The Dead Hand of the Sixties

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This ties in with Paul’s post today on culture and its political impact.  Jonah Goldberg is usually worth reading at National Review Online, but today he was brilliant:

The bowel-stewing hypocrisy notwithstanding, what’s amazing is how the same dreck is recycled as new, fresh, and courageous. Charles Beard’s An Economic Interpretation of the U.S. Constitution will be 100 years old next year. Its attack on the Founders as greedy white men was wrong then, but at least it was relatively original. Today, college kids regurgitate the same nonsense — and professors applaud their rebelliousness. Except what or whom are they rebelling against? Not the faculty or the administration.

Hackneyed left-wingery is not only treated with respect on campuses (though most mainstream academics aren’t as left-wing as Zinn or Stone), it is repackaged daily by Hollywood and celebrated by the mainstream media.

The self-styled rebels of Occupy Wall Street received overwhelmingly positive coverage in the mainstream media in no small part because the liberal press thinks authentic political expression for young people must be left-wing. The regurgitation of hackneyed ’60s slogans pleasing to the ears of aging, nostalgia-besotted baby boomers elicits squeals of delight. Meanwhile, tea-party protests were greeted as dangerous, odd, and deserving of hostile journalistic scrutiny.

And yet the kitsch of leftism still works its magic. In huge numbers, young people think they’re rebelling when all they’re doing is playing their assigned part and lending energy and, often, votes to a stale, regimented form of statist liberalism that often disappoints and never satisfies.

Go here to read the rest.  The Sixties were a disaster for America in so many ways and perhaps the greatest disaster is the impact on our culture.  Sixties radicals captured Academia, Hollywood and the Mainstream Media and  they have produced a  very odd cultural stasis.  Imagine how strange it would have been if back in the Sixties  young people had been aping the fashions, music and political beliefs of the Roaring Twenties.  That is precisely what we have today as the original Sixties radicals are making plans for revolutionizing the nursing homes they will soon be inhabiting.  The Sixties exalted the youthful rebel and what has been produced as a result of all that sturm und drang has been to produce generations that meekly adopt the platitudes, buzz phrases and chants of their elders.  Mao called one of his disastrous periods of misrule in China the Cultural Revolution.  Our wannabe Maos have produced their own highly successful variant in this country, and that victory is demonstrated in young people who swallow the quack nostrums that are still as ludicrous as they were in 68, with the lethal difference that what was once hot air emitted in a campus bull session is now government policy.

The late Andrew Breitbart understood that conservatives could only succeed long term politically if they could break the dead hand of the left on American culture, and he was absolutely right.

33 Responses to The Dead Hand of the Sixties

  • Peer pressure and brainwashing . . . the power off massive numbers of stupid people.

    I (as much as physically possible) plan to thank each one at the end of the World as we know it.

  • I think I get the point and I agree, at least in some aspects, but this doesn’t help much.

    Pop Culture is a toxic brew of sensuality, irresponsibility, self-indulgence, and self-loathing. When we talk about it in terms of harnessing and using it, I think it is fair to ask “how” and whether doing so will destroy us.

    Appearing on talk shows and such is good. Late-night comedy may be better. We can do the traditional stuff – the first pitch of the season, horning in on sports and entertainment victories, taking advantage of social occasions and such; but that really isn’t a change. We could choose more photogenic persons I suppose but that is adopting the substance-less candidate selection of the Left that gave us the self-aggrandizing dolt we have.

    One way to look at the problem is that we are looking for a bullet proof candidate and that means honestly discussing race and gender. Is the GOP willing to do that, even internally? The Dems have a long history of finding minority lackeys to hold up as tokens. We’ve avoided that as beneath us. The GOP seems to say “come one, come all but we aren’t coming out to drag you in. Come on your own terms or don’t come but we aren’t going to demean you or us by pandering.”

    There is a gulf between popular culture and conservatives. It has always been so. To win, the Majority has to believe that what was is better than what is. This is to say that conaervativism looks back by nature because the new is often not better. Conservatives are “conservatives” because we reject unproven change.

    How then do we harness the tools of our opposition? That is the question not addressed in the video or the post.

  • The gaming culture G-Veg provides many opportunities for conservatives. I have noticed that many people who play games like Civilization, or military oriented games, the mega hit Call to Duty for example, express fairly conservative views. Movies like the Passion of the Christ indicate that mass audiences are there for films with traditional values as long as they are well made. Tom Clancy has been producing best selling pot boilers with conservative viewpoints for over a quarter of a century now.

    Too often well meaning drek gives entertainment produced from a Conservative Christian perspective a bad name. Conservatives can play well in the cultural arena if we do not cede it a priori to our adversaries, which has been the case for the past four decades, and if we produce work that can attract a mass audience.

