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Radical Chic & Mau-Mauing the Flak Catchers…
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Radical Chic & Mau-Mauing the Flak Catchers

by Tom Wolfe

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574717,265 (3.76)5

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1970s (98)
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Wolfe exposes the underbelly of race relations in a New York Cit filled with satire and biting humor. Many times Wolfe just stands back and lets the silly people hang themselves. ( )
  dbsovereign | Jan 26, 2016 |
I had no idea what this book was about when I purchased it. But having read several of Tom Wolfe’s other collections of “New Journalism” essays, there was little doubt that it would be interesting, entertaining, and informative.

“New Journalism” was coined after Tom Wolfe’s unique style of reporting the news. He became famous in the 1960’s for a new style of writing in which he objectively presented factual information… laid out however, in the form of a short story. Wolfe worked for several major newspapers and magazines where he contributed many of these “New Journalism” essays. In each he would demonstrate the ability to accurately characterize a decade, an era, an incident, or phase of American history. Keeping his finger on the pulse of America, he intellectually described the mood, culture, customs, and attitudes in a precise, candid and unbiased manner… often humorous, and always “right on”.

This particular book includes 2 such essays, both of which occur in the late 1960s.

"Radical Chic" takes place on Park Avenue in New York City. Characters include high-society left wing intellectuals and celebrities such as Leonard Bernstein, Otto Preminger, and Barbara Walters. The trend amongst Manhattan social climbers was to ostentatiously give generously to any charitable organization that would result in personal public attention. No altruism here… just an arrogant attempt to demonstrate superiority over each other and the dreadful middle class. In fact, there was no interest in helping the middle class. But coming to the aid of poor black radicals was alluring....”primitive, exotic, romantic”. It just happened at the time that the Black Panthers were involved in terrorist anti-war activities and were seeking funds to pay for attorney fees. So all up and down Park Avenue, social climbing elitists were inviting the leaders of the Black Panthers into their penthouse suites and throwing fund raising parties. You won’t want to miss Tom Wolfe’s report on one party in particular… and the very amusing outcome.

The second essay "Mau-Mauing the Flak Catchers" is about community organizing. Have you ever wondered exactly what community organizing is, where it started, and how it evolved? Tom Wolf’s essay goes right to the heart of these questions. While Saul Alinski was community organizing in Chicago, the ghetto blacks were doing it in San Francisco… all with the government’s blessing.

"Mau-Mauing" takes place in 1968 in San Francisco where emerging government agencies aiming to help the poor became an attraction for tough black ghetto youth. The original intent was to help the poor with occupational training and jobs- but nothing ever seemed to change- so most of the budget eventually went into community organizing… the bureaucratic term for ‘power to the people’. It was a term that meant identifying the gang leaders of the ghetto and helping them organize the poor to uprise against the social system. Mau-mauing was the term used to describe the intimidating confrontation tactics used by the blacks. “Bad dudes were out mau-mauing at all the poverty agencies, at boards of education, at city halls, hospitals, conventions, foundations, schools, charities, civic organizations, all sorts of places”. All they had to do was come up with a fancy name like Head Start or ACORN… send a few thugs to mau-mau the government “flak catchers”, and they were suddenly on the government payroll. Tom Wolfe compares community organizers to pimps... “the aristocrat of the street- a job that paid a lot of money and you did nothing.”

I doubt "Mau-mauing the Flak Catchers" had much impact on readers at the time of publication in 1970. It all seemed so harmless and irrelevant to the big picture. The entitlement bureaucracy was in it’s infancy stage… with the consequences unforeseen.

Once again Tom Wolfe manages to document events that seemed at the time to escape everyone else’s attention. In this case, events that help bring clarity and understanding to why and how our country is in such a mess today. Thank you Tom Wolfe.

Rated 5 Stars
Sept 26, 2015 ( )
  LadyLo | Jan 1, 2016 |
Two New York Magazine Pieces on the fermenting 1960's, one about the way in which the Civil Rights bill could be perverted by petty concerns of the black community, the other about the chicest of the parlour Liberals of the time. ( )
  DinadansFriend | Apr 1, 2014 |
I wish Tom Wolfe still wrote essays. I like him better when he's not 700 pages. ( )
1 vote AnnB2013 | Mar 14, 2013 |
Wolfe tells it like (as?) it is! I've seen the large black women and muscular men storm a government cubicle and terrorize the well-dressed bureaucrats. Part of the 1960s that doesn't get much light. ( )
  andyray | Jun 11, 2008 |
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At 2 or 3 or 4 a.m., somewhere along in there, on August 25, 1966, his forty-eighth birthday, in fact, Leonard Bernstein woke up in the dark in a state of wild alarm.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0553380621, Paperback)

The phrase radical chic was coined by Tom Wolfe in 1970 when Leonard Bernstein gave a party for the Black Panthers at his duplex apartment on Park Avenue. That incongrous scene is re-created here in high fidelity as is another meeting ground between militant minorities and the liberal white establishment.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:17:59 -0400)

(see all 4 descriptions)

In these two devastatingly funny essays, Tom Wolfe examines political stances, social styles, "black rage," and "white guilt" in our status-minded world.In "These Radical Chic Evenings," Wolfe focuses primarily on one symbolic event: a gathering of the politically correct at Leonard Bernstein's duplex apartment on Park Avenue to meet spokesmen of the Black Panther Party. He re-creates the incongruous scene and its astonishing repercussions with high fidelity.And in "Mau-Mauing the Flak Catchers," Wolfe travels to San Francisco to survey another meeting-ground between militant minorities and the liberal white establishment. This time the meeting deals with the newly emerging art of confrontation, as practiced by San Francisco's militant minorities in response to a highly bureaucratized poverty program.With his fourth book, which brought the phrase "radical chic" into the cultural lexicon, Wolfe has never been more unflinching with his patented social criticism.… (more)

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