Party pooping

On saturday I was invited to attend a party promoted as follows:

Under our current administration’s culture of fear, civil liberties and personal expression are under attack. But true Americanvisionaries have always been outlaws. Thus our party’s motto: When fun is outlawed, only outlaws have fun.

Come dressed as your favorite outlaw. Costume ideas range from Abbie Hoffman, Pretty Boy Floyd, Bonnie & Clyde, James Dean,Angela Davis and Lenny Bruce to groups like the Black Panthers, Hell’s Angels, the Weathermen and our most recent freedom-fighters, the RNC protesters.

I don’t particularly agree that civil liberaties and persosonal expression are particularly under attack today as opposed to under prior administrations, but that would not have been enough to put me off joining my friends at this party. What did put me off was the romanticization and glorification of people who are simply evil and bad e.g. the Weatherman, the BlackPanthers, and Angela Davis. From googling “weathermen”, found this:

The first national action of the Weather Underground occurred on October 8, 1969 in Chicago, in a four day protest against the Vietnam War known as the “Days of Rage”. Hundreds of members used clubs and chains to vandalize shops and cars in Chicago’s business district. After the melee, six members had been shot, and sixty-eight arrested.[…]In December of 1969, the national membership met for the last time in Flint, Michigan. Hung around the room were pictures of Communist dictators whom members sought to emulate; the dictators were Ho Chi Minh, Che Guevera, and Fidel Castro. It was then that the group formulated their terrorist strategies; they had deserted the possibility of a popular movement (Raynor 70).
[…]
in May of 1970, the Weather Underground issued a “declaration of war”: “Within the next fourteen days we will attack a symbol or institution of American justice. This is the way we celebrate the example of Eldridge Cleaver and H. Rap Brown, and all black revolutionaries who first inspired us by their fight behind enemy lines for the liberation of their people. The group’s declaration proved to be true, as they soon bombed the headquarters of the New York Police Department and the barber shop at the U.S. Capitol Building. Twenty more bombings occurred between 1970 and 1975″ (Raynor 71).
[…]
The shocking, unofficial ending of the Weather Underground came in 1981, with the robbery of a Brinks’ Armored Car, a robbery in which Kathy Boudin was a participant. Boudin had joined the “Family”, most of whom were members of the Black Liberation Army, an extremely radical and violent group that was an offshoot of the Black Panthers. The Family had committed various armed robberies throughout the tri-state area (allegedly to fund their plans for the liberation of blacks in America), but the robbery of the Brinks’ truck at the Nanuet Mall branch of the Nanuet National Bank in Nanuet, New York was their biggest heist ever. $1,585,000 was taken from the armored car and put in a van, transferred to a U-Haul, and driven down Route 59 towards Nyack (Castellucci 18). When the group reached a roadblock at the Nyack entrance of the New York State Thruway, violence ensued. Certain Family members (presumably Chui Ferguson and Sam “Solomon Bouines” Brown), with the exception of Boudin, shot and killed two Nyack police officers, and wounded another. Boudin’s failed escape marked the end of her career; an off-duty corrections officer tackled her to the ground, demanding to know who she was. Boudin only responded “I didn’t shoot him; he did” (Castellucci 9).

Gross and pathetic.

I assume most people went because they didn’t know any better. I didn’t because I did. And I assume the organizers did as well.

Update: My friends who told me about and attended thinks that I should not assume the organizers knew anything about the “outlaws” they named in the invitation. Fair point. I shouldn’t assume and have since emailed the organizer. I will update when I have more information. I had told him my reason for not attending when he invited me. In his email to me he notes:

me personally, i went because the night’s plans had changed and were now “let’s have an adventure” with these strange people…and i didn’t feel
strongly enough about the cause of the event one way or the other. also, for what it’s worth, the party itself was not politicized in any way that i saw. people in a cramped place with a dj and a band and some costumes.

On some level, a party is just a party. So, no I don’t hold the attendees particularly accountable for the theme and I’m glad everyone had fun. I just wish it was under a different banner. Although I am curious about what people actually chose as their costumes.

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9 Responses to Party pooping

  1. ooghe says:

    sigh. i know which party you are referring to. i went last year in a bathrobe, white hair and long fingernails as howard hughes but nobody caught the reference and thought i was in drag. abi hoffman, you also might point out, beat up his girlfriends and was distinguished in his later years by crashing from safe house to safe house evading cocaine charges- not exactly the best standard bearer, IMHO. in any event, you know, really, their heart is in the right place those guys. but for conservative readers of your blog i would like to point out that there are many on the left who would prefer such events not be viewed as completely illustrative of the thought processes these days. just as christian loonies create awkwardness for conservatives, the left has this kind of thing to deal with from time to time as well.

