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Published: Thu, 19 Apr 2018 00:00:00 -0400

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Manson's Death One More Milepost in Waning Significance of Baby Boom Generation

Mon, 20 Nov 2017 10:00:00 -0500

So Charles Manson, the murderous, violent, demented cult killer, is dead at the age of 83. Buried with him is, likely, a cottage industry devoted to "the Family" that included best-selling books such as Helter Skelter, campy admirers of some of Charlie's girls such as filmmaker John Waters, and low-rated, quick-canceled TV police procedurals. For all but true-crime enthusiasts and the few remaining Beach Boys fans, Manson had long ago effectively ceased to exist. Such it is and always will be: Notorious criminals whose foul acts might help explain their times get tapped out of meaning like a mine being played out of ore. Whatever wider significance one might have possibly gleaned from paying close attention to Manson's racist, paranoid delusions and the reaction of the square and countercultural America stopped mattering long ago. His death, like the pending sale of Rolling Stone and a hagiographic HBO documentary about that same magazine, is just one more sign that the baby boom generation's long turn in the spotlight is drawing to a close. The 1969 killings that Manson masterminded were brutal, insane, unmotivated, and thus somehow perfectly of their time. Even more so was the trial of Manson, during which the defendant acted as his own attorney and repeatedly threatened the presiding judge before being condemned to death (a sentence ultimately overturned when the California Supreme Court banned executions). For me, the essential take on Manson remains Ed Sanders' The Family (1972), "the first complete, authoritative account of the career of Charles Manson," in the words of rock critic Robert Christgau. A poet and accidental (if short-lived) rock star by trade, Sanders casts Manson's bloody cult as "one of the culminations of America's public romance with the hippies." That Sanders was himself a card-carrying member of the cultural avant-garde makes his dogged shoe-leather reporting and moralizing far more powerful than that of the grandstanding prosecutor Vincent Bugliosi in Helter Skelter. If you pick up an old copy of The Family, make sure to get the first edition, before he was forced to redact information about The Process Church, a once-notorious New Age group originally suspected of the crimes (and which got a slight second wind when another insane killer, David Berkowitz, who committed the Son of Sam murders in the late 1970s, claimed that The Process Church was actually behind his own homicides). But if you were "into" Manson or are a baby boomer, you probably know all this, right? Being versed in Mansonania is as much a boomer birthright as a deeper-than-average immersion in JFK assassination plots and residual belief in Erich von Daniken's Chariots of the Gods series. These are things that mattered greatly once to many, maybe most, people. They no longer do and will continue to matter less and less as time goes by. Such it is with Rolling Stone, another cultural artifact of the late '60s, which is being sold by its founder, Jann Wenner, amid slumping interest not just in that particular magazine but in everything that baby boomers once cared about. (The indefensibly wrong 2014 story about a brutal gang rape at University of Virginia certainly helped push along the current sale by demolishing the publication's credibility.) The subject of Sticky Fingers, an immensely entertaining and negative new biography, Wenner is far more representative of leading edge baby boomers than Manson ever could be. "At one time," [author Joe] Hagan writes, picking up a copy of Rolling Stone was "like holding a piece of hot shrapnel from the cultural explosion of the 1960s while it still glowed with feeling and meaning." Rolling Stone hasn't been "hot" in years, of course, and picking the exact moment when it lost the pulse of America is a fun parlor game among longtime readers. When it forsook its original newsprint? When it moved to New York? When the neutron bomb of a movie Perfect, based on a Rolling Stone article and featuring Wenner himself, played in empty theaters? When P.J. O'Rourke left after a series of brilliant dis[...]

