Friday A/V Club: A Vintage Anti-Hippie Film Strip

A fever-dream film strip from 1967 calls the counterculture a communist/capitalist plot.


Truth About Civil Turmoil

"Has man's dream of his children's future ended in a nightmare?" So asks Ken Granger in The Hippies, a lurid film strip from 1967. Granger was a member of the John Birch Society, and he blames the rise of the counterculture on the forces you'd probably expect a '60s conservative to invoke: progressive education, permissive parenting, World Communism. What makes his film interesting on more than a camp level is that he also blames big business, condemning consumerism and conformity in terms a hippie could love.

In the wake of World War II, the film strip declares, Madison Avenue started turning to psychologists for help selling products. The resulting research developed "techniques that could be used to create new desires in people, to change the philosophies of security and saving to the philosophy of spending." Young people in particular were easily manipulated, as a series of music- and fashion-focused youth cultures proved: "The technique of combining music with mass merchandising brought near total control of the purchasing habits of a whole generation."

All it then took (Granger continues) was for Communists to start using the same techniques to sell ideas instead of music. Presto: sex, drugs, and New Left subversion!

Marketers do not, in fact, have such perfect powers of persuasion, and the hippies were not a mesmerized mass of—in Granger's words—"zombie-like vegetables." But it's certainly true that the '60s "counter" culture owed a lot to the mass culture its members were allegedly rejecting. In his kooky way, Granger was noting a truth that many hippie hagiographers prefer to ignore. It's just that he filtered that truth through a paranoid worldview that owed almost as much to John Kenneth Galbraith as it did to Robert Welch.

Needless to say, you can enjoy this on a camp level too. Granger's frightened imagination leads him to all sorts of strange places (inevitably, there are wild sex parties), and he makes several basic errors: mispronouncing everything from "Phil Ochs" to "scabies" and scrambling the names of songs and of at least one organization. There's a pretty good soundtrack too, courtesy of a garage rock band called the Undecided. The credits call it "original music," which makes me wonder if the band's members knew—or cared—that they were recording something for an anti-rock film:

For a newspaper dispatch from Granger's lecture tour with the film strip, go here. For another paranoid fever dream from the era, go here. For past editions of the Friday A/V Club, go here.

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  1. You’re going to have to explain to half the commentariat what a “film strip” is.

    1. Pretty sure it’s what we call webcam girls these days.

    2. Aren’t film strips supposed to be less than 33 minutes?

    3. Inhales the scent of a mimeograph, as the sound track “beeps” to advance the film strip.

        1. Wow, three great childhood memories in two commenter posts.

          I still have Pavlovian moments when I hear a certain bell tone, and automatically will say “turn the page.”

          Who here used to hope they were the one who got to advance the film strip? That was a pretty primo assignment in elementary school.

          1. Apparently Reason should entice readers with a bag of Werthers Orginal candies during their next pledge drive.

    4. Only half? Get off my lawn!

  2. As the iconic Barney Rosset discovered- there is no ‘free love’ in communism.

    Religion-empowered conservatism is a lifelong faith-induced trip into the same sinister annals of paranoia that inflict the frigid shrieking cognition of ultra-progressives. A robust paranoia shared by enemies. Blatant delusions fragmenting the reality of adherents jetting spittle from clacking jaws, minds moaning for gods and prophets.

    1. I really don’t think the two are analogous. Religious conservatism has done little to slow the march of progressives, while progressives have entrenched themselves in all of our major institutions, including religion. I’m not a paranoiac like this Granger fellow, but it’s easy to see that social libertinism, while justifiable in its own right as an expression of individuality, is corrosive to institutional liberty inasmuch as it inspires the faithful secularists to embrace government coercion as a tool for promulgating, even mandating libertinism. What started as the free-love communism of young idealists sick of conservative stultification has become the welfare-dependent love for big government of boomers through millennials.

      We may not like or even understand religion or its adherents, but at least they put something before the State.

      1. To be clear, I don’t see progressivism as a conspiracy or any sort of loose-leaf plot to take over and exert Marxist philosophy. It’s an intellectual movement like any other, one to which people gravitate as we’ve become less religiously motivated and more tolerant of what our forebears would have considered deviant behavior. That in itself is a good thing, but tied up in that hot mess of necessary social change is a gradual openness to questioning all social arrangements and classical Western institutions, from individual responsibility and familial obligations to free speech and the right to self-defense. And since all social change is a pendulum, our institutions help exert enough mass to keep it from swinging too far in either direction. Which is why even as an atheist I have more affinity for religious conservatives than, say, the Humanist Society. If we’re ever beset by a credible push for another religious revival, that affinity will probably change as well.

        1. Which is why even as an atheist I have more affinity for religious conservatives than, say, the Humanist Society.

          I generally concur. But, religious conservatism has a repugnant history one has to regard as legitimate proof of sinister intent to control the morality of states and individuals. Religious conservatism is also not limited to mainstream stereotypes mostly involving left-wing kneejerk hatred for Judaeo-Christianity. Modern Islam is a worldwide example of religious conservatism firmly constructed behind bulwarks of despotism.

