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.
Now, as we all know, everything is reversed. The right wing is the supposed source of all violence and violent rhetoric. Of course, we know that’s not true and of course there hasn’t been any real right-wing violence, none whatsoever associated with the tea party movement. It’s all a charade.
But the left persists in believing it. Well, not entirely. Some are following an Alinskyite trail of deception. But a good percentage — as this past few days have demonstrated as never before — are genuinely convinced they are surrounded by a bloodthirsty mob of semi-illiterate rednecks out to polarize the country.
This is one of the more clearcut demonstrations of mass projection I have seen in my lifetime.
The liberal intelligentsia of our society may not be as sick as Jared Loughner — that would be hard — but they are exhibiting a depth of neurosis that borders on a collective personality disorder. And, to play psychoanalyst, I think this disorder points straight back to unresolved issues related to the experiences of the sixties and seventies discussed above. The left’s confused and ambivalent attitude toward violence has never gone away and has now been projected out on their opponents.
Exacerbating the situation — and increasing the left’s anger — was their recent electoral defeat and the attendant failure of Keynesian economics to deal with the financial crisis. Their ideology is dissolving around them. The attempts to blame the behavior of a clinical paranoid schizophrenic on the words of right-wing politicians and pundits are the acts of desperate people.
This liberal intelligentsia with all its unresolved problem are seizing on a tragic event to change the narrative and distract the country from solving its problems, which are truly serious for all of us (even them). We shouldn’t let them.