I recently had occasion to write about the 50th anniversary of Woodstock, and I thought it would be interesting to see what National Review said about the festival when it happened. So I pulled out the bound volume for 1969 from our library shelf and found an eyewitness account of Woodstock by Philip P. Ardery Jr., an NR associate who had graduated from Harvard a few years earlier. I was expecting something snide, but to my surprise, Mr. Ardery wrote of a deep kinship he felt with the people in attendance (the piece was written mostly in first person plural), stressed their idealism and community spirit, apologized for the crowds that overwhelmed local service providers and disrupted the lives of area residents, and in general portrayed the gathering as a heartwarming spiritual exercise in learning and harmony (“We shared a formless experience, one we had not prepared for, and it gratified immensely”). Oh, and they took some drugs too.
I can find no indication of what William F. Buckley thought of this article, but a few issues later, publisher Bill Rusher let everyone how he personally felt with a piece titled “Mass Infantilism, Anyone?”: “Mr. Ardery has smuggled into the pages of America’s leading journal of conservative opinion a commentary upon [Woodstock] which, for sheer thumb-sucking inanity, takes the all-time, free-style prize.” And he went on in this vein for a whole page (“there is a part of me that would cheerfully have salted a few of those tender young behinds with birdshot, if I had owned a farm in Sullivan County . . .”). As faithful followers of The Corner know, today’s NR staff can be just as cantankerous and argumentative, but we do tend to express ourselves a bit less vehemently. Overall that’s a good thing, but I wouldn’t mind a little of that old 1960s damn-those-filthy-hippies spirit once in a while . . .