Newstalgia Reference Room featuring a commentary from May, 1968 by writer/commentator Marya Mannes and her assessment of the then-current state of protest in the U.S.
December 7, 2011

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Marya Mannes - Writer and not-so-casual, casual observer.


I am always fascinated to listen to assessments of dissent from the past. How much it resembles the present, how often it was distorted in the past - how spot-on or miles-off the observations were.

Marya Mannes, a name that's all but forgotten now, was a writer, journalist and social commentator who mixed caustic with clever, often with keen insights and sometimes mixed results.

In this commentary, which came from the same Newsfront broadcast as yesterday's Milton Friedman entry (May 5,1968), she talks about the then-current state of dissent in our country. The peaceful versus violent protests that were sweeping the U.S. at the time (end destined to get much worse as the year went on), and where youth was fitting into the picture.

Bear in mind that Mannes was born in 1904, and at the time of this commentary she was 64. So there is a goodly amount of "generation gap" to sift through. But the thing that I noticed, and something many people were concerned with at the time, was the seeming co-opting of peaceful anti-war protest by a violent minority.

Sound familiar? This was something that plagued the Peace Movement in the 1960's, and something which has confronted just about every movement of this kind throughout history. The strong desire to keep the Occupy Movement peaceful has been in large part a desire not to fall into the patterns of the past - breaking with the protest movements that have gone on before and trying something new. Which is why OWS has been successful and continues to gain momentum - not because of it's violence on the parts of the protesters, but because of the peace and non-violence of the protesters. The violence has been perpetrated by the Police, and not a reaction of the police to violent actions. Of course, our mainstream media has chosen to focus, as it always has, on violence because it largely feels that chaos is more attractive to viewers.

Every movement has had its fair share of malcontents, chaos merchants and infiltrators. There are people who simply want to disrupt and destroy for no other reason than that they can.They have been largely isolated and shunned by the peaceful majority and that most likely will continue in the coming weeks and months.

But it hasn't always been that way. And this commentary by a respected member of the Fourth Estate gives some idea of what people were thinking at the time.

Reference points are always good to have now and then.

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