“We’ll get you through your children!”
That was the threat shouted by the poet Allen Ginsberg on a fateful night in 1958. Ginsberg was yelling at Norman Podhoretz, a conservative writer. The confrontation between Ginsberg and Podhoretz is described in Podhoretz’s 2001 book Ex-Friends: Falling Out With Allen Ginsberg, Lionel and Diana Trilling, Lillian Hellman, Hannah Arendt, and Norman Mailer.
The Modern Culture War Began
The Podhoretz essay, called “My War With Allen Ginsberg,” has stayed with me for years. I occasionally re-read it for its tremendous foresight, wisdom and power. It is a first-hand account of a night in America in which the modern culture war began. With elegant and at times very funny observations, Podhoretz predicted everything that would happen for the next 60 years: How we got to be a country awash in drug abuse, transgenderism (and the medical malpractice that comes with it), mental health problems, anti-Americanism and atheism. It’s the genesis of our modern cultural and political nightmare.
Most chilling is the part where Ginsberg, a drug user, sex addict and member of NAMBLA, the North American Man-Boy Love Association, bellows at Podhoretz: “We’ll get you through your children!” That very thing has indeed happened. It’s why Podhoretz, still going at 93, has never forgiven Ginsberg, who died in 1997. The left did in fact get back at square America by corrupting her children.
The Beat Influence
The conflict between Podhoretz and Ginsberg was the result of the young Podhoretz slamming Ginsberg and his fellow writers. In the 1950s Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac, William S. Burroughs and others formed a literary group that would become known as the Beat Generation. The Beats thought America was too conformist. They advocated drugs, sex, poetry, alternate spirituality, and long car trips. Their most famous member, Jack Kerouac, wrote a book about their experiences called On the Road — a book Podhoretz panned. The Beats were hugely influential to the counterculture of the 1960s (despite the fact that Jack Kerouac turned conservative late in life and hated hippies, but that’s another story). For young people it became cool to listen to jazz, do drugs, and aimlessly leave home without much of a plan. The Beat influence was still huge when I was in college in the 1980s.
Norman Podhoretz saw all of this coming. In several essays in the 1950s he blasted the Beats for “the conviction that any form of rebellion against American culture…is admirable” and that Ginsberg regarded “homosexuality, jazz, dope addiction, and vagrancy as outstanding examples of such rebellion.” Podhoretz ended one essay with this incredible takedown:
Being against what the Beat Generation stands for has to do with denying that incoherence is superior to precision; that ignorance is superior to knowledge; that the exercise of mind and discrimination is a form of death. It has to do with fighting the notion that sordid acts of violence are justifiable as long as they are committed in the name of ‘instinct.’ It even has to do with fighting the poisonous glorification of the adolescent in American popular culture. It has to do, in other words, with one’s attitude towards intelligence itself.
A Clash of Worldviews
This upset Ginsberg and Kerouac. So on a fall evening in 1958, the two writers called Podhoretz and asked him to come visit them in Ginsberg’s New York apartment and have it out. “As against the law-abiding life I had chosen of a steady job and marriage and children,” Podhoretz recalled, “[Ginsberg] conjured up a world of complete freedom from the limits imposed by such grim responsibilities. It was a world that promised endless erotic possibilities together with an expanded consciousness constantly open to new dimensions of being: more adventure, more sex, more intensity, more life.”
He went on: “For nearly four hours that Saturday night in 1958, Ginsberg and I had at each other on all of these issues.”
Podhoretz argued in favor of George Orwell’s idea that normal people living normal lives of faith, freedom, heterosexuality and steady work can have just as much joy, adventure, and thrills as anyone outside the system — in fact maybe even more, as they would avoid drug addiction, sexual diseases and perhaps even hell itself.
Years later Podhoretz would come across a park in Massachusetts dedicated to the Beats and make this observation:
We were memorializing Ginsberg and Kerouac, thereby further weakening our already tenuous grasp on Orwell’s saving fact, and abandoning the field once again to these latter-day Pied Pipers, and their current successors, who never ceased telling our children that the life being lived around them was not worth living at all.
A Chilling Threat Has Become Reality
I often hear fellow conservatives and Christians wonder how America got into its current mess — our kids backed up in hospitals for mental health issues, pornography everywhere, drug addicts on the street, the medical mutilation of children in defiance of the sex that God gave us.
“We’ll get you through your children!” Ginsberg announced on that pivotal fall night in 1958. The Satanic left has done exactly that.
Mark Judge is a writer and filmmaker in Washington, D.C. His new book is The Devil’s Triangle: Mark Judge vs the New American Stasi.