Kurtz: 32 Years Ago Today, Berkeley Students Cheered Upon Learning Reagan Was Shot

Two years ago today, I chronicled wire service reports which appeared shortly after John Hinckley's unsuccessful attempt to assassinate President Ronald Reagan on March 30, 1981 reporting that schoolchildren in many parts of the country cheered when they heard that he had been shot.

At the time, I suggested that school teachers and administrators who were appalled at the reactions might have been protesting a bit too much. Today, I located a 2004 item at National Review by Stanley Kurtz about another group which was happy to hear about the assassination attempt. The left's hypocrisy about "civility" -- and for that matter, basic human decency -- clearly goes way, way back:


... just around the time Ronald Reagan took office, I moved to Berkeley, where I began to question the direction of contemporary liberalism. I remember the fabulous daily scene on campus, with rock bands blasting, students feasting on fare from an incredible variety of restaurants, and Marxists leafleting on the plaza. Having just encountered a living socialist state with a shamefully poor food supply (in a previous visit to the Soviet Union -- Ed.), and having seen the dangers individual Russians courted in their attempts to get hold of forbidden rock music, I wondered if these Berkeley radicals understood the implications of the ideas they were playing with.

... When Reagan was shot, I remember being on campus and hearing people cheer. That disturbed me deeply.

... I've already written about the famous fracas over the visit of Reagan's U.N. ambassador, Jeanne Kirkpatrick, to the Berkeley campus. It wasn't surprising that radicals tried to shout her down. What shocked was that even faculty members started arguing that "oppressors" have no free-speech rights (this, in the birthplace of the free-speech movement). That was the beginning of campus "political correctness," before the phenomenon even had a name. Obviously, some terrible deformation had developed within liberalism — a rejection, in the name of freedom, of the very principles of liberty, along with a mental migration from America itself. Meanwhile, the real victims of oppression, the brave dissidents within the Soviet Union, saw Reagan and Kirkpatrick as heroes.

The "deformation" of which Kurtz wrote didn't start the day students entered Berkeley and other colleges.

In that context, my 2011 post, most of which follows below, can't be dismissed as a mischaracterization of a bunch of kids just venting because of being overly influenced by TV violence, which was the excuse of choice 32 years ago.

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Thirty Years Ago, Some Children Cheered Reagan Assassination Attempt

As a reminder that leftists have been poisoning the wells of civility and basic human decency for a very, very long time, I present these two items from the Associated Press and United Press International on April 1 and 2, 1981, respectively:

  • Via AP, dateline Tulsa -- "Teachers Stunned as Children Cheer Reagan Shooting"
  • More generalized coverage from UPI -- "Children Cheer News President Was Shot"

Here's the AP item, which deals with the reaction at one Tulsa school:

APonTulsaSchoolkidsCheeringReaganShot041981

Here's the UPI item, which mentions similar incidents in Minnesota, Chicago, and New Orleans:

 

UPIonKidsCheeringReaganShot041981

This search at the New York Times indicates that the paper did not find the children-cheering story newsworthy.

Look at who these educators were trying to blame, namely "an insensitivity to violence that has built up over a long exposure to television." Puh-leeze. I can see how that might conceivably transfer to indifference about people being killed, but that doesn't explain why someone would be happy about it. Someone -- parents, teachers, possibly others -- taught these children that Ronald Reagan getting shot would be something to cheer about. I suspect that those who were quoted were distracting from a situation they had caused.

Those who weren't around at the time or who were apathetic won't recall that Reagan was intensely despised by the media, the intelligentsia, and the educational establishment. All of them waged a non-stop campaign during the 1980 election season to convince people that electing Ronald Reagan president would be the equivalent of signing a nuclear holocaust death warrant -- and that if he didn't do that, he'd starve them to death by cutting government spending. I remember because, sad to say, I was sufficiently persuaded by the first argument to feel compelled to vote for John Anderson that November.

That early teens would find these lines of non-reasoning especially persuasive shouldn't surprise anyone.

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It should be recalled that Dan Rather, then a CBS reporter, went out of his way to relay a false story to the rest of the nation about how children at a Dallas school had cheered the assassination of John F. Kennedy on November 22, 1963. Though it's impossible to prove at such a distant date, I could find no evidence of any press interest in reporting on college students who were happy to learn that Reagan had been shot on March 30, 1981.

Cross-posted at BizzyBlog.com.

Tom Blumer
Tom Blumer
Tom Blumer is a contributing editor for NewsBusters.