OUT, DEMONS, OUT!: The 1967 Exorcism of the Pentagon and the Birth of Yippie! [Arthur No. 13/Nov. 2004]

This piece was originally published in Arthur No. 13 (Nov. 2004), with cover artwork by John Coulthart and design by William T. Nelson, pictured above (click image to view at larger size). A correction involving Cosmic Charlie published in a later issue has been embedded in the text here at the most natural point. I’m sorry that I’ve been unable to include the many fantastic photographs from the print article here. However, I have added a still from the film “Will the Real Norman Mailer Please Stand Up” by Dick Fontaine, which we did not have access to at the time of print publication into the text, and there are more stills from various films appended. —Jay Babcock

Clip from Arthur No. 13’s Table of Contents page, featuring photo by Robert A. Altman.


On October 21, 1967, the Pentagon came under a most unconventional assault.

An oral history by Larry “Ratso” Sloman, Michael Simmons and Jay Babcock

* * *

By Autumn of 1967, the “police action” in Vietnam had escalated. The United States of America waged War—that hideous manifestation of the human race’s worst instincts—against the small, distant, sovereign land. 485,600 American troops were then stationed in Nam; 9,353 would die in ’67 alone. We were there under false pretenses (the “attack’ at the Gulf of Tonkin that never happened), operating under a paranoid doctrine (the Domino Theory, fretting that Vietnamese Communists fighting a civil war in their own country with popular support would envelop all of Southeast Asia and end up invading Dubuque, Iowa). Seven million tons of bombs would eventually be dropped, as opposed to two million during World War II. Indiscriminate use of gruesome weaponry was deployed, most infamously napalm, a jelly that sticks to—and burns through—human skin. Saturation bombings, free-fire zones, massive defoliation with the carcinogen Agent Orange. “Destroying the village to save it,” as one American military man put it.

For a generation that remembered the Nuremberg Trials of Nazi war criminals after WW II, something had to be done. Genocidal fugitive Adolf Eichmann’s “I was just following orders” excuse would not fly. The draft was sending 18-year-olds off to die. A domestic anti-war movement emerged, as had a counterculture of hairy young people who rejected the militarism, greed, sexual repression, and stunted consciousness of their parents and leaders to pursue Joy and Sharing as well as Dope, Rock and Roll, and Fucking in the Streets. Pundits spoke of The Generation Gap. A quaking chasm had split the nation.

San Francisco painter Michael Bowen had a dream of people coming together to celebrate his city’s burgeoning hippie subculture, and so he and his wife Martine initiated the Great Human Be-In on Sunday, January 14, 1967. Sub-billed as A Gathering of the Tribes, 10,000 hippies, radicals and free spirits convened in Golden Gate Park. Beat poets emceed (Allen Ginsberg, Gary Snyder, Michael McClure, Lenore Kandel), rock bands rocked (Grateful Dead, Big Brother & the Holding Company, Quicksilver Messenger Service, the Charlatans), Hell’s Angels returned lost kids to their mommies – and the cops busted no one, despite rampant open marijuana use. For many, the realization that there were other Martians was transcendental. Berkeley anti-war activist Jerry Rubin gave a speech, but his narrow political rap was dubbed “too histrionic” by Ginsberg and many in the crowd. It fortuitously forked Rubin’s direction. “It was the first time I did see a new society,” he said later. “I saw there was no need for a political statement. I didn’t understand that until then, either.”

Events ending with the suffix “In” became the rage. Bob Fass hosted the hippest radio show in the country, “Radio Unnameable” on New York’s WBAI. The all-night gab-and-music fest was Freak Centra, functioning as a pre-internet audio website. Regular guests included Realist editor Paul Krassner (dubbed “Father of the Underground Press”), underground film director Robert Downey Sr. (father and namesake of…), actor/writer Marshall Efron (arguably the funniest man on the planet), and a manic activist-gone-psychedelic named Abbie Hoffman—all rapping madly, verbally riffing and improvising like musicians. One night after participating in a UsCo avant-garde multi-media show of projections, movies, music, etc., at an airplane hangar, Fass stopped by nearby JFK International Airport and noticed a group of three dozen young people—clearly ripped to the tits—communally entranced by a giant mobile centerpiecing a terminal. The vast open spaces of an airport, with jet planes and stars in the sky, were the stage for dreams to come to life. Fass flashed on the infinite possibilities.

He conceived a Fly-In at JFK and announced it on Radio Unnameable. Though Saturday night, February 11, was freezing cold, 3,000 of the underground’s finest came to sing Beatles songs, torch reefers, dance the body electric, and groove with their sisters and brothers. “One of the things that happened,” Fass observed, “was that there was such a colossal amount of human connection that there was something akin to feedback that happened, and people really began to experience not ‘happiness,’ but Ecstasy and Joy. We’re planning another one at your house.”

New York responded to San Francisco’s Be-In with its own. Key to its success was Jim Fouratt, a young actor who’d become one of the most effective hippie organizers on the Lower East Side. Promotion for the event cost $250, which paid for posters and leaflets. On Easter Sunday, March 27, 10,000 full and part-time hippies came together—some in the carnal definition—at Central Park’s Sheep Meadow. It was a glistening, no bad vibes, lysergic day. Fouratt was central to virtually every NYC hip community event, including the infamous Soot-In at Consolidated Edison, where he, Abbie Hoffman, and others dumped bags of nasty black soot at the coal burning, energy company’s offices, in a protest that prefigured and influenced the birth of the environmental movement.

Emmett Grogan was a brilliant and enigmatic prankster/con man at the heart of San Francisco’s do-goodnik anarcho-rogues the Diggers. He suggested to his friend Bob Fass that a Sweep-In would strengthen the momentum the Fly-In had sparked. The idea was to “clean up the Lower East Side” area of NYC where the hippies dwelled. Fass conspired with Krassner and Abbie and listeners on his radio show, and they chose Seventh Street, where Krassner lived. The buzz grew louder and one day an inquiring bureaucrat from the Sanitation Department called Radio Unnameable. The potentates of garbage at City Hall were nervous about these beatniks with brooms taking their gig. While appearing cooperative on the phone and in a later meeting, the city pranked the pranksters on the day of the Sweep-In, April 8. When thousands of mop-wielding longhairs appeared at 11 a.m., they beheld a garbage-free, sparkling fresh, squeaky clean street of slums—courtesy of the Sanitation Department. Fass and Krassner were amused that they’d actually forced the city to do its job. Unfazed, they moved the Sweep-In to Third Street. When a city garbage truck turned the corner, the street peeps leaped on it and cleaned it as well.

No single human—other than Tribal Elder Allen Ginsberg—was as influential on this emerging culture than Ed Sanders. He led the satirical-protest-smut-folk-rock band The Fugs with East Village legend Tuli Kupferberg, ran the Peace Eye Bookstore (and community center) on 10th Street, published Fuck You: A Magazine of the Arts, made films like Mongolian Clusterfuck, wrote poetry, rabble roused for myriad peacenik causes and cannabis legalization. Sanders—one of the first public figures to live seamlessly within realms of Politics, Art, and Fun—was a first cousin to Che Guevara’s paradigmatic New Man—albeit thoroughly American and anti-authoritarian.

But the Life Actor who embodies the Revolutionary Prankster in 20th-century history books is Abbie Hoffman. And he is where our story begins…

I met Abbie Hoffman through Marty Carey in 1967. I was only like 17. One of the first conversations I ever had with him, he said the hippies were fucked. And proof to him of the corrupt nature of what he kept calling hippie capitalism was that the Jefferson Airplane at that time had a radio commercial for Levi’s. And Abbie said “Don’t they know that the Levi’s workers are on strike in North Carolina?” And he had completely, at that point, written off the whole hippie world as being a diversion of energy from more traditional leftist directions. Literally the next time I saw him, which was about a month later, he was stoned on acid, his hair was up to the ceiling, he was listening to the Grateful Dead and completely had gone the other way. He had, in fact, seen something in this culture that both attracted him and seduced him and which he saw as political. He saw it as a culture that he could move in and use in some way as a power base.

When we are Liberty House still, Abbie used to see these kids parading through the Village in these costumes or with face paint and all weirdness. And he said, “I think there’s something there.” I can remember him actually saying he wanted to combine the hippie with the political.

The Lower East Side felt like an eternal spring. Felt like the flowers would never stop opening and becoming more magnificent all the time, in every field. Everything was fresh, everything was exciting, everything felt like the first time. People trusted each other, there was great kindness among people, great sharing, violence felt unknown, it was not a factor. Paranoia, if it existed, was an ego-related thing but was not a street or violence-related thing. Everything was possible, no boundaries, just how early you got up in the morning and how late you worked and what ideas you had and if you had an idea Monday you could make it happen by Wednesday. It was a time of collaboration of people, and fusion of idea and cultures and wonderful experiences with LSD that just seemed to open up more and more channels.

In an odd way, Timothy Leary and acid actually played a very important role in the alteration of the American pysche, in catalyzing a lot of the anti-war movement in the sense of altering the basic social conditioning and the semiotics and the terminology and the take. Gary Snyder and I both think that acid was one of the main catalysts of the anti-war movement, to the activation of it on a grand scale, not only of Abbie but the whole college generation. It was the de-conditioning agent that got people into another world, into the flower power, the psychedelic thing that was connected with the anti-war movement.

We would be sitting there in Marty Carey’s apartment tripping on acid. Somewhere in the back Moby Grape would be playing, Maybe I was saying “dig what the bass is doing” but Abbie was ignoring me because he was talking about Mao and Che and whether violence should or shouldn’t be used in the revolution. He could be at the absolute end of the known world, seeing mandalas and hands coming out of the walls, but it never distracted him from talking about what he wanted to talk about. His focus was so intense that he could maintain it in the face of any chemical, political, police action, it didn’t matter what was happening around him when he was pursuing an angle of insight.

Everyone should try acid once, I guess. Did it change my life? Yeah. It’s the whole chicken and the egg thing. The whole thing is overcoming all that fear. In other words, the acid taking is more important than the experience itself. The whole secret is to overcome the fear of death. All the rest is easy.

Blacks were saying to white organizers, go organize for social change in your own communities. That white America was the problem, not black America. You’re the ones who can reach white America–go do it. And Abbie took the injunction seriously. But what he began to see was that the community was not bounded by a few blocks, even though in the East Village at that time, you could feel like that was a liberated zone—but that the community was all young Americans; that the conflict in America was not just a class conflict but a generational conflict, and that the contradictions in America caused by the war was that young people didn’t want to go fight in Vietnam. The baby boom was bursting and there was a tremendous number of young kids who, because of the relative affluence of America, had some money in their pockets and could afford to leave home, or were dropping out of colleges, dissatisfied by the educational system. We had read books like Growing Up Absurd by Paul Goodman, and were identifying with each other. And rock and roll became the soundtrack for that identification, that sense of generational solidarity, that sense of America is in trouble, war is wrong. Abbie saw that there was potential constituency for change among the white youth culture. And so he made it his mission. Don’t forget Abbie was in Berkeley in 1960, he had experienced the first sort of spasm of student power and student demonstrations way before it had begun. Now it’s 1967, Abbie’s years older than most of these kids, and knew a lot more and had more experiences and was still operating in the kind of the mode of the full-time political activist.

We consciously played fads and fashion. It has to do with action and analysis. Let’s say I come to New York, I’m down in the Lower East Side. I’m letting my hair grow long. I’d already taken acid before. I feel like a hippie now. Part of a new nation. As you are engaged in the action, you almost have no theory. But on the one hand, there is a part of you that is aware that if you can run an end-around… The country politically is very locked. Having tried loads and loads of ways and having developed an understanding of the political process in America, it’s very hard to create a revolution, in the classical political sense. But certain things can be used to communicate ideas and then you get into the whole cultural level. So you notice this thing, like people growing their hair long. What if I attach political significance to that? Then at the same time you’re doing that, it happens. Your reality is made up of myths and that’s what it is when you do propaganda.
I’d say letting my hair grow long was a very radical act. That started when I moved to New York. There was no way of going back to my hometown, getting the same job that I had. It was like you had jumped a class barrier. So defining myself as a hippie, defined me as a radical. Ideas were always something you could pull out or pull back. For me, moving to New York, letting my hair grow long, that meant [I was] full-time.

