1968, like 1848, was one of those landmark years in history. If certain years were momentous in a particular region, 1968 witnessed turmoil in many parts of the world. Some of these events were isolated while others were part of a seismic pattern. Just to name a few: The Tet Offensive that convinced the majority of Americans for the first time that the war in Vietnam was either unwinnable or not worth the price. Mexican Olympics that erupted in violent protests and brutal crackdown. It was also of the first time that athletes-as-individuals used the Olympic stage for political protest. The assassination of MLK led to mass riots and looting all across America. The killing of RFK who, perhaps, could have been president. Democratic Convention turned into a fiasco, leading many Americans, as the so-called ‘silent majority’, to ensure Richard Nixon’s triumphant return to politics. May 68 lunacy in France inspired many copycat protests around the world, all of them youth-centered and mixing genuine grievances with immature narcissism. The Warsaw Pact invaded Czechoslovakia to crush the Prague Spring, in effect erasing the last hope among Western leftist intellectuals that Eastern Bloc communism could liberalize. It was as if seismic stresses building up beneath the surface erupted in a series of powerful earthquakes.
So many were caught off guard and, in that sense, events of 68 could be characterized as ‘black swans’. Why were so many taken by surprise? In a way, it may have been the first Prosperity Uprising. It wasn’t about bread, land, peace, and basic rights but ‘meaning’ and ‘authenticity’. No wonder the leftist Pier Paolo Pasolini sympathized with working class police than with ‘leftist’ demonstrators whom he identified as mostly pampered bourgeois kids causing a ruckus as rite-of-passage for role-playing radicals(who were never going to be members of the working class). While students had long been involved in politics since the rise of the modern university, classic leftism had students addressing serious issues of national development and/or social justice(the real kind).
Despite incantations of Marxist slogans and preponderance of Red flags, 68 youth protesters often found themselves at odds with the working class(that proved to be considerably more ‘patriotic’ and willing to fight wars, ‘bigoted’ in their wariness of blacks and immigrants, and ‘reactionary’ in their view of sexual roles & the like). When push came to shove(and there was a lot of shoving in every direction), it wasn’t so much the students leading or representing the workers but making demands(often confounding to the elders) with little relevance among blue collar folks(though the mounting death toll in the Vietnam War did make them sour on the Establishment and WWII-style patriotism). In a nutshell, it was Meathead vs Archie Bunker. Or, consider the bitterness between the blue collar immigrant father and the college-educated son in the Arthur Penn film FOUR FRIENDS.
At the very least, students in America were protesting for peace(as they could be shipped off to Vietnam once the college deferment ran out), but what was it all about in France? After all, Europeans never had it so good than after World War II. The great wars were over, the Soviets had no plans to invade the Wes, the old empires were gone, and Europeans could direct all their attention on rebuilding their nations and growing the economy. Though not as prosperous as white Americans, the average European enjoyed unprecedented prosperity, security, and opportunities as in the 1950s and especially the 60s, the go-go years of one boom after another. Besides, with youth culture in full swing, it seemed like the young ones were just having fun, fun, fun. As the world, even the advanced West, had never experienced such mass prosperity(aka the rise of the middle class), few were aware of the consequences of higher expectations generated by wealth distribution and the culture of impatience derived from inexperienced youth(who were prone to seeing world like a rock concert or TV show); neither Elvis-mania nor Beatlemania was political but it shaped the passion of youth-driven politics in yrs to come.
The year prior to 1968, in the Zeitgeist-defining Beatles album SGT. PEPPER’S LONELY HEARTS CLUB BAND, there was a clue of what was just around the corner. “She’s Leaving Home” was Paul McCartney’s schmaltzy attempt at Schubert Lieder, but it ends on a rather unsettling note. The girl left her loving and caring parents even though they did everything right because she just gotta have more FUN, apparently what life is all about. There were earlier distress signals in Bob Dylan’s “It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue” & “Ballad of a Thin Man” in 1965 and “For What It’s Worth” by Buffalo Springfield at the end of 1966. But, in 1967, the dream of flower power and summer of love distracted even the lotus-lulled youth and radical elements of the fault lines on the verge of breaking. It seemed as if the revolution could be meditated with a drop of acid and a little help of one’s friends.
Earlier generations had associated social unrest with real problems(even if they disagreed with the agendas). Economic depression, harsh working conditions, denial of basic rights, racial oppression, imperialism, and the like. Even if one rejected John Steinbeck’s socialism, there was no denying the real problems depicted in THE GRAPES OF WRATH? Whatever one thinks of Negroes, the Civil Rights Movement was fueled by genuine righteousness. Then, wonder so many older folks scratched their thinning heads at the sight of all these ingrates, especially college kids, who had it better than any previous generation but acted most wronged.
Granted, the tradition of privileged radicals/revolutionaries has a long pedigree. After all, the Founding Fathers weren’t yeomen farmers but the colonial aristocracy. And the great majority of French Revolutionaries were well-learned men of privileged backgrounds; some were of aristocratic lineage. Still, they were men in times of real problems, all too evident for anyone with eyes to see(and nose to smell). In the Russian Revolution, the radicals of privileged backgrounds rubbed shoulders with members of lower origin. And many had paid their dues by being disowned by their families and/or spending years in exile or prison.
Back then, the privileged were few and far between; and many educated types not only had difficulty finding roles worthy of their knowledge/credentials but were few steps above poverty themselves; the middle class was still relatively small in less developed nations, and the vast majority of the population were poor, members of the toiling underclass in farms or factories.
In contrast, by 1968, the Middle Class in US and Europe made up the bulk of the population, and even the working classes had it better than ever before(and many of their children could even attend college). Granted, the world, even the richest and most advanced countries, was hardly paradisiacal for most people, and it’s only natural for every generation to have something to gripe about, but the amount of rage in 1968 seemed completely disproportionate to the problems of youth. (Perhaps, the consumer/celebrity culture created the false impression among many that they deserved to have more and enjoy more, making them less appreciative of the substantial gains over the years. Even if you’re better off than your grandparents and parents, you’d feel miserable if you compared your lot with the lifestyles of movie stars, music idols, and the like. Today, so much of ‘woke leftism’ is about narcissism of being acknowledged as ‘beautiful’. It went from ‘black is beautiful’ to ‘my black ass is beautiful and you better agree’. And much of the looting is for luxury items and the like.)
There was no doubt a ethno-racial factor, especially in the form of Jewish agitation and black rampage. Many of the leading radicals in US and Europe were Jewish, and Jews in media egged on much of the unrest, especially among blacks for whom violence became a way of life than merely a political expression; whereas whites reverted to calm after the radicalism burned out, black communities remained or became more violent following the Days of Rage — it’s like blacks were violent before BLM, during BLM, and will be after BLM, and it’s due to genetics, but the Jewish-controlled Narrative says it’s all the fault of whitey.
