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"I Know We Won" - Abbie Speaks | Reality Sandwich

Mar 20, 2010 • 2 comments • 563 views

The first street theater tricksters – the forefathers of today's culture jammers such as The Yes Men and Billionaires For Bush – appeared on the political stage in the 1960s. At the time, the possibility that activists could spread subversive messages through the mainstream media was a counter-intuitive, even revolutionary notion. But with the right mix of TV-savvy images and provocative sound bites, delivered with humor and no small dose of irony, the anti-war, flower power message of the political vanguard was able to reach the living rooms of unsuspecting, disaffected youth across the country, helping to ignite the radical activism that transformed America during that tumultuous decade.

No one was better at genius pranks than Abbie Hoffman. He's appreciated for stunts like bringing the New York Stock Exchange to a halt when he led a band of hippies onto the balcony there, where they rained dollar bills down upon the floor of amazed Wall Street suits, who famously knocked one another to the ground as they dived rapaciously for the free cash. Others may remember Abbie for the levitation of the Pentagon during a 1967 march against the Vietnam War (witnesses insist that it really did happen). But the event that made Hoffman a household name was the Chicago 8 trial, the subject of the new documentary "Chicago 10." For months the news was filled with his brilliant, often hilarious, defense maneuvers against government charges that he and his co-defendants conspired to disrupt the 1968 Democratic national convention. Abbie transformed the trial into a true theatrical event, a platform for broadcasting the alternative values and politics of the counterculture onto every TV screen in America. In the process, while never wavering from his radical beliefs, Hoffman became one of the country's most famous celebrities.

As this interview shows, he was also a sober, serious strategist who grounded his antics in theory. Few appreciated the subtle ties between cultural gesture and political action as deeply as Hoffman. This converstion took place in New York City a few months before his untimely death in 1989. It appeared in 2007 in the Australian journal Into-Gal.


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Comments

something about pranks just is so important of a medium.

 

i suppose it's the fact that life becomes so ordered that almost any breaking of pattern - but especially when there's a underlying revelation - becomes valuable for keeping things honest.

03.20.10 •

A huge component of humor is the introduction of an element that forces us to rapidly shift our framework of understanding. The funniest jokes usually rely on a punchline that turns our expectation on its' head. 

03.29.10 •
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