Being in the Be-In at Central Park must have done something to impress Abbie because it sure as hell impressed me. Being a political activist I’m sure he sensed there was a formless thing out there. And being an actor it provided a good cast and a good scene. So he got more and more into it. Everything Abbie did was because he was really concerned with people and he had to use himself as the scapegoat or the target or the martyr.

More and more people on the New Left started to do drugs, and more and more the hippies started to go to demonstrations. It wasn’t a total coalition, “everybody must get stoned.” But to have the smoke-in was a political act—to just go with a bunch of other people and smoke pot in the park as a demonstration of their right to do it. Abbie saw that was definitely political. He saw that people who could be organized to go to a smoke-in, could be organized to go to an anti-war rally.

Abbie was an action poet in a way that many people would like to claim to be but he actually was in the sense that some of his political gestures were very similar to happenings. Happenings were a form that started in the late ‘50s, though it comes all the way from Dada. It descends from the protests against World War I in Zurich at the Cabaret Voltaire when an international group of artists got together and put on happenings that were of a humorous and absurdist and aesthetically penetrant and from a hyper-rational point of view, irrational, but were signals in the middle of the chaos created by the “rational” governments of another plane of understanding and awareness that was beyond the mass murder of the war and the carnage and the breakdown of western civilization. So by the late ‘50s, people like Red Grooms and Allen Kaprow were doing happenings on Delancey Street.

Happenings were these Apollonian stitched-together vignettes conducted in a climate of cool. So they were very much up for grabs, the components of a happening. The happening movement was kicked off by Alfred Jarry, the guy that wrote “Ubu Roi,” by lettering the word “shit” in 1896 and shocking the French…caused a riot, basically. And you’ve got progressions of futurists and then Dadaists in Zurich and then the Surrealists, and you have John Cage and Merce Cunningham and others doing Black Mountain College, keeping the happening movement alive through the ‘50s, and then you have Oldenberg’s store in ’61, you have Kaprow in the early-mid’60s doing that series of happenings and many others. Charlotte Moorman. And so the tradition was kept alive from 1896 through 1965 or ’66, when it met with the concept of guerrilla theater and Chinese direct action political street theater, and more importantly, the Bread and Puppet Theatre and the Living Theater. All that percolated around, all those images were up for grabs, and Abbie was very smart, a quick reader, read voraciously and had a very retentive memory, and he sucked it all in.

I wrote a thing called “Demonstration as March as Spectacle as Theatre” which is more or less in the same line as Abbie.

We have to use our imagination. A spectacle can be made, an unmistakable statement OUTSIDE the war psychology which is leading nowhere. Such statement would be heard around the world with relief.

The following are specific suggestions for organizing marches and turning marchers on to their roles in the Demonstration.

• Masses of flowers – a visual spectacle – especially concentrated in the front lines. Can be used to set up barricades, to present to Hell’s Angles, police, politicians and press and spectactors whenever needed.
• Marchers should bring CROSSES, to be held in front in case of violence; like in the movies dealing with Dracula.
• Marchers who use American Flags should bring those.
• Marchers should bring harmonicas, flutes, recorders, guitars, banjoes and violins. Bongoes and tambourines.
• Marchers should bring certain children’s toys which can be used for distracting attackers, such as sparklers, toy rubber swords, especially the little whirling carbon wheels which make red-white-blue sparkles.
• In case of threat of attack, marchers could intone en masse the following mantras
o The Lord’s Prayer
o Three Blind Mice (sung)
o OM (AUM) long breath in unison
o Star-Spangled Banner
o Mary Had a Little Lamb (spoken in unison)
o Small floats or replicas in front:
• Christ with sacred Heart and cross
• Buddha in meditiation
• Thoreau behind bars
• Dixieland Band float dressed as Hitler Stalin Mussolini Napoleon & Caesar

In San Francisco, we had a Yellow Submarine march. And that was picked up in New York in ’66 and ’67 by Keith Lampe and the Vietnam Veterans of America who organized a Yellow Submarine march to change the tone of the march from important protest and anger to humor, theatre, communication. To communicate with the media but realizing that the whole point was what were the images broadcast of our behavior.

The Beatles were in the air. [“Yellow Submarine” was released on Revolver, out Aug 5, 1966. Sgt Pepper was released on June 1, 1967.] A group called WIN–Workshop In Nonviolence—marched across New York carrying a six-foot yellow submarine and launched it in the Hudson River with balloons. A lot of young people were with that. I think that was really the initiation of a kind of joyful aspect to demonstrations instead of just the old somber “look at how terrible things are” approach.

Fouratt and Abbie upped the ante on August 24, 1967 when a group of hippies entered the visitor’s gallery at the New York Stock Exchange and showered the stockbrokers below with hundreds of dollar bills.The greedheads went grabby ga-ga for the green and trading screeched to a stop. The media lapped up the story and America got its first taste of The Politics of Ecstasy. Among the psychedelic cash clowns were Abbie, Jerry, Fouratt, Albert and Lampe. Albert was “joyous.” He’d found “a new way to demonstrate, a theatrical turn of politics that invaded sacrosanct places and turned them into a stage set full of props for our use.” These long-haired, cannabinoided shit-stirrers saw no contradick twixt Consciousness and Conscience. Same lobe, bay-bee.

In that period before he was famous, Abbie manifested lots and lots of hope. It was like Brigham Young creating a new world. With Abbie it was “Fuck, this isn’t a crashpad, this is a new world being born.”

I saw Abbie moving among the various political sub-groups in New York, and it seemed like he won a lot of confrontations simply by being the one who was willing to do whatever it took. He was the Vince Lombardi of leftism in that way. Winning was important to him. He was very physical and that was such a welcome relief. If it hadn’t been for the model of tough, aggressive streetfighting that Abbie presented, I for one could never have related to hippie culture. It was too weak-kneed without somebody like Abbie there to go in the face of the cops, in the face of anybody who was the oppressor at the moment. Abbie gave the hippie a sort of street dignity. And so did the San Francisco Diggers.

The events that we [the Diggers] threw were pretty impeccable. They were wild and hairy but everything worked. People don’t know that all the big free parties with the Grateful Dead and the rock bands playing in the Haight-Ashbury were all thrown by the Diggers. The trucks, the sound systems, the park permits, all the people there—and it’s no accident that there was never any violence at these events. They were planned that way, to happen without violence, they were planned by being included in a frame of reference, like the solstice or the equinox, that made everyone equal. There were fabulous events that took place and they were all promulgated by somebody having a vision. And enlisting his friends to go along with it. Like truckfuls of naked belly dancers going down Montgomery Street at 5:00 in the afternoon with black conga players playing, with bottles of wine and dope, and inviting people to climb on. The invitation was there, if you had the courage to snatch it.

Abbie and others began to figure out how to execute something that came to be called guerilla media. How to create visual images and dramatic confrontations that became wildly interesting from a news standpoint. And that began to tell the kids in America that there wasn’t just a movement against the war, there was a different way of looking at the world, there was an ability to call things absurd that they could understand and relate to and that disengaged them from the reward structure that controlled them and kept them from opposing the war and it was very critical to the development of the movement that the reward structure be debunked, [to say] that you could sacrifice your career, you could sacrifice material wealth, you could sacrifice stability and have more fun!

As far as I could tell, Abbie’s political program was just a hastily thrown together amalgamation of some things he had read, certain life lessons that he had picked up in pool halls and on the street, all mixed together with an incredible instinctive understanding of American media. We would watch the nightly news together a lot and he would say, “See you gotta look at the news. See, like at 7:26, after they’ve done all the heavy stuff, they gotta have like a sign-off piece, they gotta have something cute and weird and wacky and whimsical. So I know we can’t get on at 7:03. That’s Johnson’s time. But we can get on at 7:26.” He knew enough about surrealism to know that surrealism would play well at 7:26 on the nightly news. And that it could be dismissed with a chuckle by the commentator, just sort of zany and far out. But the kids would see it and never remember what the commentator’s sardonic put-down encapsulization of it was—they would always remember the vivid image of the bills cascading down the stock exchange. Nobody was that hip to the media at that time. He was the only one. He was millions of miles ahead of everybody else.

From the Open Press street handout regarding the September 7, 1967 New York Provocation at Con Edison:
“When the Man advances, we retreat; when the Man digs in, we blow his mind; when the Man retreats, we follow after.”

Antiwar activist Dave Dellinger asked activist Jerry Rubin to be project director of the October 1967 demonstration in Washington, DC. Jerry moved from Berkeley to New York. Keith Lampe introduced Jerry to Abbie Hoffman.

Jerry and I became increasingly alienated from all these people in the Mobe [short for Mobilization to End the War in Vietnam]. Jerry was hanging out with Abbie and smoking dope and so forth, and the hard nuts and bolts work of being the project director of the demonstration became very unappealing.

The Mobe was planning to march on Congress, not on the Pentagon. I told Dave Dellinger that’s a big mistake because the Pentagon would be seen as the enemy, whereas the Congress is kind of neutral. It would be the wrong message to march on Congress. That was my contribution. So that weekend we all flew to Washington to scout out the Pentagon and we all became convinced. But then what happened is I was becoming closer and closer to Abbie. It was my idea to confront the Pentagon. It was Abbie’s to do the whole exorcism. I didn’t even know what an exorcism was.

When LSD became illegal in October 1966, the psychedelic Oracle became politicized, and the radical Berkeley Barb began to treat the drug subculture as fellow outlaws. The idea for an exorcism originated with Allen Cohen, editor of the Oracle, and painter Michael Bowen, after they read in The City in History by Lewis Mumford, about the Pentagon being a baroque symbol of evil and oppression.

One afternoon a wandering holy man, Charlie Brown, came by and explained to Michael Bowen and some friends the interesting relationship of the Pentagon Building in Washington to the wartime condition of the country from the point of view of a magical diagram. A magical diagram is an occult drawing put on the floor by a magician, who steps into it or concentrates on it. A pentagon encloses the design of a five-pointed star, which is the alchemical symbol for inverted power. That symbol, said Charlie Brown, is associated with war, murder and apocalypse. It also happens to be, Bowen pointed out, the shape of the United States Army Medal of Honor, which is an inverted star. It was also noted by Charlie Brown that the Pentagon was built outside the mandala of Washington itself, on a swamp known as Hell’s Bottom, and surrounded by five areas of pollution—a sewage treatment, two freeways, the polluted Potomac River, and a cemetery full of fallen war heroes. So it was decided on the spot by Michael Bowen that someone had to do something; someone had to put positive energy into his country’s defense…

Jerry Rubin had taken the magical idea to exorcise the Pentagon that Michael Bowen and I had suggested during our meetings before the Human Be-In and incorporated it into the offical program for the March on the Pentagon.

It was Gary Snyder who had conceived the notion of the levitation of the Pentagon. [Gary Snyder’s controversial poem “A Curse on the Men in Washington, Pentagon” was published in the June, 1967 issue of the Oracle.—Ed.]

It could very well have been Gary Snyder’s idea. I don’t know. All I know is Abbie was the PR man for it. As far as I’m concerned, who created McDonald’s? A guy named McDonald? Roy Kroc created McDonald’s. Dave Dellinger’s and the Mobe were trying to have an orderly, peaceful, middle class protest and I brought Abbie. It was a perfect partnership because Abbie added the theatre, the humor, the sparkle and I added the purpose. I directed Abbie. Abbie was just doing these wild things in the streets of New York, which was a lot of fun, but I took the Abbie windup doll, I wound him up and pointed him toward the Pentagon.

Rubin teamed up with Abbie Hoffman and then Ed Sanders, which brought in the Fugs, and then there was the West Coast contingent that originally had the idea of using the symbolism of the Pentagon. The idea got a lot of pre-publicity. There was to be an event in the nation’s capitol that would publicly cross-fertilize political protesters with hippie mystics.

Page from The Oracle. Click to view at larger size.

The Oracle, along with all other underground papers, supported and announced the March and the Exorcism. The back page of Oracle #10 was the poster by Peter Legeria announcing the March. The text with it is the same text I read to Jerry Rubin at that fateful meeting in Berkeley.