In terms of sheer violence, US became a hotbed for its large black population who were fueled not only by a sense of racial injustice but superiority: With Muhammad Ali and other blacks dominating boxing and sports, with black kids routinely beating up white kids in schools, and with scared whites taking flight from black blight, blacks began to see whites as chickenshit easy pickings. It was like King Kong mentality: Kong was subjugated by humans but could stomp them with gorillian fury if let loose. If American soldiers worried about Viet Cong in the jungles, white Americans began to fret about Black Kong of the urban jungle.
Canada and Australia, in contrast, had no such worries as their non-white(and black) populations were negligible. There were few nonwhites in Europe as well, but due to the imperialist legacy and the New Left’s fixation on Third World struggles as a liberating or inspirational force, there was much heated rhetoric on Neo-Imperialism, which apparently could be alleviated by favoring non-white immigrants over white natives, whereupon the Working Class, once the stalwart icons of revolution, gradually came to be shunted aside as part of the problem. (The New Left’s disenchantment with the white/native working class wasn’t that surprising, however. Though Big Labor was traditionally at odds with Big Capital, the labor unions often came to collude with Big Capital. Also, being less educated and more elementary in their emotions and responses, members of the working class were less likely to question authority and resist appeals to patriotism; they were also satisfied with less, the usual bread-and-circuses, which meant they were more-or-less content with the status quo if they got theirs. So, without asking questions, many of them, like the men in THE DEER HUNTER, did their ‘patriotic’ duty by being shipped over to Vietnam that had little to do with US national security. On the other hand, the elite college-educated boomers with their credentials came to accumulate great wealth & power, turning out worse than their elders in greed and egotism, especially as Rock culture flattered their shameless vanity and self-aggrandizement. Today, these ‘neo-liberal’ and ‘neo-conservative’ establishment types get upset when white working class folks aren’t so willing to fight in overseas wars. In the 60s, many educated boomers looked down on those serving in Vietnam as suckers and worse. Today, they kvetch about how today’s young working class whites don’t want to kill and die in Ukraine and the Middle East.)
One would think Europeans, having few nonwhites and blacks, would have considered themselves fortunate to have been spared the racial strife in the US(and Latin America). Apparently, sufficient number of Europeans were afflicted with something like radical/racial envy. Just like some white youths in America wanted to ‘touch Indians’, European radicals and rockers(for whom black music was the most vital culture) wanted to ‘touch’ the Third World. It could be in letters, as with Jean-Paul Sartre’s paeans to the Wretched of the Earth and Che Guevara(who, though white, took up Third World causes in Africa and Latin America without much success but became a christ-figure of the revolution upon death). With the Holocaust Narrative gaining ever greater traction, certain German factions committed themselves to radicalism even crazier than that practiced by Jews. In some cases, they sought to out-Jew the Jews in political purism, ironically even to the point of sympathizing with Arabs against Zionists who were regarded as having betrayed their Jewishness by becoming the New Nazis. (In the current Russo-Ukraine War, we have Jews supporting the Sub-Nazis while Russia, accused of being ‘far right’, claims to be waging war on ‘nazis’. The long shadow of World War II still affects political action and discourse.)
In popular culture, which became synonymous with personal expression in the Rock scene, 1968 was also significant as the Morning After the reveries of the so-called Summer of Love and Flower Power of 1967, a year culturally defined by THE GRADUATE and SGT. PEPPER’S LONELY HEARTS CLUB BAND album, hyped as the ultimate synthesis of pop and art. Yet, the utter fiasco of the TV special MAGICAL MYSTERY TOUR warned of the fragility of the dream of “All You Need Is Love”. Maybe the Beatles were just really good pop stars and entertainers, not the heralds of the new age, let alone prophets.
However alluring, it was just an illusion, and the world needed more than Lennon’s ‘love’ and McCartney’s playhouse antics. Good vibrations couldn’t last — Brian Wilson was toast by 68 — , and bad vibes permeated the scene, with places like Haight-Asbury going to pot real fast. The Beatles album of 1968 was simply called THE BEATLES, aka “The White Album”. Finally, in their ‘orphaned’ state minus Brian Epstein, here was the Beatles without the candy wrapper, and it was a jumble of disunity. Some remarked the album was really about McCartney and the band, Lennon and the band, Harrison and the band, and Ringo pleading in the corner, “Don’t Pass Me By”.
The Rock narrative generally holds the Rolling Stones were one step behind the Fab Four and even faltering in 1967 but finally managed to surpass the Beatles in 1968, the year of the Rude (Re)Awakening of Rock(n Roll). Of course, one could argue Stones were making more inspired music as early as 1965 with “Can’t Get No Satisfaction” and “Get Off My Cloud”. And in 1966, their “Paint It Black” and “Under My Thumb”(and even “Mother’s Little Helper”) were beyond anything on the Beatles album REVOLVER. And even though 1967 belonged to the Beatles, “Ruby Tuesday” was perhaps the finest ballad of the year.
But in 1968, fissures were showing in the Beatles Project, made worse by Yoko Ono the monkey-wench. As different as McCartney and Lennon were, their talents were complementary even as they increasingly composed apart. Even if a song was essentially composed by one, it was completed by the other in spirit of competition and camaraderie. When the Beatles first exploded on the scene, they were very tight, each member indispensable, as their image was nearly as crucial as their sound. Lose a Beatle, especially Lennon or McCartney, and it couldn’t work. It was as if each Beatle knew his exact place in the band, and even the ‘king mixer’, the ‘very clean grandfather of Paul’ in A HARD DAY’S NIGHT could mess up their chemistry. Indeed, even chemistry didn’t matter then as the band seemed a perfect compound, a joyous bundle of excess bliss to share with the world.
Other bands, in contrast, not only could weather the loss of a key member but grow stronger from it. The Byrds moved in new directions after losing the main songwriter Gene Clark. Roger Waters and Dave Gilmour more than filled Syd Barrett’s shoes. And in some ways, Stones’ second act in 1968 gathered steam with the fading of Brian Jones, one of the key founders and stylists(though not as composer). One might argue Jones’ penchant for experimentalism and florid eccentricity made others feel they’d veered too far from the raw nerves of their source music, something they had to return to; on the other hand, the success of the return owed to the sophistication honed in the artier period as the Stones in 68 not only rocked harder but presented something approaching a vision, even a worldview, though ‘philosophy’ is too strong a word.
Unlike the Beatles who burst upon the scene as a picture perfect model of success with hardly a loose end, bands like the Stones and Pink Floyd needed more time to form into unity(though, ironically, the Beatles grew increasingly divergent as Lennon and Harrison ditched the cheerfulness that McCartney valued as the hallmark of the band). The Stones that the world got to know(as a kind of staple) in the 1970s and 80s finally emerged in 68, and it took even longer for Pink Floyd to finally coalesce into the premier art rock band following the decline and departure of Syd Barrett.
