The Ideological Function of Netflix: the Trial of Chicago 7

Sasha Baron as Abbie Hoffman shaking hands with a biker who posed as his bodyguard who was an undercover cop: wrong.  It was Jerry Rubin who was tricked into accepting the biker-cop as bodyguard. (Netflix.)

Thanks to Nancy Kurshan and Jonah Raskin’s  CounterPunch articles this subject is ‘on the table.’

The film industry in the USA has become the ideological arm of the war machine with a tripartite vision of revisionism. The process is clever in that in a docu-fiction, a film that relies upon an original historical event to create an attractive package, for market, must be careful to revise the original so it appears to be the truth/accurate/ real as it disguises its mechanisms in reel time. It follows the tried form of bourgeois melodrama wherein the first act is a conflict between two individuals a struggle for control in which the protagonist wins by an eruption the deux ex machina change! and proceeds to join the establishment. The dispute must avoid a critique of the formal institutions of power. This exclusion creates difficulties for the intelligent mind author/director/camera/costumer, however with enough money, experience and ideological training a radical historical event can be turned into a soap opera for patriotism.

Aaron Sorkin’s Netflix feature has an important advantage in that the subject is 50 years old and only those over 65 can remember it so that the manufacturing of inventive variations is open territory. In the effort to begin unraveling the ideological set a bit of actual fact is helpful just to set up an alternative interpretation to the docu-fiction argument and at the same time not argue this is true that is false. Rather the way to jostle thru the debris of distortion is to establish the industry’s purpose in particular and in general.

These twists-displacement-inventions however can reveal the intention of the writer, director & producers in Hollywood. Its first function is to narrow down the subject – avoid the whole context, focus on individuals – putting a human face on history…which then effectively confuses the historical events. The corporate commercial press has done some ground work in this way making sure to support the US Government’s point of view.

The Press reported The Government charged Eight people with conspiracy to riot, whereas the legal charge was “intending to incite to riot” … and the charge led to conviction but the conviction was overturned. The whole truth and not the whole will set you free: truth floats in an out of a docu-fiction that makes the ultimate product successful. It’s all too complicated but trust us have faith in the national structure and the film industry.

The event: Various anti-war groups intended to present a counter convention to influence the Democratic Party delegates who met in Chicago in August 1968 to nominate a candidate for president. Two Democratic candidates for the presidency Senator Eugen McCarthy and Robert Kenney had campaigned to reduce the US war in Vietnam. Two months before the national convention, Kennedy was assassinated, just as his brother John had been five years earlier.

With the increasing disaster of the war, and the potential for unified civil rights and anti-war movement the government, in a bi-partisan effort, enacted measures to counter the growing opposition. Lyndon Johnson had included in his 1968 Civil Rights Act language which made it a felony to “travel in interstate commerce…with the intent to incite, promote, encourage, participate in and carry on a riot….” This would be the statute used by Nixon’s Attorney General Mitchell to charge the Chicago 8 in a conspiracy of “three or more crossing state lines with the intent to incite a riot” even if they didn’t execute what they “intended.” In short, a mind control law.

The third-party in the gang up was Democrat Mayor Richard Daley of Chicago—the on-ground manager of the Democratic National Convention—who refused to provide permits for a Yippie Festival of Life in the parks, for teach-ins, as well as for marches/demonstrations by the non-violent National Mobilization Committee to End the War in Vietnam (MOBE). Numerous efforts to obtain permits for activities all were denied. When the demonstrations did arrive in Chicago the party boss enforcer Daley directed the police to attack the demonstrators outside the convention hall, rough up the Eugene McCarthy delegates in the Conrad Hilton Hotel, and sent undercover agents into the convention hall to muscle & muzzle anti-war delegates.

In order to completely stop the protest demonstrations the Chicago police used three-foot nightsticks to beat the protestors (= the actual riot). Nixon’s undercover agents and Daley’s local ones had infiltrated the demonstrations early on as both agent provocateurs and spies. These arrangements were revealed in the first days of the trial when forty or more undercover agents testified for the Federal government: “Yes they did do it. They intended to disrupt the Democratic Convention.”

