The Politically Incorrect Guide to the Sixties

by on 12 April, 2010

Ben-Peter-Terpstra Ben-Peter Terpstra introduces Menzies House readers to an alternative take on the history of the 60s. 

Social upheaval? Free love? Peaceful protests? Hmmm…really? In The Politically Incorrect Guide to the Sixties, playwright Jonathan Leaf advances the position that the 1960s was a relatively conservative decade.

And his arguments deserve our time. Or as William Kristol, editor of the Weekly Standard writes, “Has any decade been more mythologized than the 1960s? I doubt it.”

So let us step back from Hollywood’s historians (xi):

Take just one well-known event: the Beatles’ 1964 appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show. This has been depicted with astonishing regularity as a pivotal cultural moment; in fact an entire movie – I Wanna Hold Your Hand – was built around it. And that Sullivan episode was indeed a major event in popular culture. But did you know that in 1961, 26 million people watched a CBS live broadcast of the first performance of a new symphony by classical composer Aaron Copland?

In this cultural context too, we see My Fair Lady outselling sixties icons like Bob Dylan, a professional hippy.  Thanks to Columbia Records sales went through the roof.

But we also see gifted artists like Paul McCartney and George Martin (aka the fifth Beatle) borrowing from conservative geniuses, to create timeless classics, like Eleanor Rigby. I’d also nominate Jimi Hendrix, for his sharp politically-incorrect turns.  

Not willing to hold back, Leaf asks us to rethink the university-campus view of Vietnam too (p.183):

In fact, 74 percent of veterans say they “enjoyed” their service in Vietnam, 71 percent are “glad” they went, and 66 percent report that they’d serve again. Vietnam veterans are also better educated and earn higher salaries than their peers who did not serve. And what really angers them? Eighty-two percent believe the “political leaders in Washington would not let them win.” American soldiers wanted victory, and they resented political orders that restrained their activities and limited their targets.

So imagine if yuppie-scum hippy brats decided not to spit on returning soldiers? The transition period for returning soldiers would have been even smoother, to say the least.

Was Vietnam winnable? Sure. But thanks to Jane Fonda types, a thousand concentration camps blossomed, after the war. The Far Left didn’t give peace a chance – they gave totalitarians an opportunity. “The media,” writes Leaf, even “transformed the 1968 Tet Offensive from an overwhelming American victory into a devastating defeat.”

I just hope history wins the history wars.

Ben-Peter Terpstra is an Australian satirist and cartoon lover. His works are posted on numerous sites from American Thinker (California) to Quadrant Online (Sydney, Australia). You can find him at his blogs Pizza Trays and Beer Bottles and Quote Digger.

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