Until 1968, the Stones, for all their unmistakable image and special qualities, was a band in search of itself. Henceforth, they were certain of what they were(and weren’t). In contrast, Beatles exploded on the scene in completeness, engineered to perfection as a sound machine to drive the masses of teenyboppers crazy. If the Stones, somewhat uncertain of themselves, meandered toward a unity, the Beatles increasingly became unsure of what they were, and this confusion would soon prove fatal after 1968. In retrospect, McCartney’s need to create the fantasy worlds of Sgt. Pepper and the Magical Mystery Tour as calls to unity seems indicative of the anxiety that the formula was wearing thin. And in the White Album, the fractures really showed, leading to further disarray in the following LET IT BE sessions. It was partly out of respect to George Martin that Paul McCartney and others put aside their differences one more time to create their swan song album ABBEY ROAD.
The socio-political mood of 1968 surely affected pop culture, which, however, had yet to be weaponized politically — today, it’s hard to distinguish popular culture from ‘woke’ politics(mostly centered on homos and negroes). Few movies of the late Sixties reflected the Vietnam War, and the most famous one that did, THE GREEN BERETS with John Wayne, harked back to WWII movie cliches — it might as well have been called ‘Jungles of Iwo Jima’. Political commitment was central to the Folk Movement, but it defined itself against popular/commercial culture, and one reason for Dylan’s departure was to bid farewell to obligatory didacticism — his going-electric was misconstrued by many folkies as ‘selling out’ when he was going personal; JOHN WESLEY HARDING eschewed electric instruments but continued in the personal vein and wasn’t a return to Folkie standards.
Dylan more or less set the template, and it was generally deemed uncool to get too political — it was dumb to trust authority but stupid to believe in utopia. Better to be somewhat aloof, keep one’s distance, and remain above the fray. Especially for those who’d broken free of the confines of earnest and simpleminded(as well as disingenuous) Folk Movement, there was an instinctive sense that art and politics often didn’t go together. Above all, art must be free and personal than in service to some agenda or dogma. Don’t get fooled again.
It’s telling that David Crosby mostly annoyed other band members, not because they didn’t share his doubts about the US government, but because they, as musicians, were supposed to be about the muse. Even songs laden with messages tended to be broader and more universal, like “All You Need Is Love”. Instead of taking sides, be for all sides to calm down, smell the roses, and bask in the sunshine. Or, just rock n roll all night long and live for today. There were some acts that combined tough-minded social criticism with genuine personal expression, most notably Creedence Clearwater Revival with their sharp-tongued anti-war songs, but the main appeal of events like Woodstock was sex, drugs, and being ‘groovy’ than listening to Country Joe & Fish bitch about Vietnam(or Joan Baez drone on and on about her jailed husband). Country Joe got a lot of sing-a-long cheers, but it was the Who and Santana that really brought the house(or heaven) down.
Still, 1968 was such a pivotal year for radical politics and days-of-rage antics that the culture did get polarized in a more strident way. The battle lines were drawn, and in many quarters it was no longer enough to be for ‘love’ and ‘peace’, deemed noncommittal. Flower Power wasn’t enough as more called for firepower.
Bob Dylan, holed up in some rural part of the world, was relatively spared this pressure(though pilgrims and the like trespassed on his property), though the song “All Along the Watchtower” did reflect the apocalyptic mood of the times. (Bemusing to many, he would release the country album NASHVILLE SKYLINE the following year, playing it more mellow just when storm clouds were gathering.)
The Beatles, though far more publicly exposed than Bob Dylan, were also somewhat shielded from public pressure because they’d stopped touring in 1966. Most of their musical hours were spent cooped up in the studio with an intimate crew of professionals, friends, and favorite hangers-on.
But, it was different with the Stones as they’d never stopped touring, perhaps the premier practitioners of the art at the time. Thus, the kind of pressure that had once fallen on Dylan(to serve as the spokesmen of the generation) fell on the Stones. Mick Jagger, with keen fashion sense, saw it as much as an opportunity as a burden. In the year of violence and commitment, the Stones could be stalwart emblems of the Zeitgeist.
Yet, if the Stones took sides, they could come across as preachy and topical, undermining their image of cool nihilism and sneering indifference. (The agit-prop antics of Jefferson Airplane dated fast.) How could the Stones seem ‘radical’ while avoiding the pitfall of partisanship? Instead of attaching the Stones to a particular cause, why not invoke the Devil? This way, Stones could pose as mavericks and revelers giving a flaming middle finger to the Establishment(but also to just about everything else, thus maintaining their cred among those who regarded radicalism as the new church lady antics). What began as a mere game with Satanic Majesties Request could take on darker shades of terror and outrage. And even if Satan stood for evil, who was more radical than him? And how clever to play it cool with the lord of hell fire, just like blacks use ‘bad’ to mean ‘good’? It might strike a chord with certain radicals, especially the Camille Paglias of the time who preferred the Marquis(de Sade) over Marx.
After all, only a part of Sixties radicalism was to fight for justice and save the world. The other part, perhaps more enticing, was the promise of any-means-necessary to bring about the revolution, a mentality that could justify any amount of libidinous exultation in anarchy, destruction, and violence. As Jean-Paul Sartre posited in his play “The Devil and the Good Lord”, history can only move forward by the good learning to act bad against the worse. The helter-skelter energies unleashed by Rock inspired the young radicals of 68 to be downright ‘Nietzschean’ in their attitude toward the ‘struggle’. Even more than the characters of Dostoevsky’s THE DEVILS, they delighted in the vision of burning down the world in order to save it. No wonder Jean-Luc Godard, of THE WEEKEND notoriety(that called for mass murder of the bourgeoisie and proto-khmer-rouge-like destruction of civilization for Year Zero reset), collaborated with the Stones on the film ONE PLUS ONE(also released as SYMPATHY FOR THE DEVIL). Mick Jagger was nothing if not savvy and clever, and his deviltry(which was just an act) made for acceptable ‘politics’ and great music that finally unloosed the Stones from their doubts and uncertainties. They could have the cake and eat it too. They gained ‘street fighting’ cred with the radicals but kept a cool distance from partisan politics.