To complete the effective repression of the movement for this Federal trial, the US Attorney General appointed a judge who was considered a ‘Hanging judge’—Julius Hoffman. All of his previous twenty-four trials ended in convictions. An early example of the judge’s application of justice is illustrated in dealing with Black Panther Party Chairman Bobby Seale, who scooped up to make up a cross-cultural Conspiracy, who demanded the right to defend himself. His lawyer was in the hospital, “denied” … then he arose again to claim his rights. The judge had him chained and gagged to a chair in the courtroom. The seat of Justice and Democracy. Nevertheless, Seale struggled to speak. Eventually, the judge sentenced him to four years in jail for contempt of court and Seale was removed from the case.

With two federal prosecutors and an FBI agent, anywhere from six to eighteen U.S. Marshalls in the courtroom, Judge Hoffman in a matter of five months proceeded to accuse the defendants of the charges; when they spoke up, to charge them with contempt of court; rejected lawyers’ questions on cross-examination; allowed the Marshalls to pummel people and remove them from the courtroom—all in front of the jury who had been selected by him with the objective of railroading the defendants to jail. In this example the Kangaroo court succeeded. Nevertheless, on appeal, his convictions from four months to four years for the defendants, including a four-year prison term for one of the lawyers, were all overturned and the Judge admonished in 1972.

In the late 70s Stephan Spielberg of DreamWorks worked up a script about the trial yet delayed production until he found an author-director to message the material. The film script written by Aaron Sorkin with the aid of Spielberg’s team was only put in production from 1998 to 1999 eventually released in 2020. Spielberg’s advice was to present this film at the next presidential election.

The 35-million-dollar Hollywood extravaganza took up a 50-year-old Trial in the 2020 election period of Trump, it must have some ideological function in addition to entertainment. Because it is entertainment and not a political film it can infer leftism-light in the process of ending up structurally pro right. It is through the devices of exciting filming manipulation, violence, programmatic stirring music and sound eventually validate the system’s structure.

“The most elementary definition of ideology is probably the well-known phrase from Marx’s Capital: they do not know it, but they are doing it.”  The classic concept of ideology as ‘false consciousness’ misrecognition of social reality which is part of this reality itself. There is an upgraded on the subject Peter Sloterdijk puts forward the thesis that ideology’s dominant mode of function is cynical, which renders impossible – or, more precisely , vain – the classic critical ideological procedure. The formula then would then be: ‘they know very well what they are doing, but still, they are doing it. Cynical reason is no longer naïve, but is a paradox of an enlightenment false consciousness one knows the falsehood very well, one is well aware of particular interest hidden behind an ideological university but still one does not renounce it.

“Cynical ideology is more than “they know not what they do but they do it”, rather the cynical version is they “pretend not to know what they do but they do it.”1

In a country where comedy is a steam valve of distraction it works even more effectively. In bourgeois capitalist democracies, it voids the class struggle by consumerist distractions.

“The fundamental level of ideology, however , is not of an illusion masking the real state of things but that of an (unconscious) fantasy structuring our social reality itself. And at this level, we are of course far from being post-ideological society. Cynical distance is just one way –one of many ways – to blind ourselves to the structuring power of ideological fantasy; even if we do not take things seriously, even if we keep an ironical distance, we are still doing them.” 2

Revising the Trial

One might think that the Conspiracy group and The Movement had historically been defamed, charged, convicted and jailed. Yet despite the success in defaming, eventually even the system had to declare its gloss of rationality by dismissing the extreme operation of the Judges Kangaroo court as an anomaly. Nevertheless, the press didn’t and usually doesn’t provide the same front-page display of the reversal. In this way the court of public opinion accepted the Government’s charge of Conspiracy riots.

During the trial the war in Vietnam expanded Nixon and Kissinger continued what Johnson had been doing, with additional destruction of Cambodia that ran for four years and Laos the possible peace between the US and the North Vietnamese was scuttled when Nixon before being elected helped the South Vietnamese refuse the peace agreement thereby continuing the US military actions thereby posing as the strong man ready to become President. Fred Hampton head of the Chicago Black Panthers was assassinated Dec 4 1969 during the trial. The 1968 demonstrations in Humbert Humphrey Johnson’s candidate and he lost to Nixon. Chicago didn’t even affect a change in the Democratic Party they nominated

In the January 1970 interview of the 7, I asked but four questions for all to respond. Neither antagonistic to their project nor trying to show how smart I was, rather, coaxing them to correct my views by arguing their case.