The Pentagon action showed the real brilliance of Abbie, to be able to take the hippie element and weld it together with the hard line political reality. It acknowledged where the war was being fought, where it had to be stopped, the physical space. The Pentagon was a mythic thing. Most people didn’t know what the Pentagon looked like. And then you bring in Allen Ginsberg, and you bring in American Indians, and you bring in shamans, and you burn yarrow around the whole fucking place. You think Abbie believed in a lot of that stuff? I don’t think so. But he’s smart. He knew that anything that would disrupt the mind-set of middle Americans, anything that attacked their value system, Abbie thought was good.

We got the idea we’re gonna exorcise the Pentagon, which meant that we’re going to hold hands and circle the Pentagon, and chant. That’s the way you exorcise it and levitate it. Traditional ritual. So Abbie and I decided we have to figure out how many people does it take to circle the Pentagon. One thing I liked about Abbie was that everything was very concrete. So we went down by train, and we had these little leaflets. We get to the parking lot of the Pentagon and we put all of these leaflets on the windshield wipers of the cars there. Then we go to one side and we just hold hands one, two, and then we switch and alternate. We were just starting to count, and some security people come out and arrest us and bring us inside the Pentagon, which was pretty eerie. There’s big huge hallways and messengers are roller skating down them. It was like Dr. Strangelove. They take us down to this little room and this black security guy says we were arrested. So Abbie says, “What’s the charge?” “Littering.” Great. The guard starts to ask us what we’re doing here and I tell him that we were a theatre group from New York and we were gonna exorcise the Pentagon. Then Abbie starts talking to this black guard. “How can you be black and work for these guys?” Now I’m scared shitless. Finally they say they’re gonna let us go but Abbie doesn’t want to be let go, because if we’re not let go then somebody can say, “they’re arrested for littering” and it becomes a drama and a story and publicity.

The two meetings I know of, one was in New York and one was in Washington, were probably the best example I know of Ab’s brilliance. There were some Washington representatives and there were two military representatives. It started out initially that no way in the world was there gonna be any kind of activity anywhere around the Pentagon, which was the fucking basilica of Peter of the United States, there was no fucking way. Somebody made that statement and right away Ab says, “Well fuck you, we’ll levitate the fucking thing high enough you won’t be able to get in the fucking stairs. Then what’re you gonna do with your fucking Pentagon?” And that was a serious statement the way it was presented. Somebody responded to it in some way, but they actually responded. Ab said to me later that that was the first inkling he had that he might be able to suck them into this, even though it wasn’t conscious.

After that, the levitation became THE cause celebre. The other meeting I was at, it was Ab who threw it on the table, right for openers. “Okay, about the levitation.” Ab was adamant that the building was gonna go up 22 feet – because somebody had told him except for fire ladders, you can’t run and get a ladder that’s 22 feet. So 22 feet was it and he was willing to negotiate. There was serious consideration of that because if the building went up 22 feet the foundations were gonna crack and there was discussion about foundations and cracks and how much you could levitate. It was unbelievable. That meeting was like 2 1/2 hours or so and probably 20% of that meeting was devoted to this serious talk about levitating the Pentagon. And this is our military, right? I swear to you, the military finally came around, Ab came down from 22 feet to three feet, they agreed to three feet and sealed it with a handshake. That’s how bad Ab was, he could capture you in that fucking bizarreness. Oh, it was joyful!

We applied for a permit, then told the media that the government would allow us to raise the Pentagon no more than three feet off the ground, and the media accurately reported that quote.

I was working on the Pentagon Papers that fall in a room which happened to be right next to MacNamara’s office. I’d come back from Vietnam very anxious to see the war end and to do whatever I could to help that. So I was very sympathetic to the anti-war movement, what I knew of it. The idea of levitating the Pentagon struck me as a great idea because the idea of removing deference from any of these institutions is very, very important, and this is of course the kind of thing that Abbie understood very instinctively. It was not just a matter of clowning and a way to get the attention of the media, or to make people smile. And the idea that you would jointly piss on the Pentagon as part of a pagan ceremony raises so many associations. One might think of the Pentagon as pagan in itself, but that’s a slander of pagan religion. The truth is that this kind of preparation for mass murder is not particularly quote “barbarian” or pagan or primitive. It’s civilized, western Judeo-Christian. And so the idea of confronting it with a witchcraft pagan ceremony, was very appropriate almost to point that out. So they have a press conference, and they’re talking about their plans for this and that, in a very straight and mesaured and reserved way. And when it gets to be Abbie’s turn to speak, he says, “We’re gonna raise the building six feet in the air.” I think that really changed the terms of discussion. In the Pentagon it became, “Can he really do that? And six feet!?!”

All through the history of the Fugs in the ’60s, the war in Vietnam throbbed like an ever-seething soul sore. However much we partied, shouted our poetry and strutted around like images of Bacchus, we could never quite get it out of our mind. It was like that Dada poetry reading that Tristan Tzara gave in 1922 in Paris, with an alarm clock constantly ringing during the reading. The war was THE alarm clock of the late ’60s.

I didn’t really get into Abbie until they came up with the idea of the exorcism of the Pentagon, which I jumped into with both feet. I agreed to write and create the actual Exorcism.

[Occultist/animator/archivist] Harry Smith had produced the first Fugs album and was an old friend of mine who used to hang out at my bookstore Peace Eye all through the ‘60s. So I went to Harry and asked him what happened in an exorcism and he gave me some advice. So he filled me in on what his view was. He told me about consecrating the four directions, surrounding it, circling it, using elements of earth, air, fire and water, alchemical symbols to purify the place, to invoke certain deities, and so on. So I sing-songed a whole retinue of deities past and present, imaginary and real, to summon the strength to exorcise this place. It was part real, part symbolic, part wolf ticket, part spiritual, part secular, part wishful thinking and part anger. And it had humor. You gotta have the universal humor. And, since I knew Indo-European languages, I learned this Hittite exorcism ritual. I actually put together a decent exorcism.


Above: Scan of Ed Sanders’ handbill for the exorcism.


Michael Bowen had journeyed to northwestern Mexico to consult with shamans about levitation. Then he dropped in during one of our preparation meetings in New York. What a charming moment: all of us “radicals” there suddenly became “moderates” because Michael really expected to levitate it whereas the rest of us were into it merely as a witty media-project.

There was a tremendous amount of energy and work put in by lots of people on this. We had a press conference at the Village Theatre where we built a miniature replica of the Pentagon on strings which then levitated in the midst of chanting. And we had an American Indian shaman throwing cornmeal down.

I was at the Fillmore auditorium a couple of days before the event. We made a series of tapes of improvised incantations along with songs. Ed said, “We may not be able to actually get up on the flatbed truck because they may not let us through. And we’ll be swarmed if we stand on the ground and try to play. So if we can’t get the truck up, we’ll play the tape.”

In order to build up further public interest in the event, we staged preliminary pranks that were bound to get media coverage. Abbie invented an imaginary new drug, a sexual equivalent to the police tear gas, Mace. It was christened Lace—supposedly a combination of LSD and DMSO—which when appplied to the skin would be absorbed into the bloodstream and act as an instantaneous aphrodisiac. Lace was actually Shapiro’s Disappear-o from Taiwan. When sprayed, it left a purple stain, then disappeared.

A press conference was called at Abbie’s apartment where Lace could be observed in action. I was supposed to be there as a reporter who would get accidentally sprayed with Lace from a squirt gun. To my surprise, I would put down my notebook, take off my clothes and start making love with a beautiful redhead who had also been accidentally sprayed, along with another deliberately sprayed couple, right there on two small mattresses in the living room, while the journalists diligently took notes.

I was really looking forward to this combination media event and blind date. Even though the sexual revolution was at its height, there was something exciting about knowing in advance that I was guaranteed to get laid–although I felt slightly guilty about attempting to trick fellow reporters.
But there was a scheduling conflict. I was already committed to speak at a literary conference at the University of Iowa on that same day. So, instead of being being accidentally sprayed with Lace, I was reassigned by Abbie to purchase cornmeal in Iowa, which would be used to encircle the Pentagon as a pre-levitation rite. I was supposed to be a rationalist, but it was hard to say no to Abbie.

In Iowa, novelist Robert Stone [author of Dog Soldiers, thee great Vietnam novel—Ed.] drove me to a farm.
“I’d like to buy some cornmeal to go, please.”
“Coarse or fine?” the farmer asked. I glanced at Stone for guidance.
“Since it’s a magic ritual,” he said, “I would definitely recommend coarse.”
And so I flew back to New York with a 13-pound sack of coarse cornmeal properly stored in the overhead bin.

Meanwhile, there were articles about Lace in the New York Post and Time magazine, including the promise that three gallons of Lace would be brought to Washington, along with a large supply of plastic water pistols, so that Lace could be sprayed at police and the National Guard at the Pentagon demonstration.

The guy who substituted for me in that “accidental” sexual encounter at the Lace press conference ended up living with her. Somehow I felt cheated.

We used water guns to spray the Lace. Shapiro’s Disappearo was a red liquid that disappeared when you sprayed it on. So we sprayed the Lace and everybody was fucking. I was very embarrassed because half of me couldn’t believe this was actually happening in my own living room. I just shyly snuck away and I waited it out.

I was at the precinct talking to some cops and Abbie comes in. He has his bottle of Lace and he says, “Look at this stuff. If I spray it on any one of you guys, you’re going to fuck each other.” The lieutenant is behind his desk, and the sergeant was doing his paperwork. The sergeant had short sleeves, one of those big, hairy muscular guys. And the sergeant says, “Get out of here!” And Abbie says you’re going to fuck the lieutenant and the sergeant says, “ Noooo, nooooo!” They chased Abbie out of the precinct.

October of ’67. October 8 and 9, they killed Che Guevara. Right after that, the Freedom Summer killers, some of them were found guilty on the 20th. Then there was a huge draft card turn-in on the 20th, which led to the famous indictment of Dr. Benjamin Spock and others. October 21 was OUT DEMONS OUT. It was right around that point that the CIA was beginning its Phoenix program where they killed or assassinated all those people in Vietnam. So it’s an interesting flow of history.

The Pentagon was my favorite demonstration, because it had everything. It was the perfect sort of flower-power, hippie event. I was wearing the Sgt. Pepper jacket. And we had Mr. And Mrs. America paper Uncle Sam hats. It had all moods. The Spocks and the MacDonalds were there, the New York intellectuals, and Norman Mailer was there doing his thing.

I was personally frustrated and irritated that this thing was being held on a Saturday, because as somebody who worked around the Pentagon for a decade, I knew that in those days it was really quite easy to get into the Pentagon during the week. Any slight reconaissance in the building would have revealed to them that they could just walk in. And that should have suggested right away that you could infiltrate. Put literally thousands of people in it, and then on an appropriate moment, sit down in the corridors, put stickers all over the place, and to a considerable degree really shut it down on a work day, which I thought would be very impressive. So I was kind of frustrated to realize that they would be demonstrating in front of what I knew was an essentially empty building.

We got there earlier enough in the day. The buses of demonstrators hadn’t arrived. We went up on a hill where we could see the Pentagon across the river and I took four or five photographs from different points of view close to each other so that later, I could create an illusion of the Pentagon actually lifting off its foundation with a slide projector. We had enough time to fool around. I was wearing a painted tie-dye one-piece painters’ suits, tie dye was very fashionable at the time, after Kesey and the bus. Krassner had on a flag tie. Mountain Girl was there, she’d been on the cover of Trout Fishing in America, or one of Brautigan’s other books, and had gone with Paul to buy the corn that was to be used to levitate the Pentagon. It had to be organic. The guy said, “What’s it for?” And Paul said, “We’re gonna levitate the Pentagon.” “Oh, okay, that’ll be two dollars please.”
We broke off from the crowd; we had something that we had to do, but we didn’t know what it was. It was an inspiration of the moment. What do we do with the corn? Why don’t we try it out on the Washington Monument? There’s nobody up there now. There were these two or three guards standing around, looking at the other crowd. So we went up and circled the Washington Monument, this long phallic thing sticking up in the air. We knew that Washington had grown hemp, so it had to have some good vibes there. We got about a quarter of the way around it and some guy in a Smokey Bear costume came out, stood there scratching his head and said, “Pardon me sir, what the fuck are you doing?” “We’re doing a practice exorcism that will be carried out later at the Pentagon.” He said, Oh. Then he pulled out a walkie-talkie and said, “I have some people here, they tell me it’s a religious ceremony.” “Well take ‘em inside and investigate.” I said, “Are we under arrest?” “You just better come with me. Do you want me to call somebody with cuffs?” I said, “Alright we’ll go with you.” He took us down a winding staircase into a basement and he asked us some questions there. Finally they let us go, but they took the corn.

