Right Wing Nut House



Filed under: History, Politics — Rick Moran @ 11:39 am


It was billed as a “Love-in,” a “Happening,” and an “Aquarian Exposition.” What it became was a half million strong, stoned out, bad tripping, muddy, bloody mess that has been lionized through the years using good old fashioned Madison Avenue techniques of huckstering and marked by an almost defiant defense of the “Flower children” who identify with it.

If Woodstock defined a generation, then cold comfort should be taken by those who claim it. It was a rock concert that featured the top musical talent of the time, that’s for sure. But a cultural earthquake? A moment in time where men were truly brothers, brought together by revolutionary tunes and revolutionary ideas?

The 60’s generation and their admirers in the media would certainly like to think so. But ML King and the civil rights marchers changed more in America than anyone or anything that happened at Woodstock. And ultimately, agree or disagree, the idea that America should not be policeman to the world never quite got off the ground. Viet Nam, it can be argued, was the wrong war, in the wrong place, at the wrong time -  a war against nationalistic sentiment, the last gasp of colonialism. But we have continued to intervene over the years as our interests have been threatened, or allies needed saving.

Civil rights struggles (that ended up being co-opted by radicals) , Viet Nam, - ultimately, Woodstock and the ideals it was supposed to represent were roundly and soundly defeated in 1972, saw a brief resurgence as a result of Watergate in 1974 and 76, but then experienced total collapse in every election from 1978-2008.

The Clinton years did not see a rebirth of Woodstock ideals but rather the cynical use of 60’s imagery and rhetoric by people who were slaves to their own ambition. In a sense, the Clinton years were the anti-Woodstock - the flip side of the 60’s idealism and altruism. Cold calculation and manipulation were their own masters, elbowing aside the ebbing belief in the “Age of Aquarius.”

Clinton was never a hippie but found it politically advantageous to play up his counterculture bona fides. He smoked pot - but didn’t inhale. He protested against the war. He even confessed hatred of the military. He visited the Soviet Union, married a radical, and then dropped his hippiedom like a hot potato when he ran for office. Such cynicism was rewarded by those same Woodstock idolizers giving him the presidency, never seeing through the Clintonion facade.

What people tend to forget - conveniently - is that barely a week before the concert at Yasgurs Farm kicked off, a stone cold, pathological killer and several of his hippie followers broke into the residence of Roman Polanski and his wife Sharon Tate, and murdered 5 people in cold blood. Charlie Manson was no hippie. But he took a bunch of drug addled kids, drunk on an ideology that promoted consequenceless sex, and mind expansion through drugs, and filled their minds with hate, programming them to kill at his command.

Many historians have written that the death of the sixties followed the assassinations of King and Kennedy a year earlier. But I think the excesses of Woodstock and Manson probably put the nails in the coffin even if they didn’t kill the decade outright. The generation that took Woodstock as an example of how 500,000 people could sit in a field, get stoned out of their minds, and not partake in any violent activity obviously had never been to an Indy 500 or Daytona. The idea that Woodstock represented something special is a mirage - a media created fantasy that continues to this day.

Ray Waddell writing for Reuters:

And the business has endured. Woodstock Ventures, the firm that oversees the licensing and intellectual property related to the Woodstock festival, is still run by the original producers of the event. And for several decades now, that once ragtag group of hippies has evolved into — if they weren’t already — good businessmen with savvy instincts.

For Woodstock’s 40th anniversary — officially August 15-18 — the breadth of projects and merchandise is staggering. Rhino and Sony will deliver albums of performances, Warner Bros. will release the original film and the Ang Lee-directed narrative feature “Taking Woodstock,” VH1 and the History Channel will air a documentary by Barbara Koppel, several publishers will release books, Target will sell anniversary-themed merchandise, and Sony is launching a social networking/e-commerce site, Woodstock.com.

“We’re not perfect. There are some small decisions we would have changed here and there, but for the most part, if we weren’t happy with the way something felt, then we didn’t go ahead,” says Joel Rosenman, one of the original organizers and now a partner in Woodstock Ventures. “And that’s because what happened in 1969 and how it feels to us is more important than pretty much any commercial consideration.”

I’m sure they turned down stuff like Woodstock Memorial toy guns, and Woodstock lawn ornaments. But they licensed all the usual stuff like lunch boxes, cups, mugs, plates, dolls, and anything else they could slap the name Woodstock on to make money.

Absolutely nothing wrong with this, of course. It’s the American way. Except the moralistic nonsense spouted by these still addle-brained 60-something adults that places what happened 40 years ago beyond any reasonable context is something that entire generation does on a regular basis. Glorifyng the 60’s as a time that should be emulated is myth making. In 500 years, the only thing remembered about the 60’s will be the Apollo moon landings and perhaps the struggle to codify into law the civil rights of Americans who had been previously denied them. Woodstock will be a footnote - if that - and a curiosity for historians of the future who will wonder why everyone was making such a big deal out of it.

In the meantime, go see the movie (which is hilarious at this distance in time as well as being a first class treat for music fans), take your tye-dyed T-shirts out of mothballs, put on your bell bottoms, and go roll in the mud. That generation grew up as all generations grow up. Some grew out of their childish liberalism and became conservatives. Others still cling to the dream of brotherhood and socialism. Most still see the world through the lens that Woodstock provides, giving a cloudy view of the past, and where media myth making and their own hubris blinds them to the truth; that despite anything for which they pat themselves on the back, the Woodstock generation was selfish, spoiled, bratty, and tending toward eruptions of emotionalism that they mistook for passion.

And when that generation is dead and buried, it is likely that Woodstock will die with them.


  1. Rick says:

    “The generation that took Woodstock as an example of how 500,000 people could sit in a field, get stoned out of their minds, and not partake in any violent activity obviously had never been to an Indy 500 or Daytona.”

