Re: [sixties-l] Critique of Bruce Franklin

From: Ted Morgan (
Date: 10/23/00

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    I sense that some of the hyperbolic way that Bruce Franklin put things
    in his argument pushed some of Michael Wright's buttons.  I think Bruce
    may embellish in places (20 antiwar movement veterans for every war
    veteran) --perhaps because the media culture has so profoundly reversed
    realities regarding the war.  But I think in rising to the defense of
    the middle-class student's role in the antiwar movement (e.g., we didn't
    have credit cards), Michael may also be missing some important valid
    points Bruce raises.
    One of the most interesting to me is their discussion of class and
    opposition to the war.  I'd like to shed a little more light on this
    from some investigation I've done for an article that's coming out in
    the fall Radical History Review (stay tuned).
    First, as Michael Wright points out, Bruce is referring to a public
    opinion poll that demonstrated stronger antiwar opposition among the
    non-college-educated, more working-class, more minority segments of the
    population.  And as Bruce argues, this would make sense given the
    heavily disproportionate burden for fighting the war that the sons of
    the working class (and racial minorities) were carrying.
    But it seems as if Michael then takes this (or reads Bruce as implying
    this) as an argument about the make-up of the active antiwar movement,
    which the public opinion poll did not, in fact, measure.  Here, we're on
    trickier ground.  Quite clearly, college students and recent college
    graduates were a highly significant proportion of the activist antiwar
    movement, and VERY DEFINITELY this population was played up in the
    mainstream media.  As this movement became increasingly militant and
    flamboyant, the media increasingly gravitated to this group as if the
    WERE the antiwar movement --and the symbols they projected and behaviors
    some engaged in gave American mainstream media viewers an impression of
    a distinctly anti-American, unlike-me (hippie attire, etc.) movement
    (regardless of how this in fact distorted the overall movement which as
    we know included thousands of veterans, active-duty soldiers,
    housewives, mothers, business people, socialists, long-time pacifists,
    Hence, something curious started to happen.  By late 1967 and through
    1968 (at least), increasing numbers of Americans became increasingly
    antiwar in their opinions.  Simultaneously, increasing numbers of the
    public at large became increasingly alienated from the antiwar movement
    they saw in the media.  A crucial turning point was Chicago, '68, where
    despite the public outcry in the media against the police 'riot,' more
    people were sympathetic to the police than the protesters.  And studies
    of these poll data indicate the intriguing explanation that is
    class-based: working class whites, in particular, were prone to feel
    this sharp alienation --though blacks didn't! (a "dissonance" between
    their antiwar views and their views of the protesters).  Hence, I argue,
    you begin to have poll evidence for the crucial voting block that later
    became known as Reagan Democrats. (Part of Tricky Dick's "silent
    majority" pitch).   60s-bashing, Right-wing Vietnam propaganda
    ('soldiers fighting with one hand tied behind their back' etc.) -along
    with other things like race-baiting, helped to mobilize a voting public
    (and a public agenda and media spectrum) significantly to the right of
    the ones that prevailed in the 1960s.  [Hence alot of implications re.
    the earlier discussion on this point about the significance of the
    "Right" in and since the 60s.]
    So, class became a manipulated issue (indirectly --directly since we are
    all taught that ours is, of course, a classless society).  The
    working-class opposition to the war --which, could, of course, go
    different directions, potentially resonating with old WWII ideology--
    and potential solidarity among the white working class, African
    Americans, and the antiwar Left would be enormously threatening to
    elites in power and to the profitability of capitalism (recall the
    response to the coalition including labor & environmentalists in Seattle
    '99).  With the unwitting help (in my view) of some of the "activists"
    drawn to the media culture's politics of statement and display, elite
    hegemony was restored.  The targets and arguments of 60s movements have
    been largely erased in the popular media culture; only their behaviors
    (and non-threatening views of the war, racism, poverty, sexism, etc.)
    Ted Morgan

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