Tune in, turn on, buy a credit swap

The documentary "Generation Zero" blames the hippies for blowing up Wall Street

Published February 24, 2010 6:37PM (EST)

"Generation Zero" is a documentary about the roots of the financial crisis that reportedly debuted to rave reviews at the Tea Party Convention and at CPAC. As such, it falls within HTWW's purview. But I've been doing my best to ignore it. Call me close-minded, but I am self-aware enough to know that I just can't be fair to a film whose argument, according to one account, is "that the financial crisis was deliberately engineered by radical 1960s ideologues."

The notion is so ahistorical, so obviously a propaganda feint in the culture wars, that it's just impossible to take seriously. It's 911-Truther-style poppycock for conservatives not quite crazy enough to be Birthers. Though I'm sure there's a lot of crossover.

But, you know, I live in Berkeley -- heck, I was practically born in Berkeley, and when a colleague told me that "Generation Zero" blamed "the hippies" for causing the crisis, I felt a certain responsibility to push back, or at least become more informed. So I watched a 10-minute clip from Fox's Sean Hannity introducing the documentary.

Here's what I learned:

"The movie completely refutes the notion that massive deregulation caused the economic downturn," said Hannity.

"It's the cultural and social breakdown from the '60s, that has really taken thirty or forty years, that led up to the September 18th crisis," said the director, Stephen Bannon.

What "the Kremlin, the Nazis, and the Japanese" couldn't accomplish, the hippies did! From "within"!

"The people who were the hippies of the '60s, of Woodstock, who became the yuppies of the '80s, and really the barons of the 2000s, and really are the leaders around the country, are the ones that helped cause this."

The larger theme appears to be that the greatest generation was so scarred by their experiences of the Great Depression that they over-coddled their baby boomer spawn and reared a generation of irresponsible risk-takers. Yup, June Cleaver was too good of a mother, and her kids broke the economy.

I will grant that there is something to the thesis that the farther we have gotten away from the Great Depression, the less we have paid attention to the principles of proper risk management. But I am fascinated at this ongoing transformation of hippies into yuppies into investment bankers and derivatives traders, with nary a Young Republican in sight. Why did so many conservatives spend so much time defending Wall Street's risk-taking as perfectly normal free market behavior? Were they completely oblivious to the truth -- that the financial sector was mortally infected by counterculture bullshit? Were they blinded by drifts of Tibetan incense smoke wafting across the trading floor?

Tune in, turn on, sell short and cover your bets with a bong hit and a credit default swap!

Wall Street's increasing appetite for risk knew no political or cultural boundaries. Part of that may have been due to a relaxation of social mores, but it went hand in hand with the dismantling of regulatory safeguards. The Greatest Generation so lauded by Hannity and the documentary makers also happened to be responsible for setting up a system of financial sector regulation that generally worked pretty well for at least a quarter century after WWII.

I can't in all honesty recommend that you watch the Hannity clip laying out "Generation Zero's" thesis. It will be 10 minutes of your life that you will never get back. But just so you know I'm not making this all up in an LSD-induced fit of Thomas Pynchonesque paranoia, here it is: These guys are for real, even if their argument is a fantasy.

Watch the latest news video at video.foxnews.com

By Andrew Leonard

Andrew Leonard is a staff writer at Salon. On Twitter, @koxinga21.

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How The World Works Mortgage Crisis Sean Hannity