Why Did Some Countercultural Types Vote For Trump?

by R.U. Sirius

I would like to — beforehand — renounce these unauthorized thoughts by… wait, who is it? … oh yeah, me. It is unthinkable to think unthinkable things in times such as these.

1: The Chaos Candidate/President

 

Upset the apple cart and see what rolls out? Jefferson Airplane sang in their 1969 anthemic song “We Should Be Together” “We are forces of chaos and anarchy… and we are very proud of ourselves.” The Sex Pistols offered the slogan “cash for chaos” and Chaos was a signifier on thousands of punkers tees and leather jackets. Well, we may have learned something about the limits of chaos as applied to practical matters such as political policy and many who loved chaos now curse the Chaos Presidency without looking back… but also, seemingly, without self-reflection.

2: Spontaneity

 

Trump says whatever the fuck he pleases (well, maybe a bit cautious not to upset Vlad) and seems to enjoy performing provocatively. There’s an inkling of the prankster/trickster spirit. (If you’ve explored the legends of the  trickster, you know it is not always or ultimately benign). Sure, he is just a dumpy old scammer, but there’s a bit of the mad glint in the eye when he’s gaslighting the entire world. 

It’s problematic of course because it’s bullshit pretending to be facts in a situation that’s consequential but 20th Century countercultures embraced spontaneity and play and Trump’s randomness was appealing to a few old freaks. At a time when parents have been arrested for letting their kids walk down the street and in which “free range kids” has to be enunciated; a time of Tiger Moms and 12 rules for living…  and in which “you better watch what you say” has gone from something we freaked out about when Ari Fleischer  uttered it during the G.W. Bush years to something that is daily and retroactively enforced by public shaming and worse, the performance of spontaneity is a quality that can attract people and give a dopamine hit of pleasure. 

Trump was also up against an uncomfortably constrained, poll-tested, cautious candidate. In contrast to Obama, who could be pretty natural and a bit spontaneous because of natural charisma and because moderation-with-some-progressive-ideals is who he actually is, Ms. Clinton was not just an uncomfortable campaigner. As someone with a managerial temperament, she’d learned and seen too much to not have conservative as well as progressive approaches towards various issues which made her feel conflicted in the role of simple advocacy. In other words, as a true believer, broadly, in the system, she had, from experience, evolved into a full-on neoliberal centrist establishment policy wonk. And she was not having much fun.

Democratic presidential candidates will likely have even more difficulty being spontaneous in 2020 as even the slightest verbal misstep may become a massive trigger. 

3: Conspiracy Theory

 

Many counterculture types are deep — too deep — into conspiracy theory. The President is too deep into conspiracy theory. Conspiracy theory is anti-establishment (unless it’s Colin Powell waving a vial of anthrax at the UN to prove something false about Saddam Hussein or … the Russians!). Therefore, such logic dictates, the president is antiestablishment… which he sort of is in a perverse way. He’s against obeying the established norms, but entirely in his own self-interest and in the interest of peculiar notions that 1: aren’t really against the system (well-policed state capitalism) and 2: don’t hold water.

4: Too Many Drugs

 

Sure, you’re tapped into the pulsating “I” from which infinite multiverses are relentlessly formed, but while so distracted you’re an easy prey to the street corner 3-card monte dealer. Read more “Why Did Some Countercultural Types Vote For Trump?”

Did It! From Yippie To Yuppie: Jerry Rubin, An American Revolutionary – The Interview

I was a Yippie. Upon graduating from High School and asking that age-old question “What do I do with my life?” I decided to be part of the Youth International Party! My life plans had an expiration date that Pete Townshend might have approved of when writing “My Generation.”

Like Jerry Rubin, I’ve gone through some changes since, although I recently called one of my projects Steal This Singularity (after Abbie Hoffman’s Steal This Book), so maybe I didn’t change enough.

