Despite its shortcomings, the conservatives' vision of sixties-as-catastrophe has achieved a certain popular success. Both Bloom's and Bork's books were best-sellers. And a mere mention of hippies or "the sixties" is capable of arousing in some quarters an astonishing amount of rage against what many still imagine to have been an era of cultural treason. In the white suburban Midwest, one happens so frequently across declarations of sixties- and hippie-hatred that the posture begins to seem a sort of historiographical prerequisite to being middle class and of a certain age; in the nation's politics, sixties- and hippie-bashing remains a trump card only slightly less effective than red-baiting was in earlier times. One bit of political ephemera that darkened a 1996 congressional race in south Chicago managed to appeal to both hatreds at once, tarring a Democratic candidate as the nephew of a bona fide communist and the choice of the still-hated California hippies, representatives of whom (including one photograph of Ken Kesey's famous bus, "Further") are pictured protesting, tripping, dancing, and carrying signs for the Democrat in question.
In mass culture, dark images of the treason and excess of the 1960s are not difficult to find. The fable of the doubly-victimized soldiers in Vietnam, betrayed first by liberals and doves in government and then spat upon by members of the indistinguishable New Left/Counterculture has been elevated to cultural archetype by the Rambo movies and has since become such a routine trope that its invocation—and the resulting outrage—requires only the mouthing of a few standard references. The exceedingly successful 1994 movie Forrest Gump transformed into archetype the rest of the conservatives' understanding of the decade, depicting youth movements of the sixties in a particularly malevolent light and their leaders (a demagogue modeled on Abbie Hoffman, a sinister group of Black Panthers, and an SDS commissar who is attired, after Bloom's interpretation, in a Nazi tunic) as diabolical charlatans, architects of a national madness from which the movie's characters only recover under the benevolent presidency of Ronald Reagan.
Regardless of the tastes of Republican leaders, rebel youth culture remains the cultural mode of the corporate moment.
But stay tuned for just a moment longer and a different myth of the counterculture and its meaning crosses the screen. Regardless of the tastes of Republican leaders, rebel youth culture remains the cultural mode of the corporate moment, used to promote not only specific products but the general idea of life in the cyber-revolution. Commercial fantasies of rebellion, liberation, and outright "revolution" against the stultifying demands of mass society are commonplace almost to the point of invisibility in advertising, movies, and television programming. For some, Ken Kesey's parti-colored bus may be a hideous reminder of national unraveling, but for Coca-Cola it seemed a perfect promotional instrument for its "Fruitopia" line, and the company has proceeded to send replicas of the bus around the country to generate interest in the counterculturally themed beverage. Nike shoes are sold to the accompaniment of words delivered by William S. Burroughs and songs by The Beatles, Iggy Pop, and Gil Scott Heron ("the revolution will not be televised"); peace symbols decorate a line of cigarettes manufactured by R. J. Reynolds and the walls and windows of Starbucks coffee shops nationwide; the products of Apple, IBM, and Microsoft are touted as devices of liberation; and advertising across the product category sprectrum calls upon consumers to break rules and find themselves. The music industry continues to rejuvenate itself with the periodic discovery of new and evermore subversive youth movements and our televisual marketplace is a 24-hour carnival, a showplace of transgression and inversion of values, of humiliated patriarchs and shocked puritans, of screaming guitars and concupiscent youth, of fashions that are uniformly defiant, of cars that violate convention and shoes that let us be us. A host of self-designated "corporate revolutionaries," outlining the accelerated new capitalist order in magazines like Wired and Fast Company, gravitate naturally to the imagery of rebel youth culture to dramatize their own insurgent vision. This version of the countercultural myth is so pervasive that it appears even in the very places where the historical counterculture is being maligned. Just as Newt Gingrich hails an individualistic "revolution" while tirading against the counterculture, Forrest Gump features a soundtrack of rock 'n' roll music, John Lennon and Elvis Presley appearing in their usual roles as folk heroes, and two carnivalesque episodes in which Gump meets heads of state, avails himself grotesquely of their official generosity (consuming fifteen bottles of White House soda in one scene), and confides to them the tribulations of his nether regions. He even bares his ass to Lyndon Johnson, perhaps the ultimate countercultural gesture.
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