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Nation of Rebels

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Joseph Heath and Andrew Potter’s book A Nation of Rebels: Why Counterculture Became Consumer Culture is one of the best, most provocative, and most challenging books I’ve read in a long time.

With that kind of lead, where does one go? Well, to support the premise, of course.

In this book of cultural criticism, Heath and Potter&#8212two Canadian philosophy professors&#8212meticulously dissect contemporary culture and reach what might be to many a startling conclusion: that “the counterculture is not just a failure, but a harmful illusion.” The basic premise is this: that so much of contemporary culture is based upon the paradigm that there is a “system” which desires&#8212if not demands&#8212conformity and uniformity among its citizens. This belief in turn dictates that those who recognize the perversity of the “system” should step outside of it&#8212that they should, in essence, become part of a “counterculture” which stands apart from the “consumer-dominated” world and is able to critique it, reject it, and transform it.

Heath and Potter contend that this notion of a legitimate “counterculture” which can challenge the system simply by mocking it or ignoring it is actually nothing more than counterproductive. To them, it is actually the counterculture itself which has produced the supercharged consumer society; it is the pursuit of difference and the notion of “rebellion” which has largely fueled the explosion in consumerism. They write that the counterculture was, “from its inception, intensely entrepreneurial” and reflects the “authentic spirit of capitalism.”

Consider this observation:

Hippies bought VW Beetles for one primary reason&#8212to show that they rejected mass society. The big three Detroit automakers had been the target of withering social criticism for well over a decade, accused of promoting “planned obsolescence” in their vehicles. They were chastised above all for changing their models and designs so that consumers would be forced to buy a new car every few years in order to keep up with the Joneses. The tail fin was held up by many as an object of special scorn&#8212as both an embodiment and symbol of the wastefulness of American consumer culture. Against this backdrop, Volkswagen entered the U.S. consumer market with a very simple pitch: Wanna show people that you’re not just a cog in the machine? Buy our car!

Time and again, this is what we see. The rebels of the counterculture are not co-opted by the system and they don’t sell-out to the system because they’re all really part of the system, if one exists at all&#8212namely, society itself. Heath and Potter convincingly argue that much of what the counterculture offers is not legitimate dissent but rather simply deviance. The “question authority” mantras of so much of the counterculture essentially jettison all rules and the counterculture ends up in a place where it cannot coherently argue for much in the way of societal change because most actual real-world change ends up being considered “merely institutional.” The idea of freeing one’s mind as being the key to changing society is elevated above practical considerations or alterations; as one writer put it, the development of the counterculture meant that “revolution will be primarily therapeutic in character.”

The distinction between dissent and deviance is critical in understanding Heath and Potter’s critique of the counterculture. They write:

Dissent is like civil disobedience. It occurs when people are willing in principle to play by the rules but have a genuine, good-faith objection to the specific content of the prevailing set of rules. They disobey despite the consequences that these actions may incur. Deviance, on the other hand, occurs when people disobey the rules for self-interested reasons. The two can be very difficult to tell apart, partly because people will often try to justify deviant conduct as a form of dissent, but also because of the powers of self-delusion. Many people who are engaged in deviant conduct genuinely believe that what they are doing is a form of dissent.

To the authors, the counterculture “courted” the confusion between dissent and deviance, and actively collapsed the distinction between the two.

How else can one explain the parallel that so many people saw between, on the one hand, Martin Luther King, the civil rights movement and freedom riders and, on the other hand, Harley-Davidson choppers, cocaine smuggling and easy riders? The freedom to resist tyranny, to fight against unjust domination, is not equivalent to the freedom to do whatever you want, to have your own interests prevail. Yet the counterculture assiduously eroded this distinction.

The counterculture’s fascination with rebels is part and parcel of the problem. Indeed, the whole notion that simply challenging the mainstream is “dissent” rather than mere deviance is, they charge, actually precluding the sort of cultural changes the counterculture purports to desire. They mention the “politics” of the Yippies in the ’60s and their proposals to nominate a pig for president, to spike the Chicago water supply with LSD and to have squads of Yippie men and women seduce delegates and their families while giving them all doses of acid.

