kent State and elsewhere. They never change, never grow, never learn.

    Which is why I, who was in SDS at the time (along with Devo) hang around the Wonkette domain of snark and despair.

  16. I’m a KSU alumnus, class of 83 (teh old), so I was there for the 10th anniversary. The May 4th Task Force (I think that’s what they were called) would hold a day-long commemoration every year, but of course it was a bigger deal for the 10th. Although the University was not the official sponsor, classes were routinely canceled and people just hung out on the commons, listening to the bands and speakers. I especially remember Dean Kahler, the student who was shot and mostly paralyzed–certainly confined to a wheelchair. The guy was so sad and wistful. The sheer fucking injustice of the thing still burns me.

  17. Another weird fact about Kent State: Ian Mackaye of Fugazi and Minor Threat fame helped analyze audio tapes from that day.

  18. [re=569259]Katydid[/re]: i was too young to understand it when it happened, too. all i knew about the vietnam war that spring was it was very controversial and for some reason we weren’t winning and my father was there and we were pretty sure he would come back and my classmate billy king’s father had been killed there that year and billy moved away.

  19. [re=569320]TimeCubist[/re]: The whole period from 68 to 72 doesn’t seem like it was that long ago. And now we are fighting the same battles again.

  20. [re=569329]slappypaddy[/re]: Oh my. How awful.

    The only time I ever saw my dad cry was when the first POWs came home (I think they were the first). It had to be around 1972, and I remember an airbase, soldiers in uniform, and women running into their arms. I came into the living room and my dad was watching TV and he was crying, and it shook me up because what kid wants to see their dad cry? But as a memory, it makes me think fondly of my dad, for having a good heart.

    He turned 18 in 1945, and was drafted, but missed the fighting, so was too old for Vietnam. He was really hot to sign up for WWII, but his parents wouldn’t sign the papers when he was 17.

  21. [re=569269]norbizness[/re]: Joe Esterhasz (of all people!) was also the reporter who wrote the story in the Cleveland Plain Dealer that accompanied the first photos of the My Lai massacre. How he got from Serious Journalism to writing the screenplay for Showgirls is a mystery for the ages.

  22. Trufact: The kneeling-down-girl was one Mary Ann Vecchio, a 14-year-old runaway from Florida, who the Gubnor of Florida later branded as a Subevrsive Communist Agent or something like that, just because she happened to be near a spot where a bunch of kids were murdered for no reason.

    To paraphrase what Hunter S. Thompson once wrote, maybe we really are a nation of 350 million used car salesmen who see nothing wrong with killing anyone who gets in the way of what we want…

  23. Well, thank goodness nothing like that ever happened at Jackson State – just think of the punk rock spawn from that? You’d have, like, alligator gars garulating on stage!

  24. [re=569373]President Beeblebrox[/re]: No, not all of us. Looky here. And I just called my 78-year-old mom to tell her about tomorrow’s anniversary, and she started talking about it, and then gasped and said, “Oh my God, that photo of that girl kneeling….” and she started crying.

    Not all olds are Republican haters. I got lucky that way. My dad was a lib too ’til the day he died near 80.

    But, boy, it sure sounds like we’re a family who can’t keep our eyes dry! Not true, not true. We’re actually a bunch of cold-hearted motherfuckers.

  25. LIz, you have a very dirty mind. Good on you for asking that 25 year old ‘Whip It’ question, though you failed to follow up with the obvious, “What about ‘Jerkin’ Back And Forth?'”

    Oh and Kent State … ugh.

  26. That was some jacked-up shit at Kent State, but the protesters share some of the blame for a: rioting in downtown three days before the shooting, b: throwing bottles and rocks at the cops after setting fires in the street during said riot, leading the authorities to overreact and bring in half-trained soldiers to do a cops’ job, c: throwing MORE rocks the day of the shooting, refusing to disperse at bayonet-point, and basically daring the (poorly led and badly outnumbered) Guardsmen to shoot them. Ninety percent of the blame goes to the people who put the Guard there, and the guys who pulled their triggers, but not 100 percent.

