The Book of Daniel

The Book of Daniel The Yippies

The character of Artie Sternlicht is generally considered to be modeled after Abbie Hoffman or Jerry Rubin, both members of the Yippie party. “Yippie” stood for Youth International Party, which was founded on December 31st, 1967 by activists Hoffman, Rubin, Nancy Kushan, Anita Hoffman, and Paul Krassner. Many other significant countercultural figures were involved with the Yippies - poets Allen Ginsberg and John Sinclair, singer Phil Ochs, and activists Stew Albert and Ed Rosenthal. There was no traditional hierarchy within the party. Their political flag was a red star with five points and a green cannabis leaf superimposed upon a black background.

The Yippies were anti-authoritarian and anarchistic, deeply opposed to mainstream politics of the 1960s. They were interested in the technology of the mass media and often exploited it to bring attention to their antics and their ideology. Many of their exploits were silly, motivated by a sense of humor and irony. One such event was their attempt to levitate the Pentagon in 1967 during a anti-Vietnam March (this pre-dated the formation of the party but was an impetus for its creation). In The Book of Daniel, Daniel attends the march and witnesses the levitation attempt. This event also formed the basis for Norman Mailer’s work The Armies of the Night. The Yippies were involved with guerilla theater, be-ins, and other bold and attention-grabbing antics; one politicized prank involved Hoffman and other future Yippies throwing fistfuls of real and counterfeit bills down on Stock Exchange traders from a gallery above the trading floor.

Krassner wrote in 2007 that “we needed a name to signify the radicalization of hippies, and I came up with Yippie as a label for a phenomenon that already existed, an organic coalition of psychedelic hippies and political activists. In the process of cross-fertilization at antiwar demonstrations, we had come to share an awareness that there was a linear connection between putting kids in prison for smoking pt in this country and burning them to death with napalm on the other side of the planet.” The word Yippie also suggested energy, excitement, and happiness. Allen Ginsberg explained the Yippies’ formation: “[Hoffman] said that politics had become theater and magic, basically, that it was the manipulation of imagery through the mass media that was confusing and hypnotizing the people in the United States, making them accept a war which they really didn't believe in.” The Yippies took that idea of theater and responded in kind through their spontaneous and riotous activities.

In 1968 the Yippies encouraged their members and others to attend the Chicago Democratic National Convention. They deemed it a “Convention of Death” and mocked the political circus by nominating their own candidate - a pig named Pigasus. Their theatrics and threats to put LSD in Chicago’s water system garnered the attention of mayor Richard J. Daley. His militant, zero-tolerance response to a non-violent, legal protest in Grant Park resulted in a full-scale assault that spread out to city streets. Television broadcasts caught the subsequent clashes between police and protestors that lasted throughout the night. Following the Convention, three Yippies – Hoffman, Rubin, and Lee Weiner – were brought up on charges of conspiracy to incite a riot along with four other members of the New Left. They were deemed the “Chicago Seven.” All of the convictions were eventually reversed in appeals.

Yippie pranks and protests lasted throughout the 1970s. Hoffman's Steal This Book, advocating dissident practices, ironically became a bestseller in 1971. Numerous books, articles and pamphlets documenting the movement are studied today as counterculture history. The party still exists today but is much smaller and less influential. It suffered from the suicide of Hoffman in the 1989 and Rubin’s embrace of the capitalist commodity culture; he became a stockbroker in the 1980s. The Yippie Museum opened in New York City in 2004, and political activists still perform at the space periodically.