Is this deviance or dissent? There is one very simple test that we can apply in order to tell the two apart. It may sound old-fashioned, but it is still helpful to ask the simple question, “What if everyone did that? Would it make the world a better place to live?” If the answer is no, then we have grounds to be suspicious. A lot of counter-cultural rebellion, as we shall see, fails to pass this simple test.

Their engaging, conversational text charts the development of the counterculture from its roots in Marxism and the “repression” theories of Sigmund Freud to its frequent presentation in modern mass media. Rebellion, of course, is big business&#8212especially when it isn’t really focused on societal change but is more interested in self-gratification (a charge they lay, rather strongly, at the feet of today’s “rebel consumers”). As they explore the countercultural presentations found in music and films such as The Matrix, American Beauty, Fight Club, and many others, you cannot help recognizing the absurdity of some of the arguments made by serious-minded counterculturalists. Consider American Beauty. The film’s characters are divided into two groups: the countercultural rebels and the fascist conformists. The heroic rebels all behave in identifiable ways: they smoke dope, behave in “nonconformist” ways, and have a deep, abiding appreciation for the “beauty” around them. The fascists, of course, lack these traits; instead, they are neurotic, sexually repressed, obsessed with what others think of them, like to play with handguns, and are probably secretly gay. Indeed, Colonel Fitts, the personification of the system, beats his son while screaming that the boy needs order and discipline&#8212and of course the good Colonel collects Nazi memorabilia as well.

As the protagonist becomes dissatisfied with “the system,” his deviance produces problems. The fascists try to get him to stick with the party line, but fail. Guns start popping up left and right. His “liberation” from the crushing cultural conformity somehow threatens everyone else – and is, in the end, the reason for his death. Got that? He “had” to die because he smoked dope, didn’t care about his mortgage payment, and thought his wife shouldn’t worry about spilling beer on the $4000 sofa upholstered in Italian silk. Freedom isn’t equated with participating in society in any well-adjusted fashion; instead, it is displayed only in connection with freeing one’s “inner child” from any moral or ethical constraints “imposed” by society. Society&#8212the “system”&#8212is evil, and there is no escape save the final one.

Given the wide-ranging critique offered by Heath and Potter, it is really difficult to summarize everything they attack. Suffice it to say that they identify some of the fundamental flaws which lurk below the surface of the “counterculture.” They point out that far from representing a form of social dissent, “rebel consumerism” only feeds more of the same; there is nothing better for a capitalistic society than a group of consumers obsessed with differentiating themselves from the mainstream. As the authors note, “Most people spend the big money not on things that help them fit in, but on things that allow them to stand out from the crowd. They spend their money on goods that confer distinction.” They argue that much of the countercultural rhetoric is simply a justification for people to do what they want, rather on actively working to change society.

From topics such as uniforms, rules, tourism, alternative medicine, and more, Heath and Potter manage to mount a damning argument that the “counterculture” has done more harm than good, that it is based upon fallacious reasoning and causes many people (especially those on the far left) to reject reasonable proposals to resolve the “collective action problems” which face society simply because such solutions aren’t “deep” enough for them. It isn’t to say that this is a book written by someone on the political right; far from it. Both of the authors appear to embrace some (if not many) of the social and economic perspectives of the left. Rather, they perceive the myth of the “counterculture” as actually working to paralyze the left&#8212to render it impotent, as it were. In their minds, far too many countercultural rebels are wasting their time on deviance rather than dissent, and challenging everything about society rather than working to make the world a “better place.”

I didn’t necessarily agree with everything Heath and Potter wrote. But ultimately that’s not the point. Nation of Rebels is one of those rare books that challenges many of your assumptions in an engaging, thoughtful way and makes you reconsider many of the notions you may have held about how society works. It is, in my opinion, highly recommended reading.

Author’s Note: This book review originally appeared at Wallo World.

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About Bill Wallo

  • The book sounds fascinating albeit ludicrous. Who ever equated Dr. Martin Luther King and the Hells Angels?
    VWs (the best selling car in the world over 50 years with 2,000,000 sold and the last produced in 2004 from the Mexican assembly plant) were flimsy and dangerous; but were they a countercultural phenomenon? Millions of Central and South Americans did not think so.
    Alternative medicine does not always work. Neither does traditional medicine. How did they decide anything but mainstream medicine was harmful to the social fabric?
    It does sound like a fascinating if unsound work.

