There’s an old saying that history is written by the winners. In the case of what happened in America during the 1960s, however, history has been written by the losers, according to Jonathan Leaf in his Politically Incorrect Guide™ to the Sixties.
Social and political radicals discovered during the ’60s that they couldn’t transform America into their utopia. Their hour in the sun soon expired, and time worked its changes—but they never lost their zeal for radicalism. They grew older, true, but they never abandoned those utopian aspirations. Many radicals went to college and never left, supplanting their conservative mentors through attrition; consequently, academia as a whole became even more radicalized than it had been in previous decades. And since it is the wont of academics to publish incontinently, it stands to reason that their version of a historical period like the 1960s would reflect their own biases and leave us with a distorted image of the times.
Jonathan Leaf seeks to correct the false picture of that period which today’s Left-leaning cultural commissars would have us believe.
Leaf covers a lot of ground, discussing such widely disparate subjects as politics, war, music, fashion, films and TV, the civil rights movement and feminism, and the space program; in doing so, he unearths artifacts that had escaped even me, one who passed through his adolescence in that era.
A few of the things Leaf uncovers which today’s would-be arbiters of culture would just as soon have us forget:
* “The vast majority of college students in the 1960s were not political crusaders, but normal kids who spent their time going to classes, studying, dating, and pursuing other unremarkable activities.”
* “Much greater changes in sexual behavior took place in the 1920s and 1940s than in the 1960s.”
* “Perhaps the biggest failing of the civil rights movement was that it worked toward spreading affimative action programs as a leading goal.”
* “Professors, writers, and other elite thinkers of the decade [of the 1960s] were carried away with bizarre, extremist social theories that could not even get a serious hearing among the general public, imbued as it was with common sense. The sixties intellectual class inexplicably became enraptured with these ideas, showing a nihilistic determination to tear down American society and all its institutions, customs, and values.”
* “[T]he truth is that rock music was not as popular as liberals would have you believe …. [M]ost of the ‘seminal’ sixties rock bands sold modestly, while many of the most popular performers were crooners, jazz musicians, country singers, and classical musicians.”
* “The dress of the 1960s was very conservative, providing a stark contrast to the overt sexuality of the previous decade. Even student radicals dressed conservatively ….”
* “The Apollo moon landings may have looked like ‘stunning achievements’ at the time, but in retrospect they seem like something else: overpriced publicity stunts.”
* “During the Warren Court … nine unelected justices laid claim to vast new powers, ushering in the current system of judicial supremacy. The Warren Court dates to the 1950s, but it really came into its own in the 1960s, when it issued numerous radical rulings that upended the previous balance of powers between the legislative, executive, and judicial branches.”
* “[T]he greatest hero to appear in the Americas.” — Norman Mailer on Fidel Castro.
* “The most pernicious effect of the War on Poverty was that it destroyed the black family.”
* “So how then did the North Vietnamese win? The same way that Hitler captured France and Poland: with tank batallions … [so] when [the U.S.] Congress ordered an end to American air support, South Vietnam’s fate was sealed.”
* “[Russell] Kirk made the case that class divisions were a natural consequence of liberty and a guard against egalitarianism and uniformity; that experience was a better guide than ideology; and that the religion of the Bible was truer in its account of man and his nature than the utopian theories of leftist social engineers.”
Pick up a copy of The Politically Incorrect Guide™ to the Sixties. If you’re old enough to remember that period of American history, then it should be a trip down memory lane. If you’re a committed radical of the same vintage, however, you may be disappointed, since the history you thought you made isn’t the history that actually happened.
Part I: The Social Sixties
1. The Student Radicals: Who They Were and Which Girls They Wanted
“Most college campuses were not hotbeds of radicalism during the 1960s.”
2. The Sexual Revolution and the Start of Feminism: Where’d Mom and Pop Go?
“The 1960s feminist movement was started by moderate liberals and hijacked by radicals.”
3. Civil Rights and Uncivil Wrongs: From Freedom Rides to “Burn, Baby, Burn”
“The sixties urban riots were not caused by poverty and racism.”
4. The Intellectuals: Did They Have It All Figured Out?
“Sixties ‘intellectuals’ glorified crime, violence, and urban blight.”
Part II: The Cultural Sixties
5. Rock ‘n’ Roll: Soundtrack to the Sixties?
“Rock music was not particularly popular in the 1960s.”
6. Movies and TV: Not Great but Not Yet Decadent
“Popular 1960s TV shows reflected conservative, patriotic values.”
7. Mods, Minis, Wide Ties, and Brooks Brothers: The Best of Sixties Fashion
“Sixties fashion was a conservative reaction to the suggestive clothing of the 1950s.”
8. To the Moon, But at What Price?
“Manned moon flights were a costly, futile boondoggle.”
Part III: The Political Sixties
9. The Unwarranted Court: Earl Warren and His Battle Against the Constitution
“The most radical political effects of the 1960s were achieved through judicial fiat.”
10. Camelot as It Really Was
“John F. Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson gained their biggest political victories through vote fraud.”
11. Johnson’s War on Poverty—and Common Sense
“The Great Society was marked by soaring crime and increasing drug abuse.”
12. The Vietnam War: Snatching Defeat from the Jaws of Victory
“The media transformed the 1968 Tet Offensive from an overwhelming American victory into a devastating defeat.”
13. The Birth of the Counter Counterculture
“Our politics today are the continuation of the ideological battles of the 1960s.”
Notes (20 pages)