Jonathan Last writes:
Nobody much remembers it today, but in March 1977 Muslim radicals with machine guns and machetes marched into the B’nai B’rith headquarters in Washington, just five blocks north of the White House, and took 100 workers hostage. They herded the hostages onto the roof, where one was killed and two others were shot over the course of a standoff that lasted two days. Simultaneously, affiliated terrorists took over D.C. city hall, where future mayor Marion Barry was shot and a radio reporter was shot and killed.
Violent crime was almost nonexistent in the 1950s, but by 1973 it was rampant, and the Department of Justice had to create a new accounting system to keep track of it all. As Frum reports, in 1973 the FBI found that “37 million Americans—meaning one household out of every four—had suffered a rape, robbery, assault, burglary, larceny, or auto theft.”
In cities, the victimization rate was 1 in 3.
In 1960, there were 9,000 murders in America. By 1975, the number was in excess of 20,000. (In 2010, with America’s population 50 percent larger, there were 14,000 murders.) Perhaps the most evocative statistic concerns schoolchildren. In 1979, 1 out of every 20 public school teachers reported being physically assaulted by a student during the previous year.
Mind you, the kids had a lot to be angry about.
Very true. Although it is also true that we kids were free-er then.
Some quibbles, mostly about hyperbole:
For instance, The Weather Underground wouldn’t have been “stunned” by gay marriage. The surviving members no doubt support it.
Nothing about busing or did I miss that too?
And how the “phone system” used to “work”?
While this is a worthy “introduction to the 1970s” for Young People Today who weren’t there, Last makes a mistake common to conservative writers: he only feints at the pop culture stuff, mostly because he’s probably not engaged with it, then or now.
If he mentions the “music” at all, other than the requisite namecheck of Woodstock, I missed it.
Nothing about the punk rebellion against disco and corporate, “dirty hippie” rock (before they went corporate themselves):
And note how many popular songs were about older guys trying not very hard not to sleep with underage girls:
Not that the underage girls were all that upset about that, in fairness:
Almost every other movie was about assassination and the CIA and the CIA assassinating people — ordinary everyday people who accidentally “knew to much.”
Other movies were what you might call “gasoline porn” — a couple of people in some sort of motor vehicle are chased across America by “The Man,” usually (although not always) meeting some grim fate.
You could die at any moment, and incompetent bureaucrats with primitive technology couldn’t or wouldn’t save you.
Movies about scams and ripoffs and ordinary people turning to crime were another genre all to their own, from The Sting to Fun With Dick and Jane to Melvin and Howard. The revenge genre was big, too.
So many movies left you feeling like your soul had just been raped and left in a cold, muddy culvert.
The Vietnam War kept going on in the movies even after it was officially over.
Last mentions Deep Throat but not the Mitchell brothers or Hustler or Times Square.
An article about the 1970s, as fine as this one is, that doesn’t mention Evel Knievel is fatally flawed.
No bicentennial stuff.
Nothing about All in the Family or Maude or The Gong Show either.
We bought and sold rocks as pets.
Surely that matters as much as “stagflation.”