[sixties-l] Lemisch critique of SDS film

From: radman (resist@best.com)
Date: Sun May 20 2001 - 19:17:57 EDT

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    From: "Jesse Lemisch" <utopia1@attglobal.net>
    Date: Fri, 11 May 2001 12:48:44 -0400

    As is often the case in postmodern debate, this discussion has progressed
    (regressed?) from SDS to a film about SDS to a critique of the film, to a
    review, to a letter about the review, to responses to the letter, etc. Thus
    we are quite far away from the original reality(and indeed none of the
    critics have chosen to say a word about the problems in SDS discussed in my
    critique: there is no meat, substance or specificity in their response to
    meat, substance and specificity.). So I suggest that people see Rebels With
    a Cause if they have an opportunity, and that they read my "Students for a
    Democratic Society, Heroically Portrayed, Before the Inexplicable Fall:
    Consensus History in a Left Film," Film and History, 31. 1 (March 2001). If
    you want, e-mail me, and I'll send you a copy.

    Some participants in this debate have described themselves as distressed,
    even "depressed" by the critical language of my piece, saying that it
    reminds them of the horrible sectarian language of the late sixties. But
    there are important differences. By the time SDS was headed down the drain,
    the language emanating from debate included such colorful phrases as "Taste
    the sweetness of destiny, racist pig," and,"after the Revolution we will
    have to kill you." This is quite different from my use of such terms to
    describe the film as "stunningly uncritical" and "triumphalist," tpgether
    with specific examples. This is relatively soft descriptive language; if
    such words cause pain, maybe you're better off watching Oprah than trying to
    figure out our past failures and ways to do better. Indeed, how could we
    possibly figure these things out if we must abandon the normal language of

    By the way, 1) Hogan criticized a letter from Naomi Weisstein and myself
    published in the May 7 Nation, but Hogan dropped any mention of Weisstein
    from her rebuttal, as if I had been the sole author. It seems to me that at
    some point there is a contradiction between Hogan's call for "mutual
    respect" and her ignoring a woman's role (I notice that neither of our
    critics has chosen to deal with the material we offered about sexism in
    SDS); 2) Hogan attacked our letter to the Nation but in fact quoted words
    that appear in my Film and History piece, which she chooses not to cite.
    Another blow for mutual respect, I guess.

    Jesse Lemisch

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