"The 1960s represented a giant Wood-stock of doomsaying," writes this wry critic. I am quite sure that some of the people who were so eminently quotable in the Sixties would just as soon forget what they said or wrote. The greatest lesson in responsibility, however, is to be held responsible for one's statements." All the prophets of political, social and ecological doom get their turn to squirm. Metropolitan newspapers, the campus and underground press, college professors, public officials - they all had their fling in this orgy of rhetorical brinkmanship: Dave Dellinger (and so many others), "who left prophecies of doom wherever he could find a paying college audience." • The New York Times, whose "Op Ed page alone was loaded with so many predictions of gloom for the future that one must almost feel, as Keats put it, 'half in love with easeful death.' The Wandervogel, those "sad-faced, humorless children of the urban middle class" who "are really incipient George Apleys of the future. One can see them now - telling their children about those hard days of the 1960s." Eugene McCarthy, whose 1960 definition of a liberal (as a person given to "more subtle or sophisticated explanations") almost immediately became outdated. "There was, to play upon the words of Eugene McCarthy, hardly anything sophisticated about the attempts to blow up the Statue of Liberty, the Liberty Bell, the Capitol in Washington, or hundreds of university structures throughout the land."
Mr. Hicken dips into our history, finds striking similarities between the Jacksonian period and the 1960s: communal experiments, women's lib, civil rights, penal reform, religious exoticism, college riots, ecology, even "natural food" movements. He brings to light the real causes of Sixties tumult, rescuing Vietnam from its convenient role as scapegoat.
The author concludes that both liberals and radicals must share the blame for the excesses of the Sixties, and shows why.