This is an insanely great book. A mix of author bio and oral history, it’s also a visual treasure trove with lots of archival moments from Jerry’s own. Physically, it’s about the size of New Jersey. And it has a lovely comprehensible story arc that — among other things — might make you feel what it’s like to believe the revolution had come; and then it had gone without bringing about a season of joy and total anarcho-communist transformation (or executions) as was expected by a few of us. And then, what do you for your next act?

If you were Jerry, you exaggerated your conversion from Yippiedom to Yuppiedom — because that’s the sort of clear narrative the media likes, and because he wanted to do cool things. At the same time, he did want to make money, so maybe he wasn’t exaggerating that much.

Anyway, the book has it all. John and Yoko during their political period. Bob Dylan being elusive but friendly. Jerry’s competitive friendship with the more legendary, fellow Yippie leader Abbie Hoffman. It has Black Panthers, the Weather Underground and all the women who didn’t get enough credit — including Jerry’s girlfriend during the thick of the late ‘60s, Nancy Kurshan — during a time when several radical leftist men became pop stars

R.U. Sirius

In addition to Did It! From Yippie To Yuppie: Jerry Rubin, An American Revolutionary, Pat Thomas is the author of Listen, Whitey! The sights & sounds of Black Power 1965-1975 and consulted on the essential film history of the Black Panther Party, The Black Panthers: The Vanguard of the Revolution.

I interviewed him via email.

R.U.: Aside from the fact that there hadn’t yet been a biography – and so many about Abbie Hoffman — what attracted you to Jerry Rubin’s story? You were too young during the Yippie heyday to be a part of it. (Pat Thomas is 53 years old)

PAT THOMAS: My brother was 9 years older than me. He brought Steal This Book into the house in the early 70s – I gravitated toward it despite not even being a teenager yet. I also started listening to rock music several years before my friends did (again, because of my brother). My ‘day job’ is working for folks like the estate of Allen Ginsberg, reissuing lost vintage 1960s and 70s recordings on CD and that sort of thing — so I’m into chronicling the counterculture. Jerry’s story had never been told and needed to be told — before everyone who knew him was dead. Read more “Did It! From Yippie To Yuppie: Jerry Rubin, An American Revolutionary – The Interview”

Did It! From Yippie To Yuppie: Jerry Rubin, An American Revolutionary (Excerpt)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As savvy as the slickest madmen in advertising, the Yippies tried to project universal messages: “everyone is a leader” and “the Festival is whatever you want it to be.” As Jerry told Abe Peck in 1985, “It was mutual manipulation.

A marvelous visual stunning book by Pat Thomas, Did It: Jerry Rubin” An American Revolutionary captures the excitement and humor of the prankster counterculture radicalism of the 1960s and ’70s as well as the odd engagements of Rubin and varied fellow travelers with other attempts at bending reality across the remainder of the 20th Century. Did It is an oral history — not just of Jerry Rubin, but of the people with whom he engaged in activism and play… among them boldface names like John Lennon and Yoko Ono, Bob Dylan and Allen Ginsberg.

For those of you too young to remember, Jerry Rubin was one of the leaders of the Yippies or Youth International Party, a group that took a radical mix of counterculture and new left ideas and impulses and turned it into disruptive, funny and dangerous political theater.

While the Yippies are best known for their famous “siege of Chicago” — some of the activities leading up to that are memorialized in this excerpt — they remained a vital organization into the 1970s and were the leading activists in a few communities.

We will be running an interview with Pat Thomas about the book soon. Meanwhile, we hope you enjoy these pages straight from the book.

Thanks to author Pat Thomas and FANTAGRAPHICS for permission to publish this excerpt. In addition to his current book, Thomas is the author of Listen, Whitey! The sights & sounds of Black Power 1965-1975 and consulted on the essential film history of the Black Panther Party, The Black Panthers: The Vanguard of the Revolution.

For those of you who would prefer not to squint at the tiny print that accompanies the pdfs from the book itself, we provide the unadulterated text below the designed pages.

btw there’s not much point to Steal This Book online. It’s the visual design that makes it! So rip off your boyfriend instead.

See also Steal This Singularity – The Yippies Started The Digital Revolution

 

Did It-Jerry Rubin_Cover
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