The Hell-Hole Spectator

Woodstock Authoritarians

While fulminating about the lack of "civility" today, they whimsically recall one of the stupidest and most destructive protest periods ever.

By 8.21.09

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The unruly left-wing protesters of yesteryear have become the authoritarians of today, criticizing and clamping down on protests far tamer and more sober than the ones they engineered in the 1960s.

Notice that as liberals fulminate about the sudden lack of "civility" in the country and the supposedly chilling spread of nihilism and protest across the land they simultaneously celebrate this month's anniversary of the hideously stupid and destructive Woodstock festival. Somehow the Woodstock protests were charming and harmless, according to their moral calculations, while today's raucous townhall meetings are perilous to the future of the republic.

Last week the Washington Post, in the midst of its pooh-poohing of the townhall protests, ran a piece by Jeanne McManus that extolled the "spirit" of Woodstock. McManus whimsically recalled a lost opportunity to attend that glorious event.

"A guy I hardly knew" tendered the "loosely issued" invitation, but McManus passed, owing to an editing job she had taken ten days earlier. "As that VW bus rolled north," she was stuck in a cubicle, "wearing a skirt, blouse, stockings and shoes." She adds importantly, "women couldn't wear pants in that office. I might as well have been bound with rope."

"I had driven myself smack dab into a brick wall of obligation and responsibility," she sighs. But in a searing self-assessment she acknowledges that she "probably" wasn't ready for a "long weekend of camping, chaos, wet sleeping bags, partying, sex, drugs and rock and roll."

Fortunately, she says, Woodstock's lunacies touched her anyways: "Was Woodstock a haven for the overindulged, self-important youth of 1969? Some of my friends think so. But I think that, to its credit, pieces of Woodstock's own crazy world broke off and spun their way into a larger world, especially the one in which I dutifully participated; for about 10 years after Woodstock, its atmospherics were infectious."

Woodstock made life more carefree, she claims: "After Woodstock, we knew we could abandon the car on the way to a concert, then hitch a ride back afterward and find the car still waiting for us. We could show up without tickets to see The Who and somehow find ourselves at the front of the crowd, near the stage. And the car that we had left back in the ditch? How did that happen? Who knows, who cares? When we got back to it, people helped us tow it out, as we knew they would."

The world of Woodstock, she continues, was a world without identity theft, noting that after it: "I would sometimes leave the house without a plan, a destination or even a map. I'd book a one-way fare and worry later about the return. One night I left my fringed suede purse on a coat hook in a bar. I got home before I realized it was gone. But the house was unlocked, so I didn't need a key; my wallet was almost empty of cash and I had no major credit cards -- no one did. There was no such thing as identity theft. I never even went back for that purse. I had lost nothing."

Never mind that against her paradisal vision stand the ruins of four decades of Woodstock-style pathologies. Ask a drug addict how liberating it was.

Today, thanks to its ethos, a girl who accepts a "loosely tendered" invitation from a stranger is more likely to end up as an ongoing segment on Greta Van Susteren than a carefree attendee at a concert. And that car "still waiting" for McManus? Would it still be waiting in a scenario like that today? No, she would probably find it keyed by drug-addled drifters. Her "suede purse" would probably be gone, her unlocked door ajar and her identity thieved in the night.

The self-delusion of liberalism is bottomless. It blithely celebrates the inane though no less destructive nihilism of Woodstock while treating as nihilistic traitors serious, property-holding, taxpaying citizens who protest a statist takeover of one-sixth of the United States economy.

Beneath the well-pressed suits of those establishment liberals who are now touting the virtues of "civility" lies the sordid attire of Woodstock, illustrating once again that no one is more authoritarian than a successful left-wing protester. And as the agents of previous liberal revolutions understood acutely, the Woodstock authoritarians know that they must cow vigilant citizens into docility, for the most sweeping revolutions are not carried out against state power but with it.

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About the Author
George Neumayr, a contributing editor to The American Spectator, is co-author, with Phyllis Schlafly, of the new book, No Higher Power: Obama's War on Religious Freedom.