Even though the Rolling Stones probably drew inspiration from Federico Fellini for the circus motif and collaborated with Jean-Luc Godard in his then humorless and puritanical ‘Maoist’ phase, their closest cinematic counterpart was perhaps Luis Bunuel whose 1965 short film SIMON OF THE DESERT could almost be a direct inspiration for the Stone’s flirtation with the demonic. Stones, like Bunuel, was more ‘enfant terrible’ than childlike(like Fellini and the Beatles). And they were never so obsessively cerebral(and near-‘autistic’) like Godard who fell into a psychological rabbit hole(from which he never found his way out). Bunuel had a love/hate fascination with the Catholic Church, a mix of grudging respect and mocking revulsion. He rejected the faith but not the attraction for both the moralist(as the church was not without noble qualities and did much good work) and the satirist(who couldn’t resist spotting all the fraudulence and hypocrisies). He was like a boy dazzled by a magician’s tricks but irrepressibly driven by some mischievous urge(and sense of moral duty) to expose them. Even though he regarded the church as the whore to Power, there could be no whore without the Madonna. Profanity thrives on purity, like stain shows best on a clean sheet. Stain on stain is rather pointless. The church’s claim of spiritual purity made fun the game of pointing to its hypocrisy with devilish glee.
Nevertheless, Bunuel regarded his anti-clericalist mockery to be moral as part of a broader critique of power. His anarchism was a genuine ideology, a way to subvert, expose, and weaken all power structures so that people could be freer in thought and action. The Catholic Church may have regarded him as a heretic and blasphemer, but he had no interest in Devil Worship.
In contrast, Stones(or Mick Jagger) flirted with dark forces in songs like “Sympathy for the Devil”. Also, their ‘anarchism’ was about attitude than philosophy. Choice of anarchy was a smart move for its association with leftism but also for its ambiguity to mean just about anything, appealing even to ‘rightist’ libertarian types, much like certain elements of the Punk community did later. Of course, Mick Jagger’s Satanism was only an act. What need for the Devil in a world without God? It’d be like rooting for a team without another to play against. Because satanism was just a game, Stones’ sensibility overlapped with that of Bunuel. On some level, it was a way to poke fun at bourgeois pieties while also flattering bourgeois aspirations toward modernity and bohemianism, as the bourgeoisie was Janus-like in looking both backward and forward, in striving for respectability while savoring irreverence. (In a similar vein, the Hell’s Angels, though often aligned with right-wing pro-war politics, had romantic appeal to the Left as rebels and mavericks.)
Paradoxically however, perhaps the Stones’ put-on sardonic satanism was even more delightfully devilish precisely because of the wit and sophistication, an irreverence that leveled at the Devil himself. Devil in Hell might appreciate a good roast. The superior tend to be aloof, and it’s the dimwits who are simpleminded, which explains why the more blatantly satanic hard rock(and heavy metal) register as stupid and retarded. God or Devil, there’s an appreciation for superior qualities over inferior ones. (In a way, Christianity lent the Devil added luster because its new conception of God favored the simpleminded, the inferior and meek. While the Jewish God favored the good and righteous, He clearly favored the clever and superior over dumb and slow — David didn’t beat Goliath by turning the other cheek. Not so the Christian concept of God that favor the lamb among men, the Forrest Gumps and Simple Jacks. If there’s room for the superior in Jewish spiritual space, not so much in the Christian counterpart. Then, to get a taste of the superior in the Christosphere, there’s the Faustian temptation with the Devil who appreciates narcissism, vanity, and arrogance.)
The inferior, being simpleminded, make for better acolytes and sycophants, but their doglike loyalty is dull, lacking in spark and agency. The problem faced by any institution is the search for both talent and loyalty, but the talented tend to see through the institutional BS whereas the the loyal tend to be dim of mind and creativity. It’s no wonder so many organizations and movements that begin with talent and inspiration grow mediocre in dogmatism and/or cravenness. (Often, the only reliable way to ensure the loyalty of the superior is to offer more rewards, whereby they tolerate the BS for more status and privilege, but then, there’s no telling what they might do with the power once they’ve gained enough of it.) The superior want to go their own way, which explains the love/hate thing between God and Lucifer whose treachery was the product of his superiority over the other angels who were less keen to think and act outside the box. The angel whose talents God prized most proved most disloyal.
Nothing newer, greater, or superior is possible without those individuals who can break free of the paradigm and see the world anew. As cursed as Adam and Eve came to be, there would have been no progress without the disobedience in regards to the Tree of Forbidden Knowledge; there would only have been perpetual obedience in the Edenic womb. Throughout the Bible, God prefers those with strong personalities(made more in His image), but such qualities tend to be defiant, even against the will of God. Every prophet is both a loyal servant and radical rebel who revises divinity in some way. And Jesus had to play the ‘devilish’ role(in Jewish eyes) to bear the seeds of a new religion as the new vision of divinity.
Mick Jagger, being non-religious, opted for an ‘intellectual’ riff on Satanism. A man of superior wit and talent, he not only acted the publicity agent and apologist of the Devil but the jester and mocker as well, and it isn’t always clear who or what is being skewered. Apparently, everyone, you and me, God and the Devil himself. And unlike the simpleminded tributes to the Devil, Jagger’s wily exposition has a quasi-moral dimension, portraying the Devil not merely as the Prince of Darkness but a figure of considerable empathy who understands and plays all sides. So, he was there with the communists who killed the Czar and his ministers; he was there with the Nazis in the bloodlands. He had a role in the death of Kennedy, but so did we, with enough blame to go around, which makes all of us both guilty and innocent. There’s a savoring of our temptation towards evil but also the intimation that Devil is a personification of our own wickedness, a humble servant who serves as a scapegoat for all our sins, much like the man who gives his heart to “Lady Jane”. The whole song and act are a remarkable jumble of defiance and deference, comedy and tragedy, romp and terror, what with Jagger strutting around like a freako-tarzan mutant, half-aristocrat and half-ape.
1968 was certainly the year to play the game of devil as old certainties were collapsing without new ones to fill the void. This faustian sense of liberation could be exhilarating, even triumphant, but also troubling, with trepidation and dread hanging over the future. In 1967, Velvet Underground released a mostly unnoticed album with the song “Heroin” that conveyed both the highs and lows of the drug. And Jimi Hendrix’s “Purple Haze”, Zombies’ “Time of the Season”, and the Doors’ “Light My Fire”(and “The End”, later used effectively in APOCALYPSE NOW) weren’t quite in sync with the vibes of the Summer of Love. They portended something darker around the corner, the gloom after the bloom, the year of the plunge.
In 1968, Federico Fellini’s “Toby Dammit” segment(adapted from Edgar Allan Poe’s “Never Bet the Devil Your Head”) in SPIRTS OF THE DEAD trilogy perfectly captured the Zeitgeist. A theological tone permeated Bob Dylan’s album John Wesley Harding with songs like “I Dreamed I Saw St. Augustine” and “Ballad of Frankie Lee and Judas Priest”, a tale of soul for sale. If Lennon had sense, he’d realized Yoko was the demon-witch in his life. The Stones ignited with sulfuric alchemy with “Jumping Jack Flash”. And the Beatles’ “Helter Skelter” and “Happiness Is a Warm Gun”, Iron Butterfly’s “In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida”(a key inspiration for hard rock and heavy metal to come), Steppenwolf’s “Born to be Wild”, Big Brother and Holding Company’s “Piece of My Heart”, Dusty Springfield’s “Son of a Preacher Man”, Deep Purple’s “Hush”, and Hendrix’s “Voodoo Child” all added to the spirit of times.