The Great Pentagon Exorcism of '67

Fri, 20 Oct 2017 15:10:00 -0400

Fifty years ago tomorrow, thousands of antiwar protesters marched on the Pentagon. Armed troops formed a barrier outside the building; hippies stuck flowers in their weapons. Demonstrators dressed as cheerleaders chanted "Beat Army! Beat Army!" Other protesters tried to storm the structure, with a handful managing to get inside. And some of the political pranksters who would later form the Yippies led a ritual to exorcise the demons from the Pentagon and then levitate it into the air. Abbie Hoffman claimed in Revolution for the Hell of It that his crew had come out to measure the building some time before: "67-68-69-70-" "What do you think you guys are doing? "Measuring the Pentagon. We have to see how many people we need to form a ring around it." "You're what!" "It's very simple. You see, the Pentagon is a symbol of evil in most religions. You're religious aren't you?" "Unh." "Well, the only way to exorcise the evil spirits here is to form a circle around the Pentagon. 87-88-89..." The two scouts are soon surrounded by a corps of guards, FBI agents, soldiers and some mighty impressive brass. "112-113-114-" "Are you guys serious? It's against the law to measure the Pentagon." "Are you guys serious? Show us the law. 237-238-239-240. That does it. Colonel, how much is 240 times 5?" I suspect the dialogue didn't go exactly like that, but it's a funny story anyway. When the day of the demonstration arrived, the levitators chanted "Out, demons, out!" but did not in fact form a ring around the building, prompting Norman Mailer to declare that "exorcism without encirclement was like culinary art without a fire." The protest was captured in The Sixth Side of the Pentagon, a short documentary by the French directors Chris Marker and François Reichenbach. (Marker is probably best known for La Jetee, the science-fiction film that inspired Terry Gilliam's Twelve Monkeys.) Antiwar veterans marching in formation, Castroites carrying "Avenge Che!" signs, Nazi counterdemonstrators, a preacher in a hydraulic crane denouncing communism: They're all here. And of course there's footage of the hippies trying to levitate the building—though not, alas, of the building actually leaving the ground. I guess the camera must have been pointed in a different direction when that happened. src="" allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen" width="560" height="315" frameborder="0"> Marker later reused some of that footage in A Grin Without a Cat, his mammoth 1977 documentary about the global New Left and its times. Besides the bigger canvas, there was a substantial change in tone between the two pictures. The Sixth Side of the Pentagon was made by a couple of radical partisans who believed the march had marked a shift from "protest" to "resistance." A Grin Without a Cat was made by a guy who still dreamed of a utopian society but had seen a lot of defeats and betrayals in the last 10 years. Bonus links: For a Washington Post story on the anniversary, go here. For an oral history of the exorcism of the Pentagon, with appearances by everyone from Kenneth Anger to the Fugs, go here. For past editions of the Friday A/V Club, go here. For another Friday A/V Club with Yippies in it, go here.[...]

American Communism

Sun, 20 Nov 2016 06:00:00 -0500

We Are As Gods: Back to the Land in the 1970s on the Quest for a New America, by Kate Daloz, PublicAffairs, 355 pages, $26.99 In 1971, a young man named Bernie Sanders visited Myrtle Hill Farm, a rural Vermont commune for disaffected white middle-class kids. Its residents' back-to-the-land lifestyle was meant to free them from a culture that had come, in the midst of war and racial unrest, to seem "an unstoppable torrent of death and destruction, all for no reason." Myrtle Hill had an all-are-welcome policy—for three days. Then the core owners would decide by consensus whether you were cool to hang around. Sanders' tendency to just sit around talking politics and avoid actual physical labor got him the boot. That's just one of the stories in Kate Daloz's We Are As Gods, a loving but honest history of hippie communes in Vermont in the 1970s. Daloz has the journalist's gift for getting people to explain themselves, the historian's ability to explain the context in which they made their choices, and the novelist's power for revealing character through action, plot, and the perfectly chosen detail. While she focuses on a small group of communal and quasi-communal rural homesteads within a few miles of each other in Vermont—one of which housed her parents, Judy and Larry—Daloz explains that her characters represented a large and unprecedented cultural and demographic shift. The decision to build a saner, purer way of life away from urban civilization and private property was "being made almost simultaneously by thousands of other young people all across the country at the same moment for almost the same reason," she writes. No other point in American history, Daloz says, saw so much deurbanization, with as many as a million young Americans going back to the land. Almost all of them, she notes, were from middle-class white backgrounds; most were well-educated, with no fear that they couldn't make their way quite well in normal society. This gave them a safety net "that made such radical choices possible." Their motive was liberty—the freedom to control their own environment, education, technology, diet, productivity. (To the significant number of draft dodgers and teen runaways involved, their very liberty to live free of violence was at stake.) But though this is not Daloz's central point, her fine-grained narrative shows that being free of the technologies and wealth thrown off by the national and international division of labor carried with it its own tyranny. Many of these young communalists believed their world was doomed, whether through nuclear war, fascistic repression, or ecological megadeath. Learning how to live off the land, then, was about survival itself, not just ideological self-satisfaction. One of this book's main characters was driven to rural Vermont by the realization that if the industrial civilization that was all he knew broke down, he'd "just fucking die. You'd just stand there and die." He felt it his duty to thrive off only the soil, water, and animals on his property with techniques that didn't require energy or fuel from the outside world. But as everyone in We Are As Gods soon learned, a small group of human beings pitted against nature were at a far greater disadvantage than they dreamed. Despite the valorization of Stewart Brand's Whole Earth Catalog and its ethos of learning to master the tools and technologies of self-sufficient living, far too many people attracted to the movement knew—as Robert Houriet, one of the original chroniclers of the scene, put it—all about the Tarot but nothing about how to fix a pump. Myrtle Hill outlasted the vast majority of similar communes that arose at the same time. Its rise and fall, from 1970 to the mid-'80s, is the spine of the book's narrative. (Daloz notes that groups with a unified and specific religious or sociological goal tended to last longer than ones with the pure, groovy "let's hang out and be free together" attitude of Myrtle Hill.) One of the original Myrtle Hill couples, Fletc[...]

