Civil Liberties

Friday A/V Club: Equal Time for Surrealist Subversion

The Yippies make a TV show.


After the police riot at the 1968 Democratic convention in Chicago, the city government made an hour-long documentary to try to salvage its reputation. Stations that broadcast it were then required, in what may be the single most hilarious application of the Fairness Doctrine in TV history, to give the organizations that the film attacked airtime to respond. Forty-five minutes of their hour were allotted to the American Civil Liberties Union and the National Mobilization Committee to End the War in Vietnam, who made what was reportedly—I haven't seen it—a levelheaded description of how the Chicago cops overstepped their bounds. The other 15 minutes were allotted to the Yippies, who made this:

Harlan Ellison reacts to the show here. He also, for some reason, complains about Stevie Wonder's mannerisms. Did anyone edit Harlan Ellison's TV column? Just asking.

According to, the film was written by the satirist (and founding Yippie) Paul Krassner. I sent Krassner an email to ask if that was true, and he replied: "Sort of. I was handed a bizarre montage of video clips compiled by Ed Sanders and asked to write a script limited to matching the visual action. I was only following orders."

For more on the Yippies, go here. For past installments of the Friday A/V Club, go here. And for one more response to the city of Chicago's film, reported in the October 15, 1968, issue of Tempo, read on: