May 24th, 2011

Hollywood boomers and their inflated sense of political importance

Peter Fonda has been generating a little buzz today because of a murky and unclear statement he made at Cannes that seems to be about his training his grandsons to shoot Obama if some sort of class war starts up. As best I can tell, this Hollywood has-been (or never-quite was, with the possible exception of the movie “Easy Rider,” which IMHO was a big yawn) blew his mind quite some time ago with drugs and a few other things and isn’t worth much attention at all.

So why am I giving him some? It’s because of another statement of his that caught my eye. While all the attention was focused on his stupidly incendiary remark about Obama, I noticed the following [emphasis mine]:

It’s more of a thought process than an actuality, but we are heading for a major conflict between the haves and the have nots. I came [to Cannes] many years ago with a biker movie and we stopped a war. Now, it’s about starting the world.

What the movie “Easy Rider” had to do with stopping the Vietnam War I don’t quite know, and I was around at the time. Perhaps Fonda is confusing himself with his sister Jane, who was somewhat more active in that particular cause. But he, like so many boomers from those times, appears to be quite proud of how things turned out.

Hollywood people are funny, and I don’t mean funny ha-ha. The Fondas got a double or maybe a triple dose, having been raised as Hollywood royalty in a home so dysfunctional as to have been deeply traumatic. An inflated sense of their own importance in the world no doubt goes with the territory.

Fonda may be unusual in his personal background, but he’s hardly unusual in his attitude towards the end of the Vietnam War. In fact, I wrote a piece about that in November of 2009, which I think bears repeating here. It was called “Vietnam: they lost the war, but won the battle.”

Who are “they?” The Left.

What war? Vietnam.

What battle? The one that determines who gets to write history.

It’s said that history is written by the winners, and that’s true. But Vietnam just may have been the first war in which those who opposed the conflict “won” in the forum of public opinion by convincing their fellow citizens and government to abandon the war itself, and then got to write most of its chronicles.

Case in point: this piece in the NY Times Magazine, which states the following foregone conclusion [emphasis mine]:

In the decades after Vietnam, despite having been proved right about the war itself, a generation of Democrats who opposed the war nonetheless struggled mightily to find a credible response to armed conflict, to reconcile the breach that separated the antiwar left from the broader swath of Americans who disdained reflexive pacifism.

Proved right? Hardly. But the Left and even most Democrats consider it axiomatic that those who opposed the war have been “proved” right. I’ve spent many hours and many words discussing the proof that exists for the opposite side: that our abandonment of Vietnam in the mid-70s was an unnecessary tragedy and a shame (see the category “Vietnam” on the right sidebar). And I’m hardly the only one.

But word doesn’t seem to have penetrated a huge swath of liberals and the Left that there still might even be another side—much less that it might have some validity, and that it offers arguments that require responses.

I’ve encountered this “everybody knows” attitude about Vietnam many times before, including on the occasion of John Updike’s death. Updike, a liberal Democrat, had angered most of his fellow literati during the 60s by offering a principled and compelling argument that the war may have been a well-intentioned effort by the US to allow the South Vietnamese to maintain their freedom from tyrannical Northern Communists. Updike got much condemnation and little praise for his pains, even after his death, at which time I wrote the following:

Last night…as I was watching a Charlie Rose tribute to John Updike that featured a panel composed of Updike’s editor Judith Jones, former New Yorker editor David Remnick, and New York Times Book Review editor Sam Tanenhaus, the latter casually mentioned, amidst the praise and reminiscence, that “of course, Updike was on the wrong side about the Vietnam War.”

Of course. Everybody who’s anybody knows that.

[NOTE: See this for Updike's position on the war, in his own inimitable words.]

15 Responses to “Hollywood boomers and their inflated sense of political importance”

  1. T Says:

    Neoneoxon,

    I don’t find Peter Fonda’s inflated sense of self-importance surprising, this seems to be de rigeur for the Hollywood crowd. What amazes me is his quote about “. . . heading for a major conflict between the haves and the have nots.”

    Fonda seems to imply that he is speaking for the “have nots” when he is, by any definition, a “have.”

    So, does he carry he torch for the “have nots?” Does he side with them? If so, does that mean he must divest himsel of the assets that make him a “have” in order to truly represent the “have nots?” (Yeah, fat chance of THAT happening!)

    This perverse identification with the average man is born of the self-same delusion as the John kerry, Stephen King and Michael Moore crowd who argue for greater taxes on “the rich,” as if “the rich” does not include them.