The Cyberpunk Future That Wasn't

Fri, 21 Oct 2016 12:35:00 -0400

Back in 1990, the World Wide Web existed in only embryonic form. The internet was becoming more accessible, but most people did not use it. An online world was emerging, but it was far from clear just what it would look like once it became a mass phenomenon. In that environment, certain segments of the culture—and certain segments of the counterculture—were intensely interested in how digital technologies could change the world. Some of the forecasts that emerged were close to the mark. Some seemed plausible but turned out to be wrong. And some were gushing geysers of ridiculous hype. You can see all three, but especially the third, in Cyberpunk, a 1990 documentary directed by one Marianne Trench. There are marquee names here—the interviewees include William Gibson, Timothy Leary, and Vernon Reid—but the real star is the idea that cyberpunk had ceased to be a mere science-fiction subgenre and had become, in the narrator's words, a "way of life." The movie is terrible, but it's terrible in engrossing ways. The script careens haphazardly from one loosely related topic to another (hackers! smart drugs! dresses made of computer chips!), all of them described in purplest possible terms. Everything we see is dressed up with what seemed at the time to be "futuristic" visual effects. (Think of them as the early-'90s counterpart to the "psychedelic" effects of a hippie-era exploitation flick.) And then there's the you-gotta-be-kidding-me interview with a fellow who called himself Michael Synergy. He goes on at great length about his hacker powers and outlaw cred without giving us any reasons to take his vague claims seriously. The narrator informs us that he is a "legitimate cyber-hero." Speaking as someone who was 20 years old when this came out, I can attest that much of the movie's ridiculousness would have been obvious even at the time. (I didn't see the picture when it was released, but I remember rolling my eyes at similar attempts to make cyberpunk the Next Big Countercultural Trend. Everyone I knew who actually identified with any of these cultural currents emitted a big groan when, say, Time did a cyberpunk cover story.) But one thing that wasn't clear back then was how accurate the video's forecasts for the future would be. Some of it does feel prescient now—you can catch flashes of future phenomena ranging from transhumanism to WikiLeaks—but it's the stuff that's wrong that's most fascinating. Consider the section about music. The filmmakers want to highlight the ways digital technologies will democratize the culture, yet we get no glimpses of the revolutions that would soon turn both the production and distribution of music upside-down; instead the movie focuses on industrial bands with "cyberpunk-themed songs." Or consider Leary's discussion of the ways cyberspace will transform the way we work. Some of his portrait isn't so far from the lives of modern telecommuters using Skype. But he seems to think that this future will require everyone to wear a "computer suit" and enter virtual reality. Speaking of virtual reality: If you watch just one part of Cyberpunk, make it the section that starts about 46 minutes in, when the narrator starts to go on about "a social time bomb called 'cyberspace.'" This was back before cyberspace was widely used as a word for the entire online universe; this movie still associates it with the virtual-reality vision described in Gibson's 1984 novel Neuromancer. And so we get a breathless description of the coming virtual world, which in this video looks like a combination of Second Life and Tron. I probably shouldn't hold the early-'90s hype about virtual reality against the current prognostications that VR is about to change everything, but it's worthwhile to look back at these old predictions before you accept the new ones too readily. Here's the movie: src="" allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen" width="560" height="315" frameborder="0"> One person who liked[...]

Friday A/V Club: A Vintage Anti-Hippie Film Strip

Fri, 02 Sep 2016 11:30:00 -0400

(image) "Has man's dream of his children's future ended in a nightmare?" So asks Ken Granger in The Hippies, a lurid film strip from 1967. Granger was a member of the John Birch Society, and he blames the rise of the counterculture on the forces you'd probably expect a '60s conservative to invoke: progressive education, permissive parenting, World Communism. What makes his film interesting on more than a camp level is that he also blames big business, condemning consumerism and conformity in terms a hippie could love.

In the wake of World War II, the film strip declares, Madison Avenue started turning to psychologists for help selling products. The resulting research developed "techniques that could be used to create new desires in people, to change the philosophies of security and saving to the philosophy of spending." Young people in particular were easily manipulated, as a series of music- and fashion-focused youth cultures proved: "The technique of combining music with mass merchandising brought near total control of the purchasing habits of a whole generation."

All it then took (Granger continues) was for Communists to start using the same techniques to sell ideas instead of music. Presto: sex, drugs, and New Left subversion!

