(Continued from Part One)
Canfora engaged in quite a bit of psychological projection in his recent attacks of me on both his personal web site and the web site for his "charity." (And when was the last time you've seen a legitimate "charity" engage in personal attacks?)
One of his more deceptive claims was that my book was self-published, which is highly misleading since the book was originally published by Prometheus Books, based in Buffalo. As it so happened, by the time Prometheus allowed the book go out of print, I became an independent publisher myself, bought and sold all of their remaining copies of the hardcover version, and decided to bring out a paperback edition. Despite his insinuations, there is nothing unusual about an author keeping a book in print (visit the Author's Guild "Back in Print" program at
Canfora also misrepresented my credentials, suggesting that I was just a Hollywood tour guide. A more honest individual would have acknowledged that I am actually an author, editor, and publisher of books and databases, not someone who rides around Hollywood giving tours on buses.
Canfora also wants you to believe that I am a frustrated wannabe writer. That is a mighty silly argument considering that Four Dead in Ohio was published two and a half decades ago, and I have gone on to write and/or edit three other books.
While Canfora dismisses my book as "lame" (his one-word review), critics who are not personally threatened by my work gave me reviews most authors would love to have. The Cleveland Plain Dealer thought I did "an excellent job piecing together the events that culminated in the killings and the subsequent cover-ups" and that I put Kent State into historical perspective. The Detroit Free Press called the book "definitive" while Knight Newpapers called it "convincing, well documented and well researched." Paul Aron, the author of Unsolved Mysteries of American History, thought the book was balanced and thorough--"and as close to the last word as anyone has come so far." Choice magazine thought I brought "more clarity to this controversial historical tragedy than any other work to date." It even called the book "as entertaining as the best detective fiction and and as analytical and well documented as the best journalism or scholarship."
Contrary to his claims I curried favor with KSU student government leaders in my senior year at Kent (whatever currying favor is supposed to mean), the president of student government, Bob Gage, appointed me as his special assistant. Note how Canfora makes that appointment sound sinister. And while he criticizes me for interviewing attorneys who represented the National Guardsmen, since when is that, as he suggests, a treacherous act? All it means is that I am not an ideologue and I wanted to hear what the defense attorneys had to say about their trial strategy and their thoughts on what the acquittal meant.
Ironically, while Canfora claims that I have been attacking everyone in sight, I have never engaged in a public feud with anyone else, as Canfora has on numerous occasions. I may have exposed some pretty reprehensible behavior, including Canfora's incessant lying, but I believe that everything should come out, whether it involves with a dishonest wounded student, a dishonest professor, a Guardsman who kills unnecessarily, or anyone else who butchers the truth.
Canfora, as I mentioned, has a long record of (how shall I put it?) not playing well with others. He has fought with targets who have had far less political differences than he and I do. For example, once he even attacked his fellow wounded survivor, Robbie Stamps, after Stamps complained that a member of Canfora's May 4 Task Force came close to physically assaulting former KSU President Carol Cartwright while she stood vigil at the site of one students' death. Canfora, ever the confrontationalist, defended that student's behavior and actually lectured his "blood brother" Stamps for supporting a more civilized approach.
Canfora also feuded with Greg Rambo, another student who helped get the Guardsmen prosecuted; Laurel Krause, fatality Allison Krause's younger sister, who wanted to work with him to videotape eyewitness testimony; university administrators like Dr. Faye Biles, who defended the university's insistence on building a gym annex over a significant chunk of the shooting site; and former KSU President Michael Schwartz, who did not appreciate Canfora's oft-repeated threats to shut down Kent State if he did get the exact size memorial he wanted (Schwartz called him a "ruthless ax-grinder"). Then of course, there are the Guardsmen themselves, whom Canfora regularly characterizes as a "death squad" hell-bent on murdering innocent students.
Canfora has also fought with several other researchers, including the late Charles Thomas, whom Canfora once denounced as a charlatan. After Thomas died Canfora actually had the chutzpah to announce Thomas' death--something he also did for another nemesis, Guard Colonel Charles Fassinger.
Regarding the parents of the dead students: far from condemning me, most of them have on several occasions expressed their appreciation for everything I did for them. The only ingrate among the victims is Canfora, who acts as if May 4 is his personal domain and that he and only he can dictate how May 4 is remembered.