  2. T Says:

    And before someone points out that it was Stephen King who said, the govt should make him pay more in tax:

    As we all know, if paying more tax is so important, then all he needs to do is pull out his checkbook and write a handsome check to the IRS. Problem solved. Thus the hypocrisy.

  3. J.J. formerly Jimmy J. Says:

    As a Vietnam vet, I have always appreciated your defense of the war and your condemnation of the treason that was committed by the left in the name of peace.

    The “everybody knows” position on Vietnam is much like the unspoken, but much acted upon belief that communism is a superior form of government, it just hasn’t been done right yet. Both are accepted doctrine on the left and need no further examination by them. We see it illustrated everydaY by the lefties who were children of the 60s.

    They refuse to acknowledge the historical experiments that have occurred from 1945 on. North and South Korea, East and West Germany, Taiwan and Red China to mention the most prominent. All showcased the different results of communism versus representative governments with free markets. That is one piece of information that everybody should “know” but few even mention in public discourse – especially not the left.

    To have aboandoned the South Vietnamese, Cambodia and Laos to the communist slaughter that ensued was a moral crime for which there has never been an accounting except in a few places like your blog.

    That war, the war I fought in, has been like a bitter medicine, the taste of which never quite dies for me. However, your posts on it have helped me to digest it somewhat. In fact, your Vietnam posts were what brought me here originally.

  4. neo-neocon Says:

    J.J: that means a lot to me.

  5. SteveH Says:

    Hey “everybody knows” that humans are destroying the planet, the rich can’t be good people, windmills and solar panels are sufficient to power an industrialised nation, minorities can’t be racist, education is grossly underfunded, conservatives are hatemongers and Barak Obama is unbeatable in 2012.

    Funny thing how the less everybody knows, the more “everybody knows”.

  6. Curtis Says:

    The narratives, the narratives. All around us, through us and in us, the narratives eat and multiply like flies. The messier, louder, and stinkier it gets, you can bet there’s a narrative around.

  7. J.J. formerly Jimmy J. Says:

    Steve H,
    Excellent list, but as Curtis points out in the next comment, there is a narrative of lies made out to be truth that runs through the media almost without end.

    Thank God for the web and blogs!

  8. JuliB Says:

    I may not know all that much about the controversies surrounding the Vietnam War, but I can’t see how anyone could think it a good thing that S. Korea be part of the cursed North Korea. If we didn’t step in, wouldn’t this be the case now?

    FWIW, I read a lot of ‘Nam War books, but pretty much ONLY memoirs that are pro-military.

  9. Parker Says:

    One of many excellent Cohen songs. One of many confused, convoluted, narcissistic Hollywood actors.

  10. daxypoo Says:

    there wasn’t an internet during vietnam and peter fonda has definitely lost all remaining marbles

  11. Parker Says:

    BTW, 2 great interpretations of Everybody Knows:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y2C6ceCdtlU&feature=related

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=axnCMV-on9Q

  12. Parker Says:

    “… peter fonda has definitely lost all remaining marbles.”

    Generously speaking for PF: Marbles? I don’t need no stinking marbles!

  13. Gary Rosen Says:

    “the movie “Easy Rider,” which IMHO was a big yawn”

    I was a college freshman when Easy Rider came out, i. e. right in the bullseye of the target demographic. Most of my friends and I had the same three reactions to the movie:

    1. Overrated

    2. Liked Dennis Hopper but thought Peter Fonda was an a**hole.

    3. That guy who played the lawyer was great! (the then-unknown Jack Nicholson)

  14. Gary Rosen Says:

    I recently saw ER on TV for the first time in many years. Much of it was so stereotypically “sixties” that it was unintentionally comedic, e. g. the visit to the commune. The parts that hold up the best are the music and Nicholson.

  15. Alex Bensky Says:

    Peter Fonda is proud of the part he played in promoting a communist victory in the Vietnam WAR. OK. I was a hawk and at least I don’t have a couple of million dead Cambodians on my conscience. He may not but he should.

    By the way, Peter was also in “Ulee’s Gold,” which is quite good. I didn’t catch “Easy Rider” when it first came out; I don’t think I would have thought much of it even then, but by the time I did see I recognized it for the pretentious crap that it is.

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Previously a lifelong Democrat, born in New York and living in New England, surrounded by liberals on all sides, I've found myself slowly but surely leaving the fold and becoming that dread thing: a neocon.
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