Rubin speaking at the University at Buffalo in March 1970
July 14, 1938|
|Died||November 28, 1994
Los Angeles, California,
|Occupation||high-profile American social activist
Author, DO IT!: Scenarios of the Revolution
|Spouse(s)||Mimi Leonard (1978-1992)|
|Children||Juliet Clifton Rubin, Adam Winship Rubin|
Jerry Rubin (July 14, 1938 – November 28, 1994) was an American social activist, anti-war leader, and counterculture icon during the 1960s and 1970s. During the 1980s, he became a successful businessman.
Rubin's parents died within 10 months of each other, leaving Rubin the only person to take care of his younger brother, Gil, who was 13 at the time. Jerry wanted to teach Gil about the world and planned to take him to India. When relatives threatened to sue to obtain custody of Gil, Jerry decided to take his brother to Israel instead, settling in Tel Aviv. There, Rubin worked in a kibbutz, and studied sociology while his brother, who had learned Hebrew, decided to stay in Israel and moved permanently into a kibbutz. Before returning to social and political activism, Rubin made a visit to Havana, to learn first-hand about the Cuban revolution.
Rubin attended Cincinnati's Walnut Hills High School, co-editing the school newspaper, The Chatterbox and graduating in 1956. While in high school Rubin began to write for The Cincinnati Post, compiling sports scores from high school games. He attended Oberlin College, and Hebrew University in Jerusalem, and later went on to graduate from the University of Cincinnati, receiving a degree in History. Rubin attended the University of California, Berkeley, in 1964 but dropped out to focus on social activism.
Rubin began to demonstrate on behalf of various left-wing causes after dropping out of Berkeley. Rubin also ran for mayor of Berkeley, receiving over twenty per cent of the vote. Having been unsuccessful, Rubin turned all his attentions to political protest. His first protest was in Berkeley, protesting against the refusal of a local grocer to hire African Americans. Soon Rubin was leading protests of his own. Rubin organized the Vietnam Day Committee, led some of the first protests against the war in Vietnam, and was one of the founding members of the Youth International Party (YIP) or Yippies, along with social and political activist Abbie Hoffman and satirist Paul Krassner. The Yippies were not a formal organization with a membership list or a direct relationship with constituency, but played upon the media's appetite for anything new and different. They were influenced by Marshall McLuhan’s ideas on the importance of electronic communication, and believed that if radical events were made more entertaining the media, specially television would give them greater coverage.
As Rubin recollected:
...[T]he more visual and surreal the stunts we could cook up, the easier it would be to get on the news, and the more weird and whimsical and provocative the theater, the better it would play.
Rubin's appearance before the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) hearings is a good example of the Yippies empathizes on conducting political protest as theater, and creating as much attention as possible to their dissent by turning it into a spectacle. Rubin was subpoenaed by HUAC in Washington but instead of pleading the Fifth Amendment as was common, he entered the room dressed in an American Revolutionary War uniform, and showing total lack of concern, lightheartedly blew soap bubbles as members of Congress questioned his Communist affiliations.
It was a political ploy designed to make a mockery of the HUAC proceedings; the congressmen were caught off guard, and Rubin's stunt became page-one news throughout the country.
Another media stunt that gave the Yippies free publicity, not only in United States but all over of the world, was when Rubin, Hoffman and others brought the New York Stock Exchange to halt by tossing money into the air and watched gleefully as the stockbrokers scrambled vehemently for the bills. Yet another succesful act in Yippies "guerrilla theater" was when during the Presidential elections of 1968 the Youth International Party nominated their own candidate for the U.S. Presidency.
The nominee was Pigasus the Immortal, a 145-pound (66-kg) pig that they felt was a realistic alternative to Richard Nixon or his presidential opponent, Hubert Humphrey. At the official introductions at Pigasus’ first press conference, Rubin, while holding the candidate in his arms, demanded he be given Secret Service protection and be brought to the White House for a foreign policy briefing. He also promised, on behalf of Pigasus, a fair election campaign and if Pigasus won the election he would be eaten. This would, maintained Rubin, reverse the usual democratic process in which the pig is elected "and proceeds to eat the people."
In his book DO IT!: Scenarios of the Revolution Rubin says "media does not report "news" it creates it. An event happens when it goes on TV and becomes a myth." He goes on to say:
TV time goes to those with the most guts and imagination. I never understood the radical who comes on TV in a suit and tie. Turn off the sound and he could be the mayor! The words may be radical, but the television is a non-verbal instrument! The way to understans TV is to shut off the sound. No one remembers any words they hear; the mind is a technicolor movie of images, not words. I've never seen "bad" coverage of a demostration. It makes no difference whar they say about us. The picture is the story.
In October 1967, David Dellinger of the National Mobilization Committee to End the War in Vietnam asked Rubin to help mobilize and direct a March on the Pentagon. The protesters gathered at the Lincoln Memorial as Dellinger and Dr. Benjamin Spock gave speeches to the mass of people.
