One of the weirdest parts of the great man theory of history is that you get a really weird picture of what people were up to. Like, okay, the youth in the 1960s were hippies and were then the establishment of the 1980s who... voted for Regan?

Nope, different people. There were very few hippies around. The week Gimme Shelter was released, it didn’t chart very high. The music that was really everywhere? Sugar Sugar by the Archies.

The same people who made Sugar Sugar by the Archies the most popular song when Gimme Shelter was available voted for Reagan. That makes sense. There was no pivot in American culture. The “debauchery” of the 1970s we’re told there was a backlash against? Bowie playing a few night clubs. Rich people briefly screening Deep Throat in a theatre because it was trendy among a very few people, who were resentful.

The people who listened to Disco were not the people who outright held a riot and burned records in a baseball stadium. Those were different people who hated hearing Black music on the radio from day one.

Anyway, this Great Man theory often misses when a group was missed entirely at the time but are now notable because later people found them influential. Or that Gordon Gekko never was a hippy.

It can also be really obfuscatory. We tell a story about MLK, that he protested, got America to rally behind him, and that changed policy. Nope. He was wildly unpopular at the time of his death and he had way less support than many policies we advocate for now (like a higher minimum or healthcare) that he got passed. Something is being left out of the story that made him effective. And no, it’s not that it’s MLK. It’s that he targeted *individuals with power* and set up winnable court cases.


@some_qualia And Pauli Murray & Thurgood Marshall built that legal strategy.

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