  • A play based upon the Screwtape Letters has been entertaining audiences up and down the country, and I believe a movie is in the works:

  • I do agree that conservative ideas need to meet people where they are. Not everyone is able and willing to read publications from Heritage and AEI. Many Americans, and a number of my friends and relatives, come home each day watch a few tv shows and maybe the news. That’s it. If we completely disappear from popular movies, TV, pop music, etc., we won’t be reaching huge chunks of America. My first reaction to what I see in popular culture is to disengage. Mr. Z and I have a running joke about becoming Amish and checking out completely. I don’t know how we can really fight in these arenas. Maybe we need to invest in film production companies, cable tv channels etc. that are committed to offering conservative content. If I had George Soros’ pockets, that’s what I’d do. This effort of reclaiming the culture is going to take many individuals in many industries committed to promoting conservatism and old western culture in general. This is not the work of a single politician or the Republican party.

  • Donald, agree completely. We saw Screwtape last year. Excellent all the way around. That is exactly the sort of thing we need much more of.

  • Having reached my majority in 1972, just a bit passed the “Summer of Love” and “Woodstock”, I do recall those days. I actually enjoyed many of them but was frightened by some too. I do see the death spiral America is in as an extension of those days and know that I came through it, without being swept along in it, by virtue of my choosing to be Catholic and somehow burrowing into the orthodox Catholicism which I found attractive, even as a Charismatic in the “earlier days of my walk”.

    Yet, I am amazed how those who call themselves Catholic can do so, as they are, like cancers, eating away at the body. These men and women, actually believe, their destruction is building up the body. Rather than leaving the Church to fester somewhere else, they are choosing to remain and destroy the
    very body which gave them life. It is heartbreaking to have grown up when I did and to see how awful
    things have become.

    Amen, Don.

  • “Donald, agree completely. We saw Screwtape last year. Excellent all the way around. That is exactly the sort of thing we need much more of.”

    I was a freshman in college in 1975 when I first read the Screwtape Letters Mrs. Z and I was stunned at the spiritual insights it contained and wittingly conveyed. I think a well made movie on the book could have quite an impact.

  • “Imagine how strange it would have been if back in the Sixties young people had been aping the fashions, music and political beliefs of the Roaring Twenties.”

    Well, in some ways, that’s just what they were doing! Short skirts on women, beads, headbands (worn by “flappers”), loud and raucous music, and the first explicit public promotions of what was then called “free love” go back to the ’20s. People like Margaret Sanger and Bertrand Russell were hard at work in the ’20s laying the foundation for the sexual revolution and other things we now associate with the ’60s. Also, the popular culture of celebrity that we know today really got its start with the rise of the film industry and radio in the ’20s. If you read the book “Only Yesterday” by Frederick Lewis Allen you might be surprised to discover the parallels. Perhaps a case could be made that the Depression and World War II, and the desire to return to normalcy that followed both (expressed in the early Baby Boom) delayed until the 1960s social changes that otherwise would have occurred much earlier.

  • Superficially there is some resemblance in female styles Elaine as to the length of skirts, but I find it hard to think of two eras farther apart politically than the Free Market Twenties under Harding and Coolidge and the Sixties during which a radical expansion of the welfare state occurred. Free love goes back to the nineteenth century. The celebrity culture goes back to the mass press of the nineteenth century. A far more wide spread phenomenon in the Twenties was the taking off of fundamentalism and revivalism.

  • Just to point out that Mary Pickford was already an established celebrity prior to World War I and Biograph Studios made a point of not publishing the names of their star actors due to anxiety about the effect of that sort of publicity on the salary scale of stars. The phenomenon of celebrity was understood by those making a living in the entertainment industry prior to the 1920s.

  • If I understand correctly, reading Frederick Lewis Allen on the history of the 1920s is rather like reading Barbara Ehrenreich on the history of the 1980s: not something to be done in isolation.

  • “I find it hard to think of two eras farther apart politically than the Free Market Twenties under Harding and Coolidge and the Sixties during which a radical expansion of the welfare state occurred.”

    Then perhaps the POLITICAL decade most parallel to the Sixties would have actually been the Thirties, when the New Deal got rolling and when, in some circles, it was acceptable if not fashionable to be a socialist or communist. That’s when many of the people who got busted during the Mc Carthy era blacklist first came into contact with leftist ideas. So perhaps the political shift ran slightly behind the social/moral shift in this case.

    “Reading Frederick Lewis Allen on the history of the 1920s is rather like reading Barbara Ehrenreich on the history of the 1980s”

    Allen, I am sure, had his biases and blind spots, but he wrote his decade histories immediately after the decade they summarized, when all the events and their impact were still fresh — “Only Yesterday” was published in 1930 or ’31 and “Since Yesterday,” his history of the ’30s, was published in 1940. Perhaps that deprives them of some long-term perspective, but on the other hand, at least he didn’t wait 10 or 20 years and then filter everything through the revisionist views of later decades.

