The first rule of project mayhem is….

One anonymous commenter asked what the deal with the firebombing talk on the ACB is about. Surprisingly, this was not about chocolate sauce in various orifices, but rather, an incident that occurred 17 years ago in 1990.

An Argus Article from 2004 described the incident:

On April 7, 1990 at 4 a.m. a fist-sized rock was thrown through the Wesleyan President’s window followed by two Molotov Cocktails. Shots were allegedly fired from an AK-47 in the bushes of Van Vleck Observatory towards South College.

Full article here

The short nytimes article about the guilty plea of the perpetrator (Link) had this excerpt:

Prosecutors said Mr. Ranganathan and Mr. Haddad had planned the firebombing to retaliate for what they saw as the university’s failure to promote the rights of minorities.

From what I can gather, the firebombing was, at least in part, student protest calling for the divestiture of apartheid South Africa. The debate on the ACB shows that there is some disagreement about whether this was actually a legitimate act and whether it was handled fairly.

I just have to say: wow, I never heard about this event my entire freshman year. I mean, between stories about how a certain literary society paid the Grateful Dead to play on Foss Hill in LSD and the fact that Joss Whedeon had sex in the cinema you think someone would’ve mentioned a firebombing that wasn’t just some kid being dumb Clark. Normally, I think throwing moltov cocktails at anything is a bad way to encourage your point in a debate, but i may just not understand power dynamics.

Perhaps my older and wiser fellow wesleying contributors wish to comment?

24 thoughts on “The first rule of project mayhem is….

  1. Penises

    on the firebombing: what an incredibly stupid thing to do. i’m astonished that such an outrageous failure of judgement could occur in a wesleyan student. this guy haddad is a moron. not only a moron, but a pretentious loser. if you are so desperate to start a revolution, why not put yourself in a position of real hardship where you might actually accomplish something, and actually involve yourself in guerilla activities [since you are obviously so inclined], as opposed to being the only dickhead on campus with a gun, protesting a non-issue. YOU’RE cool.

  2. Penises

    on the firebombing: what an incredibly stupid thing to do. i’m astonished that such an outrageous failure of judgement could occur in a wesleyan student. this guy haddad is a moron. not only a moron, but a pretentious loser. if you are so desperate to start a revolution, why not put yourself in a position of real hardship where you might actually accomplish something, and actually involve yourself in guerilla activities [since you are obviously so inclined], as opposed to being the only dickhead on campus with a gun, protesting a non-issue. YOU’RE cool.

  3. Anonymous

    Special Collections & Archives has a collection of clippings and other information about this incident.

  4. Anonymous

    Special Collections & Archives has a collection of clippings and other information about this incident.

  5. Maggie

    The nature of student protest is a valid discussion. But in the case of *this* firebombing, I believe it has less to do with student activism, and more to do with one crazy nutjob student. Which, perhaps, is why folks don’t talk about it much these days.I was an undergrad at the time. Nick Haddad was a kid from Ohio with a whole heck of a lot of issues. He wasn’t a terrorist liberal, he was a very smart guy who was using the atmosphere of political unrest on campus for his own purposes. In addition to bombing the President’s office (which he did at 4 am to make sure that the only harm would be to the empty building, not to people), he once interrupted a President’s address by walking up to the podium, placing a bullet shell on it, saying “By any means necessary”, and walking off. Totally without context, just to make a scene.He also spray-painted those racist slurs on the walls inside Malcolm X House. Why would a minority student do that? Because *what* he painted was “N****r Haddad”… He was trying to gain power in the minority community on campus, but as a half-WASP, half-Middle Eastern kid from the midwest, many students didn’t even think of him as a minority, so he cast himself as the victim of a racist incident to get attention.I don’t think Nick gave a crap about any of the stuff he was protesting, he was just using it to gain influence and power. The full story of his death in a drug deal was that he was dealing to fund the purchase of lots of weapons and ammo. At the time of his death, the trunk of his car was full of guns, and as the Argus said, Nick was growing more and more dangerous.For the record, all that political unrest on campus calmed down precipitously immediately after Nick’s death.It’s true that the campus was very involved and political back then, but aside from Nick, it wasn’t violent. The sensational stories of the bombing and all were really not representative of the atmosphere on campus, so I don’t think it’s all that significant that the story doesn’t get told too often.

  6. Maggie

    The nature of student protest is a valid discussion. But in the case of *this* firebombing, I believe it has less to do with student activism, and more to do with one crazy nutjob student. Which, perhaps, is why folks don’t talk about it much these days.

    I was an undergrad at the time. Nick Haddad was a kid from Ohio with a whole heck of a lot of issues. He wasn’t a terrorist liberal, he was a very smart guy who was using the atmosphere of political unrest on campus for his own purposes. In addition to bombing the President’s office (which he did at 4 am to make sure that the only harm would be to the empty building, not to people), he once interrupted a President’s address by walking up to the podium, placing a bullet shell on it, saying “By any means necessary”, and walking off. Totally without context, just to make a scene.

    He also spray-painted those racist slurs on the walls inside Malcolm X House. Why would a minority student do that? Because *what* he painted was “N****r Haddad”… He was trying to gain power in the minority community on campus, but as a half-WASP, half-Middle Eastern kid from the midwest, many students didn’t even think of him as a minority, so he cast himself as the victim of a racist incident to get attention.

