As a co-founder of the Yippies (Youth International Party) with Abbie Hoffman and Jerry Rubin in 1967, I observed how they were able to manipulate the media to further their antiwar mission. If you gave good quote, you got free publicity. Furthermore, in a tactic borrowed from the CIA, if you presented newsworthy street theater, the media manipulated itself. Fortunately or unfortunately, depending on your agenda, that kind of behavior has a way of backfiring. And so I was both amused and annoyed by an item by Dwight Garner in the August 13 New York Times Book Review. He wrote:
Thomas Ricks, the senior Pentagon correspondent for The Washington Post, has a book on the hardcover nonfiction list this week… [Fiasco] got a boost from strong reviews and from appearances on both “The Charlie Rose Show” and NPR’s “Fresh Air”…. He filled the air with analogies that were funny, sad and apt…. George Bush and his team were like 60’s radicals. (“They really were going to, kind of, ‘groove on the rubble,’ as Jerry Rubin used to say. They were going to tear it down and see what happened.”)
Of course, glibness isn’t necessarily a virtue. “Has it come to this?” asks Yippie archivist Samuel Leff. “With the Iraq War now an obvious catastrophe, Ricks is comparing the Bush gang’s mindless destructiveness to sixties radicals like Rubin?”
Then, in the August 17 issue of the Los Angeles Times, linguist Geoffrey Nunberg wrote in an op-ed piece:
In the mouths of the neocons, “fascist” is just an evocative label for people who are fanatical, intolerant and generally creepy. In fact, that was pretty much what the word stood for among the 1960s radicals, who used it as a one-size-fits-all epithet for the Nixon administration, American capitalism, the police, reserved concert seating and all other varieties of social control that disinclined them to work on Maggie’s farm no more…. Time was when right-wingers called the ACLU a bunch of communist sympathizers. Now Bill O’Reilly labels the group and others as fascist, with a cavalier disregard for the word’s meaning that would have done Jerry Rubin proud.
Leff comments that “if Nunberg had been thrown down the stairs, as Rubin was, by the New York City Tactical Police Force–a Waffen-SS-type goon squad of especially large men in uniform–who raided his apartment looking for drugs on secret orders from the FBI, Nunberg would have less ‘cavalier disregard’ for using Rubin’s name in the same breath as the authoritarian fascist personality of Bill O’Reilly.”
Finally, on August 20, Frank Rich wrote in his New York Times column:
In 2006, the tired Rove strategy of equating any Democratic politician’s opposition to the Iraq war with cut-and-run defeatism in the war on terror looks desperate…. A former Greenwich selectman like [Ned] Lamont isn’t easily slimed as a reincarnation of Abbie Hoffman or an ally of Osama bin Laden.