  • I doubt if war time trauma had anything to do with it. The main culprits:
    1. Unprecedented prosperity.
    2. A radicalization caused by the Civil Rights Movement, Feminism and the war in Vietnam.
    3. The combined impact of the sexual revolution, drugs and rock. (Yeah, the old college chant of sex, drugs and rock and roll.)
    4. Members of the Old Left, many in academia, able to create a New Left.
    5. The expansion of the welfare state in the Sixties.

    The Sixties presented a perfect storm of factors that aided in the growth of the Left in this country. Paradoxically, the Sixties also saw a growth of conservatism, partially as a reaction to the excesses of the Sixties, but also as a movement that was beginning to mature politically.

    In spite of the gloom of the last election, the Republican party has never been stronger accross the nation and this battle is far from over.

  • The effects of the sixties generation proves the adage cited by Reagan that freedom is only one generation from extinction. This begs another question, “Why did things go so bad so quickly? Why was the WWII generation incapable of effectively communicating the values they sacrificed so much for to their immediate posterity ?” Affluence and academia, while a factor, do not come close to accounting for the full reason. Another reason I believe is that WWII combat vets were so traumatized by their experiences they couldn’t even begin to communicate to their young why our values are what they are. This made that generation vulnerable to the brainwashing of left wing, communist academics.

    Something we orthodox Catholics often refuse to recognixe when lamanting popular culture is that we are a part of that popular culture and bear some responsibility for its woes as well as its goods. As to the former, we have seen orthodox Catholic commentators act like the MSM with a Rosary. They look the other way when members of some of their own cliques engage in behavior they are only too ready to lambast the New York Times and other MSM outlets for. They also look the other way when their favorite bishops engage in Obama-like race baiting and distort Church teaching on subjects like capital punishment, illegl immigration, and other issues of this nature.

  • Donald,
    But why did they let 2, 3, and 4 happen? My issue with the “Greatest Generation” is that they put off doing what they knew needed to be done until it got so bad they had to fight a world war and then let their kids run amuck which we suffer from today. I am not saying they did not sacrifice and pay a horrible cost but I am saying that much of the problems of today could have been averted or at least lessoned if they did a better job.

  • Most of them had zero power over two and four. Over three they had power until their kids left for college and then precious little after that. Many of the kids raised by WW2 vets turned out fine, but a hard core migrated to the New Left, and they have been a malign influence on the country ever since.

  • A bit off-topic: mor-tmain, a “dead hand” controlling property in perpetuity, may provide a solution to the “fiscal cliff.”

    There are $$$ trillions in cash and securities in dead, white men’s foundations. The government could confiscate, er, tax, all of it (for the public good!) to cover the disastrous deficit and resolve medicare/social security insolvency.

    That would be doubly beneficial – the government could balance its books and anti-Catholic gangs, like “Catholics for Choice”, would be financially (they are morally) bankrupt.

    Plus, Obama and Geithner won’t be “forced” to steal your 401k and IRA pension money.

  • CatholicLawyer – I wouldn’t say that the Greatest Generation were the ones who let the world lapse into war. They were the kids who had to fight it. But they definitely dropped the ball with raising their children.

    Prosperity softens people. It softens institutions, including religious ones. Parents were permissive toward their baby-boomer children, being told to be so by the latest parenting books. The WWII generation had grown up during the Depression, and they were happy to be able to spoil their kids. They didn’t spoil them completely, though: they knew the importance of education, and sent their kids to college. Unfortunately, this was right about the time that college stopped being a place that fostered maturity. So, spoiled kids arrive at college and are told that sex and drugs are good – and let’s be honest, at that age you’re just looking for someone to tell you that. You’ve been trying to tell women to loosen up for the past five years, and now society is telling them the same thing? Yay! (Not really yay, but that’s what you’re thinking if you’re a freshman in 1967.)

    And religion has gotten soft too. If you grew up with something strict, you’re looking for a reason to rebel. If you grew up with mass-produced tacky religious art and a well-meaning but ineffective Irish Catholic priest, you don’t have the grounding you’d need to fight temptation. The smart people are reading Salinger and Kerouac and dabbling in Eastern mysticism. You don’t stand a chance.

  • If I had to pick one dominant factor, it would be the sexual revolution. Once the West abandoned its traditional understanding of interdependence among sex, children and marriage, all bets were off. It is no secret that US poverty is highly concentrated in single parent households, yet our “elites” seem not to care that the US illegitimacy rate is now over 40%. The atrophy of marriage has generated enormous social costs. America’s ruling class believes that these costs can addressed by a smart and expensive government. They are dead wrong.