    Just because Nixon and a lot of other establishment types were assholes doesn’t mean there weren’t plenty of assholes among the more radical student protesters. By 1970, the leftier splinter wing of SDS was intentionally getting people killed and beat up all over the place, as a tactic. AND by fucking up the Democratic convention in ’72, they ensured Nixon’s reelection and escalation of the war into Laos and Cambodia. Nice work, jerks. Fuck Abbie Hoffman and the rest of those self-absorbed “revolutionaries.”

  27. [re=569354]Katydid[/re]: same deal with my dad. he was hot for world war two, was 16 in 45, his parents wouldn’t sign the papers. he joined the army as soon as he could and made a career of it, serving in korea and vietnam. he cried one day many years after he had come home from vietnam, when he told me about some things that had happened there that he had kept locked up inside himself for a quarter-century.

  28. [re=569415]Lazy Media[/re]: You say the Guard deserves 90% of the blame but your list says otherwise. With the draft, they felt they had nothing to lose. They they were either going to get shot in the streets or in Vietnam. In hindsight, they were right about the war and every other issue of the day, they just had no capital, political or financial, and they weren’t into running for office. They were too pissed off and too young to do anything about it.

  29. [re=569415]Lazy Media[/re]: I agree with quite a few of your points but as far as the shooting is concerned, the students had mostly dispersed before the soldiers fired on them. In fact, the soldiers were marching away from the area many students had scattered to when they suddenly spun around and opened fire. Two of those killed had not even attended the protest; they were simply going to class and happened to be cutting across the parking lot and field where all the students were shot.

    The Guard’s defenders have always argued that they were provoked, but really, how terrified could they be of students throwing rocks in their direction from 200 feet away? Even some of the Guardsmen agreed later that they needed to find better ways of dealing with protests like that.

  30. [re=569382]Katydid[/re]: [re=569446]slappypaddy[/re]: The men of WWII as a rule didn’t talk @ the war time experience. One of my best friends didn’t know her dad was a Paratrooper/Radio Operative in the group that was dropped in France; he was one of 2 of the group of 12 who lived through the drop and was able to radio his assigned group. She found out when the city did an article on WWII verterans still living in the city at the time. That was a couple of years ago.

    I only knew my dad was on Guam and Tinian, but nothing else until he passed away, and we found his photo albums from his years in the army. There are many pix of the Enola Gay and pilots…. He never mentioned any of that.

    I think war has a tremendous impact on anyone who’s involved, but esp. the people on the frontlines. It’s one reason I think we need to beef up our mental health facilities for all soldiers, of all wars.

    I remember a cliched poster of the times: Suppose They Gave a War and No One Came? — Nice thought, anyway.

  31. Kent State was a few years before I entered this world, so, in all sincerity, it’s fascinating for me to read these accounts. Sometimes it’s nice to put the snark away for a post or two.

  32. And 2nd Lt. William “Rusty” Calley is still working at his father-in-law’s jewelry store in Georgia.

    The only man convicted out of all of Charlie Company. But released after a brief period of house arrest.

    Scroll foward about 40 years, and the US Army is still killing The Browns And Yellows . . . FOR FREEDOM!

    As if any of this stuff matters . . . .

  33. [re=569278]Way Cool Larry[/re]: Unbelievable how many of the original punks–The New York Dolls, Patti Smith, the Ramones.. were old fart baby boomers. It’s true, you can look it up.

  34. [re=569320]TimeCubist[/re]: He got a card from some major dick. It was a “Get Well” card, but on the inside the asshole had written: “By the time to get this I hope you’re dead you commie pinko bastard.” I heard it on NPR this morning and nearly threw up my frosted mini wheats.

  35. I remember Kent State and Jackson State my senior year in high school, and gas was $.189/gallon. And I wouldn’t turn 18 until October so I couldn’t take out student loans to get somewhere and ended up going to JC, also because Nixon revoked student deferments, but we didn’t know our numbers until after the school year started. Then I finished at a state college and worked for McGovern and went through the happiest years of my life. And we seemed to be vindicated when Nixon resigned in disgrace. But the more things change the more they stay the same. Now Barry has caved in to the drill baby drill crowd and a large segment of the public thinks it is OK to create a police state so long as it only oppresses brown skinned people and socialists. I feel like someone has clubbed my favorite baby seal.

