Starry-eyed radicals in the 1960s and 1970s dreamed that they either were going to take over America or destroy it.
One of their favorite mottos was “Change it or lose it,” even as protests focused on drugs, music, race, class, sex, fashion — almost anything and everything.
Sixties radicals tutored America on long hair; wire-rim eyeglasses; who was a drag, a square, a bummer; and who was hip, cool, groovy, mellow and far out. Most of these silly revolutionaries were not unhinged Weathermen killers or SDS would-be communists, but just adolescents along for the good-time ride.
With the end of the draft in 1972, the winding down of the Vietnam War, the oil embargoes and a worsening economy, the ’60s revolution withered away. Cynics claimed the revolution was mostly about middle-class students with long hair kicking back during the peak of the postwar boom, indulging their appetites and ensuring they would not end up in Vietnam.
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It is not even true that the ’60s at least ensured needed reform. The civil rights movement and equal rights for women and gays were already birthed before the hippies, as were folk songs and early rock music.
Instead, what the ’60s revolution did was accelerate these trends — but also radicalize, manipulate and coarsen them.
The grasping “yuppies” of the 1980s were the natural successors to let-it-all-hang-out “hippies.” The ’60s were at heart a narcissistic free-for-all, when “freedom” often entailed self-indulgence and avoiding responsibility.
By 1981, the Reagan revolution finished off the dead-enders of the Woodstock generation. Most eventually grew up. They rebooted their self-centered drug, sex and party impulses to fixations on money, status and material things.
Sixties protestors mainlined divorce, abortion on demand, promiscuity, drug use and one-parent homes. But by the late 1970s and the 1980s, most veteran cultural revolutionaries had gotten married, were raising a family, bought a house, got a job and made money.
This time around, their offspring’s left-wing assault is different — and far more ominous. The woke grandchildren of the former outsiders are now more ruthless systematic insiders. The woke and wired new establishment knows how to use money and power to rebirth America as something the founders and most current Americans never envisioned.
Name one mainline institution that the woke left does not now control — and warp. The media? The campus? Silicon Valley? Professional sports? The corporate boardroom? Foundations? The K-12 educational establishment? The military hierarchy? The government deep state? The FBI top echelon?
The left absorbed them all. But this time around, members of the left really believe that “by any means necessary” is no mere slogan. Instead, it is a model of how to disrupt or destroy American customs, traditions and values.
Woke revolutionaries are not panhandlers, street people or Grateful Dead groupies. They are not even a few nutty and murderous Symbionese Liberation Army terrorists fighting against “the Man.”
They are “the Man.”
Our 21st century revolutionaries are multibillionaires with flip-flops, tie-dye T-shirts and nose rings, but with the absolute power and desire to censor how half the country communicates — or cancel them entirely.
They don’t flock to campus free-speech areas; they are the campus administrators who ban free speech.
They don’t picket outside the Pentagon; they are inside the Pentagon.
They don’t chant “eat the rich”; they are the rich who eat at Napa Valley’s French Laundry.
They don’t protest “uptight” values, because they are more intolerant and puritanical than any Victorian.
They don’t believe in racial quotas based on “proportional representation,” because they are racists who demand underrepresentation of “bad” racial groups and overrepresentation of “good” groups. The color of our skin is their gospel, not the content of our character.
They are top-down revolutionaries. None of their agendas, from open borders and changing the Constitution to critical race theory and banning clean-burning fossil fuels, are ever favored among a majority of the population.
Their guiding principle is “never let a crisis go to waste.” Only in times of a pandemic, a national quarantine or volatile racial relations can the new upscale leftist revolutionaries use fear to push through policies that no one in calm times could stomach.
Our revolutionaries hate dissent. They destroy any who question their media-spun hoaxes.
Truth is their enemy, and fear is their weapon. Sixties paranoid revolutionaries warned about George Orwell’s “1984,” but our revolutionaries are “1984.”
While this elitist leftist revolution is more dangerous than its sloppy ’60s predecessor, it is also more vulnerable, given its obnoxious, top-heavy apparatus — but only if the proverbial “people” finally say to their madness, “Enough is enough.”
Victor Davis Hanson is a classicist and historian at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University, and the author of “The Second World Wars: How the First Global Conflict Was Fought and Won,” from Basic Books. You can reach him by e-mailing email@example.com