Even Simon & Garfunkel’s “Mrs. Robinson” and Donovan’s “Hurdy Gurdy Man” were rather uncharacteristic in their cynicism and ambiguity. In counter-sentiment, as if to lament the fall and reaffirm the good, there were “While My Guitar Gently Weeps”, “The Weight”(by the Band), and “Stormy”(by Classics IV).
The social upheavals of 1968 took on a devilish glow because so much was motivated by egotism and narcissism than real need or basic justice. May 68 movement in Paris was sparked by sexual policy involving coeds. So much rage over trifles. And the black riots of the latter half of the Sixties were fueled less by frustration than celebratory rapture that it was time to whup the ‘honkeys’, rape the ‘bitches’, and loot the stores.
All that deviltry, especially at a time when youth no longer believed in God, made it all an orgiastic ritual. When Robert Johnson the bluesman met the Devil at the crossroads, he was a believer confronted with a matter of life and death; it was no game. It wasn’t merely a question of attitude, style, or outlook but of one’s very soul. To resist meant to remain with God, and to give into temptation meant eternal fame at the price of eternal damnation. Thus, there was gravitas to the decision, one that couldn’t be reversed or reset, as in a game. That element of conviction made the temptation more enticing but also more frightful. In contrast, it was just a game with Jagger whose dalliance with the Devil wasn’t at a crossroads but at a cafe, not to bargain for the soul but to exchange business cards. (The most devilish figure to enter the Stones’ world was surely Allen Klein, a crook among crooks.)
Elvis, also being a believer, lived with a heavy heart. When designated as the “King of Rock n Roll”, he replied, “There’s but one king.” For all his money and fame, he believed in Jesus. And for all his compromises and betrayals, he considered himself a man of God committed to the righteous path. Given his faith, he could never come to terms with his Faustian stardom. Elvis sang furious Rock n Roll but also soulful white gospel, and the two sides of the man never resolved themselves and went on pretending one didn’t affect the other.
In contrast, consider Mick Jagger’s mock-evangelical style as he sings “Sympathy for the Devil” in the Rock n Roll Circus. He imitates gospel preachers doing their tricks before their flock, but it’s about salivation than salvation, taunting and teasing with a bag of devilish delights. His delivery of “You Can’t Always Get What You Want”, with its mock appeal to moderation from a mouth watering for more, is truly one of a kind, especially when he toys with the lyrics and keeps blurting, “You can’t always get the MAN you want, honey” to a female fan. The sermon and the venom become one with Jagger. His mock-gospel rockers suggests at the behind-the-curtain dealings between god and devil, that’s all it’s all just two sides of the same coin(or groin). In contrast, when Elvis breaks into a Gospel after the Rock n Roll numbers, he’s fully into the spirit and for the duration feels saved by the light, indeed a million light years away from the devil-music of Rock n Roll. If there’s an angelic presence in THE ROLLING STONES ROCK N ROLL CIRCUS, it is the lovely Marianne Faithfull singing “Something Better”, but she looks rather dazed as if she smoked something off the Forbidden Tree.
In THE ROLLING STONES ROCK N ROLL CIRCUS, John Lennon as special guest belts out “Yer Blues”, a pounding number. It’s one hell of a song but pales next to what Jagger and Stones pull off with “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” and “Sympathy for the Devil”. There’s more of an intriguing and involving aspect to Stones music owing to the ‘scramble’ element. Even though the Stones weren’t big on improvisation(compared to jam bands) and their songs were all-worked out, there was an air of unpredictability about them, as if the song is at a crossroads with every phrase. Jagger operated like a quarterback with several options, to throw, hand off, or run with the ball. It was as if the song might change halfway through depending on Jagger’s shift in mood(or an idea suddenly popping into his head); in this sense, Jagger was as much an actor(who must project an illusion of lived life) as a performer(whose routine is expected). Jagger makes the song accelerate, slow, lurch this way and that, make wild turns. At every moment, it feels alive, like an animal wandering free outside the cage. The Stones were not set in stone.
In contrast, there’s a polished and perfected, even immaculate, quality to Beatles songs. There’s a set course, like in the bobsled event, or an established routine, like in ice skating. So, even as the Beatles could be fast and loud, you knew what you were getting. You always expect “Paperback Writer” to sound like “Paperback Writer”. But even familiar Stones songs sound anew because of Jagger’s erratic energy and style, his eccentric passive/aggressive way of hyperventilating, alternately brooding and yowling, cajoling and demanding. Feminists who bitched about the misogyny simply didn’t get it. Jagger’s pleading for sympathy wouldn’t have had the same appeal without the abusiveness. His shtick was that of the charming rogue, the bad boy who can get on the good side of any woman.
The defining character of “Sympathy for the Devil” and “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” probably owes more to the black gospel than the blues because the preacher-man must constantly grapple for ways to engage and energize the gathering. And there’s this grasping-for-tricks in the Stones at their best.
As remarkable as “Yer Blues” is, the pattern once established hardly allows for variation. It follows a set path. Perhaps, John Lennon realized this very limitation, though Beatles had their own advantages beyond the Stones’ own limitations. Perhaps, Lennon’s most Stones-like song is “Instant Karma” that derives its power from tumultuous rhythm and sudden shifts of mood, like waves along a seashore.
Another key difference was the Beatles were samplers whereas Stones were ’embodiers’. This is evident when we compare THE WHITE ALBUM with BEGGAR’S BANQUET. The Beatles album samples various styles, and there’s always a distance between the band and the song(with the exceptions of personal songs like “Julia”). Take “Rocky Raccoon” where Paul McCartney does a pale imitation of a hillbilly. The parodic intro further intrudes between McCartney and the song, a pity as the main body is rather nice in a corny way. Same goes for John Lennon’s “Hey Bungalow Bill”. And as first-rate as “Yer Blues” and “Helter Skelter” are, they come across as Lennon DOING the blues and McCartney DOING Hendrix.
In contrast, the element of ‘do’ vanishes when Jagger’s magic comes to life. He doesn’t do the blues or country but becomes it. The Beatles were like those impeccable British actors who can master the role but never quite become it, whereas Jagger’s approach had something of Method Acting where the performer becomes the performance. Nothing could be further from a Negro or a Hillbilly than Mick Jagger with his upper middle class background and enrollment in London School of Economics, but when he sings “No Expectations”(or “Wild Horses”) as a bluesy country number, it sounds real, as if he’d been living in the woods crooning at the moon half-drunk on moonshine. The distance dissolves, and he morphs into the music and the culture from which it sprung.
