My Two “Red Pill” Events

Both events are related to pivotal books I randomly discovered that forever impacted and changed me and the way I see the world.

The late 1960s, early 1970s saw a dramatic shift in the American political matrix, a redefinition of competing political ideologies or belief systems.

War, urban riots, campus protests and student alienation, assassinations, inter-generational mistrust, monetary inflation, the growth of the welfare-warfare state, and the “Sexual Revolution,” were the background sociopolitical issues driving this sea change.

While 1968 was the pivotal year in this dynamic process, I want to focus upon 1970.

This was the year I entered college as a political science student, and began my own personal ideological odyssey. I discuss the first book by Jerome Tuccille that initially was my “red pill” catalyst in this earlier LRC  article.

The second “red pill” event was my discovery of a powerful book that undertakes a grand synthesis of “Clandestine America” and the subterranean deep state forces at play. It is Carl Oglesby’s The Yankee and Cowboy War: Conspiracies From Dallas To Watergate, published in 1976. I remember encountering the book at a local B. Dalton book store and reading the powerful blurb on the back of the book by the late Murray N. Rothbard, who was particularly enamored with this pioneering book, remarking:

“Carl Oglesby’s new book is not only exciting and thoroughly researched, it presents the only analytic framework — originated by himself — which makes sense of the violent events of the last decade and a half our recent political history, and puts them all into a coherent framework: the Yankee vs. Cowboy analysis.

“The important question looms: why is it that Oglesby has been alone in coming up with this framework? I think the answer is that the methodologies of other writers and researchers have led them astray: the free-market economists who are critical of government actions never bother to ask who benefitted from those actions and who were likely to be responsible for them; the Marxists are anxious to indict an abstract, mythical and unified ‘capitalist class’ for all evils of government, and believe that detailed research into concrete divisions and conflicts among power elites detract from such an indictment; those sociologists who have engaged in concrete power elite analysis have only examined structures (who owns corporation X, who belongs to what social club?) rather than the dynamics of concrete historical events; the one writer who has treated Yankees and Cowboys has been so blinded by particular hostility to the Cowboys that he virtually includes everyone living in the Sunbelt as part of a vast Cowboy conspiracy; and the various doughty investigators and reporters of Dallas or Watergate have struck to surface events because they lacked the overall coherent framework.

“Carl Oglesby has surmounted all of these defects, and has therefore been able to make a giant breakthrough in explaining our recent history.”

This important book, along with Carroll Quigley’s Tragedy and Hope (which Oglesby discusses in detail in a crucial chapter) played a decisive role in shaping my intellectual worldview regarding the exercise of State power in America, and has my highest recommendation. One cannot fully understand the rise of the national security deep state and its role in the JFK assassination, post-Watergate America, the Reagan Revolution phenomenon or the rise of the Bush dynasty (who were able to transcend both worlds of Yankees and Cowboys) without having comprehended Oglesby’s insights.

I’d particularly like to ask younger readers to carefully avoid looking at the Watergate Scandal from fifty years ago through the prism of contemporary lenses. A very different time and institutional power dynamics were going on. As a young naïve college student I watched the nightly Senate Watergate Hearings and had no substantial reason to distrust the conventional media narrative regarding Nixon, his criminal regime, and the unfolding drama of the Watergate story. I was proud in 1972 to cast my first presidential ballot against Richard M. Nixon. As with the JFK assassination, my eyes were gradually opened to much wider hard truth and overt skepticism about state power and the role of hidden actors and deep state forces at play in American society. Watergate, as with the JFK assassination, were both coup attempts. Carl Oglesby’ brilliant book, The Yankee and Cowboy War, was the decisive “red pill” for me to begin to see this wider truth, and totally reshaped how I viewed the world.


2:18 pm on June 23, 2022