From there, the group marched towards the Pentagon. As the protesters neared the Pentagon, they were met by soldiers of the 82nd Airborne Division. who formed a human barricade blocking the Pentagon steps. Not to be dissuaded, Abbie Hoffman, co-founder of the Yippies, vowed to levitate the Pentagon while Allen Ginsberg led Tibetan chants to assist. Eventually, things turned ugly. By the time the group's 48-hour permit expired, approximately 680 protesters had been jailed and 50 hospitalized.
As one member of the march recalled:
Then someone in authority decided that the Pentagon steps had to cleared. Rifle butts came down on people's heads with dull ugly wet sounding thumps. Blood splashed on to the steps. There were shouts of "Link arms! Link arms!", mixed with screams of pain and curses. People were dragged off and arrested. The brutality was appalling and the people standing on the steps began throwing debris at the soldiers. I saw a garbage can sail over my head. I feared people might be trampled in panic as they tried to escape from the clubs and rifle butts.
Rubin later played an instrumental role in the anti-war demonstration that accompanied the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago by helping to organize the Yippie "Festival of Life" in Lincoln Park. He spoke along with Hoffman at an anti-war rally at the Grant Park bandshell on August 28, 1968 and instructed demonstrators to resist if riot broke out. However, the extent of violence between Chicago police and demonstrators (which an official government report called a "police riot") was not anticipated by the Yippie leaders. Some 1,500 people including civilians and police were injured. The arrest and trial of the Yippie leaders (known later as the Chicago Conspiracy Trial) which began on September 24, 1969 eventually led to the conviction of Rubin and seven others on charges of incitement to riot, including Abbie Hoffman, Rennie Davis, John Froines, David Dellinger, Lee Weiner, Tom Hayden, and Bobby Seale.
The defendants were commonly referred to as the "Chicago Eight". Seale's trial, however, was severed from the others after he demanded the right to serve as his own lawyer and was sentenced to four years in prison for contempt of court, making the Chicago Eight the Chicago Seven. Rubin famously declared the trial to be "the Academy Award of protest." He, along with the six other defendants, was found not guilty on the charge of conspiracy but guilty (with four other defendants) on the charge of incitement. He was also sentenced by the judge to more than three years in prison for contempt of court. All the convictions for incitement were later overturned by an appeals court, who cited judicial and prosecutorial misconduct. Most of the contempt of court citations were also overturned on appeal. The retrial was held in 1972.
Rubin held a post-election party at his place in New York in January 1973, attended by John Lennon and Yoko Ono, after McGovern lost to Nixon. Soon, Rubin retired from politics entirely, and became an entrepreneur and businessman. He was an early investor in Apple Computer, and by the end of the 1970s became a multimillionaire.
In the 1980s, he embarked on a debating tour with Abbie Hoffman titled "Yippie versus Yuppie." Rubin's argument in the debates was that activism was hard work and that the abuse of drugs, sex, and private property had made the counterculture "a scary society in itself." He maintained that "wealth creation is the real American revolution. What we need is an infusion of capital into the depressed areas of our country." A later political cartoon portrayed Rubin as half-guerrilla and half-businessman.
Rubin's differences with Hoffman were on principle rather than personal. When Hoffman died in 1989, Rubin attended his funeral.
|This section needs additional citations for verification. (March 2008)|
Jerry Rubin appeared posthumously in the 2002 British documentary by Adam Curtis, The Century of the Self. He appears in episode part 3 of 4. This segment of the video discusses the Erhard Seminars Training, of which Rubin was a graduate.
Rubin also appeared on Saturday Night Live's second episode of its first season. He was announced as "Jerry Rubin, Leader of the Yippie Movement." The sketch is a fake commercial for wallpaper featuring famous protest slogans from the 1960s and 1970s (e.g., "Make Love, Not War", "Off The Pig!", "Give Peace A Chance", "Hell, No, We Won't Go!", etc.). He ends the sketch by parodying a famous radical slogan as "Up against the wall-paper, posters!" (with the last word bleeped out in a reference to Up Against the Wall Motherfuckers). The fake commercial was later played in a few other first season episodes, including the episode featuring Ron Nessen, President Gerald Ford's press secretary.
Portrayal in popular culture
In a motion picture about Abbie Hoffman, Steal This Movie, Rubin was portrayed by Kevin Corrigan. In the 2007 documentary Chicago 10: The Convention Was Drama. The Trial Was Comedy Rubin is featured both with film footage and with animation using Mark Ruffalo as his voice. In the television show Dark Skies, Rubin is shown organizing an anti-war protest group in Berkeley that has been infiltrated by aliens - he is portrayed by Timothy Omundson.
Jerry Rubin's anti-establishment beliefs were put down in writing in his book, DO IT!: Scenarios of the Revolution (1970), with an introduction by Black Panther Eldridge Cleaver and unconventional design by Quentin Fiore. In 1971, his journal, written while incarcerated in the Cook County Jail, was published under the title We are Everywhere. The book includes an inside view of the trial of the Chicago Seven, but otherwise focuses on the Weather Underground, the Black Panthers, LSD, women's liberation and his view of a coming revolution.