  • A very, very good post of what sounds like an interesting and worthwhile book.

  • Who ever equated Martin Luther King and the Hell’s Angels? Many counterculture radicals who bought into the notion that outlaws and rebels were automatically fighting the “system,” that’s who. Philosophers like Herbert Marcuse, whose beliefs still infuse much debate academic debate on America’s universities.

    No one said that the authors automatically rejected alternative medicine. They point out, however, that virtually any medication which can be proven to work is ultimately pursued not simply by lots of people but by companies which produce products. And they point out that much of the alternative medicine craze is based upon a mistaken perspective of how medicine actually works.

    In every major medical tradition in the world, there has been a deep division between so-called allopathic and homeopathic approaches to health. The concept of “disease” comes from the allopathic tradition, which blames ill health on specific causal factors, such as a virus, a bacterium or a tumor. The homeopathic tradition, on the other hand, regards health as a type of equilibrium of the whole organism, and illness as a state of disequilibrium. Thus, from the homeopathic perspective, the concept of “disease” is a crude simplification. There is no single cause, no “disease vector;” there are only more or less balanced states of the total organism.

    As the authors note, the homeopathic tradition in the West was abandoned because it didn’t work. European doctors once believed that the body was composed of fundamental elements such as earth, air, water, or fire (or, in the Galenic tradition, blood, phlegm, yellow bile and black bile). All homeopathic systems have “broad structural similarities.” Why, the authors wonder, is it more acceptable to think that one’s qi energy has been disrupted (per traditional Chinese medicine) than to offer leeching as a remedy for cancer (traditional European homeopathic medicine)? They come from the same basic tradition, the same basic pre-molecular biology understanding of human physiology, and are adopted largely as the result of a mistaken effort to escape “the system.”

  • ko..it does sound interesting..but i think i spotted something here…

    *The rebels of the counterculture are not co-opted by the system and they don’t sell-out to the system because they’re all really part of the system, if one exists at all – namely, society itself.*

    according to the Poster, this seems to be a baseline Postulate for the book he is speaking about…

    my counter-point, if you will, is that “selling out” is EXACTLY what gets done…

    once the entire “hippy” thing was commercialized and became “pop”, you got sheep that followed the “herd” and conformed with the Trend…

    see the Distinction…Innovators, and Trendoids

    Observe it again as “punk” happens

    have you looked at the current demographics of Harley riders in the last 10 years?

    Marketers and Salesmen..you know, those scions of evil that ride in the forefront of the System, co-opt any new undercurrent in sub-Culture that they can find, then leverage it into consumerism

    ask that suburban white kid why he is wearing his pants halfway down his underwear…see if he knows that it comes from South Central kids paying Respect to their friends in jail and not allowed to wear belts…

    10 years ago, how many folks did you see with blatant tattoos and multiple piercings?

    on and on

    you can go back to the Swing Kids of the 20’s, bebop in the 40’s, the Midnight Ramble, the Beat movement…what will the next counter-Innovation be?

    me? no sheep for your humble Narrator…

    i may pick up this book to see more of what they say, it seems like they miss the mark by just a skosh, possibly because they missed any Innovation themselves…

    i like cultural Innovation…it’s what brought those kookie Revolutionairy Founders to thumb their noses at
    the System

    i’ll stay a wolf

    nuff said?


  • dreck…missed a tag..sry about that


  • M. Simon

    Prohibition regimes always foster counter cultures.

    Think about speak easies and the alcohol culture of the 1920s. It was called Jazz. Sex, drugs, music. The 60s were not the first time.

    In a prohibition regime it has to be deviance. Difference will not do. Breaking the law is important. Felonies are better. Especially if they require no heavy lifting or getting out of your chair.

    The guy has found something. I’m not sure it is what he thinks it is.

  • M. Simon


    “Alternative medicine” may be just one big placebo effect.

    Since placebos are better than nothing then to a certain extent such medicine works.