How long have you been in Chicago, and what are you doing here? What is the meaning of Conspiracy to intend to incite a riot? The lawyers Kunstler and Weinglass said the government’s case was bogus, and they couldn’t prove it. What is an aggressive defense? Why did you-all decide to put the Government on trial by providing thirty-nine witnesses to testify as to the breadth of the movement from political radicals to poets and peaceniks with a few militant operatives who had been part of the 60s all rejecting the bourgeois state and many gathered around opposition to the militarization of US foreign policy?” The defendants were able to put up 39 witnesses defending the Movement barely matching the testimony of the Government 54 undercover agents.

During the trial, across the country the debate in the Left questioned the strategy of working the courts. Some saw it as a distraction, not an opportunity to expose the government. Nevertheless, all the defendants participated in confronting the government by being ready to speak out —in Dave Dillinger’s words: “not behaving like Good Germans.” However, some variation of tactics arose in fooling with the trial. One essential supposition was that by making a spectacle – mostly at the press conferences the corporate media would deliver a liberating message to the youth movement. Trouble in this promotional theory is that the corporate media revised, distorted or ignored any essential radical left critique of the government and the imperialist war.

The Federal Governments approach was a bi-partisan project constructed by the Demos & the Repos to crush in any way possible the movement against the US invasion & war in Vietnam. US foreign war policy was a subject to be avoided, ‘off the table.’ Both in electoral campaigns or false debates there is no discussion of US foreign policy because it is unpatriotic, a sin, a crime to inspect, expose and oppose the US military-industrial-congressional complex. The Empire shall be preserved. Wrap the flag around that one. Look at the vimeo again because the accused did have a complex agreed-upon plan.

Ideological Reflex

Here’s a slicky tricky set of distortions in the film. By reversing sizes, of original people short for tall, tall for short, important figures are replaced by the lesser figures. The first image of Actor for Abbie H and J. Rubin. Sasha Baron the Abbie/Star actor is 6’ 2 and the other of Jerry Rubin is about 5’4’ Mutt and Jeff! I see this and find the same size reversion as lawyers Kunstler was tall and elegant, Len Wineglass less tall less charismatic yet known as more radical than Kunstler, while the casting agent finds a dower actor more like Columbo, and a tall Wineglass actor. Is this a purposeful confusion of a docu-fiction or reversals to confuse historical memory.

The films court scenes occur in an unusually dark courtroom. When I was there it was bright, Abbie said it was a “neon oven”. I have a photo of the court; ceiling is totally neon lit. The rooms off to the side also all in dark as well with lighting only on the speaking figures. This must mean it’s a serious film or maybe it’s the designer’s attempt to make it art!

Now we have at least 21 shifts distortions lies, but not the redactions. What was left out of the film is as important as what was distorted and used. The selective process is determined by interpretation of events. When I have attended previews of such films and listened to the producer director’s promotion of their wonderful project I ask why didn’t you address the essential matter of…. The response is “we couldn’t put everything in the film…” The way to cleanup historical events is to do what your FBI file looks like just redact the subjects off the page.

Reversals in this film is a particular kind of distortion: Dellinger read the list of the Vietnamese and US dead, before the court session began on the first day of the trial. Sorkin lifted it and had Tom Hayden actor read it at the end of the movie – he also skipped the Judges sentencing and the response of each defendant that appears in the J. Kagan 1987 film.

Mixing invented scenes outside the courtroom with reality of the transcript inside the courtroom, such compilations makes reality backwards as well as disconnected – the progression of the original is altered both in the editing and in one’s memory. The mix up sequences is accepted as factual thereby confusing even to the viewers who might know something of the trial but not the details and events. In addition, even if one knows the factual events and is able to compare it to the filmic replays of characters, actors, times, locations ones vague memory can still view the Netflix film and think yes “I guess it’s that way.” It all seems so real after all it’s a naturalistic imitation. That’s the achievement of a docu-fiction.

