On the Right, we tend to point to the 1960s as the decade when everything went wrong—the rise of the counterculture, the anti-war movement, the radicalization of campuses. Or we’ll look back to the Progressive Era of the first two decades of the twentieth century, or the Frankfurt School that introduced “Cultural Marxism” to our universities. Deep students of ideological infiltration will point to the American infatuation with German Idealists and the German model for higher education.
But in focusing so intensely on the 1960s, we overlook the following decade—the sleazy, variety show-filled 1970s. Of course, what we think of as the cultural and social upheaval of the 1960s really occurred mostly in early 1970s. Indeed, I suspect that so much of the romanticizing (on the Left) of the 1960s is because of the Civil Rights Movement, which now holds a place of uncritical holiness in our national mythology. It probably also has to do with the dominance of early Baby Boomers in media and the culture for so long—they built the counterculture, and they still idealized their youthful misadventures as tenured radicals.
Regardless, good old Milo posted a link on his Telegram feed urging followers to “Read this.” “This” was a book review, of sorts, of Days of Rage: America’s Underground, the FBI, and the Forgotten Age of Revolutionary Violence by Bryan Burrough. In his review of the book, author Brian Z. Hines writes that
Days of Rage is important, because this stuff is forgotten and it shouldn’t be. The 1970s underground wasn’t small. It was hundreds of people becoming urban guerrillas. Bombing buildings: the Pentagon, the Capitol, courthouses, restaurants, corporations. Robbing banks. Assassinating police. People really thought that revolution was imminent, and thought violence would bring it about.
Mark Twain said (to paraphrase) that history doesn’t repeat itself, but it does rhyme. Hines’s description certainly sounds like the kind of radical upheaval we’re experiencing now, just with looting Wendy’s, stealing televisions, and toppling statues of white men (and Jesus) taking the place of coordinated bombings.
What’s more important than the details of the various domestic terror tactics employed in the 1970s is the tacitly (and sometimes overt) such support received from mainstream Leftists and the media. Every conservative is well aware that what the media doesn’t report on is often just as telling as what it does. In an age of mass media like ours, not having a story reported is essentially the same as it never happening. To quote Hines again:
Also, people don’t want to remember how much leftist violence was actively supported by mainstream leftist infrastructure. I’ll say this much for righty terrorist Eric Rudolph: the sonofabitch was caught dumpster-diving in a rare break from hiding in the woods. During his fugitive days, Weatherman’s Bill Ayers was on a nice houseboat paid for by radical lawyers.
Think of the radicals who went on to enjoy successful, cushy careers as university professors and popular lecture speakers.
To use one example from my own career: about a decade ago, I was working at a performing arts venue in a midsize town, which the municipal government owned. Nearby the county government maintained its own performing arts venue, which also included an art museum, etc. The director of that facility was an aging hippie Boomer, who was still very much keyed into that world. He at one time directed my venue.
Among the files I inherited upon taking the job were pictures of this gentleman with Angela Davis, the notorious black nationalist and Communist radical who supplied arms to the Soledad Brothers, the gang that commandeered Marin County Courthouse, killing a judge in the process. Davis was arrested and convicted on charges of aggravated kidnapping and first degree murder (California law at the time—an indication of how times have changed—regarded “all persons concerned in the commission of a crime” principals in said crime).
And there she was, hanging out with the former director of a South Carolina municipality’s performing arts center, presumably because she’d been invited to speak—and, surely, receiving taxpayer funds to do so. That’s how these radicals sustain themselves, via the sinecures and honorarium of their respectable peers.
The Davis anecdote indicates another facet of modern Leftism, a facet of which we have endured a revival over the past decade: the simultaneous deification and patronization of blacks. Leftists love black radicals, at least in the abstract. As Hines writes, “Some white leftists… worship black revolutionaries, crave their leadership.” The constant calls on Twitter from white progressives to stay silent and to listen to black people are examples of that deification.
On the other hand, progressives also treat black people like children—or, worse, like pets—incapable of taking care of themselves without massive, maternalistic intervention from the nanny state. More on that another time.
Regardless, Hines’s review of Burroughs’s book is well worth the read. It’s wild that we have completely forgotten about the hundreds of bombings and domestic terror attacks that various Leftist organizations perpetrated, often with tacit approval from officialdom, in the 1970s.
Naturally, the academy and media are responsible for this “Great Forgetting,” but I have another theory for why we have forgotten so much. I’ve been teaching American History for years at the high school and the college level. At the high school level, most teachers—myself included—barely make it through the Second World War, or through maybe the Kennedy assassination. The Vietnam War is rarely covered in any detail, much less the social context.
Also, most history teachers just don’t know the history that well. They’re left to rely on what they gleaned from lopsided, romanticized versions of the late 1960s and early 1970s. But mostly, the school year runs out.
Now, I’m not advocating for a longer school year—to quote the Apostle Paul, completely out of context, “God Forbid!”—but it would behoove history teachers to begin modifying their pacing guides to include more of the 1970s. 1970 is fifty years ago now—it qualifies as history.
Regardless, every American should learn about the radicals of the 1970s, if only to understand better the radicals of today. They’re cut from the same dashiki, and they enjoy the same structural and institutional support as their forebears.