  • Gonzo:

    Oh, you deluded wolf. 🙂

    Here’s the way Potter and Heath would respond. The system does not co-opt anything. The system doesn’t make sheep nor does it “commercialize” anything. You do.

    Nothing is “leveraged” into consumerism. You are already consuming as you strive for “difference.” And it has less to do with the system than it does with social interaction between individuals: as all the wolves adopt something “cool” others embrace those things as well. And of course the “wolves” are bothered by the loss of “distinction” or “status” associated with their previously “unique” place in society and so they must seek out something less popularized in order to maintain their place in the pecking order.

    It is actually fascinating to juxtapose this book with John Leland’s Hip: The History and see the same reflections. Leland (an editor for Rolling Stone) recognizes that “hip” groups are principally based on an “insider-outsider” theory and the bigger the “insider” group becomes the quicker the “hip” are to seek something new simply because otherwise they aren’t able to maintain their unique “place” in hip society.

    Everything you write factors into Heath and Potter’s critique, and in fact supports their argument. It doesn’t matter whether the kids with their baggy pants “know” the origin of their attire. The point is that somebody did it first, and somebody started selling more baggy pants because a segment of society wants those things (not because it was “commercialized” by the system), and then they start selling more because others are locked into the same pursuit of “cool.” It’s about people, not some “system.”

    The reality is that you’ve bought into the myth of the counterculture – the illusion that by not being a “sheep” you are somehow better than all the mindless drones, when in fact you’re just another person locked into a struggle for cultural status with all the other people out there who would like to think of themselves as “wolves.”

    Heath and Potter have an answer for you, however, if you really want to disengage from the “consumer culture” rather than continue to feed it in your restless pursuit of the Holy Grail of the counterculture, that which is incapable of being “co-opted.” You can go and live in the Unabomber’s cabin.

    This is why the hippies didn’t need to sell out in order to become yuppies. It’s not that the system “co-opted” their dissent, it’s that they were never really dissenting. As Michelle Rose [a woman whose “rejection” of mass society caused her to buy a farm in Hawaii so that she could commute from Vermont and “feel” the soil] and others have proved, rejecting materialist values, and rejecting mass society, does not force you to reject consumer capitalism. If you really want to opt out of the system, you need to “do a Kaczynski” and go off and live in the woods somewhere (and not commute back and forth in a Range Rover). Because the everyday acts of symbolic resistance that characterize countercultural rebellion are not actually disruptive to “the system,” anyone who follows the logic of countercultural thinking through to its natural conclusion will find herself drawn into increasingly extreme forms of rebellion. The point at which this rebellion becomes disruptive generally coincides with the point at which it becomes genuinely antisocial. And then you’re not so much being a rebel as you are simply being a nuisance.

    But as you say – Excelsior! And, ah – happy trails.

  • Think about speak easies and the alcohol culture of the 1920s. It was called Jazz. Sex, drugs, music. The 60s were not the first time.

    In a prohibition regime it has to be deviance. Difference will not do. Breaking the law is important. Felonies are better. Especially if they require no heavy lifting or getting out of your chair.

    Not quite sure what you’re saying here – if you are, in fact, suggesting that outlaws are somehow “good.” Dissent can be good under certain circumstances; mere deviance rarely is. The assumption seems to be that Heath and Potter are only focused on the recent “counterculture,” but they’re not. They track over 200 years of cultural history in the context of their argument.

    The point is not that there is deviance or outlaws, because they have always existed. The point is the assumptions being made about the value of such things. Neither prohibition nor its abolition made society a noticeably better place; thus, having a drink in a speakeasy is having a drink, not a form of cultural rebellion that is worth much of anything at all. The same is true of drugs today: if someone smokes dope thinking he’s rebelling against “the system” and doing his part to transform society, he’s an idiot smoking a joint.

    The counterculture views self-gratification as somehow inherently subversive. Consider Heath and Potter’s exploration of the film Pleasantville, which they conclude by saying:

    Through the magic of cinema, a bunch of white teenagers having sex becomes equivalent to both the civil rights movement and the struggle against fascism. What’s more, the kids don’t even have to do anything unpleasant or make any sacrifices in order to achieve this effect. Having fun is the ultimate subversive act. This is an incredibly consistent theme in the popular culture – from the final dance sequence in Footloose to the infamous rave scene in The Matrix Reloaded – and yet it is so obviously wishful thinking. The Beastie Boys called everyone’s bluff a long time ago, when they recorded a “protest” song with the anthemic title “You Gotta Fight For Your Right (to Party).” In the end, this is what most countercultural rebellion comes down to.