Sorkin has invented out of court scenes that are ideologically designed to justify his conflict- climax – le dénouement the ultimate shape of the Melodrama. We have no record we can refer too of these out of court scenes – in addition half or more of the defendants and lawyers are gone. Truth is what you see on a screen! The first law of the slavish mind.

Meticulously matching the trial transcripts 20,000 pages to the film scenes requires two monks taking turns. From a few examples, we can deduce what Sorkin’s political views are via his distortions, elisions condensations and time collapses. Even if one can prove the distortions, why do such a meticulous comparative research when for example after major criticism became public about Spielberg’s Lincoln film he had to respond and in ideological Hollywood prose said: “It’s only a film!” To bring us up to date as regards a substantial critique of Sorkin’s version of the Chicago Trial: Why do all that kind of meticulous research to prove the film was a major distortion when “It’s all just history.”

To illustrate a few revisions, I have to use what we know about the defendants as compared to how they are presented by the commercial film. In the main the dynamic organizers were arrested because they were effective yet have to be degraded in order to fit the government’s charges and not become models for future uprisings. One might think this is a special skill learned for this film rather I argue that it’s the ideological mode of Hollywood, Sorkin and Spielberg are members of the industry.

Dave Dellinger the director of The MOBE passivist before anyone was born, was 57 years old at the trial. With Hayden and Rennie Davis of MOBE the organizers of the marches and demonstrations demanded permits denied. Dellinger’s character in the film in his one outburst in the courtroom. He is about to be stopped by the Marshalls, he tells them “Keep your hands off me, “ turns around and we hear a punch (*Crunch*) like a comic book gloss. Not only is this false it is precisely designed to reduce one of the major figures in the sweep up of Conspirators. Dellinger had been a pacifist for decades, author of Revolutionary Non-Violence an editor of Liberation Despite all this well known the film turns him into a one-punch regular. Dellinger’s grandson has appeared on the Tube to object to the punch of his Grandfather’s known international reputation.

Jerry Rubin is seen in a group of young unarmed protesters moving towards a line of police in helmets with 3-foot nightsticks up on a ridge in the park, the camera is low underneath his small size making him look taller. He says “Look at that”, and a voice in the crowd says “let’s go get em’.” The group starts moving towards the line of police– fade out. I immediately thought “let’s go get em” could have been an undercover agent provocateur. With 54 or so undercover agents wouldn’t one of them induce a violent action to justify the police whacking the brains out of the protesters and then claiming the protestors attacked the police? This is crude deformation because it’s a leadership act of suicide. Why would Rubin lead the group to confront cops with baseball bat length batons, whereas if this is Sorkin’s idea of protest he should go back to TV soaps.

To make sure Rubin is loaded with the violence claimed in the government charges we are given a scene of Rubin demonstrating making Molotov cocktails and then a clip of two males throwing lighted bottles at a building. No such event happened. Nancy Kurshan concurs.

Abbie Hoffman replaced by a Hollywood star and standup comic. The reduction of Abbie to a wise-cracking comic is classic American popular culture rundown. In other countries such political antics were part of the Provo’s in Amsterdam or the Situationists in France that is politically astute left organizers who understood the contradictions of repressive forces invented actions that make the contradictions of repressive laws obvious. The Provo’s painted bikes white and left them around town to be used by anyone. The bikes without proper licenses had to be arrested. Abbie’s descriptions of the repressive laws, the politics of the capitalist/democracy reveal the lies and distortions that were likely to induce laughter close to the Ah-hah moment of realization – not the giggles of a stand-up.

Slavoj Zizek’s popularity with film buffs for example is also realized by his use of folk humor illustrating contradictions and a quote from poems or phrases by Bertolt Brecht.

The additional element in the casting of Sasha Baron standup comic Hollywood star, known figure is a double devolution, his being a practicing orthodox Jew and supporter of Zionist Israel. How bizarre or is it just a habit to both use a Hollywood commodity replacing the agitator of consequence with a two-part distortion the commercial identity and socio-political one. The bleed over, one could call it as the master text and achievement of such fiction documentaries that Fred Jameson used in his disquisition of Dog Day Afternoon.(1977) The casting of a particular star is a marketing plus an ideological decision.

