Christopher Gunn 1k1mgm at kuhub.cc.ukans.edu
Fri Apr 28 10:16:26 MDT 1995

Ralph Dumain <rdumain at igc.apc.org> writes:

>Re Laird Wilcox: where is this fellow coming from?  I have been
>curious for years, because I have always been deeply suspicious of
>him.  He is known for his publications such as his guides to the
>American "Left" and Right".  We used to have his reference works
>at a place I used to work.  He presents himself as a scholar of
>extremist movements on both sides, but where does he himself
>stand?   While reading some of his material it seemed to me he was
>subtly insinuating a right-wing perspective into his discussions
>of certain topics, but I could not be sure.  We need to know just
>what this man is all about.

I knew Wilcox, only a little, 'way back when. He was a leader in
the Univ. of Kansas SDS-ish circles in the 1963-65 time-frame.
(Although there were so few people involved 'leader' only meant
who was talking the loudest that day, and I'm not sure it was SDS
_per se_.  I have a feeling something called the Student Peace Union
[SPU] was the main vehicle of that time and place.  I was in high
school then and my memories aren't 100% clear on all of this.)
The lefty culture here at that particular juncture of history was strange.
It was not at all Marxist and for people like Wilcox, Charlie Hook, John
Garlinghouse, etc., the left milieu may have been more an arena in
which to pursue one's own muse than a particular programmatic
agenda.  Some people who I recall from that general social grouping
--I'm particularly remembering an obnoxious drunken Dutchman named
Pim Helms and some of his friends--were plainly there for the beer and
the turmoil and held what (even then) were obviously Right-libertarian

I can't recall Wilcox's views from the early '60s, but by the late '60s he'd
moved to the Kansas City area, become a construction worker/
small contractor (which I believe he still is), and was known to have
anti-programmatic-Left, anti-'hippie,' anti-'longhair,' etc. beliefs.
When in Lawrence he kept to himself and seemed both estranged
and hostile to the Nixon-era demonstrations, riots and other doings.
His dress and demeanor were 100% 'hard-hat,' at a time when that
was a most definite political statement.  (Although not necessarily
a wholly retrograde one:  a lot of 'real' leftists thought what the
freak and 'cultural' contingent was doing was stupid, self-indulgent
drivel, about which [now, anyway] one can make a pretty good case....)

Since then, Wilcox has been somewhat reclusive and a little cryptic
about his beliefs.  He obviously enjoys being treated as an expert
on political extremism (which in many ways he is) but also is guarded
about his privacy.  From reading the occasional newspaper article
about him, one gets a sense of somebody who is conscious of and
attempting to manage a tangled set of status inconsistencies and/or
contradictory class location.

I have no *clear-cut* reading on his current political views, but I,
like Ralph Dumain, get a definite 'odor of Right' about him.  But I
don't think its a matter of direct affiliation, or a question of Wilcox
being a Stealth this-or-that.  I get the sense that Wilcox's core views
at one time were late-'50s working-class Left-libertarian--the sort of
thing that would cause a person to abandon the Baptists and join
a Universalist church, sort of the tail-end of what would have been
called a 'Free Thought' position.  I can't tell you why I have this sense
about Wilcox--just vibes.  My guess is that his intellectual problem--
hey, not an uncommon one!--is that his views haven't changed
that much while the world has changed around him.  I don't see
him as a menace, think his service to the university here has been
noble, but don't give much credence to his actual political or social
analyses....  It's possible that he's trying to retain some degree of
public credibility while holding some heavy-duty nut-Right positions.
But I just don't get the feeling that this is the case.

Christopher Gunn                Molecular Graphics and Modeling Laboratory
1k1mgm at kuhub.cc.ukans.edu       University of Kansas
Phone: 913-864-4428 or -4495    Malott Hall
                                Lawrence, KS  66045

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