  • “Alternative medicine” may be just one big placebo effect.

    Since placebos are better than nothing then to a certain extent such medicine works.

    Let’s conduct a little experiment. Let’s say that the manufacturer of Tylenol adopted this perspective, that “placebos are better than nothing,” and decided to cut costs by making 1/2 of the pills in each bottle of pain reliever just placebos. Better than nothing, right?

    But people would be outraged to learn of this, would they not? It would be a public relations nightmare, one would think. And yet the company could rightly argue basically what you’re saying: hey, #1, nobody is harmed by this, and #2, placebos are “better than nothing.”

    Why the outrage in one example, and tacit acceptance in the context of “alternative medicine?” Shouldn’t “alternative medicine” be held to the very same standard?

    Imagine setting up a store to sell “holistic” Galenic remedies. Imagine offering leeching as a remedy for cancer. Imagine literally trying to sell people “snake oil.” IMagine trying to convince clients to opt for trepanation – boring a hole out of the skull – as a cure for headaches. People would instantly detect fraud. Why? Because we all know this stuff doesn’t work. Someone, in the case of archaic Western medical techniques, our fraud radar seems to funciton perfectly well. Yet when it comes to archaic Eastern techniques, our critical faculties seem to abandon us entirely. This is unfortunate. Afer all, selling medicine to desperately sick people based on false promises of a cure is one of the lowest forms of human malfeasance imaginable. The mere probability that it is occuring should be sufficient to provoke indignation. The fact that the treatments frequently do no harm to the patient is beside the point; what matters is that many of the most vulnerable people in our society are being exploited.

    And one final point: in many instances, “placebos” are not any more effective than nothing at all. There are cases in which in the context of say, pain relievers or nasal decongestants, studies suggest that people may sense relief even when taking only a placebo. That is far less likely in the face of truly serious diseases.

  • well hello Bill, you poor deluded sheep

    let me try and help you to understand..

    you have a good point when you say “you do” in reference to the Responsibility belonging to the Imdividual..ALL Responsibility rests in the Individual, one of the things that differentiates between sheep and wolves…a wolf KNOWS he is Responsible for himself

    that being said, i recognize that what i wrote does support part of the postulates spoken of in your review of this Book, my Point is that it does not adequately describe ALL of the Variables involved, and thus gives a less than complete picture of the situation.

    let me assure you, i am many things, deluded is NOT one of them

    i spent from ’83 to ’96 “outside” of the System…no drivers license, all cash, nothing in my name officially

    i did this, not in the wilds of some unpopulated rural area but in the most populated state in our nation, down on the Jersey shore…let me assure you, i was not alone

    i tell this bit to show that i am somewhat experienced with what we speak about from both sides of the Equation, before my “outlaw” days i was in the military, since ’96 i have moved to Maine and am a regular Citizen, following all the Rules of Society

    what you miss is obvious when you used the woprd “adopt” instead of Innovate, when you think of it as “cool” instead of conscious statement expressed in Style

    i do Agree that is is People that make “culture”, but i put it to you that unless you understand where it comes from and why you do it, you are not an Innovator, but a Trendoid

    you use phrases like “status” within the “culture” and mention some type of “struggle” within it…that all depends on the Tribe in Question, doesn’t it? each has it’s own societal customs…most all are considered outside of the mainstream or “pop” culture and definately variations of “normal” culture

    a “wolf”, in these circumstances, cares not about “status” or “distinctions”…it is not about “fashion” or “cool” or “acceptance” with the exceptions of those in a substrata or “Tribe”…it is about Individuality as opposed to homogeneity

    but your mileage may vary

    as for the “placebo” bit…
    Bill sez..
    * Let’s say that the manufacturer of Tylenol adopted this perspective, that “placebos are better than nothing,” and decided to cut costs by making 1/2 of the pills in each bottle of pain reliever just placebos. Better than nothing, right?*

    fallacious Postulate there Bill, what you are describing is outright Fraud, by marking the bottles as “tylenol” and putting ANYTHING else in the bottle, you have lied to the purchaser…far different than selling “Darnitol” as an unsubstantiated pallative…

    the whole “medicine” thing is another Argument for another day, and my lunch time is about done…

    just shout if you have any more you Wish to discuss on the Topic…always glad to help in a reasonable Discussion…but i still feel that you and the book’s Authors have missed some pertinent data


