Document Type

Article

Publication Date

Fall 2000

Publisher

Duke University Press

Abstract

Todd Gitlin’s work helped us to understand the tremendous barriers to left movements speaking freely through commercial media and the potentially destructive impacts of media imperatives on movements. Edward Morgan adds another warning: today’s organizers must overcome a media history of the 1960s that demonizes or trivializes the era’s struggles for justice. But must we also overcome some of our own thinking about how movements create change and their relationship to the media? Certainly, coverage of anti-Vietnam War organizing is one case study worth revisiting to recover an accurate past that can inform contemporary mobilizations. But there is also a danger that in drawing generalized conclusions from the New Left’s experience (for, as I will argue, it is really the New Left, not the broader antiwar movement, to which Morgan and Gitlin’s conclusions apply), we can sink into a debilitating pessimism about organizers’ ability to speak successfully through mainstream media or, just as important, to speak unsuccessfully and still affect policy and public opinion.

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