Iconic image from 1960s: Jack Ruby guns down Lee Oswald at Dallas PD. Many of us knew then the ruse was up and the cover-up had begun.
It's truly incredible how many bloviating hacks have spouted opinions and ideas on the 60s who either never lived through that decade, or - if they did - were essentially comatose the entire time. I already noted this syndrome with former great folk singer Bob Dylan, e.g.
As well as P.J. O'Rourke
In Dylan's case he just couldn't comprehend why people kept making a "fuss" over a decade that saw two signal pieces of legislation passed (The Civil Rights Act in 1964, and Voting Rights Act in 1965) that conferred the practical basis for the exercise of rights to a minority that hadn't been manifested for over 100 years. Oh, and then there was the legislation that gave us Medicare, which nearly 45 million seniors currently depend upon and without which they'd likely be dying in ditches, unattended and impecunious. Dylan also evidently didn't see the fuss in all the anti-War protests for which his songs provided anthems. Not to mention his being oblivious to the rioting that erupted(in inner cities- since 'peaceful' protests weren't getting anywhere to advance civil rights- and the four major political assassinations. Dylan clearly missed the memo that the 60s marked the most tumultuous decade in U.S. history.
I was so flabbergasted by his piffle that I had to ask if he was stoned the whole time.
Then there was uber hack O'Rourke who related (in a TIME essay) how he was driving his daughter and 3 classmates to school and asked them if they realized it was the day President Kennedy was assassinated - and none of them had a clue. I noted at the time:
"I'd have been ashamed to admit such a thing in a widely circulated medium, even TIME. It reveals the author to be defunct (as a parent) in his own contributions to his daughter's education, in failing to provide what her school didn't. It also says more about the currently deficient high school history curriculum than it does about an event O'Rourke presumes is passé. It again, shows that if today's kids are being denied knowledge of this defining event (which likely saw a coup d'état and our nation's future course permanently altered) than they really do need to avail themselves of other sources i.e. via the Kickstarter project:
But alas, both examples show how easy it is to be oblivious when people are not conscious enough to actually appreciate the periods in which they live. No one is saying you need to use a note pad to document every event and your response, but you should be open enough to the living experience to faithfully recall it years later - as opposed to corporate media telling you what it was about!
Fortunately, some of us are able to do this - as well as being obsessive about the details of history - including how the Neoliberal imperative has sought to distort or revise it.
Enter now Bloomberg scribe - or hack - Sam Tanenhaus, who penned an essay about commencement speeches in the Perspective section of the Sunday Denver Post. While opening with complaints about academic "correctness" - i.e. in the examples of assorted speakers pulling out of their speeches under protest, he eventually ended up pontificating on the 60s - as I suspected he would.
After quoting Joan Didion (from a 1975 address to the class of the same year at University of California - Riverside):
"We all distort what we see. We all have to struggle to see what's really going on".
He then jumps to her remarks on the 1960s, as she invited her audience to "look through her eyes at 'a generation still in thrall to that darkling plain we call the 60s'."
Adding Didion's words:
"Which seems when we look back on it, a decade in which everyone lived in an entirely imagined world; when everyone operated from an idea and all the ideas got polarized and cheapened."
But WHOSE fault was that exactly? Was it the fault of the people living at the time - many of whom had just lived through one of the most earth shaking events in modern history: the assassination of a beloved President, and seeing his whole agenda washed away? Destroyed under the lies and subterfuge of one Texas varmint named "Lyndon" - who set up his own commission to conceal his earlier crimes as well as the crime of the century and worse, concoct the pretext for a conflict that would eventually claim 58,000 American lives, and millions of Vietnamese.
I don't blame the people who zoned out in the aftermath, I blame the crass political elites, their media and power structures which mind fucked them to a far- thee -well to the point most were no longer capable of thinking clearly. Because ultimately, the reasoning capacity and truth-seeking barometer of a population hinges on the information - the knowledge it receives from the knowledge "minders" - on what's "really going on". Ultimately those knowledge-minders and dispensers failed the American people and big time.
Yes, some of us saw through the ruse, and thirty or so years later (after actual files to do with the JFK assassination were finally released) we saw how so many had been played, by Johnson, his bogus Commission and its fabricated lies, and distortions of history. But few saw it at the time, because hell, everything - all the key evidence was being "handled" and much of it covered up. The so-called commission wouldn't even release the actual autopsy photos for view, fearing they might incept thousands of nervous breakdowns.
