by Melinda Pillsbury-Foster
Today, Andrew Kreig, author of “Presidential Puppetry,” is challenging a 'false flag' from the era of the Vietnam Conflict which slipped into history as an authentic reactions to ongoing events.
On April 19, 1969 80 plus African-American students at Cornell University seized the student center 24 hours after a fire alarms going off resulted in the discovery of a burning cross on campus at Wari House, a cooperative residential unit for black women. Close to a dozen false alarms took place elsewhere on campus but no one was injured.
The building was occupied for 36 hours before the armed protesters emerged. The resulting photos, shocking at the time, entered our collective memory as iconic images of the 1960s era of student protest.
But black students, themselves, burned the cross, invoking a racist symbol where none had existed.
Kreig challenges each of us to decide if creating news by manipulation is to be tolerated. Do we tolerate such incidents if they further the aims of movements when we sympathize? Or do we exact the same standards for everyone?
Kreig covered the story as a student reporter, not then realizing the truth until former Cornell Daily Sun editor-in-chief and Washington Post Alumnus Stan Chess revealed the facts last month for the first time.
The students who planned and carried out the cross burning and then the occupation also woke the parents of students then staying in Willard Straight Hall, the student union. Although the incident ended peacefully it did not end without acrimony. Some faculty, alumni and political commentators were outraged at the leniency of the treatment according the protesters. Some of the supposed radicals who had planned the false flag went on to mainstream careers.
And coverage of the event continued to reverberate.
Kreig himself wrote an essay on the event, as originally understood, which was included as one of the first chapters in a book, titled, A Century At Cornell, published about the University by the Sun. The chapter, “The End of a Bizarre Era ” covered the occupation's historical importance.
Two of Kreig's professors, Walter Berns and Allan Bloom, resigned from the University because of the lenient punishments accorded the student protesters, who had emerged armed from their occupation of the Student Union. Berns and Bloom found careers in politics in what would become the NeoConservative movement.
What do you think? Do we tolerate propaganda, or not?