Marketers do not, in fact, have such perfect powers of persuasion, and the hippies were not a mesmerized mass of—in Granger's words—"zombie-like vegetables." But it's certainly true that the '60s "counter" culture owed a lot to the mass culture its members were allegedly rejecting. In his kooky way, Granger was noting a truth that many hippie hagiographers prefer to ignore. It's just that he filtered that truth through a paranoid worldview that owed almost as much to John Kenneth Galbraith as it did to Robert Welch.

Needless to say, you can enjoy this on a camp level too. Granger's frightened imagination leads him to all sorts of strange places (inevitably, there are wild sex parties), and he makes several basic errors: mispronouncing everything from "Phil Ochs" to "scabies" and scrambling the names of songs and of at least one organization. There's a pretty good soundtrack too, courtesy of a garage rock band called the Undecided. The credits call it "original music," which makes me wonder if the band's members knew—or cared—that they were recording something for an anti-rock film:

src="" allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen" width="560" height="315" frameborder="0">

For a newspaper dispatch from Granger's lecture tour with the film strip, go here. For another paranoid fever dream from the era, go here. For past editions of the Friday A/V Club, go here.

Welcome to Libertopia

Sun, 26 Jun 2016 16:10:00 -0400

src="" allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen" width="560" height="340" frameborder="0"> For the past week, hundreds of libertarians, anarchists, and otherwise fans of little-to-no government have been camped out in rural New Hampshire, celebrating freedom and strategizing about social change. The gathering, known as the Porcupine Freedom Festival—PorcFest for short—is sponsored by the Free State Project (the organization trying to provoke a mass movement of libertarians to the "Live Free or Die" state) and attracts guests from around the country, along with a handful of liberty lovers from overseas. As the Associated Press explains, "guns are indeed allowed freely at PorcFest" and "marijuana is freely smoked too." The event "offers a glimpse into the kind of libertarian paradise Free State Project leaders hope to one day create statewide." What would such a paradise look like? Let me show you! Here are a few dozen photos that capture the come-as-you-are, big tent, backwoods, fun-loving, freedom-worshiping aesthetic that is PorcFest. src="" allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen" width="560" height="340" frameborder="0"> src="" allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen" width="560" height="340" frameborder="0"> [...]

Friday A/V Club: Hunter Thompson Runs for Sheriff

Fri, 19 Feb 2016 11:01:00 -0500

In 1970, Hunter Thompson ran for sheriff of Pitkin County, Colorado, on a Freak Power ticket, promising to sod the streets, put dishonest drug dealers in stocks, and change Aspen's name to "Fat City." His campaign caught the attention of the British TV show This Week, which sent a crew to make a documentary about it. The resulting program ignored the satiric side of Thompson's campaign—not one of those deliberately over-the-top pledges is mentioned here—and instead presents the race as a straightfoward battle between reform-minded hippies and a conservative establishment. Add to that the English filmmakers' faintly alien language and perspective (the narrator uses words like "goodies" and "baddies," and at one point pauses to explain that "grass" means "marijuana") and you get a pretty peculiar picture. But it's an interesting peculiar picture, capturing a moment when a previous set of settlers in the American West was starting to come to terms (or not) with a new wave of westerners with beards and long hair. (Or, in Thompson's case, with virtually no hair on his head at all.) And some nuances sometimes slip into the documentary's kids-vs.-the-old-folks framing, as when a young man says he'll be voting for the incumbent—"nobody's getting busted here that's not absolutely asking for it," he elaborates, and Thompson is a "psychotic" with "no grip on reality." Shortly after that, a couple of older Coloradans declare that they're backing the freak. "I like to see justice done equally to the rich and the poor, or whatever it is," one explains. There's also a NSFW segment featuring some skinny-dippers getting high with a man in an Aspen police uniform. (Apparently he was actually the dogcatcher.) Oddly, the filmmakers who had no trouble showing nudity there later bleeped the word "fucked." I assume that in the United Kingdom of the early '70s, that seemed to make sense. Spoiler alert: Thompson loses. But the results are much closer than you might expect. frameborder="0" src="" height="315" width="420"> By the way: If you're looking for antecedents to Donald Trump's comment that he "could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody" without losing any votes, go to the 14:50 mark, where Thompson tells an interviewer that there's a core group of hippies who would vote for him "if I went out there and walked through the streets naked with a bomb in each hand and drugs dripping." Bonus link: Thompson writes a letter to Thames TV demanding a copy of the film. My favorite sentence: "It was a horror to have those fuckers around, with all those lights & cables & other assorted garbage everywhere we went; but we figured we stood a good chance of winning, & for that reason we also thought it would be good to have the story on British TV." More bonus links: Matt Welch writes about Thompson here. I write about Thompson's campaign—and the similarly cracked candidacies of Norman Mailer, Jimmy Breslin, Jello Biafra, and Howard Stern—here. Past editions of the Friday A/V Club are here.[...]