  2. oh boy says:

    the left does not have a monopoly on romanticizing terrorists. what was the name of the abortion-doctor-killer fugitive who was lauded as a folk hero last year?

  3. oh boy says:

    oh, and robert? you and i are the only people who read this blog who are not conservative.

    i challenge commenters to prove me wrong. diane left LONG AGO.

  4. ooghe says:

    true. another noteable point is that it’s been years since the heyday of actual lefty violence in this country (unless you count Kazynski- although he actually reminded me more of Ted Nugent x 10) and they always wind up getting shot by the FBI anyway- whereas violence from the right is not all that rare- like the hate-group that went after the clinton-appointed judge last week.

  5. Josh, “what was the name of the …”
    Exactly.

    Robert, I got a variety of emails from Complacent and perhaps Green Dragon as well (don’t know their current affiliation) about “protesting” the RNC and hoping to reproduce the violence and disorder of Chicago ’68. Here is an extract of one of those emails:

    Imagine one part Chicago 68′, one part Seattle
    99′, a dash of Woodstock and a dose of Mardi Gras.
    Stir in some New York City hysteria and swallow
    hard.”

    They failed. But that just tells me they don’t have the backing they used to have. I think that is a good thing.

  6. ooghe says:

    Complacent I’ve not heard of, but Greene Dragon- I can assure you- never had any ‘backing’ other than local hipsters and are about as threatening as a Fat Boy Slim video, all this promise of recreating 1968 notwithstanding. The extract you cite is poorly worded, I think, and if it was emailed probably succeeded in attracting police infiltration (probably the real reason there was no repeat of 1968). But their intent was not mass revolutionary violence- the quote just represents the mushy conflation of political energy and the come-one come-all party atmosphere of every nearly demonstration since the 70’s.

    What they like about Abbie Hoffman were the wild stunts that got him noticed- nominating a Pig as Yippie candidate, and all that. Which is just to say that Chicago 1968 was a media war fought out over television in an unpredicted way and thus we remember “The Sixties” as something that rattled the establishment. Whether or not that movement succeeded in ending Vietnam earlier or later (and I believe radicalization prolonged the Vietnam war) is less appealing than the perception that it was fun. More importantly though, all this rhetoric is irrelevant because television media is 37 years more sophisticated, and Westinghouse, GE, Fox and all these interests know not to televise anything exciting that might also be socially destabilizing. Had there actually been violence, the story would have been handled as it was in Seattle- ‘insane anarchists, not so very different than the terrorists who brought down the towers because they hate freedom, are running amok within beleagured New York, so all political countermeasures must be taken immediately’ Then they would return to a comfortably rewritten history of 9/11 from the RNC, in which that day now represents the competence of those in charge, and not the day of government in complete meltdown that we might actually remember.

    Anyway, I have a certain exasperation with goofy party politics as well, because I think it associates visibility with political action. I tend to believe that identity politics in general have been a bad idea for progressives, namely because identities are overlapping, subjective, and don’t inform a larger way of democratic participation.

  7. hey alex says:

    complacent kind of wants mayhem. i don’t think that we should view them as an evil, just a force for disorganized stupidity whose virtue is that it keeps things interesting. i do not think that will &co support assasination or plane-building-crashing or any of the other extraordinarily obnoxious destabilizing techniques, but their niche in the nyc art party scene is definitely carved out: the people who throw parties that inevitably cross the line of control. and frankly, that’s necessary. in order for people to understand where lines are, someone has to cross them now and again. madagascar is on its way to being a legitimate force in the art world now, and can no longer simply commandeer streets for bizarre processions without intense NYPD scrutiny. so god bless will for pushing limits.

    and you really need to relax about this, alex. this is the down side for you and dan about believing the things you believe in this community- you need to understand the difference between actual intention and the need to have fun and blow off steam.

    when complacent + greene dragon have their hezbollah party, i will agree with you that there is a serious problem. but until then, jesus christ, lighten up.

  8. Josh,

    Suppose you recieved an invite to a “dress as your favorite southerner party” and the list included such “heros” as Jim Crow, Jefferson Davis, and Robert E Lee. Would that be ok?

  9. oh boy says:

    i cannot under any circumstances envision a party like that being thrown by any community i consider myself part of or even tangentially associated with.

    you, on the other hand, are very much a part of the new york art party scene.

    what’s the problem here?

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