    Neither the Indy or the Daytona 500 has ever come close to the attendance at Woodstock Rick.

    You’re a couple hundred thousand people shy.

    A better comparison (without the stoners) would be the inauguration of President Obama, where well over a million non-violent people gathered in common emotion to celebrate a milestone in the fight for civil rights, and the restoration of America in the eyes of its people, and the people of the world.

    Then Rick says:

    “…where media myth making and their own hubris blinds them to the truth; that despite anything for which they pat themselves on the back, the Woodstock generation was selfish, spoiled, bratty, and tending toward eruptions of emotionalism that they mistook for passion.”

    Nice turn of a phrase Rick…you could easily substitute “Tea party town hall protesters” for “Woodstock generation” in that sentence and you’d be good to go..

    I do get your point about the myth making that has taken place about Woodstock in the last 40 years, and your general disdain for the hippy ethos. But what you don’t seem to get about Woodstock is that during those 3 days in 1969, the organizers and participants of that event knew that the only reason they were there was because of the music.

    It was just a kick-ass rock concert…One that attracted a whole lot more people than they had expected…nothing more.

    In terms of attendance, the Indy 500 is the largest single-day sporting event in the world. With 250,000 seats, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway is the largest sports venue in the world. Annual attendance generally draws more than 400,000 spectators.

    And I fail to see any reasonable parallel with tea party protestors - especially since they don’t claim to be morally superior to anyone - simply smarter.


    Comment by Moltenorb — 8/15/2009 @ 4:42 pm

  2. I’d like to point out that the attendance of that concert goes past 5 million if you count the people who claim to have been there.
    Anyway, even though I have never had much for the hippie thing I can imagine it must have been fun going there. Not necessarily being there but the journey not expecting big crowds and then they are everywhere. I do think it was a very memorable concert too.

    Comment by funny man — 8/15/2009 @ 5:30 pm

  3. I’m afraid I would never enjoy an event that involved mud, pup tents and porta-potties.

    I’m all for pot, naked chicks and rock and roll. But if I’m going to stay overnight I really insist on room service, a minibar and up-market toiletries.

    So, in the modern day if you were to get, say, Green Day, Rancid, Hollywood Undead, and Eminem to play at a Four Seasons I’d be all over that.

    Comment by michael reynolds — 8/15/2009 @ 6:56 pm

  4. To keep the musical thread going… this is one of the most tone-deaf posts you’ve ever made. I mean, OK, it was a rock concert. It did not change history.

    But it was one part of the culture of the times- now, the folks who passed the Civil Rights Act of 1964 did not go to Woodstock, but they were part of the 60s nonetheless. Woodstock didn’t occur in a vacuum, and it has been used as a banner for many things that were happening in the 60s. Did peace, love, and understanding break out all over the world after Woodstock? Nope.

    I guess you’d call that a fiasco.

    Comment by Postagoras — 8/15/2009 @ 8:17 pm

  5. I was under the impression that there was another event, around the same time period, that drew many times more people. They were of all socio-economic and racial backgrounds.

    They came they saw and they left with out making a mess and with out getting stoned. They brought there parents and children. They brought there own food. This is the real legacy of the sixty’s.

    Everybody knows it but its significance in terms of a group event has been ignored. Except by at least one famous author (authoress?).

    I’ll give a hint. It was in Florida.

    Comment by Christopher — 8/16/2009 @ 9:00 am

  6. Woodstock meant much more to rightwingers than it ever did to the left. For liberals it’s a bit of nostalgia. Whereas conservatives have been freaking out about it ever since.

    We moved on. It’s the conservatives who are still stuck in the 60’s.

    Comment by michael reynolds — 8/16/2009 @ 9:15 am

  7. “…that despite anything for which they pat themselves on the back, the Woodstock generation was selfish, spoiled, bratty, and tending toward eruptions of emotionalism that they mistook for passion.”

    Nailed it.

    Comment by KingShamus — 8/16/2009 @ 12:23 pm

  8. Why the vitrol? What bothers you so much about a rock concert? A very big rock concert (unseen up to that point). I think a lot of people imbued a Woodstock aura on the whole thing, but if you talk to anyone who was there, not everyone was stoned, naked, or out to change the world. The only thing everyone had in common was that there were all wet.

    You might say that, if there is a distinction in our generation (emphasis on our) it might be that we heeded the call of Kennedy and the Great Society programs to volunteer and give back. Our parents participated (at church, with the Cub Scouts, or sports) but I think the emphasis was more on people you didn’t know rather than family/church related efforts.

    Bringing Manson into the disucssion was a wonderful red herring.

    And as for the idea that others “still cling to their dream of brotherhood….” count me in. I still believe in the ideas of another radical from about 2000 years ago who preached the same thing.

    Comment by Larry, your brother — 8/17/2009 @ 8:35 am

  9. Wait until Dec. 6 of this year and the 40th anniversary of Altamont. That was the death of the 60s (as well as poor Meredith Hunter), because the post-Woodstock hype had young liberals — and even older WWII generation media people — believing both the hype coming out of the Bethel concert about changing the world and also believing in their own righteousness and moral superiority that they could do the same type of peace, love and understanding concert anytime, anywhere.

    Altamont was an attempt create the West Coast Woodstock while at the same time from a monetary standpoint, make a ton of cash by taking advantage of the hype from the August concert and give bands like the Stones who missed the first show their own “street cred” as being a voice of The Movement. All that came crashing back to reality with the stabbing death, which showed all the spin about the Boomers being some sort of higher form of human life as a generation, compared to their war-loving predecessors, was bogus.

    Comment by John — 8/18/2009 @ 6:48 am

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