Paul Kantner, R.I.P.

Thu, 28 Jan 2016 20:16:00 -0500

Paul Kantner, co-founder, singer, and rhythm guitarist for psychedelic and post-psychedelic rock bands Jefferson Airplane and Jefferson Starship, died today at age 74. An obituary from his home town San Francisco paper. For better or worse, Kantner's radical-commie politics were one of the vital mental shapers of the idea of the sixties as the sixties, that swirling sweaty heady wonderland of radical sex, drugs, and revolutionary advocacy where even formerly lovey-dovey pop music became a battleground for the cheering of or calling for radical street revolution (or the pretense of same). Yes, he played Woodstock. And Altamont, straddling both sides of the era's light-dark divide, and he had the nerve to needle the Hell's Angels sarcastically from stage at the latter after they punched Airplane singer Marty Balin. His cussed streak went on a long time; on Jefferson Starship's 1981 LP Modern Times, amidst such slick rock radio hits as "Find Your Way Back" and "Stranger," he offered instead "Stairway to Cleveland" whose hook line was: "Fuck you! We do what we want!" No sixties radical movie would feel right without some reference to a couple of Airplane tunes he co-wrote such as "Volunteers" or "We Can Be Together," with the immortal lyrics speaking for a generation of (perhaps overly self-satisfied) would-be street radicals: We are all outlaws in the eyes of America. In order to survive, we steal, Cheat, lie, forge, fuck, hide and deal. We are obscene, lawless, hideous, dangerous, dirty, violent… and young. It was an interesting sign of changing times that those lyrics were in a major label LP that went top 13 in 1969. The sixties we remember was soundtracked and formed way more by Kantner and his team than their current low rep would indicate. (Not that he invented that stuff, but he was a pop conduit of it from a revolutionary cadre to a mass audience.) While Kantner and his band's reputation have shrunk enormously from the days when they were rightly judged one of American rock's obvious royalty—likely because of how many people decided they hated the song "We Built This City," even though it was made by a later evolution of the band simply called Starship that Kantner had nothing to do with—Kantner was always working and writing really interesting material, even more interesting when he let go of the more rah-rah end of sixties pop-revolutionism. Kantner had an unmistakably deep and sonorous and stentorian singing style, which stood out from the pack as a lead voice yet also was curiously great as a harmony voice with his singing partners Marty Balin and Grace Slick, even later as part of the blend on pop hits like Jefferson Starship's "Miracles" and "Count on Me." Kantner's songs, with both Airplane and its later evolution Jefferson Starship and in his solo and duo (with Grace Slick) career were generally strange and twisted even if lovely, un-obvious and tangled melodically and of peculiar shape and subject matter, often science fictional in theme. He was one of the first pop songwriters to warn us the government was lying to us about the frightening and glorious truth of alien spacecraft in "Have You Seen the Saucers?" in 1970. He was also an early pop culture presager of the whole Holy Blood Holy Grail thesis of Jesus' bloodline in his 1972 song "Son of Jesus." His first solo LP, Blows Against the Empire, about a bunch of hippies taking off into space hijacked starship essentially, was the first rock album to be nominated for science fiction's Hugo Awards. (music clips below!) He was a commie, yes, but I loved his music and to the extent one can "love" a public figure, I loved his cranky goes-his-own-way self. I wrote in praise of his solo LP Planet Earth Rock n Roll Orchestra and an Airplane LP his spirit dominated, Bark, in the book Lost in the Grooves. With me a sci-fi kid and Kantner the sci-fi rocker, I felt a s[...]

Reason Senior Editor Brian Doherty Talking Burning Man on Hound Tall Comedy Podcast with Moshe Kasher, Natasha Leggero, Matt Kirshen, and Brent Weinbach

Tue, 06 Oct 2015 13:53:00 -0400

Reason Senior Editor Brian Doherty (that's me!) did a live stage show panel discussion regarding the Burning Man festival at the Upright Citizens Brigade Theater in Hollywood California the other week.


The audio of the event is now available via the technology of "Podcast," the Hound Tall podcast hosted by comedian and author Moshe Kasher.

Other panelists include more great comic minds: Natasha Leggero, Matt Kirshen, and Brent Weinbach.

Listen (not) live!

Before or after listening, consider buying the book that got me the gig, now available in an e-book only 10th anniversary edition with a new 5,000 word afterword: This is Burning Man.

My first writing about Burning Man was in a February 2000 cover story in Reason magazine.

More Reason on Burning Man.