In Canfora's world, there is no "agree to disagree" principle. It always has to be his way and if he does not get his way, he will lash out at you. Even some of his fellow activists complain he acts like the "dictator of May 4."
In addition to trying to smear me on both his personal web site and the web site of his so-called "charity," Canfora even attacked me on a Facebook page after I asked a simple question about a fatality's living situation. I asked the question only because I suspected a screenwriter had it wrong. This was an another unprovoked attack that seemed not only contrived but driven by his own hatred of anyone who poses a threat to his being at the center of attention.
In fact, this feels more like a petty, pointless fight not over May 4 but who gets to enjoy the spoils of May 4. At stake are movie rights, lecture fees, and recognition and publicly from historians, newspeople, and documentarians. How else can one explain why Canfora been so consistently irrational and utterly ruthless in trying to destroy his competition? How else does one account for his hysterical, over-the-top attacks on someone who is not only sympathetic to the very victims he pretends to represent, but who has consistently and more thoroughly documented the injustices done to the twelve other victims?
Coincidentally, I discovered Canfora's attacks on me on the same day the 66-year-old celebrated the birth of his first child. One would think that a time like that his heart would be filled with love and joy, and not with thoughts of revenge and destroying his competition.
After a 13-year lull, Alan Canfora has revived his campaign to damage my reputation and dissuade people from reading my book on the 1970 Kent State shootings. Not only is he trying to undermine my expertise, but he is also trying to intimidate me into silence. In doing so, he only succeeds in reminding us that he is his own worst enemy.
My book seems to infuriate him for a number of reasons, including the fact I am not on board with his attempts to wholly rewrite the history of the Kent State murders. As I see it, far from being a hero or a patriot (as he has variously described himself), Canfora was one of the bad actors who stupidly tested the limits of the National Guard's patience. He was the one person who emerged from the crowd of protestors, walked within 100 feet of the Guardsmen, and provocatively waved what his sister has described as a "black flag of anarchy," much like a bullfighter in a ring. While Canfora remains proud of his actions, there is little question that his recklessness put himself and his fellow students in danger. Perhaps not mortal danger (the Scranton Commission, after all, determined the shootings were "unnecessary, unwarranted and inexcusable"), but he made it much easier for the troops to pull the triggers, resulting in the deaths of four students and the wounding of nine others, including Canfora, who received a minor wound when was shot in the wrist.
My book also undoubtedly infuriates Canfora because I do not give a crap about what he repeatedly refers to as "our revolt." Like many college students at the time, I was opposed to the war in Vietnam but I certainly never joined a group advocating violence to end violence like Canfora's Students for a Democratic Society (SDS). I believe that if you commit a crime you should be prepared to do the time, and that everyone who committed crimes at Kent State (students and Guardsmen alike) should have been brought to justice.
If new evidence is to be believed, Canfora may have even participated in the destruction of the university's Army ROTC building two nights before the shootings. A new book, Fortney Road, devotes a chapter to Canfora's close buddy Thomas "Aquinas" Miller, a Kent State dropout, local drug dealer, and fellow member of the SDS offshoot "the Kent Krazies." The book reports that Miller told his brother John that he helped burn down Kent's ROTC building. Since Canfora and Miller seemed practically joined at the hip on May 4 (both waved the anarchist flags), it is not unreasonable to ask if Canfora joined his friend in the repeated attempts to burn down the building.
Canfora is no doubt also upset that I've been the first author to expose his four-decades-long record of either outright lying and/or deceiving the press and the public about all kinds of matters pertaining to May 4. No one else at the university dares to challenge or correct him whenever he starts propagandandizing, lest they receive the same treatment he has given me and numerous other people involved in the Kent State case.
In the recently released expanded e-book edition of Four Dead in Ohio I wrote:
“COMPULSIVE, HABITUAL OR PATHOLOGICAL?: Alan Canfora’s disproven claim that the words, “Right here. Get set. Point. Fire,” appear on the tape of the shooting was hardly the only time Canfora misled the public . . .
Another untrue statement Canfora made came under oath at the 1975 wrongful death and injury trial, when he testified he was never an activist or member of the SDS (Krause vs. Rhodes, Vol. 16, pgs. 3719 and 3727) . Canfora has since proudly admitted publicly that both of these claims are true.