    Emblematic of this phenomenon is our evoving legal understanding of marriage. Traditionally, the marital contract was of higher dignity than a commercial contract. The latter could be unwound if all parties so desired, whereas a marital contract could not be even with the consent of both parties — precisely because society understood that God and the community were also parties (or at least 3rd party beneficiaries). Today a marital contract can usually be extinguished as long as one party so desires, meaning that society regards it as lacking the dignity of even a commercial contract.

  • Mike – I’d only add to that, “love, sex, children, and marriage”.

  • ‘If I had to pick one dominant factor, it would be the sexual revolution. ‘

    I concur Mike. Societies can recover from most things because they always have the family to fall back upon. The rise of easy divorce and illegitimacy make certain that for a substantial portion of our society family relationships are threadbare at best. The weakening of family ties helps explain why more and more of our policies seem to involve complete indifference to long term consequences.

  • Dunno, Pinky. I do not recall my parents’ contemporaries as being notably permissive with young children. I think perhaps we might look to Paul Gottfried’s interpretation of the era or the observations incorporated into mass entertainment products like Rebel without a Cause or Blackboard Jungle. What emerged in the post-war era was a post-pubescent population without regular and year-round work or apprenticeships but difficult to manage due to their size and to the loss of diligence and self-confidence on the part of a critical mass of the adult population. The result of that was a toxic peer culture.

  • Don’t underestimate the impact of Dr. Spock, Art. His book, published in 1946, was the second most popular book in the latter-20th century. He had some legitimate criticisms of the overly-disciplined approach to child care of the time, but promoted a permissiveness that became the American standard for raising baby-boomers.

  • My parents who were kids during World War 2 never read Dr. Spock and would have laughed their heads off it they had. My brother and I both had chores around the house and realized if we got out of line there would be swift consequences from Mom. Dad was reserved for major transgressions which were very, very rare. I think widespread permissive parenting was something that came after the rearing of my generation.

  • Breitbart is dead wrong when he says we live in Simon Cowell’s universe. If only there were more people like Simon Cowell who had the guts to tell young skulls full of mush who have no talent who think they can succeed in a difficult business like the music business that they…well… have no talent, America would be a better place.

    I also think he is mistaken about Sarah Palin and her daughter. Palin’s TLC reality show bombed and I think her daughter looked like a tramp on Dancing with teh Stars.

    But I do agree with teh larger point I think he is trying to make and that is that teh cult of celebrity is a problem. And as i alluded to above, it is a problem even in the Church when we look the other way at the bad behavior of some of our own celebs. Something we need to take a hard look at.

  • My mother was given a copy of Dr. Spock’s book in 1954. She said she got to the part where he advised never to hit your child in anger and threw it away. She said she wasn’t going to hit any of her children unless she were angry with them.

  • Something the sociologist Paul Hollander pointed out the bourgeois youth born after the war had that the pre-war generation lacked and (in a more esoteric way) their juniors lacked: a sense of security borne of their upbringing. It was his hypothesis that the collegian population in 1965 encountered something to which they were unaccustomed (threat) and reacted with rage.

    Again, repairing to Paul Gottfried. He pointed out that the disposable income and physical mobility of the post-war generation was without precedent most particularly given their work responsibilities (vis a vis what had been normal 40 years earlier). This, per Gottfried, disrupted maturation: “they were children and behaving in ways normal for children, but they had learned elaborate rationalizations for their behavior”.

  • Frederica Matthews Green offered a different hypothesis. She pointed out that women of her cohort (b. 1947) saw a dearth of men in the cohorts they would ordinary look to for husbands (1944 +/- 3 years) due to the gyrations in the birth rate experienced between 1929 and 1947. The result was that the resistance of her contemporaries to non-marital sex and transgression against the marriage vows of other women broke down. You saw these rationalizations of that in period literature like Sex and the Single Girl.

  • “She said she wasn’t going to hit any of her children unless she were angry with them.”

    Back in ’67 my maternal grandmother called my Mom a savage when she slapped me (a slap I had well earned). My Mom responded that if she didn’t discipline me now, I would be the savage after I grew up. Wise woman my Mom.

  • AD, all good and insightful comments.
    In particular, it the admonition that parents should never strike in anger always struck me as vaguely sociopathic insomuch as it implied that it is more acceptable to strike sans emotion.
    Also, to Ms. Green’s theory — one of my more insightful law partners once commented: “For centuries men tried to pressure women for sex before marriage and mostly women said no. Sometime around 1970 women stopped saying no, and society has had hell to pay ever since.”

  • “For centuries men tried to pressure women for sex before marriage and mostly women said no. Sometime around 1970 women stopped saying no, and society has had hell to pay ever since.”

    True words Mike, and the loss of much of the mutual respect between the sexes.

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