    I don’t think Nick gave a crap about any of the stuff he was protesting, he was just using it to gain influence and power. The full story of his death in a drug deal was that he was dealing to fund the purchase of lots of weapons and ammo. At the time of his death, the trunk of his car was full of guns, and as the Argus said, Nick was growing more and more dangerous.

    For the record, all that political unrest on campus calmed down precipitously immediately after Nick’s death.

    It’s true that the campus was very involved and political back then, but aside from Nick, it wasn’t violent. The sensational stories of the bombing and all were really not representative of the atmosphere on campus, so I don’t think it’s all that significant that the story doesn’t get told too often.

  7. Anonymous

    also, in a related incident wesleyan student nick haddad was shot by one of the 2. look it up

  8. Anonymous

    And I apologize for not actually writing a proper sentence in my former comment – one of these days I really will learn to edit things before clicking “send.”–Replier who isn’t Xue or Mad

  9. Anonymous

    And I apologize for not actually writing a proper sentence in my former comment – one of these days I really will learn to edit things before clicking “send.”

    –Replier who isn’t Xue or Mad

  10. Anonymous

    This was a really big deal back at the time, and while I (and many others) may not agree with how certain members of the student body went about protesting the school’s investment in Johnson & Johnson, which (according to admin members and many others as well) was actually working against apartheid in S. Africa.To read more about this incident (and others) from a very different perspective, might I suggest the book “100 Semesters” by William (Bill) Chace. He was the president of Wes at the time, for those who don’t know, and Wes was a very different place before Bennet came in (Dougie B was the next person in office right after Chace resigned to go off and be president of Emory). The book speaks volumes about how the bureaucracy treats the student views, and how much power each group on campus has. Keep in mind though that since this time, much of the student body is on a similar page as a large part of the faculty, and so this has shifted power a bit.Sorry this is a bit rambly-ish… but read the book. You made not agree with what he has to say, but it’s definitely good for the students to hear how Wesleyan ACTUALLY functions. And about the Molotov Cocktail incident.

  11. Anonymous

    This was a really big deal back at the time, and while I (and many others) may not agree with how certain members of the student body went about protesting the school’s investment in Johnson & Johnson, which (according to admin members and many others as well) was actually working against apartheid in S. Africa.

    To read more about this incident (and others) from a very different perspective, might I suggest the book “100 Semesters” by William (Bill) Chace. He was the president of Wes at the time, for those who don’t know, and Wes was a very different place before Bennet came in (Dougie B was the next person in office right after Chace resigned to go off and be president of Emory). The book speaks volumes about how the bureaucracy treats the student views, and how much power each group on campus has. Keep in mind though that since this time, much of the student body is on a similar page as a large part of the faculty, and so this has shifted power a bit.

    Sorry this is a bit rambly-ish… but read the book. You made not agree with what he has to say, but it’s definitely good for the students to hear how Wesleyan ACTUALLY functions. And about the Molotov Cocktail incident.

  12. Mad Joy

    Err, and one more important aspect that I neglected about terrorist liberals: they also often think that change can only be effected within the system by the people who have power within that system, and so if you don’t have power, you are institutionally disadvantaged and unable to bring about change effectively despite good intentions, and so violence may be the only way to transcend these power dynamics and make yourself heard. I should have mentioned this in that original post.

  13. Mad Joy

    Err, and one more important aspect that I neglected about terrorist liberals: they also often think that change can only be effected within the system by the people who have power within that system, and so if you don’t have power, you are institutionally disadvantaged and unable to bring about change effectively despite good intentions, and so violence may be the only way to transcend these power dynamics and make yourself heard. I should have mentioned this in that original post.

  14. Mad Joy

    Yeah – this is an important topic, and even though it happened a long time ago, I think it’s good to continue addressing these issues, as they are really relevant on campus today.The whole issue reflects two basic types of liberalism that I think are both prevalent on campus – pacifist liberalism and terrorist liberalism. Pacifist liberals call the terrorist liberals heathens who don’t understand that violence isn’t the answer; they say that terrorist liberals defeat their own cause by acting in an illegitimate manner, one which goes against their ultimate ideals.Terrorist liberals, on the other hand, find pacifist liberals hopelessly naive and incapable of bringing about real change. They see issues as far more urgent and are adamant that the ends justify the means.I find myself strongly tending toward the pacifist liberal side. While I would like to see change, I don’t think it’s worth sacrificing stuff in the middle – I don’t think it’s ever legitimate to use means that involve, say, bombing your President’s office and have the possibility of real harm. Maybe I’m naive, but I think most people want to be good and do good, and legitimate dialogue and education will ultimately go further better.

  15. Mad Joy

    Yeah – this is an important topic, and even though it happened a long time ago, I think it’s good to continue addressing these issues, as they are really relevant on campus today.

    The whole issue reflects two basic types of liberalism that I think are both prevalent on campus – pacifist liberalism and terrorist liberalism. Pacifist liberals call the terrorist liberals heathens who don’t understand that violence isn’t the answer; they say that terrorist liberals defeat their own cause by acting in an illegitimate manner, one which goes against their ultimate ideals.

    Terrorist liberals, on the other hand, find pacifist liberals hopelessly naive and incapable of bringing about real change. They see issues as far more urgent and are adamant that the ends justify the means.

    I find myself strongly tending toward the pacifist liberal side. While I would like to see change, I don’t think it’s worth sacrificing stuff in the middle – I don’t think it’s ever legitimate to use means that involve, say, bombing your President’s office and have the possibility of real harm. Maybe I’m naive, but I think most people want to be good and do good, and legitimate dialogue and education will ultimately go further better.

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