          We may not like or even understand religion or its adherents, but at least they put something before the State.

          Only in the individual. At the organized level most large-scale religions wish to become the state which is also proven by historical insight.

          Individuals given to religiosity interpreting their odd ‘doctrines’ outside of prophets, pastors, and chosen ones and who lean fiercely independent are the religious fringe I most welcome- not the organized, eye-glazed, pamphlet thumper who doesn’t know jack fucking shit about the world of religions, gods, and submission.

          our institutions help exert enough mass to keep it from swinging too far in either direction

          Our institutions have lead feet and head cavities rattling with bloated self-importance and preceding decades and centuries are rife with organized entities swinging too far.

        2. a gradual openness to questioning all social arrangements and classical Western institutions, from individual responsibility and familial obligations to free speech and the right to self-defense.

          Are you suggesting this isn’t a good thing? I submit that everything should be questioned, even whether one is truly questioning everything. Truth (that is, that which conforms to reality) will bear up to this questioning far better than false views and theories.

  3. Is this when vaping started ?

    1. Hash oil was vaped then with a hash oil pipe, that was a glass tube with a spherical bowl and a hole on top where hash oil was dabbed inside, and a flame heated the underside of the bowl. Hash was also vaped then by a technique called “knives”. Hash was placed on a knife blade, and a second heated red hot knife was used to sandwich the hash between the two knives, causing the hash to vaporize.

  4. Free Love!!!
    Ha! What a joke! There was ALWAYS a price to pay!

    1. Are you referring to love or sex? They are not the same thing. The Beatles wrote a song saying money “Can’t Buy You Love”. Sex for money is called prostitution. Hippies didn’t pay (or receive money) for sex if they could find someone who didn’t demand something in return. All activities, free or not, have consequences.

  5. OT.
    I’m sure the entire aircraft will need disassembly and de-contamination!

    “Man sneaks onto jet at Los Angeles airport, smokes cigarette”
    “Police have arrested a man who sneaked through a vehicle entrance at a Los Angeles airport and boarded a jet, where he hung out smoking a cigarette.”…..rylink=cpy

    1. When confronted, he put out the cigarette, causing about $5,000 in interior damage.

      Sheesh, he didn’t extinguish it between his thumb and fingers all the while glaring at the cops with a dead eyed, menacing look.


    2. Yeah, the billions spent on airport security were obviously a good investment.

  6. This is fucking great!

  7. Mellow Yellow is the gateway to Rainy Day Woman

    1. And sex is the gateway drug to drugs!

    1. Blurry lights and glowing horizons with moons slinking low behind rusty bricks sparkling neon sign stories. Your highway hums between the lives of times when newspaper smelled like sweat and golden sunlight creased the restless dreams of men and women arriving before they left.

  8. I blame Ken Granger for the enduring popularity of Easy Rider.

    1. Despite the original derisiveness of the “hippie” label, 60s youth culture refused to be taunted or ridiculed by it and adopted the “hippie” label as a badge of honor. If only more groups would do that. BTW, the word “hippie” was a variation of yippie, someone belonging to or sympathizing with the Youth International Party.

  9. I was only nine in 1967 yet acutely aware of the countercultural phenomenon efflorescing in San Francisco that held its own appeal to my youthful sensibilities. I remember these weird, obsessive ‘road shows’ that made their nighttime appearances in high school auditoriums, Lion’s Clubs and church basements. There were many themes and obsessions, usually voiced in alarming tones, that resulted in frantic productions. There was no shortage of bored and easily excited moms and dads who dragged their kids to these events.

    I was in the midst of highly agitated Midwestern grown-ups worrying about events on either coast which threatened our existence and might result in our having to hunker down in our basements as a means of survival from these realized fears. Even at nine, I was pretty sure they were misinterpreting the Hippies, love-ins and peace demonstrations but, intriguingly, there was no doubt they represented some sort of a threat to my parents and their generation whose world views had been forged in the Depression and World War II. The 1960s came as a serious challenge to them and their relationship to the government, laws and habits of existence.

    These road shows that served as existential air raid sirens to my parents had a very different effect upon me, awakening me to daring non-believers who beckoned from the grainy images which bounced off of Da-Lite projector screens in the heart of America. After all, THEY were having fun. My parents, and I? Not so much.

  10. Having lived through the 60s, American youth weren’t as easily duped as the film strip show would have us believe. Youth then, as they always have been, were acutely aware of hypocrisy. Rather than focusing on and appealing to the freedom and individuality of youth to counter the influence of conformist and collectivist influences present long before 60s youth culture existed, John Birch Society and conservatives then and now, with their divisive rhetoric, drove youth into the arms of the influences JBS was so adamantly opposed to. It reminds me of the social conservative cooption and takeover of the Tea Party movement, where social conservatives were more interested in remaking the Tea Party movement in their image, and drove out libertarians and independents by focusing on issues that had little or nothing to do with the Tea Party’s original mission: fiscal responsibility, constitutionally limited government and free markets. The result: you don’t hear much about the Tea Party anymore.

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