If the Stones’ anarcho-radical fulminations endeared them to some on the Left in 1968, the return of Elvis Presley paralleled the return of Richard Nixon on the national stage. Their falls and rises oddly coincided. Elvis was on top of the world in the late 50s as the one-and-only but then served in the army as one-of-the-many. But even if he could have avoided the military, he would have been left in the dust by the Beatles, Beach Boys, Dylan, and the new sensibility. Original Rock n Roll had become old hat, and some even dusted it off as a fad in the early 60s when Brill Building Pop and Folk Music captured the charts and/or the hearts.
Upon leaving the army, Elvis spent the next several years making forgettable Hollywood movies at the insistence of his manager Tom Parker. And yet, his movie career may have spared him the ignominy of being rendered irrelevant in the rapidly changing landscape of pop, something that the Beatles intuitively grasped, which accounts for their evolution in style. (In contrast, Dave Clark Five started out almost as strong but failed to change with the times.)
Prior to modernism and popular culture(later to fuse in Pop Art), an artistic style/expression may have had relevance for decades, even centuries or millennia. Ancient Egyptians and Persians were defined by aesthetic consistency over immensely long periods. Same could be said of Byzantine iconography. And even in the more dynamic Western Europe, a certain style might inspire artists for a century or more, at the very least several decades.
But, modernism’s avant-garde posturing and pop culture’s impatience for the ‘next big thing’ made it so that a certain style was fortunate to last a decade. Also, because of modern communication and democratic opportunities, any style was likely to be exhausted sooner than later due to mass/sudden participation. When the Beatles burst upon the scene, countless youths tried to be the Next Beatles; when psychedelia happened, everyone(even the Monkees and the Cowsills) got onboard. What seemed edgy and promising was overwhelmed by excess of input. In INSIDE LLEWYN DAVIS, the prospective folk singer treks from NY to Chicago only to realize he’s just one of the many with the same aspirations. Folk music was around forever, but the Folk Movement was exhausted in a few years.
At any rate, it was precisely because Elvis was absent from the music scene due to stints in the military and Hollywood that a comeback could be hyped as an event. As he’d been sidelined by other obligations, it could be argued he wasn’t beaten by the new acts. He wasn’t dethroned but had just been taking a break. And even though his style of music was passé in 1968, it was also refreshing and reassuring just for that reason. When everything was changing so fast, socially and culturally, his ‘classic Rock n Roll’ stood as a pillar of stability and certainty, more than a little ironic because, a mere decade before, he had outraged so many people as that ‘white ni**er’ doing lewd things with his pelvis and making girls shriek and wet their pants in orgasmic pandemonium.
By 1968, he was the culturally conservative figure, even though some of the licentious set pieces in the Comeback TV special would have been unthinkable in the 50s, or even the early 60s. But then, it wasn’t entirely ironic as Elvis was always deeply conservative on some level, even when tearing up the stage as a young lad in the mid-50s. (One wonders what he would have been like had he been born five yrs later and in a less culturally conservative milieu. Would he have been like Jim Morrison?)
Indeed, it was this culturally conservative side of him that proved useful in making him palatable to the nation. Sure, he sang and danced like a ‘white ni**er’ — in some ways, his act even put off Negroes who found Rock n Roll low and vulgar, rather like a new minstrel show with white kids trying to act even more black than black — , but he called older folks ‘sir’ and ‘ma’am’ and loved his mother like a good ole southern boy. He might make your daughter shriek like a crazed slut but address you as ‘sir’. And yes, he sang gospels too and believed Jesus was bigger than Fats Domino and Hank Williams put together. In this, there was something similar to the packaging of Sidney Poitier and Elvis Presley. One side of Poitier played it angry and aggressive, like Marlon Brando. He could shout up a storm, but he also had to be presented as a Good Upright Negro, in some ways more white than white, or good enough to marry your daughter, egad.
While change is exciting, it can also be confusing and frightening, as if the world lost its center of gravity. And in 1968, Richard Nixon and Elvis Presley, different as they were, stood as the rock in a world of too much rolling. In terms of star power, the only politician of the Sixties with appeal comparable to Elvis was John F. Kennedy, but Presley, for all the cultural revolutions he set off, was no fan of radicalism. Indeed, in the ensuing years, he would become the counter-countercultural face of the anti-drug campaign, even visiting Nixon in the White House to offer his support. (According to Albert Goldman’s biography, Elvis didn’t consider himself a junkie because he took prescription drugs.)
How Nixon and Presley made a comeback in the same year is one of those great stories of American History. Of course, triumph was followed by tragedy. Nixon was immolated in the Watergate scandal and the deep state conspiracy to unseat him. Elvis’s drug use and paranoia grew finally caught up with him nearly a decade after his comeback.
Still, both loom in some ways as the most momentous figures in politics and culture, though not necessarily in a good way. Nixon’s foreign policy moves, especially with China, had tremendous long-term consequences, and the scandal that destroyed him is still the standard, fairly or unfairly, by which all later scandals have been compared.
Most troubling of all, what had once been deemed scandalous about Nixon has become the staple of how the entire system now operates under Jewish Power. Jews did most to discredit Nixon as an abuser of power, but their gangster antics now dwarf Nixon(and Joe McCarthy) by 1000x. As for Elvis, it’s difficult to think of a lone figure in pop culture that comes anywhere near his stature. Even though the Elvis-that-mattered was from mid-to-late fifties — to be sure, he had some stunning hits after 68, especially “Suspicious Minds”, maybe his best song, and “Kentucky Rain” — , there has simply never been anyone quite like him.
THE ROLLING STONES ROCK N ROLL CIRCUS offers lots of talent, but the power derives from chemistry and teamwork. As talented as John Lennon was, his star power owed to being of the Fab Four. Also true of Mick Jagger, who would have been lost without the Stones. David Lee Roth was full of flamboyance in the 80s with songs like “Jump” but went limp after leaving Van Halen. The Who, Pink Floyd, CCR, the Clash, Led Zeppelin, Beach Boys, Byrds, and etc. were great acts but as bands. It’s hard to imagine any member of the aforementioned bands making much of a mark on his own. Bob Dylan and Michael Jackson were great lone acts, but Dylan had to elevate Rock to an art form(no mean feat) to make himself matter. And Jackson had to do a lot of dancing and fireworks on stage to be a star. There was Bruce Springsteen, but he needed the full blast of his outsized band to make it work. Jimi Hendrix without a guitar would have been lost. Jim Morrison might have been bigger but was too much of a lout spiraling out of control.