The Goat-Sacrificing Prospective Libertarian Party Candidate Talks Sorcery, Eugenics, and the Coming Cataclysm

Mon, 05 Oct 2015 19:31:00 -0400

Augustus Sol Invictus (he acknowledges this is not his birth name) is a Florida lawyer, a former member of a branch of the "Thelemist" religious group Ordo Templi Orientis (OTO) (associated with the doctrines of British mystic Aleister Crowley), and the author of a letter to some of his fellow DePaul University law graduations in 2013 announcing: I have prophesied for years that I was born for a Great War; that if I did not witness the coming of the Second American Civil War I would begin it myself. Mark well: That day is fast coming upon you. On the New Moon of May, I shall disappear into the Wilderness. I will return bearing Revolution, or I will not return at all. War Be unto the Ends of the Earth, Augustus Sol Invictus Mr. Invictus since emerged from the wilderness an announced candidate for federal Senate from Florida under the banner of the Libertarian Party (L.P.), although he has not yet filed the over $10,000 fee or over 100,000 signatures he needs to officially be on the ballot. On the stump speech video that is front and center on his campaign website, one mostly dedicated to reminding Libertarians that their enemy the state is at war with them, that they have to turn themselves into legitimate threats to the state, Invictus says, among many other interesting things (including references to "more reasonable men, men less insane" than him): "I want you to revolt...I want you to be dangerous...I want each and every one of you to be a legitimate threat...I don't want you to vote so much as I want you to wake up, drop out and tune in, I want you to take LSD and practice sorcery, I want you to listen to trap music and black metal, to learn the law and break it subject yourself to rigorous physical training, treat your body as holy temples" and to take your girlfriends to strip clubs while you seduce the dancers in the back room. The Senate candidate also says he knows federal agents will be listening and will eventually come to arrest him. Invictus has also drawn the raised eyebrows of some other Florida Libertarians via an article he wrote while in law school defending and recommending government eugenics programs. While he officially disavows eugenics as a political project of the U.S. government, and notes he's not campaigning on a eugenics program, he still writes that "in theory, were a State run by a beneficent philosopher-king, and were his edicts carried out by magnanimous servants of the people, then perhaps eugenic measures could work." For those Libertarians bothered that such thoughts could ever have issued from his pen, even though he does not advocate state-sponsored eugenics as a candidate, Invictus writes that "To circumscribe our freedom of thought because of the delicate sensibilities of suburban paper pushers is the most despicable type of totalitarian tyranny imaginable." Adrian Wyllie (who ran for governor of Florida last year and got a very high for the L.P. nearly 4 percent, 223,000 or so votes) resigned Thursday from his position as chair of the Libertarian Party of Florida (LPF), because he felt the Party's executive committee was insufficiently willing to speak out publicly against Invictus for what Wyllie considers obvious offenses against libertarianism. Wyllie made a public announcement of his resignation on his Facebook page: The legally-changed name he chose for himself is revealing. August Sol Invictus is Latin, and translates to "The Unconquerable Sun God."... Clearly, this man is the absolute antitheses of a Libertarian. Violent Fascist and Neo-Nazi ideologies are completely incompatible with Libertarian values. As such, I had repeatedly and vocally disavowed him and his followers. I advised the LPF that I would continue to speak out against him, regardless of the consequences. Wyllie wants it unde[...]

Your Band Sucks: Jon Fine on How the Indie Cultural Revolution Changed America for the Better

Mon, 17 Aug 2015 16:00:00 -0400

(image) "We're now in distribution abundance," says Jon Fine, "so if you're telling me that Amazon is bad for culture, like seriously, fuck you."

Fine is the executive editor of Inc. and the author of the acclaimed new memoir, Your Band Sucks: What I Saw at Indie Rock's Failed Revolution (But Can No Longer Hear), a rollicking tour of his days in the alternative music scene of the late 1980s and '90s.

"Somewhere in the latter half of the eighties, it became much easier for weird bands to do band things: play shows, make records, go on tour. The hows and whys that had been so elusive just a few years earlier were now shared through surprisingly effective samizdat and word-of-mouth networks," writes Fine, a member of "resolutely non-famous bands" such as Bitch Magnet and Coptic Light. 

Your Band Sucks is at once a remembrance of things past and a polemic against the generic, mainstream culture and political correctness that Fine found deadening while growing up in New Jersey and attending college at Oberlin. It's a book that is by turns angry, funny, and infuriating. Throughout, it perfectly captures the adolescent anger and inchoate longing that has always fueled rock music and provided the soundtrack to DIY forms of cultural production and consumption.

"If there's anything that will turn you into a foaming-at-the-mouth Tea Party[er] and get you throwing stones at every liberal shibboleth you can get your hands on, it's going to Oberlin," Fine says. At the same time, his urge to create radically different music far beyond anything that was being played on MTV or commercial radio. "I felt like there was a lot not being said" in the mainstream, he explains. "Howard Jones had a song called 'Things Can Only Get Better,' really bouncy, annoying optimistic. I was like, 'You're actually wrong! Things suck and they are getting worse!'...I actually got mad about it: 'How dare you say that!' You couldn't find music easily that was talking about the other stuff....There was so much shading I wanted to get at."