  • This book review has been selected for Advance.net. You’ll be able to find this and other Blog Critics reviews at such places as Cleveland.com’s Book Reviews column.

  • Forgive me, gonzo….

    “ALL Responsibility rests in the Individual, one of the things that differentiates between sheep and wolves…a wolf KNOWS he is Responsible for himself”

    Wolves need sheep; sheep only need grass. Without sheep, wolves do not exist. Without wolves, sheep do fine. Too well, in fact. Wolves are entirely dependent on the sheep.

    Then there’s the fact that all are part of the larger “society” of the biosphere… which gets back to the book’s point.

  • Hey Gonzo:

    Will the sheep and the wolves ever lie down together?

    I’m not “missing” your argument at all. I understand your perspective but think you’re overstating your point. If, as you suggest, you do something because you want to, as an individual, that’s great. Nobody – neither myself or the authors of this book – would doubt that that each of us has urges for things and might like X instead of Y.

    For example, I love spicy Thai curry and my son doesn’t. I like hard rock and somebody else likes rap. Personal taste or “style” isn’t the issue. Neither, in this regard, is “innovation” or improvement in something, or trying something “new.” In point of fact, genuine “dissent” isn’t wrong either.

    But the problem arises in a misconception about what we’re doing. It’s not the idea of doing something we like, but rather that what we like must change because it’s been “co-opted” by the system or the “sheep.” The question that must be asked is, “Why?” Why if we like a particular band and they get “popular” should we decide that we need to find a new sound? Is it simply because we no longer like the sound or because by becoming popular they no longer afford us the same hip cachet?

    The distinction between what you call “innovators” and “trendoids” is the exact faultline described in the book. Often, innovators fall into the trap of assuming that change is mandated because the “sheep” are following too closely. “Individuality versus homegeneity” is precisely the question: do you do something because you like it (no matter who else does) or because you want to be “an individual?”

    Stick with your perspective if you want, but the reality is that much of the countercultural “revolution” is all bark and no bite, all talk and no fundamental change, all sitting on a beach dropping out from society and not doing anything that would actually alter something.

  • Oh, and Gonzo:

    As to the “fallacious postulate” raised regarding alternative medicine and Tylenol: the example is not predicated upon fraud at all. If the makers of Tylenol told consumers that the bottle contained 1/2 placebos and 1/2 real Tylenol but made it impossible to tell which is which (much like is done in most clinical trials) the debate would be the same. People would know that the real Tylenol worked better than the placebo, and would object to such a practice.

    “Alternative medicine,” which is generally given a culturally based pass, ought to be held to the same standards of rationality. Anybody who would question a chiropractor’s belief that fevers and earaches can be cured by a spinal adjustment ought to be willing to question Eastern-based “alternative medicines” as well, because they all stem from the same homeopathic tradition.

  • ok..we’ll do these in order for the sake of Clarity..

    mike h.
    nothing to Forgive…no worries
    there is far more for “wolves” than just sheep..not all wolves prey upon the sheep, and in no way are they completely dependant upon them…tho the convenient “herd” is quite useful

    the biosphere is NOT the same as Society, do you mean the wealthy Society on the upper east side of Manhattan?, or the genteel Society of Atlanta? or the underground Society in Crenshaw? etc… do NOT confuse the woprld we live in with the artificial tribal boundaries we observe

    and without the wolves the sheep overpopulate, eat all the grass and then go extinct…

    perhaps the Analogy is too confusing for our purposes…shall we put Metaphor aside and stay with Innovators(wolves), Trendoids(sheep) and Mainstream (regular folks)

    i think you may find that it is the Innovators who are truly needed, the Revolutionairy is the one that initiates Progress and at least envisions Change to culture and Society

