The Movement Is the Message

The Movement Is the Message

In a recent New Yorker, Richard Rovere made these points:

1) there is no basic difference between the Korean and the Vietnamese wars;

2) nor is the different reaction to both due to the more developed techniques of reporting;

3) but there is a difference in feeling between the present younger generation and that of 20 years ago.

No network would have offered pictures from the Korean war front like the ones we have seen recently, and the reporters themselves tended to stress the idealistic features of that war as against its realistic grimness. We are no longer afraid to disturb the unity of the country in time of war. The generation that has grown up since the 40’s rejects both ideological wars and Realpolitik, and it overreacts against the conformism of the 50’s; agreement with any authority has become suspect, and strong gestures of autonomy are a psychological need. If there were no war in Vietnam, this generation would find other issues on which to disagree. While the war offers an ideal target for protest, it is not the cause of that protest but its occasion. With apologies to McLuhan: the movement is the message; it is not any particular message of pacifism or humanism that now makes people think about society, but it is the massive desire to drop out of society that makes people react against the war.