Abbie Hoffman was important in the trial and other major demonstrations. Early on a SNICC worker, eventually a Yippie with Jerry Rubin, and Paul Krasner they were the three of the “Party” bringing in to play the hippie Festival of Life not used by the old-style politicos, yet appreciated by Dave Dellinger and Rennie Davis in specific responses heard in the interview.

The joint effort sparked by Jerry and Abbie was a major up lift for a strategy agreed upon to thrust back at the government’s bipartisan attempt to destroy the Movement. By kicking back against the court – tricks, flips inside and outside the courtroom, the whole group becomes news worthy while the trial brought together many supporters across the country.

What Johnson had instituted Nixon applied and Daley brutalized. The Conspirators all agreed to seize the weapon of the government i.e. the court to reverse the charges –which in effect they did.

The hanging judge performed as a perfect kangaroo for the government’s objective however by overdoing his rulings could not stand and so had to be overturned on appeal. Nevertheless, the film editors using scenes supposedly based on the trial transcript and those added validated the government’s charges. Respect for the Federal Court and the Judge must be maintained.

Did the Movement meet its objectives or did the Government achieve its objectives, was the Vietnam war slowed down because of the organizational ability of the Conspirators? Johnson increased troops to Vietnam before the trial, Nixon and Killinger expanded the bombing to Laos and 4 years to Cambodia during and after the trial. The US government wasn’t hindered – the major opposition was assassinated MLK, Robert Kennedy, Fred Hampton. The Conspirators spent 5 months or more off the streets and in the courts with bits of jail time while the convictions were touted in the press … leaving out the dismissal on appeal .

The very medium that the Yippies argued would deliver the revolution to the youth was diluted by the corporate press that continued reporting the Government indictments. Yet the screw does turn the world si move, the Conspirators took advantage of their notoriety during and after the trial to give speeches and lectures around the country.

Rennie Davis The character Rennie in the film is a “nerdy one” said Rennie about his remake. During the trial he went to North Vietnam with a group to return with two American prisoners as a gesture of peace. Rennie also central organizer of the Conspiracy office with Nancy Kurshan, Ann Froines and other women arranged speaking engagements for all the defendants,

Tom Hayden’s character in the movie is an angst actor filled with cliches of pain over the exploits of Abbie Hoffman character Sorkin’s Hayden big moment is so petty it escapes reason. Haden character is around a demonstration the Rennie character notes that the car they are near is an undercover agents. Hayden’s character promises to do something to it. He proceeds to take the air out of the back tire! [this is the crime of all cream puffs] Two undercover agents catch him in the act, throw him on the car and twist his arm we hear voices” Are you alright? Yes, yes” he says the cops say we should we let him go. Yes we will see you tomorrow. Yes. Hayden responds. they let him go. Fade out scene next day outside the court Hayden waiting with others. Cop car comes up two officers leisurely exit the car. Hayden walks over to them puts out his wrists they handcuff him for the misdemeanor (Did they read his Miranda rights?). He obediently joins them fade out.

Totally innocuous high school kids’ stuff but used as sociological proof Hayden was a law-abiding good boy who when he broke the law he agreed to take the penalty of his intended crime. Court room scene: The Hayden character -actor is also pained in one scene or another by Abbie’s ticks and flips but Abbie’s tricks and flips are made trite as well nevertheless Sorkin’s Hayden expresses disdain while sitting next to the Columbo version of Kunstler. Hand over the face pained hand squeezing all the clichés of irritation over the now tepid testimony of Abbie Hoffman.

This is a major artistic problem for a talented conventional director. The Hayden film character has to be annoyed at the antics of the makeup Abbie Hoffman character but the Hoffman characters antics have to be trivial and not insightful critiques of the law, the judge the courts the government, nevertheless the Hayden character has to be upset to justify the dispute between the brash culture figure and the liberal political figure. The melodramatic structure has to be filled in he must end up joining the establishment. There could have been a scene in which both characters debated tactics and stated their case, this would have been interesting, but we never heard anything but one liners in addition Sorkin would have had to write the dialogue that made sense.

