Re: [sixties-l] abbie sharing spotlight

From: Marty Jezer (
Date: 10/02/00

  • Next message: Ted Morgan: "Re: [sixties-l] Ronnie Reagan proto fascist?"

    Roz Payne wrote: 
    >  Abbie wanted publicity, but he wanted it for 
    >the issue.  He gave and  shared,  the spot light around political issues with 
    >  other folks  and  often tried to  take it away from himself. 
    I think Roz is right in this, but Abbie also had another side.  
    Certainly at his best Abbie knew how to exploit the media and gain publicity.
    His performance genius was that he made his theater seem spontaneous, but it
    was always carefully thought out, a conscious act. His critics on the left just
    thought he was a jester, but he, more than anyone in the country at that time,
    knew how to use the news medium to get across, in the space of 30 or 40
    seconds, a focused political message.
    (The left, for the most part, still hasn't absorbed his lessons; still doesn't
    understand that actions in the public arena are meant to convey a political
    message; and if demonstrators themselves don't carefully figure out what the
    message ought to be and learn how to effectively convey what they want to
    express, the media is going to invent the message for them  and it's not going
    to be a positive one for our side).
    When most on the left disdained television and criticized the media,  Abbie and
    his friends used to watch it faithfully and discuss how to use it. (Am I right,
    Stew?). They also worked to cultivate journalists, give them the background and
    the inside feel for the movement so they'd write about it sympathetically. A
    lot of this, was. yes, the joy in being a celebrity.
    Jerry Rubin, in my experience, was totally taken by celebrity and desperate to
    become one.
    Abbie, a more confident and authentic person, merely felt it a goof.  
    Yet Roz is right; Abbie was willing to share the spotlight, and was more
    interested in the political message than his own celebrity. Alas, he was so
    funny and charismatic, and
    so sure of what he wanted to do, that the media honed on him -- always.
    On the other hand, Abbie did love fame and celebrity. He loved "Abbie Hoffman,"
    his ability to attract and manipulate the media and energize and move an
    audience. He had a colossal ego that, in periods of mania (most pronounced
    during the battle to stop the Delaware River pumping station -- just before his
    suicide), went out-of-control. He titled his autobiography "Soon to be a Major
    Motion Picture," and sold the movie rights. 
    His attitude towards Steal This Movie? On the one hand he would have loved
    being the subject of a movie. On the other hand (Abbie at his best), he would
    have been able to stand back, objectify himself as a character in the movie,
    and analyze how it furthered or hindered his politics.
    I don't know what his opinion would be of Steal This Movie -- and I wouldn't
    even try to hazard a guess. But I thought the politics of the movie very good.
    Marty Jezer
    See the film "STEAL THIS MOVIE" and read the book
    Abbie Hoffman: American Rebel 
    on which it is based.
    Stuttering: A Life Bound Up in Words (Basic Books)
    Abbie Hoffman: American Rebel (Rutgers University Press)
    The Dark Ages: Life in the USA, 1945-1960 (South End Press)
    Rachel Carson [American Women of Achievement Series] (Chelsea House)
    Check out my web page:
    To subscribe to my Friday commentary, simply request to be put on my mailing
    list. <>  It's free!

    This archive was generated by hypermail 2b30 : 10/02/00 EDT