So I see the Careys, they’re out there like hippies. They got a blanket spread, they’re smoking grass, they’re having a picnic. They’re singing songs, playing guitar, they’re having like a great time. I’m with Abbie, we gotta fucking confront the troops. Abbie is like, “Me and my girl.” He’s got me by the hand and he’s not going where the crowds are going. He’s going where they put up these temporary fences and they have these soldiers way out in these fields where if you got beat up nobody would ever know, there’s no media or anything. He has me running across fields, jumping barricades. I was shitting inside. I’m not saying a word to him. I probably looked white as a sheet, and I’m putting up this good front. I thought of the Careys with such jealous hatred. Why can’t we be hippies, why can’t we just be like them?

Before the march to the Pentagon, we were up on the stage where the speeches were made by Dr. Spock and the others and we could look out at the crowd and they were our base, all the people we operated with. And there was no representation of that on the stage. The stage was all a representatives of this union, a representative of that. But no one representing the people themselves.

There were a lot of young people and old protesting vets. Viet Nam was much more in people’s minds by then. It was also at the end of the Summer of Love. So, the march was part of an intensification and expansion of what was already going on. It was one of the first, biggest, non-linear, non-traditional, non-Old Left demonstrations. I think in that sense it was seminal.

After all the speeches that went on in front of the Lincoln Memorial and the music, then the people went to march on the Pentagon. The kids were at the demonstration anyway and anything that looks more interesting than listening to speakers is gonna attract people, and so a large group of people followed the march. On one of the overpasses there was this young Black guy who has a sign that said No Vietcong Ever Called Me a Nigger. There was a river there, and there were people on boats there who had signs. It was almost like a new type of thing we had never encountered. Usually you went to a demonstration, you heard speeches and you left; this time, you followed the group. People went through this break through bushes, climbed up some rocks, cleared a pathway and you ended up at the Pentagon, which is really exciting. And here are all these…there were just thousands and thousands of people there, soldiers surrounding the Pentagon, people sitting on the ground OMMMing. The exorcism of the Pentagon was a sideshow. It was brought up that they were going to be doing this but that wasn’t the main thing.

There were a bunch of idiots there. I didn’t consider myself an idiot, but maybe other people would! There were these hothead lefties, who, their idea was they would take over and kill the capitalists. Well, that’s not very practical. Then there were Hare Krishnas, peacenik idiots, saying peace peace, or something like that. I didn’t go for anything like that. It was so annoying.

I had been pissing on the Department of Justice building just at the time we were getting teargassed, so after that I was just sorta wandering around trying to get rid of the pain and discomfort from the tear gas. A fella named Jerome Washington, he was the first black Yippie, was with me. We were both pissing. I remember him helping me up the hill to the Pentagon—it was a great bonding experience. [laughs]

In the parking lot there was a flatbed truck. Ed Sanders was really the Spike Jonze of that, he was leading. I think Ed and Tuli were in costumes, but it’s nothing I could swear to in court. I still believe I snorted cocaine with the Pope—you tell the story enough times and it becomes real to you.

I had on a red-and-yellow coat. It was very bright and psychedelic, it was a satire on camouflage; it was a yellow coat with blobs of orange and red. It’s quite vivid. I was touring a lot with it during those days. It was psychedelic garb. It was just after the end of the Summer of Love, so love was…happening.

The Fugs were playing this Ambassador theatre in DC, a psychedelic club. We had that $2,000 gig, so we had a lot of cash. Tuli and I used our share of the Fugs money to rent a flatbed truck with a sound system with Marshall Bloom of Liberation News Service. We had this big day-glo painting made at the School of Visual Arts of the back of the dollar bill stretched out, the Novus Ordo Cyclorum paranoid pyramid, which we wanted to beam at the Pentagon.

In talking it over with Harry Smith, it seemed wise to have a cow on hand, as the symbol of the ancient Egyptian goddess Hathor. The cow was going to be brought in from a farm in Virginia, painted with occult emblems, but the cow got stopped by the police. At the same time, Tuli and I bought oodles of daisies with the East Village Other people, which were to be taken to a small plane in Virginia that would fly above the Pentagon and throw the daisies down. But that also got stopped, so we had all these daisies with us.

So, in the late morning, we got on our truck. There was the San Francisco Diggers, Michael Bowen and Peter Coyote and a couple others, and all the Fugs, Ken Pine, Ken Weaver, Tuli Kupferberg, myself.

There was a huge march—a couple hundred thousand people that had gathered near the Lincoln Memorial, then walked across the Memorial bridge. We started out and Abbie jumped aboard. Abbie viewed this flatbed truck with the poster with the back of the dollar bill on it and the sound system and “Out demons, out” to be the vanguard of the main Mobe march. He wanted us to slow down and cut off the crowd and become the head of this march. I didn’t see it like that at all. I just wanted to get across the bridge without getting arrested and get to the Pentagon early, before they shut things down. He wanted us to sort of lead people to a place where we would conduct the levitation or the exorcism. So my first discussion with Abbie was about tactics, but basically I just told the driver to get the hell over there.

We got to a Pentagon parking lot to set up. Then we noticed this right-wing minister holding a bible in a cherrypicker coming toward us. I figured he was superstitious so I raved out a chant of mumbo-jumbo at him to try to make him feel that he shouldn’t actually come too close. Finally we started out our chanting…

We had envisioned thousands of dancing and chanting Hippies joining hands in a gigantic circle around the Pentagon invoking gods and spirits to exorcise the demons within the Pentagon, and make it rise 300 feet, vibrate and turn orange. When the General Services Administration finally granted the permit for the March, the one thing they refused to allow was the Hippies’ encirclement of the Pentagon.

From Armies of the Night: Of course, exorcism without encirclement was like culinary art without a fire—no one could properly expect a meal. Nonetheless the exorcism would proceed, and the Fugs were to serve as a theatrical medium and would play their music on the rear bed of the truck they had driven in here at the end of the parking lot nearest to the Pentagon some hundreds of yards from the speaker’s stand where the rally was to take place. Now, while an Indian triangle was repeatedly struck, and a cymbal was clanged, a mimeographed paper was passed around to the Marchers watching. It had a legend which went something like this:

October 21, 1967, Washington, D.C., U.S.A., Planet Earth
We Freemen, of all colors of the spectrum, in the name of God, Ra, Jehovah, Anubis, Osiris, Tlaloc, Quetzalcoatl, Thoth, Ptah, Allah, Krishna, Chango, Chimeke, Chukwu, Olisa-Bulu-Uwa, Imales, Orisasu, Odudua, Kali, Shiva-Shakra, Great Spirit, Dionysus, Yahweh, Thor, Bacchus, Isis, Jesus Christ, Maitreya, Buddha, Rama do exorcise and cast out the EVIL which has walled and captured the pentacle of power and perverted its use to the need of the total machine and its child the hydrogen bomb and has suffered the people of the planet earth, the American people and creatures of the mountains, woods, streams and oceans grievous mental and physical torture and the constant torment of the imminent threat of utter destruction.

We are demanding that the pentacle of power once again be used to serve the interests of GOD manifest in the world as man. We are embarking on a motion which is millennial in scope. Let this day, October 21, 1967, mark the beginning of suprapolitics.

By the act of reading this paper you are engaged in the Holy Ritual of Exorcism. To further participate focus your thought on the casting out of evil through the grace of GOD which is all (ours). A billion stars in a billion galaxies of space and time is the form of your power, and limitless is your name.

“In the name of the amulets of touching, seeing, groping, hearing and loving, we call upon the powers of the cosmos to protect our ceremonies in the name of Zeus, in the name of Anubis, god of the dead, in the name of all those killed because they do not comprehend, in the name of the lives of the soldiers in Vietnam who were killed because of a bad karma, in the name of sea-born Aphrodite, in the name of Magna Mater, in the name of Dionysus, Zagreus, Jesus, Yahweh, the unnamable, the quintessent finality of the Zoroastrian fire, in the name of Hermes, in the name of the Beak of Sok, in the name of scarab, in the name, in the name, in the name of the Tyrone Power Pound Cake Society in the Sky, in the name of Ra, Osiris, Horus, Nepta, Isis, in the name of the flowing living universe, in the name of the mouth of the river, we call upon the spirit…to raise the Pentagon from its destiny and preserve it.”
“In the name, and all the names, it is you.”
“Out, demons out—back to darkness, ye servants of Satan—out, demons, out! Out, demons, out!”
“For the first time in the history of the Pentagon there will be a grope-in within a hundred feet of this place, within two hundred feet. Seminal culmination in the spirit of peace and brotherhood, a real grope for peace. All of you who want to protect this rite of love may form a circle of protection around the lovers. These are the magic eyes of victory. Victory, victory for peace. Money made the Pentagon—melt it. Money made the Pentagon, melt it for love. In the name of the generative power of Priapus, in the name of the totality, we call upon the demons of the Pentagon to rid themselves of the cancerous tumors of the war generals, all the secretaries and soldiers who don’t know what they’re doing, all the intrigue, bureaucracy and hatred, all the spewing, coupled with prostate cancer in the deathbed. Every Pentagon general lying alone at night with a tortured psyche and an image of death in his brain, every general, every general lying alone, every general lying alone. In the name of the most sacred of sacred names, Xabrax Phresxner. End the fire and war, and war, end the plague of death.”

Ed Sanders carried the levitation out. But not in a Buddhist way but in a Western magical way which was maybe not such a good idea. While Ed was trying to un-hex the Pentagon, Kenneth Anger was underneath his wagon trying to hex him.

Kenneth Anger was burning something down there and making snake sounds at whomever should try to come near. He told me that he had been inside the Pentagon weeks ago to bury something.

I just walked right in. I had studied how the Pentagon staff were dressed, and I was just like them. I wore a dark blue conservative suit. I even had a small American flag on my lapel.

I was attacking Mars, the god of War. He’s still our ruling god—if you think Mars is an extinct thing from the antique past that we can just laugh at now, forget it. Mars is still here. That is not my opinion, but my knowledge. Mars is a terrifying but sobering vision. I have had this vision of Mars—you have to do all the things at certain times of the year, and then he does come through. And he’s about 500 feet tall, he’s NOT very handsome, he’s very strong, he’s armored, he’s bearded in a scraggly way, he’s got the fiercest eyes of any of the gods. He makes Jupiter—Jove—look benign and effete in comparison. But Mars is kind of childish—that’s why it’s so hard to get to him. He just loves bloodbaths. This is his thing. He does it very well. And he’s always thinking up new ways to do hideous things to the human race. This is his FUN. He’s the god of War. And he’s been alive since there were humans in tribes. War is the most consistent activity of the human animal. For whatever reason, some good, and a lot bad, we’ve been doing it as a race since the cave days. Of course, some wars are justified, like World War II, fighting the Nazis, I can’t think of a better cause. But Mars has nothing to do with being fair. Mars loves bloodshed, and he is a force that’s still operating in the world—it’s a force that according to modern thinking is irrational, but nevertheless there. Freud would have called it the unconscious or something but I believe that these are actual living entities. Not ‘living’ in the way like humans living and breathing, [but] living in a way that are much beyond our capacity, because they’ll never die.

In a personal sense, men more than women have a big problem with Mars. Most soldiers from the beginning of time have been men, and still are. And the Pentagon is controlled by men. The Pentagon itself is sort of an occult shape—like a five-sided collapsed star. [In the Crowley tradition, Mars’ number is five and its color is red.—Ed.] I’m a pagan. Mars doesn’t terrify me because I’ve come to understand him as a living entity. But just because Mars is so powerful doesn’t mean you always have to give in to him. You have to [put him in his place]: ‘Alright buster, calm down. You’re not the only star in the firmament. Enough already.’ That sort of thing. And [so I attacked Mars] in an abstract way.

I had a map of the Pentagon. I went into every single men’s room and left—in a place where it was bound to be discovered, usually on the seat where anyone using that stall would have to see it, not on the floor, of course! —a talisman which was written on parchment paper, drawn in india ink. Each one was drawn individually using one of Crowley’s talismans as my guide. I’m sure no one in the Pentagon could figure out what this thing meant. There was nothing like “War is bad” on it. There weren’t even English words. They probably could figure out it was something occult…they know about those things, and they have a reference library.

