June 23, 2008


"Bonnie And Clyde Was The Most Important Text Of The New Left" (Ed Driscoll, June 23, 2008, EdDriscoll.com)

Making the rounds to promote his new book Nixonland, Rick Perlstein tells Reason:

reason: You like to mix cultural history with political history. Bonnie and Clyde is one of the central texts in the book.

Perlstein: My theory is that Bonnie and Clyde was the most important text of the New Left, much more important than anything written by Paul Goodman or C. Wright Mills or Regis Debray. It made an argument about vitality and virtue vs. staidness and morality that was completely new, that resonated with young people in a way that made no sense to old people. Just the idea that the outlaws were the good guys and the bourgeois householders were the bad guys—you cannot underestimate how strange and fresh that was.

The 1967 release of the movie certainly coincides with the period where traditional liberalism and the far left began to merge; not coincidentally, this was also the period where traditional morality began to break down. The next year would be 1968, a year the left is alternately trying to recreate, or is permanently trapped in, or both. Mick Jagger's lyrics to the Rolling Stones' "Sympathy for the Devil" called the philosophy of the day "heads is tails", and whereas liberals once worshiped science and progress, they soon found themselves admiring the Black Panthers and William Ayers' Weatherman group, and tossing both modernism and hope for the future under the bus.

...that you both disavow the concept of morality and believe the moral to be evil.

Zemanta Pixie
Posted by Orrin Judd at June 23, 2008 5:43 AM

I hope when your review comes out you'll be honest and/or attentive enough to note my obvious contempt for the Bonnie and Clyde morality of the New Left. We'll see.

Posted by: Rick Perlstein at June 23, 2008 9:51 AM

Yes, your self-loathing redeems you.

Posted by: oj at June 23, 2008 1:36 PM

I heard Arthur Penn say a year or so after his film's release that Bonnie and Clyde were revolutionaries who didn't know it. Very revealing, though I doubt he knew it.

Posted by: George at June 23, 2008 2:27 PM

It's amusing to note how often the anti-bourgeois rebellion stuff is considered "strange and fresh" to every generation of adolescents going back for centuries.

Posted by: Matt Murphy at June 23, 2008 9:02 PM
blog comments powered by Disqus