Whereas Tom Hayden in the Interview film explains the reason the government seized five of the seven – all had been organizers at Columbia, the Pentagon, and Washington DC demonstrations. The actual Tom Hayden wrote the Port Huron strategy paper for SDS and on the opening day of the trial was noted to have raised a fist to the Jury. Hayden like all the defendants was committed to the same strategy with varied functions during the trial, together they were powerful.

Richard Shultz government prosecutor There was an exaggerated conflict in the Conspiracy faction, there must be at least some conflict within the Nixon government’s prosecution. Federal prosecutors Tom Foran lead prosecutor and Richard Shultz meet the Nixon Attorney General. Thomas Mitchell. In this contrived scene Sorkin shows his talent for a bit of truth wrapped around a major lie.

Scene: Foran and Schultz visiting the office of Thomas Mitchell, who begins with: “Johnny Walker all around?” Then in a foul mouth way explains to Schultz who is to be the lead attorney that he wants him to prosecute the protestors and send them to jail. Shultz responds with some doubt that the statute commonly called The Rap Brown statute, to quash free speech is barely constitutional and maybe difficult to pin on the defendants. Mitchell says: no matter “ I’m not paying you for lessons about frees speech but to do the job I want. Can you do it and send these fairies to jail.” Schultz under the pressure of the gangster-like Attorney General nods. Next scene Foran talks to Schultz in the hallway “It’s your opportunity.” Next scene in Court The judge brings in the jury he has selected (Federal Court the Judge does the selection) the polite and tough judge asks the prosecutors to present their case to the jury. Schultz gets up and delivers as only a lawyer hired by the government can perform. There is a major deletion here. The Judge is required to read the indictment which he did in the transcript of the Trial. He read it for a half an hour.

So much is overlapped and distorted it’s a wonder that Sorkin could get away with such claptrap but it’s not easy to separate the clap from the trap. It may well have been Mitchell who in the film speaks like a thug but in real terms as the US Attorney General no need to act like a second-rate cop in a TV series since the lead attorney was Foran and both attorneys were long time experienced government employees. What Sorkin may have known is the twist of justice within the law-and-order administration.

Due to multiple crimes he committed in the  Watergate Scandal Mitchell was sentenced to prison in 1977 and served 19 months. As Attorney General, he was noted for personifying the “law-and-order” positions of the Nixon Administration, amid several high-profile anti-war demonstrations. Wikipedia.

Sorkin needed this false conflict a clever half-truth much better than a whole lie, while two half-truths make it difficult to sort out the plot as it slips away due to editor’s cuts. To justify the government’s case the conspirators appear weak-headed, divided, illegally disruptive and disrespectful of the Federal Court of the United States of America. This last insult is the third crime of the Conspiracy – the first two were : Opposed to the US bi-partisan policy of imperial warfare, and opposed to the invasion of and destruction of Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos.

William Kunstler By selecting a short man instead of a tall actor to represent a simulacrum of William Kunstler either the casting director of the author-director found a dour short actor to reduce the grace and eloquence of Kunstler to a Columbo character Richard Falk a raincoat investigator. When I first saw the actor in the dark, darkly in charge in dark courtroom even in side dark rooms where defendants met and Kunstler Sorkin’s version acted as if he was in charge. Not according to the defendants. In one scene out of court, he is heard telling the defendants “no more tricks at the press conference.” Maybe this scene was written by Spielberg.

Judge Julius J. Hoffman The Justice Department discussed which judge from Chicago should be appointed to take on the task of sending everyone to jail. The first judge that came up was named Lynch – oops almost lost it there. I can’t imagine they considered him for more than two minutes. They did however select a judge who was sure to do what was expected of him however overjoyed in his historical moment he get wet and over did it. Every one of his convictions was overturned.

After the trial, the Nixon administration appointed the City Attorney to investigate the actions of the police. The Walker Commission came up with a conclusion that it was a police riot that occurred at the convention. This in itself is a wonder, even under mob boss Mayor Daley somehow his local officials revealed his police were the baton slugging operatives.

For those who have time due to indoors -locked -down, it is possible to unravel the confusion by looking at the vimeo Jonah Raskin put up on Counterpunch, but you have to see it twice to wade through the chatter and hear what Tom Hayden says at the opening, Abbie continues later on and Dave Dellinger states clearly as the Revolutionary Non-Violence author who agreed with the Yippie’s! After that clarification, it would be a late-night game to return to the Sorkin’s version of distortions, displacements, and lies. I found 21 and realized it was endemic to the film industry’s function.