In contrast, what is remarkable the ’68 ELVIS COMEBACK is the King need not do much to be a star. He could just strut on stage with a guitar and smile a little, say a little, and have a little fun, and he’s a star. His stardom seems effortless(though it did take a lot of effort). Since the 1950s, billions have been born, and yet, there’s been no one quite like Elvis, which suggests he wasn’t merely one of the million but one of the billion. Even though the Sixties Rockers were louder and more rambunctious, they seem like boys next to Elvis the Man. Indeed, it was one reason why Elvis couldn’t respect them, especially as the acts grew scruffier with the passing years(and by 1968, the unkempt look was in). One thing Elvis had in common with Frank Sinatra was the pride of looking good and proper, and he looks smashing in his comeback, whereas most of the acts in The Rock n Roll Circus look like they barely washed after crawling out of bed.
Elvis Presley’s stardom has often been associated a remark by Sam Philips, “If I could find a white man who had the Negro sound and the Negro feel, I could make a billion dollars.” One might say Philips’ vision came true with Elvis, but it’s too reductionist as Elvis was much more than ‘white guy + sing black’. Elvis was much more than the sum of the parts of the ‘white + black’ formula; he was one of a kind. Though heavily promoted, he was a natural, and it simply wouldn’t have worked the same way with anyone else. (Even though WALK THE LINE is a biopic about Johnny Cash, Joaquin Phoenix’s performance seems as inspired by Elvis as by Cash.)
Though of Anglo origin, Elvis looked rather ambiguous and even exotic in ethnicity. A sultry Latin perhaps, like Rudolph Valentino, Victor Mature(half-Italian), or Sal Mineo. Or earthy Slav or restless Gypsy. (There’s even some Jewish lineage, it’s been said.) When the blokes of the British Invasion poured into the US, they looked nothing like Elvis despite the common ethnicity. Like Cary Grant and Rock Hudson, Elvis tanned easily, rather atypical of the average Anglo or Northern European who burn than tan under the sun. He also had one hell of a name, so perfectly befitting one destined for legendary status.
He wasn’t merely handsome but uniquely so, which set him apart from the generic good-lookers. He had perhaps the most envious quality in a person: Winning personality, something to die for, to kill for, like in the John Knowles novel A SEPARATE PEACE where Phineas ends up dead as the result of an act of envy/resentment on the part of Gene, his best friend. Gene has no apparent reason or justification to cause harm to Phineas but for the fact that he just can’t get his hands on what makes Phineas so magnetic, non-conforming yet adored by authority. He breaks more rules than anybody but is most endearing to the faculty. Elvis had that very quality.
Stardom has many features, and a star in music is fortunate enough to have the looks, the moves, the voice, the charm, and a bit of humor. Most stars have one or maybe two of these qualities. Many fine singers lacked the looks. Some looked good but weren’t the best singers. Some could sing and do the moves but were short on charm. Elvis had it all, which made it seem so unfair. He could even be a bit self-deprecating because his stellar quality as a star was unquestionable. Few stars have the full package, and Elvis was one of them.
In this, he was similar to Muhammad Ali. There were other boxers in history who were as dominant and skilled, but it’s hard to think of another boxer with the qualities of a star. He not only possessed the moves in the ring and perhaps the best chin in heavyweight history but had the looks, the humor, and the personality. He could do things and get away it because HE did it. He could call Joe Frazier a ‘gorilla’ and have people in stitches. By any fair measure, his harassment of Sonny Liston prior to the fight was unethical and unsportsmanlike, to say the least, but it was funny because HE did it.
In one way, one might say the West survived 1968, especially the US with its race riots, anti-war protests, & assassinations, and France with its shocking May 68 lunacy that came out of nowhere. The system proved far more resilient than anyone assumed. And as the years passed, 68 seemed to become just another memory. (The Czech revolution failed too. Though anti-communist, therefore ostensibly anti-leftist, it was also a liberalist rebellion against the culturally conservative nationalism of the communist ruled state.)
Yet, in another way, 1968, far from being a moment of radical failure to bring about change — Nixon became president and Charles De Gaulle survived — , came to serve as the template for future power politics. Just like the Tet Offensive failed to take South Vietnam but served as a crucial lesson for the North to regroup and plan for long-term strategy, the Western radicals who failed in 68 would eventually get their college degrees and become entrenched in academia, media, and the state, forever altering the cultural and political tempo of the West. But, even they weren’t the biggest long-term beneficiaries of 68. The biggest winners who learned from 68 were the super-capitalists, globalists, Jews, and the deep state.
Any side can learn a trick or two from the enemy and turn it around. After World War II, the capitalist-imperialist West was challenged by insurgencies all around the world, but by the 1980s, the US had developed an effective counter-insurgency program by promoting its own insurgencies(even if astro-turfed). The US made Nicaragua bleed with the Contra ‘rebellion’, and the Soviets became mired in Afghanistan in what the US engineered as the New Vietnam. Jewish-controlled US got really good at this, especially in the Middle East and North Africa by aiding one bunch of Jihadis, radicals, and extremists to cause never-ending trouble for Arab/Muslim regimes deemed ‘hostile’ to the West. So, what had been used against the West could be reconfigured and used by the West.
Same seems to have happened with the 68 unrest. The powers-that-be carefully studied the politics of exuberance, anarchy, rage, immaturity, impatience, & nihilism and weaponized their understanding to push all manner of faux-radical movements and, of course, ‘color revolutions’.
Authorities were taken aback by the events of 68. De Gaulle sought refuge in Germany. The Democratic Party elders couldn’t make heads or tails of the situation, and Hubert Humphrey seemed utterly flustered along with his peers. The police was also taken by surprise and easily provoked by protests and rampages far more vulgar, irreverent, and deranged than in previous times.
And yet, just as the establishment couldn’t make sense of things, neither could the radicals, rebels, and revelers seize the moment. May 68 in France encompassed a wide range of political views, from far-left Maoists to neo-Leninists to Third World romantics to sexual libertines to the traditional working class(until the French proletariat finally stood against the young radicals who seemed hell-bent on destruction for destruction’s sake). Unlike the Bolsheviks, Chinese communists, and Cuban revolutionaries(and the Civil Rights Movement with fixed goals and strategy), 68 was like a fire that burned out of control but also burned out fast. There were too many voices, too little discipline and focus. When the dust settled, the Establishment was still in control, if only because the radicals were so out-of-control.
Now, what if the Power could find ways to engineer such of ‘day of rage’ revolutions? In a way, it’d be like taking a page out of the fascist manual, which, in opposing radical leftism, nevertheless appropriated many of the methods and rhetoric of revolution to push against it in favor of corporatism?
In a similar way, could the Power learn from 68 and engineer/exploit(often via so-called NGO’s) insta-crises, mini-hysterias, and cartoon-revolutions to effect change? And, of course, the Power need not worry about street revelers taking power for themselves as they’d be animated by passion than organization. They’d be used like fire and smoke by Neanderthals to hunt the cave bear. In so-called ‘color revolutions’, the US instigates mass uprisings to bring down existing regimes and to install puppets waiting in the wings. The crowds are handed cookies to shake the system to the ground but not consulted as to who should be the new rulers. Of course, there is something about ‘democracy’ and ‘elections’, but all the candidates are those handpicked and funded by the empire. So-called ‘liberal democracy’ is just a game of Imperial Democracy where all the so-called democracies, even the one in the US, are filled with interchangeable members of the New World Order.
