Everyone Went Crazy

Shola Lynch‘s Free Angela and All Political Prisoners, an absorbing and well-crafted doc about the intense life of ’60s and ’70s political revolutionary Angela Davis and her 1972 conspiracy-kidnapping-murder trial, had its first press screening today at 2 pm. I attended and was quite taken. But Lynch declines to clearly explain the facts behind the prosecution’s central accusation against Davis, and that’s a huge thing to omit in a film of this sort.

Free Angela is a riveting history lesson and a fascinating time-travel look at the political lunacy of the late ’60s to early ’70s, when thousands of impassioned leftists gradually turned radical and became sincerely convinced that revolution├úry social change was imminent, leading to some of them jumping off a cliff (some rhetorical, some criminal) in order to push things along or throw wood into the fire. And the right did everything in its power to turn this country into a police state in order to repress and suppress the left, especially with the emergence of super-radical street fighters and bank robbers and bomb-makers like the Weathermen.

Much of Free Angela is about that collective madness, but more particularly about Davis’s underground fugitive phase in the wake of being charged with aggravated kidnapping and first-degree murder, and then her capture by the FBI, and then her 1972 trial in San Jose. Davis was prosecuted because four guns bought by Davis were used in an 8.7.70 attempt by Jonathan Jackson, the 17 year-old brother of imprisoned Black Panther George Jackson, to break out three “Soledad brother” defendants out of a Marin County courthouse. Jackson handed guns to three black defendants and took Judge Harold Haley, the prosecutor, and three jurors as hostages. A shoot-out resulted and the judge, one of the jurors, the prosecutor and two of the three black guys (I think) wound up dead.

Jonathan Jackson was Davis’ bodyguard so perhaps he just took the firearms without her knowledge and pulled the whole thing off solo. Okay, maybe. I love Angela Davis and support the various metaphors that she came (and has come) to represent, and I’m totally glad she’s free and speaking and teaching at age 68, but does anyone believe today that Davis was totally unaware of young Jackson’s plan? Especially given the fact that she bought a shotgun three days before the courtoom assault? Read this account by Lawrence V. Cott and tell me she had no clue and was totally blame-free.

Davis was found not guilty of all charges related to the courtroom shoot-out by an all-white San Jose jury in 1972.

The problem with Free Angela is that Lynch doesn’t dig into what actually happened with between Davis, Jackson and the guns. She doesn’t grim up and ask the tough questions. That’s because this is a friendly documentary that was funded by Will Smith and Jay Z, and the agenda and the limits were clear, or so it seems tonight. (I tried to speak to Lynch tonight, but her pubicist put off her chat until tomorrow.)

(l. to r.): Willow Smith, Jaden Smith, producer Sidra Smith, director Shola Lynch, Will Smith, Angela Davis and Jada Pinkett Smith at yesterday’s TIFF premiere screening.

  • GeorgePrager

    Why was there a shoot-out? Sounds like Attica.

  • GeorgePrager


    If if wasn’t for Davis, and those spoiled stuck-up bitches Jane Fonda and Patty Hearst, America would be a pacifist utopia today.

  • Gaydos

    I suspect you dashed that off rather quickly and didn’t mean to imply all the “lunacy” was on the left, given that the right had assasinated four of the most important leaders of the left and the civil rights movement and created a scorched earth catastrophe in Southeast Asia that still resonates as the epitome of ginned up conflicts for fuzzy ideological goals and great defense industry profits.

    But enough about the future plans of Romney and Ryan…

  • Kakihara

    George: Don’t know enough about Davis.

  • GeorgePrager

    “George: Don’t know enough about Davis.”

    Translation: “I didn’t grow up with a parent ranting and raving about Angela Davis at the kitchen table without provocation and for no apparent reason.”

  • Travis Actiontree

    “…given that the right had assasinated four of the most important leaders of the left and the civil rights movement and created a scorched earth catastrophe in Southeast Asia that still resonates as the epitome of ginned up conflicts for fuzzy ideological goals and great defense industry profits.”

    SAT WHAT?!

    Elaborate, please.

  • Travis Actiontree

    (of course I meant “SAY” WHAT?!!)

    Names, please.

