INSURRECTION, OR MENACING MASHUP OF MISRECOGNITION?

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Author: John O'kane
Date: Wntr 2021
From: AMASS(Vol. 25, Issue 3)
Publisher: Society For Popular Democracy
Document Type: Article
Length: 3,337 words
Lexile Measure: 1410L

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The mob that swarmed the capital on January 6 was ill-prepared to mount an insurrection and seize power, performing a coup de grace to civility but coming well shy of delivering a revolutionary punch. A few of its factions are surely "counting coup" in anticipation of another performance, to lift a scoring ruse from native American warrior lore. But there was no evidence of a speechready leader or military preparedness.

The late Paul Krassner would likely have pegged this action a limping erection, the activists softening their muscles amid stiffening rhetoric and a petering police presence. And it's the Yippies, their name derived from the Youth International Party, the organization he co-founded in the late 1960s to protest the materialism and violence of American life--especially with respect to the Vietnam War--that offer a useful frame of reference to understand this breakout. They called themselves pranksters, a concept nurtured from Ken Kesey's Merry Pranksters from earlier in the decade, road rebels trying to remain spiritual kin to the Beats while exposing new hypocritical attitudes and behaviors of everyday life. The Yippies amped up this effort, diagnosing an even more diseased culture. They practiced a form of (gotcha) consciousness-raising, shocking the sleeper-masses into seeing the way things really are so they could begin to recognize their real interests.

They were famous for invading the stock-trading arena on Wall Street and dropping piles of currency from the ledge onto the floor to witness traders frantically grab for the free bills, demoing the pathology of materialist acquisition. At protests they would put flowers in the barrels of the rifles of the National Guard troops, smile, and invite them to drop their weapons and join them. Abbie Hoffman, a co-founder, tested a prank at the March on the Pentagon event in October 1967, a few months before the group was officially formed on December 31, 1967. He proclaimed that the seminal strategy was to levitate the Pentagon: "We will dye the Potomac red, burn the cherry trees, panhandle embassies, attack with water pistols, marbles, bubble gum wrappers, bazookas, girls will run naked and piss on the Pentagon walls, sorcerers, swamis, witches, voodoo, warlocks, medicine men and speed freaks will hurl their magic at the faded brown walls" (Katie Mettier, "The Day the Anti-Vietnam War Protesters Tried to Levitate the Pentagon," Washington Post, 10/19/2017).

Jerry Rubin claimed that a new kind of protester surfaced at this event, a hybrid of New Left and hippie, one uncomfortable with normal SDS politics (Pat Thomas, Did It! Jerry Rubin: An American Revolutionary).

It's interesting that as many as 100,000 came to witness this wizardry (which comprised many fringe radical groups, including American neo-Nazis), and between 30,000 and 50,000 descended physically on the Pentagon. There were few injuries, perhaps because this event was permitted. Sympathies for ending a war with 20,000 casualties to date had sufficiently infiltrated the higher echelons of power.

These cultural rebels shocked and disrupted, pranking their desire for a redress of wrongs. They had little interest...

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Gale Document Number: GALE|A660799823