I went from one Men’s Room to the next, I didn’t stop until I had scattered all 93 of my talismans—because 93 is a sacred number for Crowley. Then I walked out, it was all very inconspicuous. The security guard looked at me and gave me a nice look, like we’re all looking after each other. If I’d been stopped and put in handcuffs that would’ve been unpleasant. That isn’t the way I want to spend my time in Washington—I had a ticket to the opera for later that week.

I remember after we’d done “Out, Demons, Out,” I went down under the truck and there was this guy from Newsweek trying to hold a microphone close to Anger. It looked like he was burning a pentagon with a Tarot card or a picture of the devil or something in the middle of it. In other words the thing we were doing above him, he viewed that as the exoteric thing and he was doing the esoteric, serious, zero-bullshit exorcism. So I went along with that.

I don’t burn Tarot cards, I respect them too much. [What I was doing] was saying Ed Sanders and the Fugs are a bunch of crap, this isn’t the way to fight a war. After all, I was there to protest the war. I knew what I was doing. It was a Crowley-type ritual.

They’d brought in a truck, decorated in flowers, making it like a float in the Rose Parade. They were just showoffs, they were putting their own agenda on this other thing. I found that offensive too because it wasn’t the point. Naturally flowers are nice and peace is nice and all that, but that’s not quite the point of what’s happening. And they were doing their omni hare krishna chant chant, peace peace, whatever, the kind of crap that Lennon and Yoko used to chant. People could say they were harmless and meant well, well I’m sorry they may have meant well [but] it didn’t do any good. In my view, there’s ways to [demonstrate] that are correct and there are ways to do it that are not correct. All the singing and flowers and chanting and all that crap was not the right way.
The focus should on the objective of the march, not on Hey! Me! I’m here! Since it was close to Halloween, some people came dressed in costume, or carrying inappropriate signs, and I found that totally inappropriate, because it’s saying Look at me, don’t think about what we’re here for. The kind of energy that can be generated by a march can be dissipated by just turning it into a sideshow. And I see this happen over and over with American marches. Like people who try to protest in the nude: this is NOT appropriate for anything. Because public nudity happens to be against the law—and it probably should be, because most people are ugly! [laughs] The few Adonises and Venuses around, I’d love if they would parade in the nude. But most people could use a little concealment.

Part of the action around the Pentagon, under the heading of the whole exorcism thing, was supposed to be all these couples making love. Abbie took it upon himself to be a kind of matchmaker, because people were not pairing off quite as quickly as he would’ve liked. So when they came to the moment, Abbie was grabbing people and saying, “No you’re with her, and him and her… No you go with her, and him, he should be with her and get that other guy out of there, and lie down now. Lie down, come on, do it!” I remember it really well because he made a match with me and some girl that turned out absolutely delightfully. So I was part of that sort of communal love thing that was happening, as Ed Sanders was chanting “Out, demons, out!” There weren’t really very many people making love – it was too scary for that. I remember arriving on the lawn with this young woman and Abbie, on the microphone in the distance, saying that all these couples were gonna make love and then I was tapped on the should by an extremely polite Washington policeman, and I looked up over my shoulder and he said, “Excuse me, but I have to ask you, are you planning to consummate this?” I said, “Yeah, why?” And he said, “Because if you do consummate, I’m going to have to arrest you.” I said, “How will you know?” He said, “We’re watching you.” But he was so polite, he had a lot of couples to watch and he was doing a really good job. Then Ed Sanders was chanting the ritual invocations and I was up and the passion was over and I wasn’t arrested for consummating, and suddenly we were all moving towards the Pentagon itself.

As we approached the Pentagon the older people are kind of going whooooa, wait a second, the place is ringed by Airborne assholes, right? Me, I just thought hey great, these guys want to face off, we’re here. So as we’re walking up there there were these trash cans that are on the grounds of the Pentagon. And on top of this pile of trash there’s this bunch of flowers, daisies, right. I grabbed them. I saw these soldiers, and they’re all standing there and they were my age. So I just took the flowers and one by one, boom boom boom, put ‘em in the gun barrels. Cause we had done this flower power crap in Berkeley you know, already. One by one, in the barrel of their guns. Then that guy Rosenthal, who took the Iwo Jima picture, took that famous picture of me.

I was carrying a lot of daisies, I was handing them out to people. It was a gift to the counterculture from the Fugs. So some people put daisies into the rifle butts. I did one. There was a line of soldiers with fixed bayonets. They looked very nervous. They were young. When you put the white daisy inside the barrel, it was, ‘take it easy, it’s okay, it’s just a flower, let me put it in there.” A few people did this. Not many. Cuz it takes guts to put a flower inside a rifle barrel, kay? Because if they’d have tried that in Chicago in August of 1968, the person with the flower would probably have been shot. So, this was a different era. It was the year of the Summer of Love. There was still enough of a climate of love to get away with putting daisies in rifle barrels. But that period ended very soon.

There was always those moments in these demonstrations where suddenly, as if from some underlying rhythm, what was a kind of gentle movement of people became a surge, and was met with a counter surge and suddenly like a crazy weather front, there were just all these masses of energy in conflict. I remember being scared that this was gonna get really out of control, because people were trying to get to the Pentagon and the joke was over, the love-making was over, the chanting was all over. Suddenly, it would just turn like that, from a kind of cultural carnival to a really terrifying nightmare time. And then I remember getting the first thing of teargas and groping for the hand of the girl that I was with and both of us just being too blinded and overwhelmed by both the teargas and the cops and the people running away from the Pentagon now to even hold on to each other. And just getting swept up in a real stampede.

Their policy was not to let you get anywhere near the fucking place. So we managed to sit down in the driveway for 30 seconds. I saw some of the action in front of the Pentagon, kids climbing up ropes. Really trying to get in. What amazed me was when I was being arraigned, there were people there with three-button suits getting arrested, professional people. This had gone up one scale. You could see Middle America was now against the war and that was amazing to me and I think McNamara and those “Pentagon intellectuals” must’ve noticed that too. This was not just a bunch of crazy kids, this was the country saying, yeah, this is it. Scared the shit out of ‘em.

A few people tried to breach the line, get into the building and they were arrested, but everybody else sort of sat down and those were the scenes when people were putting flower stems into rifle barrels. Abbie and his people got all the press, but they didn’t represent everybody that was out there. There were religious groups that were out there and labor leaders and all kinds of people. And the exorcism was put out as the purpose of the demonstration but the demonstration had much greater significance in terms of the history of the anti-war movement because it was the first time that that many people showed up someplace to do something that they weren’t supposed to do. There had been demonstrations and 5th Avenue Parade Committee actions that involved people in as large a number as came to the Pentagon but the Pentagon was civil disobedience and it was the first time that such a massive number of people had experience in civil disobedience. It was a mind-blowing event to confront massive numbers of police, backed up by massive numbers of uniformed armed military. And we overran them. They tried to stop us from crossing the 14th Street Bridge, and they couldn’t. Then they formed a skirmish line on the outside of the parking lot around the Pentagon and we just pushed through them, and they fell back then to the inside border of the parking lot, between the parking lot and the building, and it looked like a very firm skirmish line that they had established there. They were shoulder-to-shoulder, billy clubs, bayonets, they weren’t gonna let anybody through, but people started getting through. They started climbing trees and climbing over walls and getting behind them and when a bunch of people got behind them, they’d move their line back to cover them. And we got the feeling as we kept pushing against the line that we had power. And we didn’t know up until that point that we had physical power. We thought we had moral power, we thought we had righteousness on our side, but we began to see that with sufficient numbers we had a kind of physical power. It was enormously energizing and it took the movement to a different stage of development. To me, that was the significance of the Pentagon march. It wasn’t the exorcism and the humor and the absurdity around that, which also played a positive role, but it was the demonstration that we could have more power than any number of police they could deploy.

People really got up into the Pentagon, really close. Part of the wall of the pentagon had an alcove, and there was a guy sitting there meditating inside. And there was somebody else on top of the walls. You saw people that were so close into the Pentagon that you almost thought—of course in those days we thought of a lot of things—that Something Was Going to Happen. That was the real importance of it, that there was that Possibility of something.

When I looked up and saw machine guns pointed at you from the Pentagon, there was a lovely little thought process I went through which is let’s see, there’s machine guns, they’re pointed at the enemy, and they’re pointed at me! Wheeeew! I guess I am the enemy, and it was like a little A plus B, B equals C, A equals C, sort of thing that went on there. I got teargassed pretty badly that fucking time. The government had set up medical huts, which was so wonderful. If you went to the medical huts they treated you so nicely in there. So they gassed me, and because I had hay fever plus teargas, I was near dying. Then I went to the medical hut and the nice old nurses fixed me up. I said this is a pretty hot little government.

You’re walking around a geography that you’re not familiar with, people are pushing and shoving, people were crying, people were going through the crowd saying that we didn’t know this would happen, they led us into a trap, other people were saying, This is how they are, it shouldn’t have been this way. Nothing would happen. Every time they would move toward the crowd and shake their clubs, the crowd would retreat. You know that film where Chaplin goes into a neighborhood and subdues a big bully? Every time the big bully raises an eyebrow, the crowd runs back! And if he shakes his shoulders the whole street is cleaned off, everybody goes into their houses. They kept shaking their clubs at us, to move us back. Gradually people were not intimidated, or crept around them, crept through them. Then they backed off. And then there’d be some little incident on the edge where someone was separated from their friends, or someone attacked the biggest kid in the crowd, to scare all the others then. Some big unassuming bulky person would be brutalized, right? And people would be unable to retreat from seeing it.

Each hour that you stayed, as it became darker it got scarier and scarier. There was real bonding. That’s the first time in my life that I ever felt the idea of being like a small part of something that’s much larger and all-inclusive, and it’s very beautiful. It’s like being one cell in an organism. There was that kind of real unity, because we were all scared I guess, and we were sitting there because we had to, and we shared those moments and we knew we were right.

Ben Morea and the Motherfuckers were the only ones who said, “Well, if people are talking about storming the Pentagon, we’re gonna storm the Pentagon” and actually managed to get into the Pentagon. They were in the corridors of the Pentagon having pitched battle with the security guards there while everybody else was out levitating the Pentagon.

Apparently they’d imported marshals from the South, the kind that they’d seen do such good work in Birmingham. Real redneck tough guys. They were beating some of the demonstrators on the ground and when you see that, it inevitably makes your blood boil, it’s amazing how quickly that evokes violence to see people doing that. There wasn’t counter-violence but I was very conscious of the point that that’s unbearable. Up til that moment I would have said the mood was too picnic-like, it was too much of a day off, a nice Saturday, very beautiful weather. Again, I didn’t think it was as powerful an effect as it could be having. But then things got serious.

So after watching that for a while, I decided to go inside and see what was happening inside. The building seemed virtually deserted although I read later that troops were down in the basement and on the roof—they had troops dispersed to various places, fearing a revolution. I went up to our office and then decided that I could get a better look at what was happening at the river entrance, from McNamara’s office, which was next door, so I just went through the door, and after a minute, I realized that McNamara was actually in there. There was a secretary in for a minute, she went out, and then McNamara had his back to me and he was looking out the window. Well, the natural thing to do would be to get out since I did not have an informal relationship with him. But on the other hand, I did know him and had written speeches for him. So I decided just to go over to the window and have a look. So he was at one window and I was at another, we were looking down at this thing. Neither of us said anything. He just stood there. It’s odd looking back on it. I wanted to see the expression on his face when they succeeded in levitating the building. But that didn’t happen. My own actual feeling was, looking down on them, it was too much of a kind of football rally kind of crowd, too gala. I was afraid that it wasn’t having the impact on McNamara that I wanted it to have. It remains an interesting question, actually, how McNamara was reacting to it. I knew, at the time, that he wanted the war to end and so I assumed that he had a basic sympathy, at least with the goals.

The US marshals were the scariest people I’ve ever seen in my life, they were worse than anybody else. They had these long sticks and they were really beating the shit out of people. They were really cracking up on the heads. But people didn’t leave! We spent all the night there and all day there. People stayed there and they used their posters as little campfires. And people had draft card burnings in certain areas.

