Hey, hey , LBJ…
How many kids did you kill today?
Remember that one? I certainly do because, as a young leftie, I shouted it at many demonstrations. I also shouted “Off the pig!” and even went so far as to support, at least from a distance, the “Days of Rage” as described by John Jacobs of the Weatherman faction of the Students for a Democratic Society:
Weatherman would shove the war down their dumb, fascist throats and show them, while we were at it, how much better we were than them, both tactically and strategically, as a people. In an all-out civil war over Vietnam and other fascist U.S. imperialism, we were going to bring the war home. “Turn the imperialists’ war into a civil war”, in Lenin’s words. And we were going to kick ass.
And kick ass they did, hurling Molotov cocktails, setting off fatal bombs, and shooting police. Well, it was the sixties and the early seventies and that was what we did and said then. Ask Bill Ayers and others of the time who remain unrepentant. I’m not one of them. I think it was crazy.
But I bring it all back now for one reason — to point out that what we are going through currently, this supposed period of extreme rhetoric bemoaned by so many pundits and politicians, is but a minute radar blip compared to that era.
And some of these pundits and pols are old enough to remember. Apparently, they choose not to. But to remind them, we were in an era then of genuine political assassination — RFK, MLK — not faux political assassination (actually the purposeless, near random act of a paranoid schizophrenic.) But as I recall few were calling for us to dial down the rhetoric. The anti-government forces had tons of supporters in the media, silent partners cheering on all but their most violent acts (and who knows about those). Norman Mailer, among many others, made his life and reputation in such a manner on the “steps of the Pentagon.” Hey, hey, LBJ, indeed.
In a very real way the media were the secret sharers of the radical left. As a young media member and novelist, I knew this well. The most radical of us were acting out our hidden dreams for the rest. We condemned them occasionally and ritually, but rarely vehemently. The Weather Underground and even later the execrable Symbionese Liberation Army were never treated in the press with quite the opprobrium they now reserve for the tea party movement. As Baudelaire put it, “Mon semblable, mon frère.” The worst of the radical left were just like the rest of us, but with a little extra edge.