Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Hidden History: The Hard Hat Riot

"No one supported Vietnam." The lies Boomer teachers told me. No one they knew because as teachers in the '90s, they were college students in the '60s and not serving. That sliver of vocal hooligans and lawbreakers run academia and public education so the general impression is that no one supported Vietnam. Even this academic paper cites the "power of elite discourse" that shaped opinions on Vietnam, which we can only measure by an oddly phrased Gallup poll question (was Vietnam a mistake?). There was Nixon's Silent Majority, which supported him in a landslide in 1972, but those were just old fogies who reacted to the '68 love explosion. Not quite. There was a rambunctious and heartily supported expression of pro-Nixon, "America: Love It or Leave It" spirit known as the Hard Hat Riots.

The Hard Hat Riot was just a couple hundred blue collar, union guys beating the crap out of long haired, hippie students protesting the Kent State Shootings. If you do not recall, Kent State was when standard '60s protesters finally received push back, and the martyrdom machine was turned to 11. The rioters beat up on hippie students and yelled at the "red mayor", Republican Mayor Lindsay. Something weird happened in the next few weeks. The blue collar toughs both pro-Nixon and anti-Lindsay turned out to the tune of 150,000. Even then, the Times was eager to mark down any turnout for unapproved expressiosn of popular feelings. That parade was organized in two weeks tops. Looking at a list of anti-war protests of that era, 150,000 working men and suits walking down the streets of New York City with supporters dropping confetti and ripped paper from windows onto them in support is a pretty marvelous, expression of the people.

These unions toughs were the blue collar whites that had secured the FDR, New Deal lefties to power and were about to be dumped for the favored groups of the New Left. In 1968, the battle between the Democrats was in the streets, but in 1972, the battle of the Democrats was on the convention floor. The violent mess in the streets and on the television screens at the Chicago convention became extraordinarily long platform debates and coalition building for McGovern in Miami in 1972. These men were the bad whites who would become Reagan Democrats in the 1980s. The Reagan Revolution and solid South switch was nothing new. The Port Huron SDS manifesto explicitly stated that the Dixiecrats were linked to the GOP on the national ticket. The Nixon-W era was just that crew slowly getting all under the "R" label.

It was the wrong people though. Junior high schools are not going to waste time mentioning a pro-Vietnam parade, let alone protesters that had jobs and were not '60s enlightened free spirits. They have to enable the beloved Boomer myths about Vietnam. Schoolchildren still learn that the Tet Offensive was the defeat instead of a military victory trumped by the strategic, political defeat as the media weapon hardened public opinion to ending the war and getting out. Every clumsy attempt by jihadis to Youtube their stupidity and barbarism was invented by the Viet Cong and the American media. Whether the VC or union guys organizing a peaceful protest of 150,000, the media shapes the events and the history. Those Hard Hat rioters are not as numerous as they once were, and more and more resemble the other side far too much for our leftist authorities to spotlight. Unions always support liberal policies. No one liked Vietnam.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Tet exposed the American generals as completely delusional. They had been presenting a state of victory that was drawing to conclusion. Instead Saigon itself erupted into a war zone around them.

Nixon always campaigned on bringing the war to a close. Presenting his supporters as pro-war is odd.

Westmoreland is a questionable source for facts. He spent much of the 70s running scared of potential war crimes conviction, in particular for his involvement in Operation Speedy Express. It's pretty well documented how he went to great lengths to spike inquiries and spread misinformation.

sykes.1 said...

However, Tet was an American victory, and the Viet Cong were destroyed and never were a factor after it. It became a purely North Vietnamese war after that. And as much as you despise the senior officers of that time, they defeated the North Vietnamese, too. The North's so-called victory only came after we had withdrawn and the Democratic Congress refused to honor our treaty obligations. At the time of our withdrawal, there were no or few NVA in the South, and the South was holding its own with American air support.