"Any time you're identifying strongly with a subculture that's a minority in America, whether it's weird underground music or libertarianism, you've gotta know that you're gonna be kind of despised," says Fine, drawing an analogy between outre art and politics. "You've got to be a little bit pugilistic about it and furthermore, you understand yourself not just by the people around you but the people who are not around you and are doing the things you think are weak and inept."

Nick Gillespie talked to Fine about how alternative and independent culture has flourished over the past 30 years and whether—Howard Jones be praised!—things may actually be getting better.

About 7.30 minutes. Produced by Joshua Swain, with camera by Swain and Todd Krainin.

Special Note: Scroll down for a special MP3 recording of the full conversation between Fine and Gillespie. This 44-minute conversation ranges as widely and obscurely as a Bitch Magnet tour across questions of politics, music, and culture.

SWAT-Raided Communal Farm "Garden of Eden" Sues City of Arlington, Texas

Thu, 09 Jul 2015 11:23:00 -0400

The operators of a communal property dedicated to food self-sufficiency—that is, an organic farm—are striking back via federal court against a city that sent a SWAT team to raid their property in a fruitless search for marijuana back in 2013, a local NBC station near Arlington, Texas reports:


The lawsuit claims that police were heavy handed, never had probable cause to raid the facility and based the search largely on an anonymous tip and a flyover, which spotted what looked like marijuana plants.

The plants turned out to be tomatoes.

In a statement, assistant Arlington city attorney Melinda Barlow said the city is reviewing the lawsuit....The case was filed in federal court in Fort Worth.

While it's a shame that victories in cases like these punish taxpayers more than it does the officials who committed the crimes, the courts remain alas the only legitimate place for aggrieved citizens to receive recompense for injustice heaped on them by  cops.

J.D. Tuccille reported for Reason on the raid and its idiocy and criminality when it occurred back in 2013, including accounts of all the petty bullshit citations that tend to hit people trying to lead at-all-unusual lives on their land even before the SWAT army comes tearing through.

NBC's Aquarius Has David Duchovny As a Sixties Cop Tracking Down Charles Manson

Thu, 28 May 2015 11:00:00 -0400

Aquarius. NBC. May 28, 9 p.m. EDT. Contrary to what you may have heard, when the moon was in the seventh house and Jupiter aligned with Mars, everything went to pieces. Cops beat hippies senseless in the streets, Weathermen blew up buildings (and, sometimes, themselves), and political assassination was a growth industry. The bombers that turned into butterflies over Woodstock hatched into Hell's Angels with knives a few months later at Altamont. If there was a real signature song to the 1960s, it wasn't any dippy ballad from Hair but the ominous Shape Of Things To Come from the raging exploitation flick Wild in the Streets: "There's a new sun/risin' up angry in the sky..." This is the 1960s of NBC's new series Aquarius, a dark crime drama drawn on a canvas of generational apocalypse in which you can practically hear something slouching toward Bethlehem in the background. Aquarius stars David Duchovny as bemused and cynical middle-aged police detective Sam Hodiak, who is slogging through the counterculture of 1967 Los Angeles in search of the runaway teenage daughter of a wealthy Republican lawyer. It doesn't take him long to discover she's joined a commune run by a hippie guru just in from San Francisco, Charlie Manson, still two years short of the infamy of the Tate-LaBianca murders. Tracking down her exact whereabouts, however, remains a problematic task for a Joe Friday cop trying to navigate the world of flower power. He wears a suit and tie as he attempts to inflitrate a Sunset Strip go-go joint and scoffs in disbelief at the news he's got to read suspects a warning that they don't have to answer his questions. His reaction to the changing guard varies from outright rage—when a potential narcotics informant tells him he wants the details of their deal in writing, Hodiak gives the man a vicious kick in the groin, then scrawls SNITCH across his forehead with a ballpoint pen—to mute incomprehension at a world where hippies counter his demand for a warrantless search of their crash pad by chanting, "The pig wants what the pig wants." To help bridge the gaping generational and cultural gap, Hodiak drafts a couple of younger officers, an undercover vice squad narc (Grey Damon, Friday Night Lights) and a straight-arrow female patrolman (Claire Holt, The Originals). The sometimes funny and sometimes ominous result is something like Dragnet meets The Mod Squad in a James Ellroy novel, especially as Holt's character begins falling under the siren call of her voluptuary cover story. If the cop side of Aquarius covers the death rattle of the old culture, the scene at Manson's commune is an alarming account of the birth pangs of the new one. Gethin Anthony (who played Renley Baratheon in Game of Thrones) is probably a little too pretty to be playing Manson. But he's otherwise impressive as the ubermanipulative overlord of a troop of followers—mostly girls in or barely out of their teens—whose minds were awash in inchoate anti-materialism and bad acid. If there's a problem with Aquarius, it's in believing that a stream of such Hallmark-dumpster aphorisms as "If you let go of everything from before, you're alive for the first time" could win Manson a following that was willing to do anything for him, including kill, but much of this stuff is drawn directly from the historical record. As Manson's parole officer puts it with a shrug: "He's got a quality." The Manson story has been told on screen many times before, in countless documentaries as well as two chilling and finely crafted miniseries adaptations of prosecutor Vincent Bugliosi's book Helter Skelter, and if there no more to Aquarius than that, it would probably be a wasted effort. But executive producer John McNamara (whose previo[...]