From the "unspeakable" lies of the Warren Commission there then issued a foul pestilence that permeated the body politic and set up the toxic polarization seen today. The further assassinations of Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcolm X, and Bobby Kennedy - with the accompanying lies on how they happened, merely added to the then extensive mind fuck. By the time Bobby was assassinated in June, 1968, nearly everyone from a generation had tuned out - resigned to the belief that all hope for change in the world, at least in the country - was destroyed.
That despair then led to the so-called "counter culture" because so many believed the system as it was couldn't be trusted to produce real change for the better. It was too corrupt from the inside, the politicos too in the maw of a money-dominated bribery system.
All that mistrust was subsequently proven true when the Watergate conspiracy erupted in 1972. It was further reinforced when Gerald R. Ford (he who altered the bullet path descriptions in the Warren Report) then pardoned the perpetrator. A pardon, a looking the other way, that enabled the Iran-Contra conspiracy barely 15 years later.
So Tanenhaus has some nerve when he writes that:
"Americans had collectively lost the ability to think and judge". And, quoting Didion, "the whole country was like a cargo cult".
But again, in general the ability of a people to think and judge hinges on the quality of the information they receive to know and recognize the world (and nation) they live in. But through the 60s the American people were let down, and over and over again, by their own media - which recklessly lied to them about everything from Vietnam (originally) to Kennedy's assassination. Many of the lies in the latter case kept alive via an operation called "Mockingbird" we only learned about when Frank Church opened his CIA investigations a decade later.
Indeed, few at the time recognized that the virus of false consciousness was the name for what citizens had been subjected to, so no wonder so many were unable to think or judge. A false conscious person can no more do that than a drowning man can breathe.
Too many citizens from the era of the 1960s then, had been left essentially like blind men by the institutional media powers on which they depended for facts, honesty. Worse, they'd been victimized by an unseen system they couldn't even track or parse on account of its draconian secrecy rules - but which wrought untold havoc on their lives. And Tananhaus seeks to blame them?
He even goes beyond that by extolling no less a Neoliberal tool than Milton Friedman, referring to his 1975 University of New Hampshire address where he spoke about "the fragility of freedom" and "America at a crossroads".. It was at a crossroads, all right, a crossroads in which one path led to the Neoliberal domination by markets we're all experiencing now. Markets ex machina!
As for Friedman, Naomi Klein pegged him perfectly in her book 'The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism' (2007). In her chapter on the Russian capitalist "experiment" (pp. 282-87) she documented how a cabal of gangster capitalists under the IMF and the "Chicago gang of Milton Friedman" attempted to brutally re-make the existing Russian centrally planned economy into a Neoliberal free market outpost of the West. The process was long and painful, entailing first getting rid of Mikhail Gorbachev - who through his glasnost and perestroika did far more than Reagan to render the world more peaceful, never mind the propaganda.
Economist and Nobel Prize winner Joseph Stiglitz (p. 283) called Russia's pro-capitalist market experimenters like Milton Friedman "market Bolsheviks". As Klein put it (ibid.):
"However, where the original Bolsheviks fully intended to build their centrally planned state in the ashes of the old, the market Bolsheviks believed in a kind of magic: if the optimal conditions for profit were created - the country would rebuild itself- no planning required."
The sad facts on Friedman's Russian experiment? After only a year of Neoliberal thuggery and "market therapy" millions of Russians had lost their life savings when the ruble lost nearly all its value (similar to what happened to Germans and their Deutsch mark, thanks to von Hayek). Adding insult to injury, abrupt cuts in government subsidies meant that millions of workers had not been paid in months. Consumption? The average Russian consumed 40 percent less in 1992 than 1991 - and they weren't even consuming that much in '91!
The very fact a financial hack like Tanenhaus can hold a character like Friedman up for adulation, shows he is part and parcel of the same disinformation establishment that brought us the original mind fuck of the Warren Report. not to mention Operation Mockingbird and in toto - the entire thrust of false consciousness that's dogged us since the early days of Edward Bernays works on Propaganda.
Tanenhaus near the end writes:
"The truth is, political correctness is just one symptom of a broader malady. Argument itself has all but disappeared from public conversation. The premium is on opinions and points of view.."
Unable to recognize facts, including accepted scientific ones, and with a disabled language - founded mostly on PR and euphemisms, it's no wonder so few can engage in sustained argument or incisive, intelligent debate. It's also no surprise why what one beholds instead is the regurgitation of the propaganda sound bites of the corpora-media. So, of course, all discussion reduces to "point of view" - Fox's or MSNBC's - with little else to go by.
Those who comment on the 1960s, should at least be required to study that decade carefully minus the corporate filters they may not be aware of using. Those who lived in the 60s, and venture to discuss it, need to ensure they aren't also victims of the Orwellian language manipulations used so prevalently at the time to distort and undermine objective perceptions, and thought.