Getting busted was kind of a relief because I can remember nothing in my life with almost as much concentrated terror as I experienced that night, prior to that point. It was my baptism of fire.

When it got dark, later that night, that’s when they started arresting people and taking them away and the arrests were quite brutal and sudden and things would quiet down again. As the situation stabilized, somebody set up a microphone to serve as a command post on the protest side. My recollection is that Abbie took over that role toward the morning of the second day and tried to keep the energy going. The revolutionary emcee.

When we were finally arrested it was peaceful. The men and women were separated. Abbie and I gave out names as Mr. and Mrs. Digger.

I fell in love with Abbie in that compound. Such an up spirit. There were impromptu workshops and debates. It was a real education for me. All I knew was smoking dope and feeling good. I remember at one point Abbie put this sheet over his head as if he’s a Ku Klux Klan guy and he goes up to the front of the bars and says, “Hey, let me out of here. I’m in here with all these Jews and Commies.”

I remember when bail was made for him, the cop came in and just shouted “Digger!” And Abbie went out.

It was the perfect theatrical event because my goal was to have thousands of people sieging the Pentagon. The Pentagon had to bring troops back from Vietnam and Detroit to attack the crowd, not to have blood spilled but just to theatrically attack the crowd. We were trying to create the myth of millions of people being against the war. And by the myth create the reality of it. It happened perfectly. Abbie brought the humor and the good times, the SDS came with the militancy that you needed because you need a little militancy otherwise the police would all laugh at you and say, “Fine.” It’s all working out perfectly. And there’s the headlines in the Washington Post the next day. Thousands arrested. Pentagon splattered with paint, 82nd airborne moved in, da da da da… Then we got that perfect picture of the hippie, who was Superjoel, putting the flower in the gun barrel. So if you say that all life’s reduced to photographs, my goal was to have thousands of people besieging the Pentagon and for the whole world to hear that the youth of America are opposed to the American war machine and they must stop. Total success. That’s what happened. As a matter of fact, probably because of that event Johnson saw his power slipping and decided not to run again.

We drove back from the Pentagon demonstration with Abbie and Anita. He was thrilled. He had insisted that they had levitated the Pentagon. Hadn’t I seen it? I said, “ I don’t think so, Abbie.” But I began to appreciate Abbie’s style and politics. Before this I couldn’t get a handle on this cultural revolution that he was talking about. Revolution for the hell of it? I appreciated it, I instinctively understood what he meant. On the other hand I was straighter, more orthodox. I considered drugs to be counter-revolutionary. I hadn’t opened all my pores the same way Abbie did. I was, in Tom Neumann’s words, a well-intentioned politico to Abbie’s eyes and Abbie was a crazed nut in my eyes and we resolved a lot of that during that trip back from Washington.

All I have is a grainy picture of the Pentagon risen maybe 36 inches off the ground…I know Abbie had one that was higher, just don’t know what happened to it.

It was Bob Ockene who made the really important recognitions about what had happened at the Pentagon march. He said the main injustice among the demonstrators had been the way the “straight shorthaired New Left leadership” (he was referring to Tom Hayden, Rennie Davis and several others) with its bullhorns had totally controlled the rhetoric ‘till the vicious federal marshals arrived—at which time they fled, leaving the psychedelic community (referred to in the media as hippies or freaks) to take the tear gas, skull-bash and jail time. Thus, he said the psychedelic community should have a vehicle allowing its rhetoric to reach the media despite the New Left. He said the organization should be egalitarian, decentralized, informal and above all have a sense of humor as a relief from the paranoia taking hold as a result of police brutality. (At the Pentagon the federal marshals in general acted as though they were taking orders from the Fourth Reich.)
So Bob and I made a list of 16 names and each of made eight phone calls to get a meeting on this. Kate Coleman (who at that time was working at Newsweek), Allen Ginsberg, Abbie Hoffman, Nancy Kurshan, Paul Krassner, Tuli Kupferberg, Judy and Keith Lampe, Ann and Bob Ockene, Jerry Rubin, Ed Sanders.
That was in December of ’67.

The birth took place at Abbie and Anita’s apartment on the afternoon of December 31st, 1967. And there were a lot of people gathered there. Everybody was stoned on Columbian marijuana. We were just kind of making plans about what we were gonna do. Although I invented the name, it was just a label for a phenomenon that already existed. You could already see this organic coalition in process of the hippies and new lefties. But I knew that reporters needed a hook to get a first paragraph. I don’t think there was much thinking of a name for the group, but I knew that the mythologizing process needs a name. Zeus! Something! So I went into the other room, sometimes you feel there’s some kind of brainstorm coming on. I just knew, a name, a name, a name. I went through the alphabet, to see what name would be appropriate to demonstrate the radicalization of hippies. I’m going through ippy, bippy, dippy, hippy, I’m ready to give up, wippy, yippie. Yippie! It was so perfect I stopped there and didn’t even get to zippie!

So I sat there, I was up in their bed! That’s perfect! Then I’m working backwards. Okay. Yippies would derive organically, just as working backwards like running a film, from the intitials Y I P. It was acronym time. I thought what could the words be? And Youth, it was a youth movement, no question about that. I, international, it was an international movement, too, it was not just happening in America. And P, P, P, P. Party! It was so perfect, it was like a religious epiphany for me. I was like, “Listen to this! I got a name! We can call ourselves the Yippies!” I’m telling everybody and they’re looking at me. Abbie liked it right away. Jerry didn’t like it right away. … So after a little discussion they realized how appropriate it would be, because yippie is a shout of joy, it had all the elements. By the time the meeting was over we were the Yippies. We were the Youth International Party.

Judy made a strong Yippie! button for us. In January, Timothy Leary made a $500 donation and we were on our waaaaaay.

We were sitting in Abbie’s St. Marks apartment and we said we gotta have a slogan. Ed said “Rise up and crush the creeping meatball.” The following week Ray Mungo and Marshall Bloom of the Liberation News Service sent out our news release all around the country. It said that the Yippies were coming.

This is how the thinking goes. There’s all these longhairs out there, they’re a community. We had been through the civil rights movement, we’d been through a left that is increasingly estranged from how ordinary people live, we walk down the street, the evidence of our eyes is that in every large city and frankly in every small town, there are these new kinds of people, these freaks. And because we care about changing this country and also because we can see that they’re the ones with the energy, and also because we don’t want to be irrelevant, how can we reach these people? And they’re not in one place, they’re everywhere. We are everywhere. How do you reach them? Well you reach them through the artists, the rock and roll people, you reach em by having events that are McLuhan-esque, you reach ‘em by certain iconic images: smoke a joint, the love drug, dancing by the Pentagon, levitating the Pentagon. That’s how you reach ‘em. But how do you let them know? The Republican Party can buy billboards. Hubert Humphrey can buy billboards. We can’t afford time, we’re not a political party except we called ourselves that on New Year’s Day. We’re not organized, we don’t have the reputation, we’re a fringe group. We’re like the vegetarians or the Santa Claus party. How do we get publicity? And so because both Abbie and Jerry, and Paul are clever they began to really engage in this kind of media battleground of essentially forcing their way to media attention.

So, if you’re a reporter in the late ‘60s, a straight reporter, what are they? They’re good copy, they’re those wacky hippies. You can sell the story to your editor. Actually half the time, the editor wants you to go cover the story. They’re gonna do something weird, that Jerry guy, he’s pretty outrageous, he’s kind of clever. And that Abbie guy, he’s funny and he’s kind of clever and then whoever else they’re bringing along. And they’re gonna run a pig for president and they’re gonna do this. …Someone once criticized it by saying there were ten Yippies, as if to say there’s a problem. If you’re a movement aestheticist that’s certainly a problem. On the other hand, isn’t that an accomplishment, cause there’s just a handful of you?

We were probably more into print media. Print in a way is just as powerful because that story about burning money at the stock exchange was the feature story in every paper in the country. That’s where the power was. With TV it just hits and it’s gone! But the newspaper just hangs around and then it comes out a week later in Newsweek. You get a second hit.

You can’t overestimate the effect of acid on the scene. People really were in a surrealistic, absurd sort of way. And you did need a politics that catered to those moods and the outlook that acid was creating. Yippie was definitely a physical manifestation of it. Political people started taking acid and didn’t think that acid was a substitute for politics, but thought that acid had something to say to politics. If you combined politics with the right combination of acid and grass and doing wild stunts and getting involved in the surrealistic edge, it was a marvelous way to live! The civil rights movement, the peace movement, they appealed to idealism and guilt. We appealed to idealism. But we also appealed to fucking off, decadence, taking dope and getting laid and doing weird drawings on your body, and the stuff that’s usually identified with the decline of civilization. And yet we somehow got it all packaged into some kind of romantic, idealist, revolutionary mode. Wow, this is very appealing stuff. And we got it out there, and it had its impact.

I think the Yippies were correct on an abstract level. But my feeling always has been that you don’t overcome real right-wing conservatism by just mocking it; you deepen it, and that you’re playing a very dangerous game which can end in fascism if you go too far without knowing what you’re doing. That finally what you want to do is reach conservatives with arguments rather than just try to blow ‘em out. And so that was always my fundamental argument with Abbie from the word go.

The levitation of the Pentagon was a happening that demystified the authority of the military. The Pentagon was symbolically levitated in people’s minds in the sense that it lost its authority which had been unquestioned and unchallenged until then. But once that notion was circulated in the air and once the kid put his flower in the barrel of the kid looking just like himself but tense and nervous, the authority of the Pentagon psychologically was dissolved.

“No Game,” a 17-minute film about the march on the Pentagon, is the first Newsreel film. Five camera people decided to make a film together, everybody shot whatever they shot during the entire day and then they came back and put a film together. They had 16mm cameras. This is pre-video. They got ends of stock, overdated stock. It’s a short film but it really took a long time, a lot of work was done on it.

The media had covered it enough that people knew about it. It was a really big event, it went into the next day, people were getting beaten up…And the levitation of the Pentagon wasn’t something that happened every day. It wasn’t just another peace demonstration where you went to Washington and returned to your thing.

But the only propaganda that people saw was what was on TV. That was it. And so with Newsreel, we created our own propaganda to try to be in contrast, to support a whole other opinion. We had a real market for films in those days. We had the anti-draft groups and the Black Panthers and SDS and church groups and Another Mother for Peace and Women Against the War—every group you could imagine wanted to have a film to show to their people. Every college. We couldn’t even get enough of the things made. We must have done 50 films in that period of time. The Newsreel films made you feel like you weren’t alone, that there were other people that share your opinion. This was important, especially if you didn’t live in a big city where these things happened.

The military was somewhat stunned by the size and the vehemence of the crowd. The concept of going right to the gates of power and holding such a demonstration was troubling to Army intelligence. It was a symbolic event. It’s sort of like the first simultaneous poem at the Cabaret Voltaire in 1916 that the Dadaists put on in Zurich: it was a symbolic event that had more meaning than the actual event itself. It had a kind of life. And then when we put it on the Fugs record (“Exorcising the Evil Spirits From the Pentagon Oct. 21, 1967” sixth track off 1968 Fugs release Tenderness Junction), a lot of people heard it, it got a lot of radio play. It was a famous thing we did, and people praised us for our audacity, yet the Vietnam War went on for another seven years. So much for “Out, Demons, Out!”

Well, you have to put the first nail in. We were having 800 to 1,000 die every week during the Vietnam war. The human race just becomes numb to atrocity after a while. So, I think these things, crude or exhibitionistic or whatever they may be considered, maybe even bad magic, they did eventually bear fruit. The war eventually ended. I encountered McNamara many many years later—it was just one of those things that he happened to be in the same city, and was approachable. He’s written a book that’s like a softcore apology. I didn’t say my name or anything to him. I just said, “Mr. McNamara, I think it’s very noble of you to have made that concession.”

We did so many things in those days that we never would be able to do now. You wouldn’t even be able to get near the Pentagon today because there’s big gates, the landscaping is all totally different and you can only get to some street where they turn you away.

To do something so symbolic today, you’d have to send 25,000 people to ring the US compound in Baghdad and chant OUT DEMONS OUT.

