Levitating the Pentagon: Exorcism as Politics, Politics as Exorcism
Issue: Vol 14 No. 3 (2011)
Journal: Implicit Religion
Subject Areas: Religious Studies
On 21 October 1967 Allen Ginsberg, Abbie Hoffman, and Ed Sanders of the band The Fugs, and others, organized an “exorcism” of the Pentagon in which several thousand demonstrators participated. Most historians have regarded this event as “a put on” or at best as “performance art.” This article takes seriously the nominal status of the ritual as a “sacred” or “magical” event. It argues that the organizers were utilizing innovative strategies of social action to alter the terms of debate regarding the Vietnam War.
Inasmuch as these strategies drew on “secret” insights into the nature of social reality, they were seen as “magical” and in continuity with pre-modern esoteric traditions. Finally, it is argued that the new left turned to such tactics out of a deep frustration with traditional forms of democratic political engagement.
Author: Joseph P. Laycock