National Commentary

Nick Benton’s Gay Science, Part 35 This Week: How the Right Unleashed 60’s Radical Hedonism, Pt. 1

“Kings are interested not in the morality but the docility of their subjects” (St. Augustine, City of God, Book 2, Chap. 20). This subject concerns what happened to American society in general, and is of specific relevance to the post-Stonewall gay movement and its values and behaviors from the 1970s to the present.

“Kings are interested not in the morality but the docility of their subjects” (St. Augustine, City of God, Book 2, Chap. 20).

This subject concerns what happened to American society in general, and is of specific relevance to the post-Stonewall gay movement and its values and behaviors from the 1970s to the present.

With the industrial revolution, a natural tension developed between the captains of industry and their burgeoning work forces. From the mid-19th century on, industrialists and their monied associates devised strategies to blunt efforts of workers to organize and utilize collective action to achieve economic and social justice.
Tyrants, the industrialists understood, are beneficiaries of a radical individualism that undermines collective organization, as Plato expounded in The Republic. Therefore they promoted the ideologies of nihilists, anarchists, the likes of Nietszche, and “might makes right” forms of “social Darwinism” against the growing organization of labor.

These ruling class capitalists, champions of the political right wing, saw emerging urban communities of homosexuals as hostile to their efforts, because of their general disregard for authority and predisposition to identify with the plight of the underdog.

The 1960s quasi-Marxist theory that homosexuals were repressed by capitalists because they undermined the production of stable, obedient households of workers (i.e. Herbert Marcuse, Eros and Civlization, 1962) was only partly true. Additionally, gay were seen as actively politically dangerous, a genuine threat to the ruling class agenda.
In Nazi Germany, while homosexuals were tolerated in the ranks of the socially-amorphous Brownshirts to help Hilter overthrow the existing order, they were turned on by the militant Blackshirts during the infamous “Night of the Long Knives” in the summer of 1934. Subsequently, the Nazis systematically rounded up homosexuals along with Jews and gypsies and sent them to death camps.

Urban homosexuals had been supporters of progressive Social Democratic regimes in Germany prior to Hitler’s takeover, and in England and the U.S. In America, the nation’s emerging greatest playwright, the homosexual Tennessee Williams, voted for the Socialist presidential candidate Norman Thomas in 1936.
Meanwhile, when thousands of World War I veterans assembled in Washington, D.C., known as the “Bonus Army,” in the Great Depression’s dismal summer of 1932 to demand their pensions, Republican President Herbert Hoover called out the U.S. Army against them. Later, after President Franklin D. Roosevelt was elected, many of the same who’d backed the use of the Army against U.S. citizens plotted a military coup against Roosevelt. Often, they were openly pro-Nazi and pro-fascist.

After World War II, these same elements fueled the so-called “Red Scare” and the McCarthyite reign of terror against pro-labor elements in the U.S. government and wider society, accusing them of being communist sympathizers or spies. This came just as redoubled efforts at homosexual rights organizations like the Mattachine Society and Daughters of Bilitis were spearheaded by activists like Harry Hay, a former communist, and backers of Henry A. Wallace’s Progressive Party presidential campaign of 1948.

In 1953, right wing forces in the newly-formed CIA launched a systematic effort to undermine pro-labor, pro-civil rights currents running strong in the U.S. citizenry at that point. Their covert program was dubbed “MK Ultra,” as subsequent Congressional and other investigations revealed in the mid-1970s.

Unable to impose Hitler-style fascism from the top down, “MK Ultra” was designed to undermine the nation’s pro-labor current from within by, again, inducing radical individualism and hedonism. From 1952-1972, the project funded and coordinated 149 sub-projects for research of “radiation, electro-shock, various forms of psychology, sociology, anthropology, graphology and paramilitary devises and materials for behavior control, behavior anomaly production and countermeasures.”

In 1973, CIA Director Richard Helms ordered all files associated with these operations destroyed, but a cache of 20,000 documents had been misfiled and therefore were eluded destruction. They became the substance of investigations by the Presidential Rockefeller Commission in 1974 and the Congressional Church Committee in 1975 and were made public.

Operating on 44 U.S. college campuses and with 15 research foundations, “MK Ultra” involved mass experiments with the psychedelic drug LSD and other drugs, aimed at “behavior control,” “behavior anomaly production” and “producing predictable human behavioral and psychological changes.”

Ken Kesey was a key figure who emerged in the early 1960s to play a major role in a cultural sea-change of the American consciousness that involved LSD in a self-centering, hedonistic “dumbing down” of society. Kesey was recruited to be part of “MK Ultra” experiments in California, and he became a seminal influence, organizing “Be-Ins” involving mass LSD ingestion by youths at beach parties around the San Francisco Bay Area and his famous cross-country bus trip to meet Harvard’s LSD guru Timothy Leary, chronicled in his Electric Kool Aid Acid Test.

Thus did America’s right wing launch the anarchist, radical hedonist 1960s counterculture that stampeded the gay movement towards AIDS. I saw it first hand. I was an eyewitness.

To be continued.

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