    the Trendoids then follow, seeing that at least something different from the “norm” is here and feeling some closeness to some facet of the Innovation, even if not completely embracing or even understanding it…wait long enough, and viable Innovation then becomes the Mainstream

    more on that in a bit…

    Bill sez…
    *I understand your perspective but think you’re overstating your point.*

    not overstating at all…to continue from above and one of my previous Comments on this Topic…

    our Founders were counter-culture Innovators, were they not? they “rebelled” against their Society, their Church and their King to do what they believed was Correct… they Innovated
    along came the Trendoids that liked what they were doing and understood at least part of the Inovation to the point where they devoted “life, fortune and sacred honor” and proceeded to win the War….this Innovation then eventuallyt became part of the Mainstream culture and thus a Thread in the Fabric of Society

    yes, the wolves and the sheep easily live side by side, it’s when the “shepards” try and extirminate the wolves, or worse…domesticate them, that there are difficulties

    the rest of your Thoughts in comment #14 show that you are talking about the Trendoids, NOT the Innovators…a Trendoid moves on to the next Thing, keeping little bits and tossing aside the rest…for the sake of “cool” or “conformity” or factors of maturity, social position and a myriad of other Variables…

    the Innovator does what they do for their own Reasons, not anyone elses

    Bill closes with saying..
    *Stick with your perspective if you want, but the reality is that much of the countercultural “revolution” is all bark and no bite, all talk and no fundamental change, all sitting on a beach dropping out from society and not doing anything that would actually alter something.*

    scroll up a bit, and check out what i said about the Founders…again…there are many other Examples of this self same Principle in action over the course of human History…do not make the error of equating the Trendoids with the actual Innovators…a “dog” is NOT a “wolf”

    as for comment #15…eastern Medicine eh? ok..i can only speak for chinese medicine here, and will tell you that it comes from 5000 years of empirical data, they don’t care HOW something works, just that it does, the chinese had a very fascinating system of healthcare for most of their History, you paid your Doctor a little bit every year, and stop paying him when you got sick…until he made you well again

    a Doctor that lost too many patients wound up very dead for being a charlatan

    i do hold any form of medicine up to a high standard…sadly much of western medicine is sorely lacking in the same way that many of the “alternatives” are

    not all mind you, some stuff on both “sides” works great…interesting that the “East” is learning “Western” medicine (many chinese doctors in the gung fu world are now western doctors as well) but we see very little of the reverse…

    hope that helps explain my Viewpoint a bit

    as always, your mileage may vary


  • A. Yippie

    The authors seem to miss the point of the Yippies’ protests and “proposals.” It was pure satire — humor and bravado were the Yippies stock in trade. No one in the movemnet took the Yippies’ proposals seriously. It would have taken several tractor -trailers of LSD to make a dent in the water supply. “Flake,” the spray-on LSD that would make delegates and their wives into degenerate horndogs, was a classic Yippie prank. Sure the Yippies were rebels, but were they “dviants”? Of course not! They were poking fun at the deviant mainstream culture that dropped Napalm on babies and sicced police dogs on people trying to vote.

    And the Yippies were leveraging their humor for an angle that the Left could never figure out how to play: the Media. Their stunts were audacious or humorous enought to spark reaction and nab a few minutes at the end of the national and NY local newscasts. Before cable and the Internet, that was huge exposure.

    The Yippies lost most of their edge after they engaged in the same sectarian splits the Left did, at the conventions in Miami in 1972. They lost some of their humor, and the media their tolerance for the Yippie! antics.

    On occasion, the Yippies have pulled off something in recent years that has broken through the media blackout. The War Chest Tour in Dallas, at the Republican Convention in 1984. That march ended in the celebrated flag-burning that went to the Supreme Court. The “JUMP” campaign with the bulls-eye banner on Wall Street, before the crash(es) n 1987 and the Internet bubble. The rash of pie-throwings by Yippies in the 1970s is being referenced in the recent spate of pie-throwing incidents.

    We never went away. Yippie! is still a philosophy. Check out http://yippie.mindvox.com.


