Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Abbie Hoffman (November 30, 1936)

Abbie Hoffman was a high-profile counterculture and New Left figure in the 1960s, now all but forgotten. He espoused a kind of anarchy, especially in the “Yippie” movement, which he founded with Jerry Rubin and Paul Krassner. 

Why were so many Jews in the 60s counterculture? (“Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Identity,” November 11, 2010). A recent New York Times article about the new Jewish Museum in Philadelphia brings up this question. The museum, it points out, has a focus is “on particular Jews, their migrations, their political positions, their achievements, their enjoyments of American possibilities — all social or material aspects of identity. This is one reason so much of the final gallery is given over to the ’60s counterculture, to feminism and to political protest: the emphasis, here as elsewhere, is on civil rights (though there is little exploration of why so many Jews were drawn to the counterculture).”

Abbie Hoffman was certainly part of the counterculture as well as political action of the time, perhaps most famously as a member of the Chicago Seven. The Seven were tried for conspiracy and inciting to riot at the Democratic National Convention of 1968. All the defendants were acquitted of conspiracy; some including Hoffman were convicted of other crimes, but the convictions were eventually reversed.

His best quote: “Conspiracy? Hell, we couldn't agree on lunch." He also said: “I don’t know whether I’m innocent or I’m guilty.”

It’s hard to remember how important all this seemed at the time.

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