Interjection: Let’s take a moment to examine the larger subject: Did the US eventually lose the war against the North Vietnamese? The press and general discussions claimed it was a failure. The US military failed to win and had to leave Vietnam with people scrambling up a ladder to get into a helicopter. Yet it bombed villages, poisoned the jungle, cluster bombs for the children and destruction of infrastructure leaving a country devastated for the next ten years. No need to win-win just destroy-destroy.

This historical event has a lesson for the present. The repression of the movement initiated by Johnson applied by Nixon beaten into place by Daley was a bi-partisan achievement just as foreign policy is a bi-partisan gruesome set of wars.

The Movement raised the subject of the Empire’s foreign wars the subject barely addressed at any convention or in fake debates – “0ff the table.” This was even more dangerous when MLK at the Riverside Church stated that the Vietnam war was a moral challenge: Bang! Bang! If he had not been assassinated the civil rights movers could have united with the anti-US war in Vietnam militants causing greater disruption inside the US then Nixon, Kissinger and the military wanted while they were bombing Cambodia.

The point that Spielberg made clear to Sorkin about the timing of the finished Hollywood production was that it was important for his revisionist version be available at Presidential election time both for its marketing and essential focus in making sure that the radicals are reduced to stand-up comics and liberals leave their youthful days, grow up and join the Demo Party. Barak Obama in effect did the fourth act in the melodrama of the film by exhorting voters in a parking lot: You African Americans want change, drop those Black Lives Matter signs, and join the Demo party. It’s the right thing to do. Sorkin spells it out on the final screen: Tom Hayden was elected to the California State legislature in 1982. He was re-elected 6 more times. Abbie Hoffman killed himself.

The 1968 Chicago event still has some effect if allowed to be a lesson in how the system functions under stress i.e. close ranks and uses a bigger club. However, there was also a potential for a unity of dissidents after MLK labeled the immorality of the Vietnam invasion. Had he not been assassinated he might have united the civil rights movement with the anti-war movement. Abbie had been in SNCC the others had connections to the civil rights organizations. Had the African Americans listened to King sort out connections to the anti-war movement and the anti-imperialist faction of the movement sort out connections to the civil rights veterans both would have protected themselves and doubled their power. Of course, the cross over requires some variation of class solidarity. Once class solidarity can conflate ID politics a substantial anti-imperialist movement inside the US has a chance to erupt.

The Empire’s military foreign policy funded by 934 billion is as great an effect on life inside and outside the US territory as the pandemic, the economic disorder and the looming climate warming ecological catastrophe even racism when Ferguson and Gaza are united. In a time of crisis, the Empire weakens. For the poetic amongst us: Everything under heaven is in utter chaos; the situation is excellent.

RG Davis made the documentary Chicago Conspiracy Eight (1970).


1. Zizek, S. Mapping Ideology 1994.

2 Zizek, S. The Sublime object of Ideology 1989.

Deus ex machina: a person or thing as (in fiction or drama) that appears or is introduced suddenly and unexpectedly and provides a contrived solution to an apparently insoluble difficulty.

Docu-fiction: Using an actual event distorting it with actors, revisions, lies, inventions, clever soap opera scenes, in naturalistic format-it looks real – all disasters ending in a successful return to normalcy.

Raskin, Jonah January 4, 2021. COUNTERPUNCH

The Real Chicago 8 Movie: R.G. Davis Gets it Right

Kagan, Jeremy  1987  Conspiracy: The Trial of the Chicago 8

Far more accurate in sticking to the transcript. Original defendants in the film as well.

Jameson, Frederick. “Class and Allegory in Contemporary. Mass Culture: Dog Day Afternoon as a Political Film.” 1977.


R.G.Davis directed Brecht’s Exception and the Rule 1965 again in Australia 1972. Directed US premier of Brecht’s Turandot or Congress of Whitewashers 1969. Founded Epic West Center for the Study of Bertolt Brecht and Epic Theatre, in Berkeley 1975 -1980. Produced Messingkauf Dialogues Directed by Carl Weber at Epic West.