What happened on that day could never happen now, not in an evolving police state in the guise of national security. It’s never been as dangerous as it’s been now. In all the elections in my lifetime…. The propaganda and the brainwashed American public are very symbiotic, and that’s very scary. You know, the people STILL believe, even though it’s been denied, that Saddam and Osama were lovers. And adopted a Chinese baby. How EASILY they pick up on simple soundbites. You ask people and they just mimic what they’ve heard over and over and over again. “flip-flop, flip-flop, flip-flop.” It’s kind of frightening. I had to fight for the swastika on Bush’s nipple for my album cover. I don’t understand all these people who are undecided. The only ones I know who are undecided are undecided about whether to vote at all, or if Bush wins whether they would stay in the country. I’m too old to emigrate to Canada. They have rules there. If Bush wins, I would stay just to see the guerrilla theater that develops.

There was a lot of creative stuff at the NYC RNC. I watched four hours on C-SPAN of that first Sunday march. It was inspiring. One guy had a poster, it was my favorite, it said, “Let’s Evolve Already” which seemed to cover everything. The first Sunday got a lot of media play but then, it was almost as if the media felt, Oh we’ve covered the demonstrations, now let’s concentrate on Zell Miller.

We little mammals happen to have run into some big dinosaurs. They’re desperate because they know they’re on their way out. So I keep optimistic, because to despair means you’re not going to be as creative, and as inventive, and as resourceful, and as much of a Yippie. You gotta keep showing up, and doing what you do.

How bad does it have to get before you leave? Well Brecht has a poem about that. He says there are some people who are so busy with what they’re doing that even though you come in and tell them that the roof is on fire they won’t even stop. He says it half in despair, because he got out.

I think we had a big influence on what happened during the Republican Convention. I’m sorry that people are feeling despair because I think just the opposite is called for right now. I think George Bush is just as stupid as he was before. I think if there’s one more bad election that the world condemns then we do have a Hitlerian situation. I grew up in New York in the cast of the Threepenny Opera. And I read all about that Weimar period, so it’s always in my mind. That’s who the enemy is. They’re fucking fascists! What do you expect? [laughs] It matters not whether you fight them on your doorstep or around the world, you have to expose them, mock them, irritate them. People are not dumb—they just don’t want to know anymore, they know too much already. But that was going on in the Vietnam war too. People didn’t want to know about it, it was halfway around the world. “Oh, they’ll take care of it, they know more than we do.” But you can’t hide those bodybags forever. After a while you smell the body behind your ass, and it’ll begin to stink.


Some parts of this article were previously published in Steal This Dream by Larry Ratso Sloman (Doubleday), and appear courtesy of the author. For more information on obtaining signed copies of that book, email: abbiehoffmanbook@yahoo.com

The Newsreel collective’s Pentagon March film No Game, and other Newsreel films, are available for purchase from the Roz Payne Archives at newsreel.us

“A Magic Rite…” appears courtesy of Ed Sanders. Ed’s book, America: A History in Verse, Vol. 3, 1962-1970, features his account of the Pentagon March. It is available for $19.95 from thefugs.com

Excerpts from the San Francisco Oracle appear courtesy of Regent Press.

Special thanks to Rani Singh, Peter Relic, Susan Montford & Don Murphy, Gavin Brownrigg, John Leland, Dana Beal, Lane Sarasohn, Jennifer Ballantyne and Peter Hale at the Ginsberg Trust.



Go here to view “No Game,” by the Newsreel collective: https://www.cctv.org/watch-tv/programs/no-game-pentagon-demo-1st-newsreel-film

Below: More stills from the film “Will the Real Norman Mailer Please Stand Up” by Dick Fontaine

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Below: Stills from The Sixth Side of the Pentagon, directed by Chris Marker and François Reichenbach.

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Michael Brownstein on MEDITATION AS A SUBVERSIVE ACTIVITY (Arthur No. 15/Feb 2005)

Artwork by John Coulthart, from Arthur No. 15/Feb 2005

What does meditation have to do with activism?
Plenty, says poet Michael Brownstein

I’ve been a Buddhist for many years, and I am also an activist, committed to overturning the profit-driven monoculture which is destroying our health, our Earth, and our soul. How are these two forms of awareness—awareness of what’s taking place in the outside world, and awareness of our internal processes—related? Can each aid the other in creating a sane, sustainable and just world?

Let’s look at activism in terms of the negative emotions generated—indignation and rage, but also frustration, sorrow, resignation. These are negative emotions because of the effect they have on us, the people who experience them. Not on the object of our emotions, whether it be the World Trade Organization, Monsanto, or George Bush. Negative emotions are reactive. Their only impact is on us. What difference does it make to Monsanto that you’re seething with indignation at something it has done or said? What difference does it make to the Pacific Lumber Company when you come upon a clear-cut old-growth forest in California and feel devastated?

Staying present with our emotions—anger, for example—means remaining aware of what we’re experiencing without becoming lost in reactivity. It means liberating the energy generated by anger from the object that calls it forth. In other words, it is a form of meditation. Then, the possibility exists to work with the situation from a place of clarity, rather than be submerged in confusion.

So, the first revolutionary act—or fact—about meditation is that it puts you in touch with what you’re feeling and thinking at this very moment. It puts you in touch with presence. Then you realize that you are the source of your emotions—not Monsanto or McDonald’s. This does not imply that we shouldn’t have these responses, but that we have to use them rather than be used by them. And the only way to do that is to become aware of their nature. Continue reading

Terrorist Triage

Why are the presidential candidates—and so many counterterrorism experts—afraid to say that the Al Qaeda threat is overrated?

Christopher Dickey
Updated: 9:32 AM ET May 6, 2008

Michael Sheehan is on a one-man mission to put terrorist threats into perspective, which is a place they’ve rarely or ever been before. Already you can see it’s going to be a hard slog. Fighting the inflated menace of Osama bin Laden has become big business, generating hundreds of billions of dollars for government agencies and contractors in what one friend of mine in the Washington policy-making stratosphere calls “the counterterrorist-industrial complex.”

But Sheehan’s got the kind of credentials that ought to make us stop and listen. He was a U.S. Army Green Beret fighting guerrillas in Central America in the 1980s, he served on the National Security Council staff under both President George H.W. Bush and President Bill Clinton, and he held the post of ambassador-at-large for counterterrorism from 1998 to 2000.

In those days Sheehan was among that persistent, relentless and finally shrill chorus of voices trying to warn the Clinton administration that Osama bin Laden and his boys represented a horrific danger to the United States and its interests. Days after the October 2000 suicide attack on the USS Cole in Yemen that killed 17 American sailors, experienced analysts like Sheehan at the State Department and Richard A. Clarke at the White House were certain Al Qaeda was behind it, but there was no support for retaliation among the Clintonistas or, even less, the Pentagon.

Clarke later wrote vividly about Sheehan’s reaction after the military brass begged off. “Who the s— do they think attacked the Cole, f—in’ Martians?” Sheehan asked Clarke. “Does Al Qaeda have to attack the Pentagon to get their attention?”

We all know the answer to that question, of course. But what’s interesting is not that Sheehan was so right, for all the good it did, or that President Bill Clinton and then President George W. Bush were so wrong not to pay attention. What’s interesting is Sheehan’s argument now that Al Qaeda just isn’t the existential-twilight-struggle threat it’s often cracked up to be. Hence the subtitle of his new book, “Crush the Cell: How to Defeat Terrorism Without Terrorizing Ourselves” (Crown, 2008).

The ideas Sheehan puts forth in a text as easy to read as a Power Point should be central to every security debate in the current presidential campaign. But given the personality politics that have dominated the race so far, that seems unlikely. Once again it’s up to the public to figure these things out for itself.

“I want people to understand what the real threat is and what’s a bunch of bull,” Sheehan told me when I tracked him down a few days ago in one of those Middle Eastern hotel lobbies where you sip orange juice and lemonade at cocktail time. (He asked me not to say where, precisely, since the government he’s now advising on policing and terrorism puts a high premium on discretion.)

Before September 11, said Sheehan, the United States was “asleep at the switch” while Al Qaeda was barreling down the track. “If you don’t pay attention to these guys,” said Sheehan, “they will kill you in big numbers.” So bin Laden’s minions hit U.S. embassies in Africa in 1998, they hit the Cole in 2000, and they hit New York and Washington in 2001—three major attacks on American targets in the space of 37 months. Since then, not one. And not for want of trying on their part.

What changed? The difference is purely and simply that intelligence agencies, law enforcement and the military have focused their attention on the threat, crushed the operational cells they could find—which were in fact the key ones plotting and executing major attacks—and put enormous pressure on all the rest.

“I reject the notion that Al Qaeda is waiting for ‘the big one’ or holding back an attack,” Sheehan writes. “A terrorist cell capable of attacking doesn’t sit and wait for some more opportune moment. It’s not their style, nor is it in the best interest of their operational security. Delaying an attack gives law enforcement more time to detect a plot or penetrate the organization.”

Terrorism is not about standing armies, mass movements, riots in the streets or even palace coups. It’s about tiny groups that want to make a big bang. So you keep tracking cells and potential cells, and when you find them you destroy them. After Spanish police cornered leading members of the group that attacked trains in Madrid in 2004, they blew themselves up. The threat in Spain declined dramatically.

Indonesia is another case Sheehan and I talked about. Several high-profile associates of bin Laden were nailed there in the two years after 9/11, then sent off to secret CIA prisons for interrogation. The suspects are now at Guantánamo. But suicide bombings continued until police using forensic evidence—pieces of car bombs and pieces of the suicide bombers—tracked down Dr. Azahari bin Husin, “the Demolition Man,” and the little group around him. In a November 2005 shootout the cops killed Dr. Azahari and crushed his cell. After that such attacks in Indonesia stopped.

The drive to obliterate the remaining hives of Al Qaeda training activity along the Afghanistan-Pakistan frontier and those that developed in some corners of Iraq after the U.S. invasion in 2003 needs to continue, says Sheehan. It’s especially important to keep wanna-be jihadists in the West from joining with more experienced fighters who can give them hands-on weapons and explosives training. When left to their own devices, as it were, most homegrown terrorists can’t cut it. For example, on July 7, 2005, four bombers blew themselves up on public transport in London, killing 56 people. Two of those bombers had trained in Pakistan. Another cell tried to do the same thing two weeks later, but its members had less foreign training, or none. All the bombs were duds.

Sheehan’s perspective is clearly influenced by the three years he spent, from 2003 to 2006, as deputy commissioner for counterterrorism at the New York City Police Department. There, working with Commissioner Ray Kelly and David Cohen, the former CIA operations chief who heads the NYPD’s intelligence division, Sheehan helped build what’s regarded as one of the most effective terrorist-fighting organizations in the United States. Radicals and crazies of many different stripes have targeted the city repeatedly over the last century, from alleged Reds to Black Blocs, from Puerto Rican nationalists and a “mad bomber” to Al Qaeda’s aspiring martyrs. But the police have limited resources, so they’ve learned the art of terrorist triage, focusing on what’s real and wasting little time and money on what’s merely imagined.

“Even in 2003, less than two years after 9/11, I told Kelly and Cohen that I thought Al Qaeda was simply not very good,” Sheehan writes in his book. Bin Laden’s acolytes “were a small and determined group of killers, but under the withering heat of the post-9/11 environment, they were simply not getting it done … I said what nobody else was saying: we underestimated Al Qaeda’s capabilities before 9/11 and overestimated them after. This seemed to catch both Kelly and Cohen a bit by surprise, and I agreed not to discuss my feelings in public. The likelihood for misinterpretation was much too high.”

It still is. At the Global Leadership Forum co-sponsored by NEWSWEEK at the Royal United Services Institute in London last week, the experts and dignitaries didn’t want to risk dissing Al Qaeda, even when their learned presentations came to much the same conclusions as Sheehan.

The British Tories’ shadow security minister, Pauline Neville-Jones, dismissed overblown American rhetoric: “We don’t use the language of the Global War on Terror,” said the baroness. “We actively eschew it.” The American security expert Ashton Carter agreed. “It’s not a war,” said the former assistant secretary of defense, who is now an important Hillary Clinton supporter. “It’s a matter of law enforcement and intelligence, of Homeland Security hardening the target.” The military focus, he suggested, should be on special ops.

Sir David Omand, who used to head Britain’s version of the National Security Agency and oversaw its entire intelligence establishment from the Cabinet Office earlier this decade, described terrorism as “one corner” of the global security threat posed by weapons proliferation and political instability. That in turn is only one of three major dangers facing the world over the next few years. The others are the deteriorating environment and a meltdown of the global economy. Putting terrorism in perspective, said Sir David, “leads naturally to a risk management approach, which is very different from what we’ve heard from Washington these last few years, which is to ‘eliminate the threat’.”

