I’m usually one who mocks conspiracy theorists, so I fully expect some kind of take down here but…
I think “the 60’s” can be explained by communist propaganda.
Look, pre-1960s, America had twice gone on a major rampage against Communist spying: the 1920s (where, just before that, the “Progressives” gave us women voting and Prohibition) and the 1950s. And, if you read up on the history of these times—not just the propaganda disseminated by left-wing sympathizers—you find that, behind the demagoguery of McCarthy (who was a classic “pick a target, freeze it, polarize it” idol for pre-Alinksyites) were very scary, very Anti-American actions by left-wing sympathizers within the U.S. Terrorism and spying for Mother Russia being two major items. These were not “scares” or panics—they were based on very real infiltration of the U.S. by Communist agitators.
But, by the late 1950s, the KGB/CPUSA were honing a successful counter-offensive to any prosecution of organized left-wing agitation:
1. Use of entertainment industry to downplay Communist actions and attack anti-communists as opportunists/fanatics (e.g. The Crucible)
2. Finding extreme anti-communists and holding them up as examples of the entire anti-communist movement (McCarthy)—often by feeding news organizations info on them to discredit them.
3. Likewise, finding sympathetic left-wing “innocents” who were “victims” of anti-communists/right wingers (e.g. the “blacklisted” writers, The Ethel Rosenberg Cult, Medgar Evans, MLK). I call this “creating martyrs” or “Al Queda” syndrome.
4. Also feeding News organizations spectacles tailor-made to seem large on the (brand new) medium of television, but were in reality quite small and led by few people (e.g. “peaceful” black civil rights demonstrations being hosed down , feminism, Vietnam “massacres”). Especially at times there were stories breaking of violence by left-wing agitators—better to distract
5. While not creating conspiracy theories, encouraging any blossoming ones that fostered distrust in the U.S. government or right-wing morale (e.g. the KGB actively promoted JFK conspiracy theorists, especially those that implicated the CIA or anti-communist ones).
6. Discrediting right-wing centric organizations (e.g. lying about the Klan, purging the Birchers).
In this context, we encounter 60’s “social” movements. The hippie movement, the feminist movement, and the civil rights movement all were agitated, financed, and organized by communist/KGB front groups (e.g. almost all of MLK’s white advisers—especially those dealing with the media—were involved with communism). Most people those days didn’t march or protest or go to Woodstock, but communists made sure the TV screens were filled with them weekly, and made sure entertainers wrote pop songs extolling them and movies celebrating them.
Once you had people on board with the idea that “everyone” was doing it, people naturally followed suit. Most people are followers, and if this is how “everyone” was thinking, it must be right.
The successful pushback using McCarthy as the symbol of the anti-communist movement emboldened the left, and Hoover’s waning power at the end of his life, and in regards to his conflict with Kennedy and Johnson, meant that the opposition was severely curtailed.
When Nixon, fierce anti-commie, realized that TV reality was not actual reality, he began his “Silent Majority” movement, which culminated in his surprise victories (and showed that lefty-media types totally bought commie propaganda, as displayed by Pauline Kael’s famous statement on not knowing who voted for Nixon).
But by then, the value of more than a decade of successful demoralization was done: Vietnam, though winnable, was lost as a cause to the American people, and Nixon pulled out; Nixon got rid of the gold standard, rationing, and implemented Affirmative Action and the EPA and all sorts of nonsense, and basically threw a lot of bones to the left to keep them from getting too upset (until, of course, the commies/KGB made a HUGE deal out of Watergate, a minor scandal, just to rid themselves of an anti-communist).
I think the 1970s the commies ideas waned, as televised protests became old hat and boring. Probably US counter-intelligence made a comeback or the KGB lost some key players, or maybe commie focus shifted to other nations. In any event, Reagan’s election was a bad thing for them, because he was both fiercely anti-communist AND, just as importantly, knew how to stage public events for the cameras.
Anyway, the more I study the history of communist spying (thanks James Bond!) and the power of news-entertainment propaganda, the more this hypothesis moves me: the “60’s” was nothing more than a massive and very successful propaganda campaign by KGB/CPUSA forces to demoralize and discredit U.S. anti-communists.