In 1976, Rubin wrote another book entitled Growing (Up) at Thirty-Seven, which contained a chapter about his experience at an Erhard Seminars Training (EST) session, later included in the reader "American Spiritualities." In the book Rubin claims a rational society cannot be built by people who are out of touch with themselves and can´t even run their own lives rationally. Real political change will not happen unless people transform their own personal reality, and their own relationships. Much like Arthur Koestler in his collections of essays The Yogi and the Commissar Rubin argues that political work and self-development has to go hand in hand. It was important, he said, that people lived the society they hoped to create.
As explained in Growing (Up) at Thirty-Seven Rubin experimented with many self-improvement techniques in order to overcome his own personal defects, everything from meditation and yoga to rolfing, the Arica School, Gestalt therapy and the bioenergetic analysis of Wilhelm Reich's pupil Alexander Lowen. In a review of the book Derek VanPelt comments on Rubin's self quest:
Rubin, though a crude writer, takes it all in from a fairly skeptical viewpoint and reports in entertaining, thoughtful, and sometimes funny prose. The depth and sincerity of his search is apparent, and his call for a cooperative relationship between new consciousness and new politics is one of the more promising prospects of the seventies.
On November 14, 1994, Rubin jaywalked on Wilshire Boulevard, in front of his penthouse apartment  in the Westwood area of Los Angeles, California. It was a Monday evening and weekday traffic was heavy, with three lanes moving in each direction. A car swerved to miss Rubin but a second car, immediately behind the first, was unable to avoid him. He was taken to the UCLA Medical Center, where he died two weeks later. He is interred in the Hillside Memorial Park Cemetery in Culver City, California.
In popular culture
- DO IT! was also the inspiration for a track of the same name on the 1972 Aphrodite's Child album '666
- DO IT! was the apparent inspiration for the titles of two other books: Eat It: A Cookbook by Dana Crumb and Grow It! The Beginner's Complete In-Harmony With Nature Small Farm Guide by Richard W. Langer.
- Danny Masterson portrays Jerry Rubin in the movie The Chicago 8, written and directed by Pinchas Perry. It was filmed in September and October 2009. The film is based closely on the trial transcripts and most of the action takes place in the courtroom.
- Jerry Rubin, 56, Flashy 60's Radical, Dies; 'Yippies' Founder and Chicago 7 Defendant, The New York Times
- Timothy Stanley (May 14, 2008), The Long Haired Conservatives: the Children of '68 Reconsidered.
- Pace, Eric (November 30, 1994). "Jerry Rubin, 56, Flashy 60's Radical, Dies; 'Yippies' Founder and Chicago 7 Defendant". The New York Times.
- Torgoff, Martin (2004). Can´t Find My Way Home: America in the Great Stoned Age 1945-2000. New York: Simon & Schuster Paperbacks. ISBN 0-7432-3011-6.
- Can't Find My Way Home 2004, p. 229.
- Lee, Martin A.; Bruce Shlain (1992). Acid Dreams: The Complete Social, History of LSD: The CIA, the Sixties, and Beyond. New York: Grove Press. ISBN 0-8021-3062-3.
- Acid Dreams 1992, p. 202.
- Quoted in Acid Dreams 1992, p. 215.
- Albert, Judith Clavir; Stewart Edward Albert (1984). The Sixties Papers: Documents of a Rebellious Decade. New York: Praeger Publishers. p. 442. ISBN 0-275-91781-9.
- The Sixties Papers 1984, p. 443.
- Levitate the Pentagon
- The Day The Pentagon Was Supposed To Lift Off Into Space
- Remembering the Pentagon March (1967)
- Kathrine Boesen (November 2011). "More than 1,500 people had been injured". Jerry Rubin and the Youth International Party. University of Copenhagen. p. 11. Retrieved January 19, 2013.
- Schultz, John (2009). No One Was Killed: The Democratic National Convention, August 1968. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press. ISBN 978-0-226-74078-2.
- The Sixties Papers 1984, p. 42.
- Schultz, John (2009). The Chicago Conspiracy Trial: Revised Edition. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press. ISBN 978-0-226-74114-7.
- The Realist
- Turbulent '60s Live Again at Funeral for Activist Radicals, Friends Bid Hoffman Farewell
- Jerry Rubin by Derek VanPelt in Ann Arbor Sun, May 6, 1976. Accessed March 3, 2014.
- What Jerry Rubin did in his final months. Accessed March 15, 2011.
- Jerry Rubin at the Internet Movie Database
- "Romano, Bakula, Braugher Had ‘Men’ Chemistry". Jacksonville Observer. October 27, 2009. Retrieved June 24, 2010.
- Berger, Joseph (1994-12-04). "Born to Be Wild. Scratch That. Born to Be Mild.". The New York Times. Retrieved 2009-01-19.
- Horstman, Barry M (1999-05-04). "Jerry Rubin: Activist changed his rap". The Cincinnati Post. Archived from the original on 2007-08-18. More than one of
- Welter, Ben (2006-11-12). "April 1970: Jerry Rubin leads Honeywell protest". Star Tribune (Minneapolis).
- Jerry Rubin at Find a Grave