  • Gaydos

    Travis: THE POLITICS OF HEROIN IN SOUTHEAST ASIA by Alfred McCoy is a damned good starting point. Dan Moldea’s DARK VICTORY also worth a read as is THE CRIMES OF PATRIOTS and WHO WILL TELL THE PEOPLE by William Greider. Of course Stone’s JFK is worth a look. I’m currently reading MARY’S MOSAIC about Cord Meyer and JFK and Mary Meyer, why she was killed, what she knew. EXECUTIVE ACTION was an interesting pic. Im sure Wikipedia has the “Gulf of Tonkin” incident succinctly outlined. Also Norman Mailer wrote prophetically about the US power shift to defense firms way back in 1964 in CANNIBALS AND CHRISTIANS as he chronicled the GOP convention and Goldwater, just ahead of the rise of Nixon.

  • Travis Actiontree

    Who are the four assassinatees you refer to?

  • vansmith

    ahhh those thrilling days of yesteryear when the world was coming to an end only it didn’t. i was a small tyke hearing about badass angela and her fantanstic afro! the jackson brothers scared the hell out of everyone for a minute or two…

  • Ghost of Kazan

    Yes, Gaydos, by all means let’s use Stone’s JFK as a history lesson.

    I heard Angela Davis say in a recent speech that drug dealers are no worse than pharmaceutical companies, musicians or athletes. The mostly white audience hooted and cheered. People on the left are some of the dumbest and most dangerous people out there. At least it’s cool to make fun of right wing nutjobs. Opportunists on the left who normalize sociopathic behavior are treated like heroes.

  • dogcatcher


    JFK was murdered by Lee Harvey Oswald who was a communist.

    RFK was murdered by Sirhan Sirhan who was an Arab nationalist, and I don’t know whether he was right wing or left wing, but he murdered him because one year earlier the Six Days War had ended with an overwhelming victory for Israel over the Arab powers and RFK had supported Israel.

    Martin Luther King Jr. was murdered by a shitkicking redneck, James Earl Ray, who just hated black people.

    Who was the fourth?

  • Gaydos

    There are those, many of whom I respect, who believe that the assassinations of JFK, RFK, King and Malcolm X were all random acts of violence perpetrated by lone gunmen acting out of nothing more than nutty self-interest.

    There are also those who believe that the billions spent by special interests on elections and lobbying have no impact on how a politician behaves in office.

    I, on the other hand, am fascinated by little details such as Bob Woodward’s top level securtiy clearance and his work with intelligence officers in the Navy,both of which were disclosed about two decades AFTER Watergate as well as Ben Bradlee’s connections to intelligence agencies, Philip Graham’s meltdown in Phoenix, his suicide and OPERATION MOCKINBIRD, etc etc etc.

    No idea whatsoever what it all means, but I am highly skeptical of those who say quickly, “It all means absolutely nothing.”

    I was chatting with Mort Sahl some time back and I said, “Why weren’t more people intrigued by the fact that the diary of George Wallace’s would-be assassin, Arthur Bremer, was found by the first guy in his apartment, Watergate burglar E. Howard Hunt? After all, with Wallace in the race, it was a two point spread between Nixon and McGovern. There’s both motive and connectivity.”

    Mort laughed that great Mort laugh and said, “Right! Here’s one of the basic rules: If they find the diary saying ‘I did it all by myself,’ that means they didn’t.”

  • Ghost of Kazan

    No idea whatsoever what it all means, but I am highly skeptical of those who say quickly, “It all means absolutely nothing.”

    Well at least you’re skeptical about something.

    Who thinks that Malcolm X was killed by a nutty lone gunman?

  • Ghost of Kazan

    Let me rephrase that slightly: Who thinks that ANY of those assassinations were done in “nutty self-interest”?

  • Stewart Klein

    Yeah, but i bet Angela Davis could jog through Central Park at night.

  • patches23

    To Gaydos’ list I would also add Errol Morris’ THE FOG OF WAR.

    It’s easy to dismiss Stone’s JFK. But Stone does not offer answers. He offers questions. The most important of which, to me, is “back and to the left.”

    Regarding RFK, the late Lawrence Teeter, who became Sirhan’s attorney, had some interesting theories that are worth googling. I knew Larry back in the early 1980’s and wouldn’t consider him a crackpot. Question is, do these doubts rise to the level of “reasonable doubt?”

    Many of those who started the war in Vietnam and that had an interest in seeing the war continue for profits’ sake remind me of John Huston’s character in Chinatown. They are “capable of anything.”

