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The Bombing of Wall Street, American Experience/WGBH/PBS, February 2018

Stream the film of my book, The Day Wall Street Exploded: A Story of America in its First Age of Terror. AIRED FEBRUARY 13, 2018 The Bombing of Wall Street Film Description On September 16, 1920, as hundreds of Wall Street workers headed out for lunch, a horse-drawn cart packed with dynamite exploded in front of Morgan Bank — the world’s most powerful banking institution. The blast turned the nation’s financial center into a bloody war zone and left 38 dead and hundreds more seriously injured. As financial institutions around the country went on high alert, many wondered if this was the strike against American capitalism that radical agitators had threatened for so long. A mostly-forgotten act of terror that remains unsolved today, the bombing helped launch the career of a young J. Edgar Hoover and sparked a bitter national debate about how far the government should go to protect the nation from acts of political violence. Based on Beverly Gage’s The Day Wall Street Exploded: A Story of America in its First Age of Terror....

“‘Strategy’ May Be More Useful to Pawns than Kings,” NYT Magazine, September 3, 2018

In the late 1960s, the veteran radical Saul Alinsky looked at American society and did not like what he saw. With the antiwar and civil rights movements at critical junctures, many young activists seemed to be forgetting how to build and sustain power, turning instead toward showy street protest and random acts of violence. So Alinsky published, in 1971, his landmark book, “Rules for Radicals” — a guide to “tactics, maneuvers, strategy and principles of action in the making of revolutions.” Using terms that might have been plucked from a military manual, he sought to wrest the high art of strategy away from the “Haves” of the world and give it to the “Have-Nots.” More here....

“America Can Never Sort Out Whether ‘Socialism’ Is Marginal or Rising,” NYT Magazine, July 17, 2018

“Can you donate $5 NOW to defeat the socialist uprising?” a Republican congressional candidate tweeted in late June — just after Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a self-identified democratic socialist, won a New York congressional primary. Numerically speaking, the socialist “uprising” remains small: one safe-seat Democratic primary, a presidential-primary near miss by Bernie Sanders, a handful of local races around the country and a total membership of about 40,000 for the Democratic Socialists of America. What it all means, though, is a different matter. More here....

“An Intellectual Historian Argues His Case Against Identity Politics,” NYT Book Review, August 15, 2017

Still gobsmacked by the 2016 election, many liberals may be yearning for a thoughtful, generous and well-informed book to put it all in perspective, a strategic account of where they’ve been, where they are now and where they ought to go. In “The Once and Future Liberal,” Mark Lilla, a professor of the humanities at Columbia and a frequent contributor to The New York Review of Books, says his aim is to unify today’s fractured liberals around an agenda “emphasizing what we all share and owe one another as citizens, not what differentiates us.” Unfortunately, he does this in a way guaranteed to alienate vast swaths of his audience, and to deepen left-of-center divisions. More here....


“A ‘Resistance’ Stands Against Trump, But What Will It Stand For?” New York Times Magazine, January 31, 2017

If we lived in normal political times, our new president would be enjoying his honeymoon period, those few blissful weeks of good will and high hopes that usually accompany the start of an administration. Instead, the election of Donald J. Trump to the nation’s highest office has provoked an opposition movement that is extraordinary in American history, with millions of people devoted to stopping whatever it is he might want to do. Read more....




“What an Uncensored Letter to MLK Reveals,” New York Times Magazine, November 11, 2014

The note is just a single sheet gone yellow with age, typewritten and tightly spaced. It’s rife with typos and misspellings and sprinkled with attempts at emending them. Clearly, some effort went into perfecting the tone, that of a disappointed admirer, appalled by the discovery of “hidious [sic] abnormalities” in someone he once viewed as “a man of character.” The word “evil” makes six appearances in the text, beginning with an accusation: “You are a colossal fraud and an evil, vicious one at that.” In the paragraphs that follow, the recipient’s alleged lovers get the worst of it. They are described as “filthy dirty evil companions” and “evil playmates,” all engaged in “dirt, filth, evil and moronic talk.” The effect is at once grotesque and hypnotic, an obsessive’s account of carnal rage and personal betrayal. “What incredible evilness,” the letter proclaims, listing off “sexual orgies,” “adulterous acts” and “immoral conduct.” Near the end, it circles back to its initial target, denouncing him as an “evil, abnormal beast.” Read the rest....

“Terrorism and the American Experience,” Journal of American History, June 2011

In 1970, just months before his death, the historian Richard Hofstadter called on U.S. historians to engage the subject of violence. For a generation, he wrote, the profession had ignored the issue, assuming that consensus rather than conflict had shaped the American past. By the late 1960s, with assassinations, riots, and violent crime at the forefront of national anxieties, that assumption was no longer tenable. Everywhere, Americans seemed to be thinking and talking about violence, except within the historical profession. Hofstadter urged historians to remedy their “ inattention ” and construct a history of violence that would speak to both the present and the past. Over the last four decades, the historical profession has responded to that challenge. Studies of racial conflict, territorial massacres, gendered violence, empire, crime and punishment, and war and memory make up some of the most esteemed books of the past generation. Yet on the subject of “ terrorism, ” the form of violence that currently dominates American political discourse, historians have had comparatively little to say. Read article. Read round-table. Review teaching resources. Listen to the podcast....