Decade of Nightmares

Decade of Nightmares

The End of the Sixties and the Making of Eighties America

Book - 2006
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Why did the youthful optimism and openness of the sixties give way to Ronald Reagan and the spirit of conservative reaction--a spirit that remains ascendant today?Drawing on a wide array of sources--including tabloid journalism, popular fiction, movies, and television shows--Philip Jenkins argues that a remarkable confluence of panics, scares, and a few genuine threats created a climate of fear that led to the conservative reaction. He identifies 1975to 1986 as the watershed years. During this time, he says, there was a sharp increase in perceived threats to our security at home and abroad. At home, America seemed to be threatened by monstrous criminals--serial killers, child abusers, Satanic cults, and predatory drug dealers, to name just afew. On the international scene, we were confronted by the Soviet Union and its evil empire, by OPEC with its stranglehold on global oil, by the Ayatollahs who made hostages of our diplomats in Iran. Increasingly, these dangers began to be described in terms of moral evil. Rejecting the radicalismof the '60s, which many saw as the source of the crisis, Americans adopted a more pessimistic interpretation of human behavior, which harked back to much older themes in American culture. This simpler but darker vision ultimately brought us Ronald Reagan and the ascendancy of the political Right,which more than two decades later shows no sign of loosening its grip.Writing in his usual crisp and witty prose, Jenkins offers a truly original and persuasive account of a period that continues to fascinate the American public. It is bound to captivate anyone who lived through this period, as well as all those who want to understand the forces thattransformed--and continue to define--the American political landscape.
Publisher: Oxford ; New York : Oxford University Press, 2006.
ISBN: 9780195178661
Branch Call Number: 973.92 JENKINS
Characteristics: 344 p. ; 25 cm.


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It is broadly accepted on the Left that things start going bad in the United States in the mid-'70s. Union density and hourly wages begin their steady descent at that time. Critics like Noam Chomsky point the finger at the the Right Wing counterrevolution, conveniently proclaimed in the Powell Memo, calling for corporate free enterprise to counterattack and rollback the "excess of democracy." The Right prefers to situate the American fall from grace in the cultural revolution of the 1960s when the Hippies, blacks, Chicanos, women, Indians demanded recognition. What is terrific about DECADE OF NIGHTMARES is that it is an exhaustive exploration from a conservative academic, Philip Jenkins (who teaches at Baylor University these days), of how the Right Wing counterrevolution won the cultural war in the U.S. How did it do it? By fear. What is particularly compelling about Jenkins' argument is the role children played, the inflated perception of danger surrounding children that is, in the counterrevolution. Sexual predators, serial killers, drug pushers -- all were spotlighted as threats to children. The Age of Aquarius and its bountiful aspirations of a more free, artistic, egalitarian society disappeared in the late '70s behind a smokescreen of prurient (mostly television) journalism.


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