One thing 68 taught the powers-that-be is that people, especially those affected by pop culture and hedonism, could go crazy over the stupidest thing. True, there was genuine anti-war movement in the US in 68, but big part of the attraction was the thrill of rock-n-roll anarchy, especially with the Yippies added to the mix. And in key respects, May 68 in France was about spoiled middle class kids playing at being radicals, rather like Marie Antoinette playing at shepherdess. Not that these middle class students didn’t have legitimate issues — many were the first in their family to go to college — , but their sense of outrage seemed entirely disproportionate to their problems? What did Che Guevara and Mao have to do with conditions in France? Also, unlike the US then embroiled in Vietnam, France had given up its empire for good. So much of the outrage was too much too late.
Still, what lessons to be learned! So many people driven to such mania and lunacy over trifles and who-knows-what. And as Mao understood all too well during the Cultural Revolution(or Maomania) at its height, young dummies can be made to go crazy over just about anything.
Since the rise of the boomers, so many social/cultural movements came to rely on mass-recruiting-and-inducing the young to get all riled up about certain issues(always chosen by the Power, especially Jewish). Thus, 68-ism has been turned into a formula of power, especially via social media. Just as the internet could be used by individuals to expose and criticize the Power, it could be used by the Power to spellbind, ‘hystericalize’, and mobilize the masses. Sometimes, the Power exploits real grievances, like in the Arab Spring. Who could deny the Arab masses had long-standing complaints about stagnant social orders and corrupt political systems? But, such rush of childish exuberance and anarchic nihilism was easily exploited by the West against certain regimes targeted for destruction. Notice the Western media overlooked protests in Saudi Arabia(and even helped the government crush them) whereas much bigger issue was made of the strife in places like Libya, where NATO exploited the crisis to bomb the nation to smithereens and take out Gaddaffi. The Power had the same plan for Syria but for the intervention of Russia and Iran.
The Iranian Revolution, for all its problems and betrayals, was a true movement fired up by mass rage at the Shah regime installed by the US. In contrast, so-called ‘color revolutions’ exploit genuine disaffection in certain nations to create a sudden power vacuum to be filled with vassals chosen by Jews and globalists(or the keep the vacuum void of order and stability to prevent the nation from ever forming into a viable anti-imperial player again).
The Ukraine crisis of 2014 had elements of 68-ism. It was geared to hit the existing regime out of the blue. The masses were driven into frenzy by fake news and propaganda spread by social media controlled by Jews. Ukrainians with a thousand complaints entered the fray with hopes for a better future. But it was really a puppet play with the strings held by Jews. Once the pro-Russian government was toppled, the angry but disorganized Ukrainians had no say in the new government. Their rage and violence had been used, but the new government had already been groomed by the US State Department.
2020 in the US had all the hallmarks of 1968 but with one crucial difference. If the Power in 68 was genuinely shaken and hoped to weather the storm, the events of 2020 were engineered by by the Power, namely the Jews(with their control of media, internet, academia) and the deep state. Antifa and BLM are Jewish-funded goon squads. The police were ordered to take the knee to the thugs and stand down while cities burned. (Kyle Rittenhouse was persecuted for trying to be a good citizen while the police did nothing to stop Kenosha from burning.) FBI and CIA also took the knee to BLM thugs. While cities were sacked and innocent people were attacked, city officials painted entire streets with BLM signs. FBI didn’t pursue BLM and Antifa thugs. Politicians egged on the thugs and louts. Those arrested were slapped on the wrist. Along with Covid, it was a power-move by the System to destroy Donald Trump and to intimidate populism into silence. You don’t have to be a weatherman to know which way the wind blows, but what if you could control the weather itself? Such demonic force, it deserves no sympathy.
The 1990 Adrian Lyne movie JACOB’S LADDER(written by Bruce Joel Rubin as a kind of juiced-up THE MANCHURIAN CANDIDATE) touched on the theme of the Power appropriating an element of the Counterculture for its own purposes. (Lyne, along with countryman Alan Parker, made movies in the most sensationalistic and obnoxious manner, but the style works in this strange movie, somewhat similar to ANGEL HEART, one of Parker’s more intriguing works.) This hallucinatory tale of tormented psyche hints at a deep state experiment in 1968 to turn soldiers into more efficient killers. The plan was by blackmailing a hippie LSD-maker into concocting chemicals that break down man’s inhibitions against bloodshed. Apparently, the government felt too many men fought in defensive posture, prioritizing staying alive than killing the enemy. In unleashing their hunter-killer instinct, the men might be more willing to charge into the jungle to take on the Viet Cong. However, the experiment goes awry with unintended consequences when the soldiers turn against one another. Their killer instincts are riled up to such degree that they become downright demonic in their bloodlust and slaughter anyone, even one another.
Of course, no such experiment was ever carried out by the US government, though the CIA did recruit chemists to administer certain substances on unsuspecting individuals(some of whom thought they’d gone mad and committed suicide). But, even if nothing so outlandish like the experiment in JACOB’S LADDER was ever carried out, the scenario serves as a useful metaphor for how the Power can take something associated with rebellion or sub-culture, turn it on its head, and use it for its own purposes.
In the late 60s, the state lost control of the narrative. Both the establishment wings of the Democratic Party and the GOP didn’t know what to make of the social unrest burgeoning everywhere over so many issues. But in a world remade by boomers who took over as the new establishment, so much of the social ‘unrest’ since the early 90s have been partly engineered and directed from the top. Just like the soldiers in JACOB’S LADDER are made crazy and end up slaughtering one another, we now see young NPC-like Americans hating and attacking fellow Americans. We see Slavs attacking Slavs in Ukraine(and of course, the scandals about bio-weapon labs).
When riots and protests broke out in the late 60s, many middle class people stood with authority to have order restored. The fact that Nixon won in 68 and then even bigger in 72 was sure indication that even many Democrat hoi polloi wanted a law-and-order candidate. When there’s so much craziness in the streets, one had no choice but to side with the Power. But in 2020, it was the Power that inflamed much of the ‘radical’ rage and directed it at decent law-abiding Americans. When the very institution of authority releases the furies upon the hapless populace whom it is supposed to serve and protect, what are the people to do? What historical juncture are we at?
Good explanation of Color Revolutions, which the State Department used to replace Ukraine's leadership in 2014 pic.twitter.com/pWHXvdTmBD
— Echo Chamber (@echo_chamberz) March 11, 2022