  36. Other Kent State Factoid:

    Yours Truly was a first grader in Kent in 1970. Mark and Jerry were students of my dad (Ian Short) in the art department. Mark had spaghetti dinner at my house.

  37. I’m glad that “Whip It” was a satire of the motivational mantra culture. For me, “Jocko Homo” is and remains their most well-known song, and the satire of the song is obvious enough that even the jocus homi did not feel quite comfortable singing along. When Reagan came along and the band presented its fascist “Freedom of Choice” neu youth, they pushed the frontier a bit too far, perhaps, simply because the consequences of the clueless were too grave. The drunk frat boys playing along weren’t funny anymore.

    Now I need to put on my Pere Ubu “St. Arkansas” disk. 1970’s despair is back. Even the Survivalist movement is back from its unholy grave. The only thing new is that “our guy” is employing the dastardly mechanisms of the National Security state.

  38. Kent State was just the far side of the hurricane…there was a mighty big wind back then which was all over when yuppies were dancing in bars to celebrate good times come on…but it was a mighty big wind and scared the shit out of some people who thought they had something to lose…I knew it was big in 1966 standing in the bus station in Chicago – someone I’d never met smiled across the length of the place and the first wave hit me….in Tacoma there were some Panthers that would party with a white boy, the only black folks I knew who weren’t afraid to do acid…one day around Kent State time, I went over to find all their doors and windows broken, blood all over the kitchen and three other rooms – Tacoma policemen took their cue from Kent State…not one word in the local papers, two dead Panthers, and six in jail…we didn’t have much trouble getting them out, the weapons charges sucked, mostly police pistols…

  39. [re=569481]slavojzizek[/re]: Chrissie Hynde was, I believe, a sophomore at Kent State on that day — another witness who carried that rage for years until punk rock seemed to give it a platform. (Greater Metropolitan) Cleveland (actually) rocks.

  40. Every time I turn around lately, there’s some Devo there… I guess when studying late 20th century history, rule number 1 is Assume Devo Was There. Also Joe Esterhasz (of all people).

    Whiterabid: Our prez is a socratic prof; one of these days there will be a speech laying it all out: You wanted unrestrained capitalism and look what happened; You wanted offshore drilling and look what happened; You wanted no limits on automatic weapons and look what (is going to happen), etc. etc.

  41. [re=569415]Lazy Media[/re]: Since I wasn’t at Kent State, I will reserve judgment but not defer to your opinion. As to Chicago, I was there as an accredited journalist. The Conrad Hilton Hotel was my beat, although I was all over Chicago that week, and I strongly reserve the right to say, as regards Chicago, “shoot to kill,” it’s police riots, the Yippies, the targeting of reporters as well as demonstrators, the presence of the National Guard (for a political convention??) and it’s ultimate historical consequences, you’re full of shit.

    “Lazy Media.” Too right.

  42. What was most fucked up about Kent State is that most Americans supported it, even parents of kids at Kent State. The 60s weren’t all that.

  43. [re=569350]GOPCrusher[/re]: One reason for Iraq/Afghanistan is that no one was punished for Viet Nam. If Nixon and Johnson and appropriate cabinet members had hanged, Bush and Cheney and co. might not have tried it all over again.

  44. I’m currently a freshman at Kent, and there have been events all weekend up here leading up to today. Unfortunately, there are some people who go further than Lazy Media in their condemnation of the students, even today. The Akron Beacon-Journal, or the Akron BJ as I like to call it, has been running stories about May 4 for the past few days, and the idiots in the comments section are freaking out:

  45. [re=569415]Lazy Media[/re]: I keep telling my kids that you can’t understand today’s events unless you understand the sixties. What is it that keeps us from ever putting this shit to rest? There must be some fundamental deep place where we part company. Dude, you can’t do that calculus. Are you trying to understand or trying to rationalize? There are causes and conditions for everything that happens, that’s true. But the causes for Kent State weren’t people throwing bottles and poorly trained soldiers, those were public justifications. The divisions are deeper than that and they are still with us. There were people on all sides who took advantage of situations in order to act out their aggressions. And some of them went to jail. But what the guard did at KS was deadly assault under color of authority. And they got away with it.

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