Yet when I asked the panelists at the forum if Al Qaeda has been overrated, suggesting as Sheehan does that most of its recruits are bunglers, all shook their heads. Nobody wants to say such a thing on the record, in case there’s another attack tomorrow and their remarks get quoted back to them.

That’s part of what makes Sheehan so refreshing. He knows there’s a big risk that he’ll be misinterpreted; he’ll be called soft on terror by ass-covering bureaucrats, breathless reporters and fear-peddling politicians. And yet he charges ahead. He expects another attack sometime, somewhere. He hopes it won’t be made to seem more apocalyptic than it is. “Don’t overhype it, because that’s what Al Qaeda wants you to do. Terrorism is about psychology.” In the meantime, said Sheehan, finishing his fruit juice, “the relentless 24/7 job for people like me is to find and crush those guys.”

As I headed into the parking lot, watching a storm blow in off the desert, it occurred to me that one day in the not too distant future the inability of these terrorist groups to act effectively will discredit them and the movement they claim to represent. If they did succeed with a new attack and the public and media brushed it off after a couple of news cycles, that would discredit them still more. The psychological victory would be ours for a change, and not only in our own societies but very likely in theirs. Or, to paraphrase an old Army dictum, if you crush the cells, the hearts and minds will follow.

In a similar vein (and way back in 2004): The Power of Nightmares.

Paging Godsmack

Army Seeks “Professional Celebrity Rock Music Band”

By Noah Shachtman

It’s not completely surprising that the Army wants to hire a band to tour its bases in Afghanistan and Kuwait. The armed services get all kinds of folks, to entertain the troops. “But it’s the way that they solicit for rock bands that makes the whole thing hilarious,” Stephen Trimble notes.

First, a summary of what the Army is seeking:

Professional Celebrity Rock Music Band, group not to exceed seven people for tour of FOB’s [forward operating bases] in Kuwait and Afghanistan for February 4-13 2008. The band should be an active rock band, with a music genre consisting of Southern Rock, Pop Rock, Post-Grunge and Hard Rock. At least one member of the band should be recognizable as a professional celebrity. Protective military equipment, such as kevlar, body armour, eye and ear protection will be provided when the group is travelling on military rotary or fixed wing aircraft.

Then, there’s the highly-calibrated method the service will use to evaluate these Professional Celebrity Rock Music Band applicants. The contract will be awarded based on “Past Performance, Contractor Capability, Contractor’s Experience, Celebrity Status of the Proposed Artists, and Price. Contractor Capability, Experience, and Price. The celebrity status of the proposed artist is slightly more important than these 3 combined, and all 4 combined are slightly more important than Price.”

More at Wired.

Articles of faith

When two eminent US scholars wrote about the ‘Israel lobby’ they were vilified by colleagues and the Washington Post. This week Barack Obama joined the attack. Ed Pilkington hears their story

Ed Pilkington
Saturday September 15, 2007
The Guardian

Given the reception John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt received for their London Review of Books essay last year on what they called the Israel Lobby, it would have been understandable had they crawled away to a dark corner of their respective academic institutions to lick their wounds. Their argument that US foreign policy has been distorted by the stultifying power of pro-Israeli groups and individuals was met with a firestorm of protest that has smouldered ever since.

The authors were assailed with headlines such as the Washington Post’s: “Yes, it’s anti-semitic.” The neocon pundit William Kristol accused them in the Wall Street Journal of “anti-Judaism” while the New York Sun linked them with the white supremacist David Duke.

The row became a focal point of a much wider debate about the limits of permitted criticism of the state of Israel and its American-based supporters that has ensnared several academics and writers, including a former president. Jimmy Carter was castigated earlier this year when he published a plea for a renewed engagement in the Middle-East peace process under the admittedly provocative title, Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid. He was labelled an anti-semitic “Jew hater” and even a Nazi sympathiser. Meanwhile, a British-born historian at New York University, Tony Judt, has been warned off or disinvited from four academic events in the past year. On one occasion, he was asked to promise not to mention Israel in a speech on the Holocaust. He refused.

For Walt, the explosion of criticism after the LRB publication in March 2006 struck particularly close to home as two members of his own Harvard faculty turned on him. Ruth Wisse, professor of Yiddish literature, compared Walt and his University of Chicago co-author’s work to that of a notorious 19th-century German anti-semite. Alan Dershowitz, the Harvard criminal law professor who represented OJ Simpson, charged them with culling some of their references from neo-Nazi websites.

Given the battering he has taken, Walt is remarkably upbeat. “We were surprised by how nasty it got,” says the Harvard professor. “The David Duke reference, the neo-Nazi websites – these were intended to smear us and swing attention on to us rather than to what we were saying. It wasn’t pleasant, but it never made me doubt what we had written or doubt myself.” Standing tall in the face of attack is one thing; to raise your head above the parapet for a second round is quite another. But that is what the Mearsheimer/Walt double act are doing: they have gone on the offensive with the publication of a book-length version of their original treatise.

As night follows day, the dispute has started anew. The New York Sun has dedicated a section of its website to the controversy; Dershowitz has revved up again, calling the book “a bigoted attack on the American Jewish community”; and Abraham Foxman, director of the Anti-Defamation League, has gone to the trouble of writing his own book in riposte – and it’s in the bookshops a week before The Israel Lobby appears.

There is one obvious question to put to Walt: why do it to yourself? Wasn’t one stoning enough? “We did ask ourselves, did we want to go through this again?” he admits, but only to add: “It didn’t take us all that long to figure out we had more to say and it was our job to say it.”

By writing a 496-page book, as opposed to the original article’s mere 13,000 words, the authors hope to present a more nuanced version of their case. They have taken in new examples to support their thesis, notably the second Lebanon war, which broke out in the interim, and have sought to address some of the points raised by critics.

The book follows the structure of the original article fairly faithfully, and its argument can be summarised thus: in recent years the US government has given Israel unconditional support, showering it with $3bn a year irrespective of the human rights violations it inflicts on the Palestinians. It was not always this way – think of the Suez crisis of 1956 when America stepped in to frustrate Israel’s (and Britain’s) ambitions. But from the 1960s onwards the relationship deepened to the extent that today American and Israeli interests are deemed by many Americans to be essentially identical.

The authors ask why this is the case, and argue that strategically there is no reason for it. The end of the cold war removed a central justification for the special relationship, as Israel no longer provided the US with a barrier to communism in the region. Post 9/11, the US and Israel are presented as partners against terrorism, but America’s vulnerability to attack partly stems from its support for Israel, which has provoked hostility in the Muslim world. Nor is there a moral argument for indiscriminately backing Israel – as a towering military presence in the Middle East, Israel is no longer under existential threat.

So what explains this ongoing largesse? The authors conclude that the answer lies with the Israel lobby, a loose coalition of individuals and organisations that wants US leaders to treat Israel as though it were the 51st state. The lobby stifles debate, inhibits criticism of the Israeli occupation of Palestinian lands and maintains the special relationship despite the fact that it has become a liability both for the US and for Israel itself.

In its transition from literary journal essay to stand-alone book, the authors have made a few telling alterations of presentation and emphasis. The most vivid is that in the body of the text they have demoted lobby to lower case: the Israel Lobby has become the Israel lobby. Walt sees that as the most minor of changes, remarking that: “John and I don’t even remember how the capital L got used in the first place.”

More substantially, perhaps, they have used the extra space to make several robust disclaimers, insisting that they have never questioned the right of Israel to exist or the legitimacy of the Israel lobby itself. They have also filed down some of the more jagged edges of their argument, such as their position on the role the lobby played in the build-up to the Iraq war. They still maintain that the war would “almost certainly not have occurred” were it not for the Israel lobby, but they soften the claim by adding that America’s belligerent mood in the aftermath of the attacks on New York and Washington also had much to do with it.

Such nuances make for a more sophisticated read, but they fall far short of the revisions – the authors would say capitulations – that would be needed to satisfy their detractors.

Foxman is one of the most vocal critics. His new book, timed specifically to counteract the arrival on bookshelves of The Israel Lobby, pulls no punches. Its title is representative of the tone of the book: The Deadliest Lies. “This is a big lie that the Jewish people have lived with throughout history,” he tells me from his New York office. “Up to now these anti-semitic canards have been heard on the fringes, but to have two respected academics repeat them legitimises the debate and penetrates the mainstream.”

More measured – though still forceful – criticism of the Mearsheimer and Walt book has come from those titans of US journalism, the New York Times and the New Yorker. The Times’ book critic William Grimes takes a swipe at the authors’ claim that it is time for the US to treat Israel as a normal country: “But it’s not. And America won’t. That’s realism.” David Remnick, editor of the New Yorker, suggests none too flatteringly that the book is symptomatic of a polarised era in which Americans are searching for an explanation to the evils of the times.

In the swirl of debate, the squabbling parties keep coming back to the core concept of an Israel lobby, case notwithstanding. The authors have been meticulously careful in the book to stress that they see the lobby as a loose coalition. It is not a single, unified movement and it is certainly not a cabal or conspiracy. Yet no matter how profuse their disclaimers, they have not assuaged those antagonists for whom any lumping together of Jews or Jewish interest groups sets alarm bells ringing. “Visit any anti-semitic website and you’ll hear the same old themes: the Jews have too much power; they exercise political influence not as individual citizens but as a cabal,” writes Foxman. “Walt and Mearsheimer sound all the same notes, with a subtlety and pseudo-scholarly style that makes their poison all the more dangerous.”

In our conversation, Walt accepts the phrase “the lobby” is “an awkward term as many of the groups and people in it don’t operate on Capitol Hill. It’s shorthand – you could call it the pro-Israel movement”. One wonders why he and his co-author have stuck with it, then, when it has allowed their detractors to smear other more credible parts of their argument.

Take the slanging match over the causes of the Iraq war. Walt and Mearsheimer rightly lay a large part of the blame for this disastrous escapade on the neoconservatives within the Bush administration, but they then go on to define those neocons as an integral part of the Israel lobby. Books have been written about the various motivations of the neocons. Sympathy for Israel is one, but there are many others – the desire to spread democracy, a belief in the positive uses of military intervention, denigration of international institutions. To suggest that the neocons and the Israel lobby are one and the same is a conflation too far.

But the authors have brought into the open aspects of American intellectual life that needed airing. They cast light on the overweening activities of specific pro-Israeli groups, most importantly the American Israel Public Affairs Committee. Aipac is a self-avowed lobby (it calls itself America’s pro-Israel lobby) and has been ranked the second most powerful such body in the US. With a staff of more than 150 and a budget of $60m, it wields extensive influence among Congressmen, working to ensure criticism of Israel is rarely aired on Capitol Hill. The Guardian invited it to comment, but it declined.

Though Foxman insists the furore is proof that debate is alive and kicking, Walt and Mearsheimer have also put their finger on the limits of acceptable discourse in the US. It is notable that none of the candidates standing for president in 2008 have a word of criticism for Israeli state behaviour; this week Barack Obama pulled an advert for his campaign from the Amazon page selling The Israel Lobby, denouncing the book as “just wrong”.

So what happened to America’s commitment to free speech, the First Amendment? “We knew from De Tocqueville this country is driven by conformity,” Judt says. “The law can’t make people speak out – it can only prevent people from stopping free speech. What’s happened is not censorship, but self-censorship.” Judt believes that a few well-organised groups including Aipac have succeeded in proscribing debate. He recalls a prominent Democratic senator confiding to him that he would never criticise Israel in public. “He told me that if he did so, for the rest of his career he would never be able to get a majority for what he cared about. He would be cut off at the knees.”

In the final chapter of the book, Walt and Mearsheimer make a shopping list of reforms. They call for: a two-state solution to the Middle East crisis; greater separation of US foreign policy from Israel for both nations’ sake; and campaign finance reform to reduce the power of pro-Israeli groups.

Nothing outlandish, or even controversial, there. Coming at the end of such a bumpy ride of claim and counter-claim, the conclusion feels almost disappointingly gentle. That in itself bears eloquent witness to the state of affairs in America today, where thoughts considered unremarkable elsewhere are deemed beyond the pale.