Sat, 22 Dec 2007 06:00:10
It was a nasty Friday in New Orleans: gray damp and foggy which was fitting weather for the day after the debacle at City Hall. The weather also matched my mood but I did have a brief moment of clarity (sunshine?) when I realized who the loony left activists who have hijacked the public housing debate remind me of: Abbie Hoffman and Jerry Rubin who dubbed themselves Yippies. In reality they were the Abbott and Costello of the Sixties New Left: they were in it for the theatre and nothing else.
I’ve heard from several people who were in the Council chamber at the beginning of the day that the whole punch-up looked staged to provoke an overreaction from the Council and cops. If that’s so it worked as did the gate rattling by the neo-Yippies outside. While it may have been great drama it was a disgrace: both the police and demonstrators acted badly. I intensely dislike the use of tasers; if applied to a person with heart problems they can be fatal. Mercifully that didn’t happen. Sometimes it’s better to be lucky than good.
I think that the neo-Yippies will only be in town for as long as they can have their antics splashed on teevee and all over the internet. What’s more worrisome is the way that more sincerely motivated local activists have allowed these clowns to hijack their cause. The neo-Yippies are in it for the theatre: they don’t care about poor people in New Orleans. They’re into bringing bullhorns into public meetings and live to brag about lying down in front of bulldozers. Drama for drama’s sake is what the Jay Arenas of the world crave.
Back to the original Yippies: Hoffman and Rubin. They were experts at hijacking worthy causes and turning them into violent farces by provoking the police to use the weapons of the day: nightsticks and tear gas. On black Thursday we saw tasers and pepper spray used at our very own mini-riot. Here’s hoping that it’s not just a warm-up for a bigger conflagration.
Finally, my favorite Abbie Hoffman story. At Woodstock Hoffman briefly commandeered a microphone during the Who’s set. The Who were neither Yippies nor Hippies so when Pete Townshend realized they were being upstaged by Hoffman he did the only sensible thing possible: he kicked the Yippie foole in the ass and off the stage. Talk about direct action…