Where did the “Reagan revolution” come from? How did Washington D.C. get transformed from a bastion of moderate-progressive compassionate governance in the post-World War II period into the hostile, mean-spirited place it has become today under the latest “Tea Party” manifestation of that right-wing revolution?
It is critical to our future to get a cogent grasp of what happened, and as I began to tell the story in his column space last week, the docudrama currently in theaters about the seminal role of Ken Kesey and his “Magic Trip” provides some important insight.
The film, when taken in conjunction with Tom Wolfe’s 1968 best-selling book, The Electric Kool Aid Acid Test, and some critical independent thinking, documents a chapter in the story, indispensable for sorting it all out.
As the film reports, Kesey was a participant in a highly-secretive CIA operation targeted against the domestic population of the U.S. It began being developed right after World War II and too the code name, “Operation MK-Ultra.” It involved Nazi doctor-style experiments with LSD and other drugs on unsuspecting members of the U.S. public.
Its purpose wasn’t to find an effective tool for interrogation purposes, as the cover story has it. There was no reason to set up operations on no fewer than 44 different U.S. college campuses if that was the case. No, it was designed to socially engineer a massive shift in the mindset of the U.S. population, targeting college-aged youth.
Not the entire CIA was involved, but a faction under the influence of U.S. elites that were pro-Nazi prior to the war, aligned with counterparts in Europe who preferred the fascist model of governing, and were comfortable with just about any form of totalitarianism, including Soviet communism, as long as they had leverage over it.
These elites were furious with FDR, stunned that he would betray his patrician roots to empower the downtrodden with New Deal programs, including massive public works and Social Security, and the strengthening of organized labor. Their anger extended beyond FDR to the very notion of American democracy, which permitted this to happen.
They created a “false flag” after the war, waging war against American democracy by claiming the enemy was the USSR, using that pretext to crack down on progressives and their causes in the U.S. during the McCarthy Era.
But it was the founding of the “counterculture” that became their most insidious tool, and it began going “prime time” with Kesey and his “Magic Trip” bus tour in early 1964.
With the revelations about MK-Ultra that came to light in the Church Committee hearings of the late 1970s, cover stories about a lot of the Kesey operation were fabricated, and included in the film, “The Magic Trip.” But it is not too hard to see through them.
For one, I surmise that Kesey, a popular, intelligent and talented athlete at college in Oregon, was identified for recruitment by the CIA from the start. He received a fellowship to Stanford University, where much of the MK-Ultra work centered.
He was introduced to LSD experiments there, and as footage in the film shows, he clearly was identified as a valuable asset because of his ability to maintain a lucid and intelligent conversation while under the drug’s influence.
It was while in these experiments that Kesey wrote two important novels that helped forward the cause of his pro-fascist puppet masters.
The first, “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest,” became a best-seller, a Broadway play, and an Academy Award-winning movie. It was grounded in the idea that the insane are saner than the staffs of mental institutions that treat them.
That was a useful propaganda tool in the cost-cutting push to shut down mental health hospitals, which Reagan did while governor of California. Kesey’s work inspired the formation in 1970 of a phony counterculture flank, called “New Opportunities through Voluntary Action” (NOVA), that pushed for “freeing” patients from mental institutions.
Kesey followed that by writing “Sometimes a Great Notion,” also made into a film, in which the hero was a rugged individualist strike-breaker, an important component of the counterculture psyche.
To be continued.