Portland mayor @tedwheeler is offended when KATU reporter @GenevieveReaume asks the obvious: Did Portland's tolerance of months of riots help provide a new normal that political violence against government property is okay? #antifa pic.twitter.com/mC23qPS47P
— Andy Ngô (@MrAndyNgo) January 13, 2021
Like a shard of lightning illuminating a darkened landscape, a single event can bring an entire historical era into sharp focus. What had been half-hidden becomes nakedly exposed. Such a moment occurred on January 6 when supporters of President Trump assaulted, occupied, and ransacked the Capitol.
The insurrection of January 6 was this generation’s Altamont Moment. As did Altamont, it shattered delusions that never deserved to be taken seriously in the first place.
An infamous December 1969 rock concert in southern California that descended into mindless violence, Altamont demolished fantasies of the Sixties as an Age of Aquarius. Occurring just months after Woodstock had seemingly affirmed illusions of peace, love, and good dope giving birth to a new and more enlightened society, Altamont exposed the dark underside of such expectations. A post-mortem published in Rolling Stone accurately characterized Altamont as “the product of diabolical egotism, hype, ineptitude,” and sheer greed.
If you are looking for terms to describe America in our own age—not simply the age of Trump, but also of Iraq and Afghanistan, Amazon and Google, Fox News and Facebook, Antifa and Proud Boys, epic government dysfunction and the havoc wreaked by COVID-19—egotism, hype, ineptitude, and greed provide a good place to start.
After 9/11 and the costly military disappointments that ensued, why should anyone be surprised at the inability of the Capitol Police to secure the building that moist-eyed members of the media have suddenly christened the “people’s house”? Incompetence combined with hyperbole are twin signatures of our times.
The Great Insurrection of 2021 rings down the curtain on the post-Cold War era: that is what this event signifies. The mirage of American global preeminence, nursed in official circles since the fall of the Berlin Wall, has now become untenable. Once tantamount to a civil religion, American Exceptionalism has devolved into little more than an excuse for ignoring facts and evading responsibility—like the organizers at Altamont hiring Hell’s Angels to serve as an improvised concert security force.
In exchange for their dubious services, the Hell’s Angels got free beer. Members of the mob that stormed the Capitol will get indictments and rightly so.
Seattle’s Mayor Jenny Durkan compared her leftists’ insurrection to “the Summer of Love” — at least until the rioters showed up at her doorstep. Given the speed of the Internet era, we shouldn’t be all that surprised at how quickly Altamont would have arrived.