    And, given what day it is, we also need answers to the questions, who sold airline stock short in the days before 9/11/01? Why did the supervisor at Boston Center (air traffic control facility) destroy the tapes containing transmissions from the hijacked planes, when every air traffic person knows that never should have happened? What was on those tapes? Why isn’t he in prison?

  • Gaydos

    Let’s add FOOD INC and THE INSIDE JOB to the list of films worth our time.

    And Patches23 thanks for the Huston in Chinatown reference. That’s all I’m sayin! How things work, why things happen.

    Its so funny to see conservatives turning themselves into pretzels while trying to smultaneously celebrate and deny self-interest.

  • Gaydos

    Let’s add FOOD INC and THE INSIDE JOB to the list of films worth our time.

    And Patches23 thanks for the Huston in Chinatown reference. That’s all I’m sayin! How things work, why things happen.

    Its so funny to see conservatives turning themselves into pretzels while trying to smultaneously celebrate and deny self-interest.

  • Travis Actiontree

    Well Gaydos, it’s quite clear that you’re nuts. So there’s that. And how are conservatives “tying themselves into pretzels”? (It’s not even a conservative thing)

    So the Kennedy’s were ACTUALLY killed by a secret right-wing cabal?

    This is real life, Gaydos, not a John Carpenter movie.

    Also…. I doubt I’m the only person who finds it a bit nauseous to, on this of all days, be touting a film that appears to celebrate homegrown terrorists. (and no, I don’t care how “groovy” the cause is…it’s terrorism)

  • Kakihara

    Prager: No, Davis just wasn’t as “mainstream” as the other two, plain and simple. Though frankly, her story doesn’t sound as compelling as Geronimo Pratt’s, either.

  • Rashad

    The Nation of Islam killed Malcolm X.

  • Ghost of Kazan

    “I believe virtually everything I read, and I think that is what makes me more of a selective human than someone who doesn’t believe anything.” – Gore Vidal

  • Gaydos

    Travis: I guess a middle school education doesn’t deliver what it used to.

    If it’s nuts to know anything about 20th century American history, I’m your man.

    I suggest you do some more reading and then we can both be crazy together.

  • Travis Actiontree

    Again, Gaydos…. tell me who the four people are that you were referring to. The ones killed by “the right”.

  • Gaydos

    Travis: Ok, happy to help you begin your long journey from darkness into the light.

    But before we get to advanced concepts such as it was not the Lone Tooth Fairy at Dealey Plaza, let’s find a good place to start.

    And since the MidEast seems to be in flames again, let’s start here:


  • Travis Actiontree

    Jesus, Gaydos…. how hard is it for you to answer a fucking question?


    And for the love of christ, don’t give me a Wiki link to the Rothschilds or Jim Garrison.

  • Ghost of Kazan

    So much for fond memories of Eisenhower Republicans.

  • Ghost of Kazan

    I hope he was planning to link to the Bay of Pigs next.

  • Gaydos

    For the love of Christ, Travis, have you never heard anyone ever suggest that perhaps the “lone gunman” theory vis a vis JFK, RFK, Malcolm and King was bunkum?

    Are you perhaps related to James Earl Ray and this is a painful discussion?

    Where are thou been, o brother?

  • Travis Actiontree

    You’re right, Gaydos! They were all killed by Haliburton!

  • Gaydos

    For those who care about such things as what intelligence agencies sometimes do, sometimes resulting in devastating consequences that alter the course of history or who might actually be involved in the assasinations of key social and political leaders, the phrase “means, motives and opportunity” is one worth remembering.

    For instance, in 1978, the general counsel for the House committee investigationf on assassinations used that phrase when they suggested the Mob was possibly behind two of those four deaths.

    I gave you the link to the killing of Mossadegh as a fact-based example of what actually happens in the real world as opposed to fairy tales.

    Do I doubt that Oswald acted alone? I think a majority of US citizens remain healthily sceptical.

    What about you, Travis? And if Oswald didn’t act alone, who worked with him and why?

    Who had the “means, motives and opportunity?”

    Remember, my original notes were based upon the tone of Jeff’s piece that suggested crazy lefties were running amuck for no reason.

    I’m merely suggesting “crazy” can describe robbing a bank to finance “the revolution” or it can also accurately depict the mindset of someone who thinks assassinating a democratically elected leader of a major MidEast country and replacing him with an unimaginably brutal dictator is “good for America and the world.”

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