There’s a fascinating reminiscence by a series of aging boomers (are there any other kind?) in the Spring 2008 City Journal. It’s entitled “May 1968: Forty Years After,” and all of the writers appear to be to members of that group that so interests me today, the Left-to-Right political changers.
One of the best of the essays (all are recommended reading) is “From the Danube to Chicago” by Sol Stern, an editor at City Journal who’s been campaigning for years to waken the country to the dangers of the educational “reforms” of radical Leftist Bill Ayers (see this article, for example, written in the summer of 2006, before Ayers was on the radar screen of most people).
Back in 1968, Ayers was riding high as an SDS member at the University of Michigan. Along with wife-to-be Bernadine Dorhn, he was on the cusp of founding the more violent Weathermen and engaging in a series of bombings for which he has yet to pay any price and does not regret.
In 1968 Stern himself was a Ramparts editor and active in the “peace” movement to end the Vietnam War.
Why do I put the word peace in scare quotes? I have no doubt that many in the antiwar movement actually were interested in peace; in my own very minor role (a few meetings and a few demonstrations), I certainly was. But the picture Stern paints of the active collaboration of leaders such as Tom Hayden and other radicals with the North Vietnamese makes it clear that peace was not really their agenda, it merely was the hook:
Protesting against America’s wars has an honorable tradition, running from Thoreau to Eugene V. Debs and Norman Thomas. But starting with Hayden and continuing in the turbulent outbursts of 1968, that tradition of legitimate democratic opposition morphed into outright collaboration with the enemy. It wasn’t just that Hayden was rooting for the other side—abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison had done the same during the Mexican War—but that he was proposing to sabotage the American war effort by all means necessary. Soon enough, as members of the once-idealistic New Left and SDS crossed the line from dissent to treason, it became clear that those means included deadly violence. Within 18 months, some of Hayden’s followers were bombing military installations and public buildings in solidarity with their Vietnamese allies….
The latter group of course included Ayers and Dohrn, current Obamaphiles. Unlike Stern, they have not repented of their ways; au contraire.
The provocateurs at the 1968 Democratic Convention were not just incidently beaten up by the Chicago police while “the whole world [was] watching”—they went there for that express purpose:
(Tom Hayden and Rennie Davis) spent four months planning a massive confrontation with the “war machine,” otherwise known as the Chicago Police Department. At Ramparts, we all knew what was coming, and we were determined to be there for the combat.
Stern is not alone in his indictment of Hayden et al. Even Time, in its contemporaneous recount of the goings-on at the 1968 Democratic Convention, agreed with what Stern now reports.
One of the themes of several entries in the City Journal article is the idea that many of the reporters who covered the events of 1968 were journalists with an agenda and participants in the events they were covering, and that they utterly resisted the idea that this conflict of interest tainted their reporting—or, rather, they felt they were above such mundane concerns and exempt from such rules. Their agenda itself was the point, the very reason they had become journalists in the first place.
Forty years sometimes seems a long time ago. But sometimes it doesn’t seem so very long at all.