One of the advantages of aging is that you actually can witness history “rhyming,” see the same ideas and events recycle through culture and, sometimes, witness the same consequences.

When I was growing up in the 1960s and 1970s, there were two kinds of counterculture revolutionaries. First, there were the hippies, spoiled suburban kids like myself who listened to folk rock music and dreamed of a life closer to nature. This was mostly just a fad and, for most, it didn’t stick. The playful hippies, who smoked pot but didn’t wish anyone harm, soon outgrew their bell bottoms and love beads and grew up to be lawyers and investment bankers.

But there was another, smaller, more sinister group in the 1970s for whom the counterculture was not a mere fashion statement. They were hard-core Marxist true believers who, brainwashed by such left-wing radicals as Herbert Marcuse and George Jackson, genuinely despised America and her founding ideals of freedom and equality under the law.

These people didn’t live in tipis in the woods. They planted bombs in the U.S. capitol, Pentagon and State Department, ambushed police, murdered black officials they deemed insufficiently loyal to the cause, sought “asylum” in places like North Vietnam and Cuba, and talked openly of igniting race wars as a means of destroying capitalist society.

Virtually all “anti-fascist” communists of one form or another, given to street brawls with the police, these self-styled urban commandos had names like the Students for a Democratic Society, the Weather Underground, the Black Panthers, the Symbionese Liberation Army, Black Muslims, and the Black Liberation Army.

They openly promoted violence and hatred of “Amerika.” They said Martin Luther King’s ideal of a colorblind society was merely another form of white supremacy. They insisted, like Mao, that political power comes out of the barrel of a gun.

If you think society is unraveling today, try living in the 1970s — the era of plane hijackings, race riots and seemingly daily bombings of federal institutions.

I remember very clearly when Patty Hearst, the heiress, was kidnapped in 1974. I was seventeen and in my junior year at a Catholic high school.

She was only two years older than I was, and yet, after she was brainwashed by her captors, there Patty was on the evening news, brandishing her sawed-off M-1 rifle during a bank robbery. In a chilling 1975 film called Katharine, Sissy Spacek portrayed this type of brainwashed white girl who joins a violent underground terror cell, loosely based on the Weather Underground’s Diana Oughton.

Well, you know the rest of the story.

Most of sane America recoiled from these would-be communist revolutionaries — opposed, as they were, to everything America represented. Even the Beatles mocked them (“You say you want a Revolution?”).

The country elected law and order candidates like Richard Nixon in 1968 and 1972 and Ronald Reagan in 1980, vigilante movies like Dirty Harry (1971) and Death Wish (1974) became popular, and people even began to reconsider the whole drug and free love culture that, some suspected, may have led to this insanity.

Yet the hard-core true believers didn’t go away: after serving time in some cases for their crimes, they began the “long march through the institutions” advocated by the Italian Marxist theoretician Antonio Gramsci.

Having failed to overthrow society directly, the urban commandos infiltrated America’s schools, newspapers, TV networks, and board rooms. The members of the Weather Underground, like founders Bill Ayers and Bernardine Dohrn, became “educators” and lawyers, and hob-nobbed with future president Barack Obama, who himself became a “community organizer”.

The hard-left revolutionaries who built bombs in the 1970s went on to join college faculties and the media, brainwashing a whole new generation of impressionable kids with their hatred of peaceful “suburban” society. Many are now in their 70s and 80s, demented former radicals who show up at Black Lives Matters demonstrations and yell insults at the police, just like when they were seventeen.

Their messages are the same today as they were in the 1970s: America is racist to the core, police are the enemy, democracy is a con, and violence is necessary to effect political change.
Their children, as well, have taken up the cause of screaming insults at police and undermining America’s democratic institutions from within.

Chesa Boudin, the son of Weathermen Kathy Boudin and David Gilbert — convicted of killing two police officers and a security guard during a 1981 robbery of a Brinks armored car — is now the San Francisco District Attorney. Like his parents, Boudin believes the criminal justice system is inherently racist and advocates eliminating cash bail, emptying the prisons, and prosecuting members of the country’s border police.

Yet just as the riots and domestic terrorism of the 1970s filled America with revulsion, so, too, the “mostly peaceful protesters” of today — the rioters in the streets of Portland and those tearing down monuments of America’s founding fathers — are also triggering a massive backlash among ordinary Americans of all colors. A recent Gallup survey found that, contrary to what the controlled media claim, most black Americans want the same or more police in their neighborhoods, not less.

Bottom line: America is a center-right country that cherishes her democratic history and institutions. You can peacefully protest all you want (it’s a right guaranteed in the First Amendment), but the moment you start throwing bricks and burning down buildings, you lose the argument with ordinary Americans.

That is the lesson that the Sixties radicals who bombed buildings and murdered police officers, and their many sympathizers in the media and academia, never learned.

Robert Hutchinson

Robert J. Hutchinson is the author of many works of popular history, including, most recently, What Really Happened: The Lincoln Assassination (2020). https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1621578860