Is it any wonder an entire generation stopped believing?
They wanted to have faith. To wit, their embrace of the wholesome beach party films of the ’60s and the silly 1970s TV series Happy Days that glorified the carefree ’50s. They stood in line for hours to see the syrupy, if ultimately sad, Ali MacGraw & Ryan O’Neal film Love Story in 1970.
But they’d experienced too much, been stripped raw. So little was good. Nothing was inspiring. They became a generation of skeptics, cynics and conspiracy theorists. (Some became journalists and later Crisis PR people — because both require healthy doses of mistrust.)
They came of age in the shadow of nuclear holocaust: the ominous movie On the Beach in 1959, the Cuban missile crisis in 1962, the wacky Dr. Strangelove two years later. Men they admired were assassinated with unnerving speed: Medgar Evers and President John Kennedy five months apart in 1963, Martin Luther King Jr. in April 1968, and U.S. Sen. Robert Kennedy two months later. (The 50th anniversary of JFK’s assassination is this Friday. All of us who are old enough remember precisely where we were the instant we heard the news.)
Barely a blink of the eye after the deaths of King and Bobby Kennedy came violent clashes at the Democratic National Convention in Chicago in August 1968. American society was torn apart by the horrors of a brutal war in Southeast Asia from the mid-’60s through 1973. One U.S. President (Lyndon Johnson) didn’t seek re-election in 1968 in the face of fierce divisions over the Vietnam war, and another (Richard Nixon) resigned in 1974 in the face of near-certain impeachment over the Watergate scandal.
Not to mention involvement in foreign intrigues, many of which were suspected at the time but not proven until secret documents were unsealed decades later.
There was little room for hope, even less for trust. Perhaps that’s why the TV series M*A*S*H, with its irreverent challenge to the status quo, became a runaway hit during its 11 seasons and why its final episode in 1983 attracted the biggest audience in U.S. history (125 million viewers).
It was an era when news controlled the newsmakers. Situations had been turned on their head. But it was also an era when Crisis & Reputation Management was needed the most — because without it, the damage would be even worse.
“Because Reputation Is Your Most Valuable Asset”
Gillott Communications is a Los Angeles-based public relations firm that specializes in high-stakes Crisis & Reputation Management. If you don’t already subscribe, please sign up for our blog Insights on High-Stakes PR. You can reach Roger Gillott directly at 310-826-8696.