Friday A/V Club: Long-Haired Country Boys

Fri, 27 Mar 2015 10:47:00 -0400

(image) Willie Nelson wants to launch his own line of connoisseur-quality cannabis, which he apparently plans to call Willie's Reserve. I expect most people to process that news by thinking, Yeah, that's the sort of thing I'd expect Willie Nelson to do, so let's take a moment to remember that there was a time when country music and pot weren't supposed to mix. "We don't smoke marijuana in Muskogee," Merle Haggard famously sang in 1969; there's a fair chance Haggard was high as a kite when wrote the line, but back then most of his audience didn't know that.

What a difference a decade makes. By the end of the '70s, you could turn on a country-music TV show and see Charlie Daniels singing about getting stoned in this redneck-hippie libertarian anthem:

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Daniels later took his cultural politics in a rather different direction, but the idea embodied in that song persisted without him. As a fellow once wrote,

Once such a tremendous cultural collision has happened, it starts to look natural, even inevitable, in retrospect. By 1979 Hank Williams Jr. could sing, "If I get stoned and sing all night long/It's a family tradition"—and sure enough, the tradition was there, and not just in the Williams family. It just had to be discovered first.

And now Willie Nelson, the walking personification of the redneck-hippie collision, intends to sell specialty weed to the Whole Foods crowd. Does that mean we're about to see the rise of the redneck-hipster? The mind reels.

(For past editions of the Friday A/V Club, go here.)

Missoula Police to Homeland Security: Help Us Protect Montana from the Hippie Menace

Wed, 04 Feb 2015 10:42:00 -0500

The Missoulian reports: The Missoula Police Department got the nod Wednesday to have the mayor sign off on a Homeland Security grant proposal—one that names the Rainbow Family as an "extremist" hazard in western Montana. The $254,930 grant will purchase a mobile communications vehicle the Missoula police will share with other law enforcement and emergency responders in seven western Montana counties, according to Assistant Police Chief Scott Hoffman. The city's contribution is $29,200.... The draft letter from Mayor John Engen is addressed to the state Department of Military Affairs in Helena, and the proposal names natural, technological and man-made hazards. Among other specifics, the list cites avalanches, train derailments and extremist groups, naming the Hells Angels and Rainbow Family in particular. The Rainbow Family is a loose network of hippies who meet in a different national forest each year. Fights have been known to break out at their events, but for the most part they're about as violent as an opium den. The Rainbows are a thorn in the side of law enforcement because they don't get permits, because they smoke a lot of weed, and because some of them like to run around naked, but the biggest problem you can attribute to them is that they sometimes leave a bit of a mess. Whatever else you might say about them, they are not an "extremist" threat, and the troubles they might cause have nothing to do with "homeland security." (And the Hells Angels aren't "extremists" either, even if some of them think it's cool to wear swastikas.) But the police do tend to get excited when the Rainbows come to town. In 2008 an ACLU report argued that the Rainbows have faced a "pattern" of "harassment and general over zealous enforcement" from the Forest Service cops. State and local police have often taken the same approach. When Reason ran a dispatch from the 2000 Rainbow Gathering—held in the Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest in, yes, Montana—our reporter described "aerial flyovers, mounted patrols through the Gathering, increased state and local patrols on area roads," and a bunch of citations and arrests, including one for a drunken assault but mostly for victimless crimes. If that's how the Montana police think they should handle the hippies, it isn't surprising that they'd grab an opportunity to have the feds help pay for their tools, especially if they can use the same federally funded vehicle to deal with genuine emergencies. And if they think it's helpful to mutter something about "extremists" to get the dollars flowing, well, they know what Homeland Security wants to hear. What isn't clear is why taxpayers in the rest of the country should be subsidizing this. Bonus link: If you think it's unlikely that Washington will approve the grant, check out Gene Healy's column on some of the items Homeland Security has already agreed to pay for.[...]