The Dark Heart of the Hippie Dream

by lizard

It was great to see Patrick Duganz put up a post about the Montana Secular Summit happening June 21st in Helena. I hope there’s more to come, on that front.

In the comments, Turner offered this:

Sounds like an event worth attending. I don’t have any questions about atheism. I have plenty of questions about religion. I’m especially puzzled about the number of fairly intelligent people who remain religious.

Since it’s obvious Turner assumes religious tendencies exists on the negative side of his intelligence spectrum, it might be helpful to just touch on a definition of intelligence:

the ability to learn or understand things or to deal with new or difficult situations

Instead of using that definition as a mallet to pound on my pet issues, like “but Democrats blah blah blah“, I’m going to try and take a little virtual space to describe how I, as an agnostic, am increasingly drawn toward a personal belief in the tangible existence of evil.

I’m going to start with the first time I ever heard The Doors.

The movie Lost Boys was released in 1987. It featured the two Corey’s, Feldman and Haim. I’m not sure what year I actually watched the movie, but it was probably a few years later, on VHS. I do remember hearing People are Strange for the first time, because it was a part of the sound track.

The Doors via Lost Boys provided my musical introduction to the counterculture of the 60’s. Reading The Electric Kool Aid Acid Test solidified my fascination with that time period and the cultural shifts that occurred.

About six years ago a friend turned me on to this guy doing research into the dark origins of the hippie movement, David McGowan. That research has finally been put into book form, and the book is titled Weird Scenes Inside the Canyon: Laurel Canyon, Covert Ops and the Dark Heart of the Hippie Dream. If you think you have an inkling about how hippies came to represent the cultural shifts happening post WWII, think again.

What McGowan has assembled is a dark web of connections among the key originators of the hippie scene and the military/industrial complex. In this interview, McGowan describes the basic gist:

Thomas McGrath: Tell us about Weird Scenes Inside the Canyon. What is this new book’s central thesis?

David McGowan: To the extent that it has a central thesis, I would say that it is that the music and counterculture scene that sprung to life in the 1960s was not the organic, grassroots resistance movement that it is generally perceived to be, but rather a movement that was essentially manufactured and steered. And a corollary to that would be that for a scene that was supposed to be all about peace, love and understanding, there was a very dark, violent underbelly that this book attempts to expose.

That’s a pretty audacious assertion, and it begs the question why? Here’s another question/answer from the interview that offers an answer:

Thomas McGrath: You propose that hippie culture was established to neutralise the anti-war movement. But I also interpreted your book as suggesting that, as far as you’re concerned, there’s also some resonance between what you term “psychedelic occultism” (the hippie counterculture) and the “elite” philosophy/theology? You think this was a second reason for its dissemination?

David McGowan: Yes, I do. Hippie culture is now viewed as synonymous with the anti-war movement, but as the book points out, that wasn’t always the case. A thriving anti-war movement existed before the first hippie emerged on the scene, along with a women’s rights movement, a black empowerment/Black Panther movement, and various other movements aimed at bringing about major changes in society. All of that was eclipsed by and subsumed by the hippies and flower children, who put a face on those movements that was offensive to mainstream America and easy to demonize. And as you mentioned, a second purpose was served as well – indoctrinating the young and impressionable into a belief system that serves the agenda of the powers that be.

This new way of looking at the hippie phenomenon is quite dislocating, so I don’t think there’s much of a chance that McGowan’s premise will be taken seriously. But for those knee-jerk critics who would quickly dismiss this inquiry as farcical, read the book then tell me McGowan isn’t on to something substantial with far reaching implications for all of us struggling to understand the world and the forces that shape it.

  1. Turner

    Liz, I don’t have an “intelligence spectrum,” whatever that is. My comment didn’t, as you suggest, say that religious people can’t be intelligent. It said almost the opposite. I confessed that I was puzzled that even intelligent people are sometimes religious. The phenomenon confuses me but I don’t deny that it exists.

    • lizard19

      your puzzlement derives from the fact intelligence and religious belief are not mutually exclusive, correct?

  2. evdebs

    “A thriving anti-war movement existed before the first hippie emerged on the scene?”

    Only remotely. There was a thriving anti-war movement that existed in the First World War. It was countered by the Palmer Raids, deportations, the jailing of presidential candiate Eugene V. Debs (where have I heard that name before?) for advocating draft resistance, and even, in Montana, Jeanette Rankin’s vote (with many others from Congress) against the entry into the war.

    However, it was not to become a major movement again until the hippies, direct descendants from the Beats, helped organize mass protests. I was an organizer of the April 15, 1967, march across San Francisco from the Ferry Building that ended in Kezar stadium. 10,000 marched, 40,000 packed Kezar, and our congressman, William S. Mailliard, a Navy reservist admiral, refused to meet with us for our requested five minutes.

    • lizard19

      did the hippies really help the anti-war movement? or did the inundation of drugs and “free love” actually distract and derail the momentum of what was happening on campuses across the nation?

      • evdebs

        Really. Hippies hugely broadened the base of the anti-war movement, and anti-war rock and folk anthems became ubiquitous.

        Who do you think it was protesting the Democratic National Convention in Chicago in 1968? The Campfire Girls?

        Wavy Gravy brought their alternative candidate “Pigasus,” to the convention, and launched the ‘Nobody for President” campaign.

        The most requested and sung piece IN Viet Nam was “We gotta get out of this place, if it’s the last thing we ever do…”

        • lizard19

          what do you think the legacy of the hippie infusion into the counterculture has been? increasing political awareness? or popularizing drug use, co-opting the anti-war movement and commodifying dissent to sell records, which made big record labels like Columbia piles of money?

  3. It wasn’t all drugs and free love…people gave a damn. I attended this one, though I had thought I was one of half a million. I guess the older you get, the grander your youth gets. *sigh*

    • lizard19

      yes, people protested the war in large numbers, just like they did before the Iraq war.

      and what happened after that 1971 protest? and what happened to John Kerry, who testified two days before the protests you attended? and what happened after the 2003 protests?

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