Isaiah Berlin, Lionel Trilling, and Saul Bellow on the Unrest of the Late 1960s

June 24 2020

The present combination of sometimes-violent protests, riots, racial tensions, collapsing cities, and a young left seized with revolutionary fervor has put some in mind of the “long, hot summers” of the late 1960s. While many of the leading figures behind that New Left fervor were Jewish—whether intellectuals like Noam Chomsky, Norman Mailer, and Herbert Marcuse or activists like Abbie Hoffman and Jerry Rubin—so too were many of its liberal critics. It is to the latter group that David Herman turns, looking to the writings of the philosopher Isaiah Berlin, the critic Lionel Trilling, and the novelist Saul Bellow:

[T]he British media continue to see the 60s through the eyes of the New Left. . . . But there were others who saw the 60s very differently, older writers and intellectuals like Isaiah Berlin, Lionel Trilling, and Saul Bellow.

Isaiah Berlin, an almost exact contemporary of Trilling’s, . . . was almost sixty when the Columbia students started rioting. . . . He wrote to [the former national security adviser] McGeorge Bundy on May 31, [1968] about his impending visit to New York, “I propose to come armed with a water pistol, and if any militant student approaches me I shall rise up against him and say that the dons have turned, the worms fight back, and douse him. . . . Why cannot the professors build barricades of their own?”

Saul Bellow, like Trilling and Berlin, was appalled by the riots in the 60s, but took a tougher line than either. . . . He had been a supporter of the Congress of Racial Equality and wrote to the papers attacking the Vietnam War. Then came the riots in his beloved Chicago in 1968. He watched the chaos on TV, appalled by the anarchy on the streets of his hometown. . . . There’s a new tone to Bellow’s fiction during the late 60s. His sympathies moved from young men like Augie March and Tommy Wilhelm (Seize the Day) to older authority figures like Mr. Sammler, Mosby in Mosby’s Memoirs, and Braun in The Old System.

What’s interesting about the reactions of Trilling, Berlin, and Bellow, is that they all saw the 60s as a terrible moment. The language is revealing. “The crazy sixties (Bellow), “The rapid growth of barbarism” (Berlin). “Abominable,” “a total rejection of a way of life” (Trilling).

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More about: Isaiah Berlin, Lionel Trilling, New Left, Saul Bellow

 

Terror Returns to Israel

Nov. 28 2022

On Wednesday, a double bombing in Jerusalem left two dead, and many others injured—an attack the likes of which has not been seen since 2016. In a Jenin hospital, meanwhile, armed Palestinians removed an Israeli who had been injured in a car accident, reportedly murdering him in the process, and held his body hostage for two days. All this comes as a year that has seen numerous stabbings, shootings, and other terrorist attacks is drawing to a close. Yaakov Lappin comments:

Unlike the individual or small groups of terrorists who, acting on radical ideology and incitement to violence, picked up a gun, a knife, or embarked on a car-ramming attack, this time a better organized terrorist cell detonated two bombs—apparently by remote control—at bus stops in the capital. Police and the Shin Bet have exhausted their immediate physical searches, and the hunt for the perpetrators will now move to the intelligence front.

It is too soon to know who, or which organization, conducted the attack, but it is possible to note that in recent years, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) has taken a lead in remote-control-bombing terrorism. Last week, a car bomb that likely contained explosives detonated by remote control was discovered by the Israel Defense Forces in Samaria, after it caught fire prematurely. In August 2019, a PFLP cell detonated a remote-control bomb in Dolev, seventeen miles northwest of Jerusalem, killing a seventeen-year-old Israeli girl and seriously wounding her father and brother. Members of that terror cell were later arrested.

With the Palestinian Authority (PA) losing its grip in parts of Samaria to armed terror gangs, and the image of the PA at an all-time low among Palestinians, in no small part due to corruption, nepotism, and its violation of human rights . . . the current situation does not look promising.

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More about: Israeli Security, Jerusalem, Palestinian terror