In a January 18, 1982 interview for this book, he admitted to me that he lied to the FBI (again while under oath) when he told them that he was 50-75 feet farther away from the soldiers then he actually was. Canfora told me the reason he lied was because he was worried about being indicted by the state grand jury (which he ultimately was).
He also testified at the trial that he did not participate in the ROTC fire and only watched it from a distance of 400 feet (Krause v. Rhodes, page 3653). Canfora later referred to “our original crowd” (ProActivist.com, June 24, 1999), as if he were a leader, and [wrote] how “we were thrilled that about 2,000 students left their dorms and joined our anti-war march.” In 2000 Canfora was even quoted by Erin Kosnac, a reporter for the the campus yearbook, the Burr, as saying he was in the “thick of things” during the pre-shooting protests, and that he was relieved that he was only indicted for second degree rioting. (“The Human Side of History,” Burr, Spring 2000, p. 41). That admission strongly suggests he is still covering up his involvement in more serious crimes . . .
Canfora’s lack of truthfulness at the 1975 wrongful death and injury trial so concerned Arthur Krause, the father of slain co-ed Allison Krause, that he confided to friends that he feared losing the case “because of Canfora’s lying.”
That is not all. Years later, Canfora conned William Canterbury, a reporter for the Akron Beacon Journal, into writing a front-page story that Universal Studios would, in 1997, make a major motion picture about his life (“Kent State tragedy heads for silver screen,” Akron Beacon Journal, February 12, 1996). It turned out that all Universal did was option the rights to his still unpublished book, which he has claimed to have worked on since at least 1984 and which he has yet to produce. The proposed movie never went beyond the initial development stage and was abandoned by Universal long before Canfora eventually conceded the movie would not be made.
While Canfora had told reporters all he wanted was to find the truth about the shootings, and that he was not interested in revenge, he proved otherwise by establishing a web site, “Kent May 4th Central,” on the 30th anniversary of the killings.
“Kent May 4th Central” was, of course, a play on words of Canfora’s so-called “charity,” the “Kent May 4th Center.” Although Canfora denies any involvement in the establishment of the site, one does not have to be a linguist to recognize that “Kent May 4th Central” used language identical to what Canfora wrote in his other postings. “Kent May 4th Central” also included two telltale links: one back to Canfora’s personal website and the other to his so-called “charity,” the “Kent May 4th Center.”
“Kent May 4th Central” published the names, home addresses, and in some instances the telephone numbers of the Guardsmen who were on Blanket Hill on May 4 and urged his fellow activists to visit these men at their homes, ask them questions, and take their pictures. It was essentially an invitation to harass the soldiers a full 30 years after the fact.
Canfora removed the site after a few days, presumably so the site’s existence would not be traced back to him. However, as most readers know by now, once something appears on the Internet, it never can be completely erased.
Canfora was caught in yet another lie when he told reporters that as the “charity”’s director, he was volunteering his services for free. At the same time he made this declaration Canfora submitted a budget to the IRS (later made available to this author) indicating he intended to pay himself a salary of $30,000 a year.
Canfora also pretended to be a spokesman for the parents of the dead students and the other wounded survivors. While all of the parents wanted the soldiers who killed their children to be held accountable, none of them, as far as I can tell, gave a damn about his “revolt” or his glorification of student protest . . .
Canfora also fabricated out of whole cloth claims that I was “the National Guardsmen’s best friend,” despite the fact I did more than he did to get the soldiers prosecuted. He also falsely claimed on his website that I was in cahoots with the author of another book on May 4, Pulitzer Prize-winning author Philip Caputo (whom I’ve had no contact with). And he maliciously repeats his fabricated claim that I was a disruptive person and was thrown out of meetings between the victims and their attorneys during the 1975 civil trial. It never happened. While it is true that I had attended earlier strategy meetings before the litigation started, I never attended any of the attorney-client trial meetings Canfora referred to. Moreover, I have never been thrown out of a meeting in my life or been involved in a disruptive event. I am simply not that type of person.
The “disruptive” tag, however, fit Canfora himself like a glove, and I have long noticed how he projects his own worst qualities onto others whenever he fights with them.
(End of Part One. Part Two to follow.)
This blog is written by William A. Gordon, a Kent State alumnus and the author of "Four Dead in Ohio" and three other books. It offers commentary on the still unfolding developments in the Kent State shooting case.