  • Hey everyone,

    Andrew Potter here, co-author of the book under discussion. Bill is right — there is an interesting comparison to be made with Leland’s book. What I like about Hip is that for Leland, hip is almost entirely about race. In contrast, neither Joe nor I have much to say about race and its relation to the counterculture.

    Partly, that is because we’re Canadians, and race just isn’t a part of our political consciousness the way it is for Americans. But also, it is because we think that the civil rights movement had the success it did precisely because it avoided getting taken over by countercultural elements.

    Anyway, thanks for the review, and for everyone who is taking the time to comment. For those who are interested, there is a Q&A on the website for the Canadian edition of the book (which was called “The Rebel Sell”). Go to http://www.rebelsell.com


  • Lizard-Man


    You just admited what Andrew and Ron explained in their book. The Yippie movement…WAS A JOKE!!!

    It was nothing more then an attempt to be as out there and as extreme as possible. The Yippie movement was less about changing anything and just about having fun. Tell me, how is smoking LSD, crashin conventions and coming up with joke campaigns to sponser pigs for president going to change anything about the system? The answer, it won’t!

    The yippie movement was all about fun not about work, and that the problem. You can’t expect that just having fun will change anything! People like Martin Luther King and civil rights activists organized change through negotiation and debate and hard work. He spent his days orating and holding marches, spreading his gospel of equality to the masses, going to Black and White communities and organizing branches of the movement everywhere. IT WAS HARD WORK! He did not sit around and defy the system of oppression by smoking dope and playing loud music to blot out the polic sirens. He worked with the law…to change the law! THATS THE WHOLE POINT OF THE BOOK! You can implement more change if you try to limit what advertisers and corporations can do. Heavier taxes on ads would decreases ads! Uniforms in schools would decrease the fashion race in school and force students to not dress in Nike and Adiba and Roots clothing.

    As for Gonzo:
    You’re comparison with the founding Fathers is simplistic and an overused arguement. How many organizations have tried to use the founding fathers as their mouth piece to show themselves right and others wrong?

    You cannot see the difference between justifiable disobidence and just plain social deviance. Deviance is basically vandalism and a disregard for rules. If someone is to throw a brick through a window or decides to graffiti a building with an obscene gesture, does that mean he is standing up to an oppressive government? No he’s just being a jerk. If you saw a police officer brutally beating up a woman and attempting to rape her and you took a gun out and shot him that would be justifiable disobedience. You defied a man of law who was so obviously going against the law. The founding fathers were like the latter example. They saw a government brutally taxing them without representation and treating them poorly and unfairly. They decided they did not want Tea anymore and threw it into the Boston River as an act of Civil disobidence towards what was in their minds an oppressive rule. Revolution should come when you see your government or members of it so obviously break the laws of civil liberties, not because you’re ticked off at them for putting up billboards and trying to sell you new cars. It why the american Revolution was believed to have been caused by the Red Coats firing on a peaceful protest group, and some historians apparently dispute whether or not the protest was peaceful.

    Even then, what did the founding fathers do? Did they decide to lay around and take opium in hopes the British would go away? No. Did they decide that were gonna throw off their wigs and start letting their hair grow out while listening to music that was loud and contained rude sometime lurid comments like Breast and Humbugs? Did they get their women to flash their legs as a sign of their independence? No. They did not waste their time acting like drunken morons and hoping the problems would go away by acting out of the mainstream. They took charge, they tried negotiating with the British, tried to make them see reason. In the end it didn’t work and they believed themselves forced to rebel against the British government. But they did not try and rebel by being “Different” and “Cool” and becoming “Wolves” in your term. If anything they Founding fathers could be seen as the other kinds of Sheep, the Black Sheep. The sheep who decided to stray from the herd and make their own rules, but nevertheless they were sheep following an ideal. While the British loyalists remained with the previous herd and got themselves ridiculed for it.

    I think most of the people who Criticise this book either miss the point of what its trying to say or they are blinded by their own bias interpretation of society. It all comes back to the first example cited in the book, Blackspot sneakers. If a magazine like Adbusters, so ferverently anti-corporation, decides to market its own brand of shoes (And yes that white spot is still a logo no matter what you say) then how can anyone possibly think that the mainstream and the alternative are sperate entities?