I wish the movie had been more historically accurate.
I would feel a whole lot better about Aaron Sorkin’s movie if he had titled it The Trial of the Chicago 8. After all it started as the trial of eight young men, all of them radicals of one sort or another.
Alhough Bobby Seale was severed from the other defendants and hardly had anything to do with the protests during the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago, he served as the sole/soul representative of the Black Power movement. His demands to have his lawyer present in the courtroom, and Judge Julius Hoffman’s order that he be bound and gagged, is still one of the most electrifying moments in American jurisprudence.
Call the movie The Trial of the Chicago 8 and I’ll be a happier person. There are other changes that I’d like to be made. I wish the movie had been more historically accurate. I wouldn’t mind an acknowledgement that for some on the Left the trial was a distraction from the War in Vietnam and the protests against it, which had grown bigger and bigger as the 1960s ended and then even bigger and bigger in the early 1970s with the U.S. military invasion of Laos and Cambodia.
How anyone could still say that the Sixties ended in December 1969 seems to me to be very short sighted or have some kind of ideological axe to grind. That’s Todd Gitlin who thinks he ran SDS for a time and who still dismisses the Yippies and Abbie Hoffman as public nuisances. He didn’t care for the Jeff Shero style of organizing, either.
Abbie’s testimony on the witness stand
at the trial was brilliant.
Abbie’s testimony on the witness stand at the trial was brilliant. Speaking Yiddish to the Jewish judge was also brilliant, as was the occasion when Abbie and Jerry wore judge’s robes in the courtroom one day, removed them and revealed cop uniforms underneath. No words were necessary. The picture said it all.
Abbie liked pictures that told stories, though he wasn’t against all words. His book, Revolution for the Hell of It, was published not long before the trial. As a document from that time it’s crucial, as is Jerry Rubin’s Do It! which would not exist if it were not for ghostwriter James Retherford.
Friends from the 1960s who have criticisms of Sorkin’s movie allow that “his heart was in the right place.” I agree begrudgingly. I urge everyone who reads The Rag Blog to see the film on a computer screen. It will surely stir up memories and it might prompt ideas about how and where and when to protest now.
I vote for more Yippie actions. Jerry and Abbie would probably be organizing “TDAs” — “The Day After” demonstrations. In the winter of 1970, the “day after” was the day after the verdict in the Trial of the Chicago 8. Now it would have to be the day after Election Day. We’ll either be celebrating or kicking off four more years of Trump with a bang.
[Jonah Raskin is the author of For the Hell of It: The Life and Times of Abbie Hoffman recently translated into French and published in France under the title, Pour le plaisir de faire la révolution.]