Political Violence and the Left, 1960s Edition

by Sonny Bunch on September 11, 2012

Over at Hollywood Elsewhere, Jeffrey Wells has a post up about Free Angela and all Political Prisoners‘ whitewashing of Angela Davis’ involvement in a kidnapping/murder. The headline of the post is “Everyone Went Crazy.” In the comments, “Gaydos,” one of Wells’ regulars, argues “I suspect you dashed that off rather quickly and didn’t mean to imply all the ‘lunacy’ was on the left, given that the right had assasinated [sic] four of the most important leaders of the left and the civil rights movement and created a scorched earth catastrophe in Southeast Asia that still resonates as the epitome of ginned up conflicts for fuzzy ideological goals and great defense industry profits.”

It’s the sort of thing that you get so used to reading that you kind of glide over at first only to double back and stare in horror at the cognitive dissonance it takes to write such nonsense. Let’s just unpack this bit by bit, shall we?

Gaydos mentions four assassinations. When asked to clarify in the comments, he doesn’t, so I’ll assume he’s referring to the following: JFK, RFK, MLK, and Malcom X. He believes that “the right had assasinated [sic]” these men. Is that even close to accurate?

  • JFK was killed by a committed Communist who had lived in Soviet Russia and attempted to murder a senior military officer who was also a member of the far-right Birch Society. In other words, JFK was killed by a man of the left for being too hard on Communists.
  • RFK was killed by a Jordanian activist angry about the mistreatment of Palestinians. Hardly a man of “the right,” that Sirhan Sirhan.
  • Malcolm X was killed by members of the Nation of Islam, a far-left radical separatist group, for daring to argue that not all white people were evil and for challenging the power of that group’s fringey leader.
  • MLK was killed by a rightwing foe of civil rights.

Hey, one out of four ain’t bad!

But that war in Southeast Asia, that was totally a rightwing plot to gin up military industrial profits, right? Well, I guess, assuming you mean to argue that JFK was a man of the right and that Lyndon Baines Johnson was a man of the right and that Richard Nixon, who extricated us from Vietnam, was a man of the left. I mean, you could argue those things. I don’t think they’re supported by the facts, but in bizarro world they probably make a ton of sense.

Pretty much any time I read something in this vein I reach for Camelot and the Cultural Revolution, James Piereson’s look at how the crimes of radical leftists drove normal leftists in the 1960s insane. One of my favorite passages:

The assassination of President Kennedy was an overwhelming event for many reasons, not least because of the disquieting questions it posed to the established assumptions of liberal thought. If President Kennedy was killed by a communist, then was it the case that the conservatives and anticommunists had been correct all along in their warnings about domestic communism? Did it prove that the postwar liberals had misdiagnosed the threat to democratic institutions when they focused their attention exclusively on the right?

None of this is to argue that there was no rightwing violence in the 1960s. There obviously was, much of it enforced by the state in the guise of segregation and violent crackdowns on those agitating for civil rights. But leftwing violence was the dominant theme of this era. Assassinations, bombings, kidnappings, bank robberies, killings, torture, wars without end—these were all the tools and trade of the 1960s American left. The attempt to whitewash this evil away is simply absurd and unhistorical.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Steven Gaydos September 12, 2012 at 10:24 am

Ah, I love the smell of the lunacy – and mendacity – of the rightwing idealogues in the morning. “Bit by bit” Sonny? Except for ALL the bits you’d rather not grapple with?

Two (of several) important points you carefully excised from your doodling:

This quote from me:

1) “There are those, many of whom I respect, who believe that the assassinations of JFK, RFK, King and Malcolm X were all random acts of violence perpetrated by lone gunmen acting out of nothing more than nutty self-interest. ”

2) You’re big on suggesting books to read. Well, I suggested one in that discussion that you also should read and it will help explain why so many would laugh at your history of Viet Nam JFK and Lyndon Johnson. It’s another point I made, (and you failed to note) which was the importance of Alfred McCoy’s “THE POLITICS OF HEROIN IN SOUTHEAST ASIA.” Long before anyone in the “mainstream media” wrote anything about the CIA involvement with the Pathet Lao and heroin production and Air America back in the ’60s, McCoy was on that case. Why not trust the intelligence of your reader(s)?

So I guess zero for…wait, I’ve lost count: five? seven? twelve?…ain’t bad, at least in your duplicity for profit world. It’s a perfect score by the standards of your blog, Fox News, Glenn Beck and the the shills slinging swill for the Koch Gang and their ilk.

Here’s to a better America and a democracy NOT purchased by tax-dodging billionaires!

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