America's Latest Suicide Attempt
In 1983, British historian Paul Johnson wrote "Modern Times," perhaps the most insightful analysis of world history from the First World War to the 1980s. One of the chapters in that book is titled “America’s Suicide Attempt,” and therein Johnson examines events in the United States during the 1960s and early 1970s. The events Johnson describes have an eerie similarity to the first two decades of the 21st century. America is attempting suicide again.
Johnson ended the chapter of "Modern Times" on the 1950s with the United States at the pinnacle of its power — the economy was strong and U.S. leadership in the world, while challenged, appeared secure. President Dwight Eisenhower’s legacy to his country was peace and prosperity. It was the calm before the storm.
During the John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson (LBJ) administrations, U.S. involvement in Vietnam expanded, but both leaders recoiled from doing what was necessary to win the war. “Having involved itself,” historian Johnson wrote, “America should have followed the logic of its position and responded to aggression by occupying . . . North [Vietnam].” Instead, North Vietnam, as well as Laos and Cambodia became, for the most part, privileged sanctuaries for our enemies, largely immune from the full force of American arms and power. This self-imposed restraint, Johnson explained, was “interpreted by friend and foe alike as evidence, not of humanity, but of guilt and lack of righteous conviction.”
At home, the mostly privileged student Left took to the streets in radical protest not just against the war, but also against American society in general. Some students called for overthrowing the “system.” Campuses were “radicalized” and students rioted, Johnson wrote, while “university presidents compromised, surrendered or abdicated.” “What student violence did above all,” Johnson explained, “was to damage American higher education and demoralize its teachers.”
Meanwhile, LBJ’s “Great Society” programs that were designed to end poverty and establish racial justice led to widespread dependence on the federal government and produced what historian Johnson called “a huge and increasingly militant civil-rights movement” that abandoned the proclaimed goal of Martin Luther King, Jr. for a colorblind society. Racially motivated rioting broke out in many places. Much to the liberals’ chagrin, Johnson noted, “the scale and intensity of black violence, especially in the big cities outside the South, advanced step by step with . . . vigorous and effective efforts to secure black rights.”
Cities like Chicago, Detroit, Philadelphia, New York, and Los Angeles experienced looting, destruction, and death at the hands of rioters. Both radical blacks and students attacked police — sometimes physically and sometimes verbally.
LBJ, Nixon casualty of America's 'suicide attempt'
LBJ was the first major casualty of America’s 1960s suicide attempt. He was so unpopular that he decided against seeking reelection in 1968. The elite national media turned against him as it turned against the war and increasingly sided with the radical Left in America. The next major casualty was Johnson’s successor, Richard Nixon.
The elite media’s hatred for Richard Nixon went back to the Alger Hiss case — when as a congressman Nixon led the effort to expose Hiss, a respected member of the liberal establishment, as a communist agent. After Nixon’s narrow victory in 1968, “[i]n parts of the media,” historian Johnson wrote, “there was an inclination to deny his legitimacy as president and to seek to reverse the [election] by non-constitutional means.” The national media now referred to the Vietnam War as “Nixon’s war,” and opposed Nixon’s every effort to use force — bombing, mining, incursions into formerly privileged sanctuaries — to bring North Vietnam to the negotiating table and achieve an honorable peace.
When Nixon won reelection by a huge electoral landslide over the elite media’s preferred candidate Democrat George McGovern, the media and its allies in congress struck back by transforming a case of political espionage (engaged in by past presidents and their campaign staffs) into what became known as the Watergate scandal. Johnson quoted one editor’s response to Nixon’s victory: “There’s got to be a bloodletting. We’ve got to make sure nobody even thinks of doing anything like this again.”
The media’s aim, Johnson explained, “was to use publicity to reverse the electoral verdict of 1972.” Thus began what Johnson called the “Watergate witch hunt,” a “media putsch” that effectively overturned the 1972 election. And in the elite media’s “overwhelming desire to destroy Nixon,” Johnson wrote, “all considerations of national security were cast aside,” and presidential power was circumscribed to the detriment of the nation’s interests.
Johnson concluded the chapter with this observation: “The Vietnam War and its bitter sequel, the Great Society and its collapse, the Imperial Presidency and its demolition: these constituted, in combination, a suicide attempt by the superpower of the West.”
Are we experiencing another erosion of civilization?
A half-century later, it is happening again. The United States still has armed forces in Afghanistan and Iraq with no prospect of victory — indeed, no definition of victory. The elite media once again and daily shows its hatred for a sitting president — a president that defeated the media’s preferred candidate Democrat Hillary Clinton.
Since Donald Trump’s electoral victory in November 2016, the elite media and its allies in Congress and elsewhere have used their influence and power to attempt to reverse the 2016 election. They view Trump as an illegitimate president and blame him for a virus unleashed on the world by the Chinese Communist Party and the resulting economic lockdown by state governors. And as in the 1960s and early 1970s, there are riots in the streets of some of our major cities involving looting, destruction, attacks on police, and the deaths of innocents, and the media has once again sided with the mob that seeks to overthrow the “system.”
Meanwhile, the United States is in a Cold War with Communist China — a Cold War that the elite media, liberals, and much of America’s foreign policy establishment oppose. Once again, in the elite media’s overwhelming desire to destroy a president, all considerations of national security are cast aside.
America’s suicide attempt of the 1960s and early 1970s, Johnson noted, “coincided with the demoralization of America and with the steady expansion of Soviet power and influence,” a geopolitical setback that was only salvaged by the heroic presidency of Ronald Reagan. America’s current suicide attempt — if not halted — could undermine the “liberal” world order and further erode Western civilization.