Recently, CNN commentator and host of the Sunday morning “Global Public Square” TV interview show Fareid Zakaria praised a new book by his journalistic colleague, Ron Brownstein, entitled, “Rock Me on the Water, 1974, the Year Los Angeles Transformed Movies, Television and Politics.”
In that book, Zakaria opined, the sheer energy and non-conformist nature of the counterculture of that era is chronicled. As such it provided a unique insight into the highly creative elements that, he contended, led to the U.S.’s technological boom and vast superiority in that arena on the globe since. Well, maybe Zakaria can be forgiven for his eagerness to paint a rosy picture of what Brownstein writes about in that book.
But coming from my own intense engagement with that era, I have to say that Zakaria’s is a very one-dimensional perspective and as such obscures the active dissembling that wound up defining the era not in a positive way.
What nobody wants to acknowledge (for fear of being uncool or whatever) is the weapon that was used effectively against the rising youth revolt of that period, inclusive of its civil rights, anti-war, feminist and gay liberation manifestations. The weapons were not primarily stodgy old fashioned values, the way it is almost always conveyed, but the opposite.
The ruling, anti-democratic classes of that age went with the imposition of what I have chosen to call “radical anarcho-hedonism” as its weapon of choice to defang the truly serious social ferment of that era.
They used the most sophisticated tools of counterinsurgency at hand to that end, building on the demonstrably effective means of Pavlov (of Pavlov’s dogs), for example, and other cynical social engineers.
It is instructive to consider how the theories of mental conditioning demonstrated in the 1959 novel by Richard Condon that was turned into a very troubling movie, “The Manchurian Candidate,” that starred Angela Lansbury and Frank Sinatra in 1962.
There were a ton of layers to this social offensive as it penetrated the culture through the so-called counterculture of the 1960s and masqueraded as variants on the civil rights, anti-war, feminist and gay liberation movements that were increasingly impacting that era.
To those of us who were there, there was a very serious difference between the legitimate efforts of those social upheavals and the imposition on them of the “anarcho-hedonist” counterinsurgency.
In fact, it was the challenge of that counterinsurgency to camouflage their disruptive role and to convince the wider population that they were one in the same with the insurgency they were tasked with undermining.
I was in the middle of all this and could discern enough of what was really going on to be aware and highly critical of it all. It didn’t take a rocket scientist, in my view, to see what was happening. But it seemed there was no effective means to expose or speak out against it.
All the organized social institutions speaking for the “movement” had been corrupted to one degree or another by the dissembling tactics of the counterinsurgency, mostly in the form of the overwhelming appeal of “sex, drugs and rock and roll.”
So, in short, the legitimate insurgency in the U.S. in that era was led by the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and the pro-civil rights and related expressions of compassion defined by the music of Peter, Paul and Mary, Simon and Garfunkel and others.
It was countered by the nihilism and jaundiced sexism that swept that scene, including by the music was invented, developed and promoted by counterinsurgency think tanks and disseminated through groups like the Grateful Dead to promote lyrics deliberately devoid of any references to social issues.
Instead, drugs like LSD were promoted by experiments with Ken Kesey, too, for their anti-social impact, and women were degraded through the promotion of so-called “sexual freedom” and pornography.
These elements killed the progressive movements of the previous decade to the point that the radically reactionary movements could take a foothold, advancing through a radical form of libertarian selfish self interest to become the so-called Reagan revolution and all the misery that has arisen from that ever since.