The Things You Overhear

Wandering around the Berkeley campus is a source of endless amusement, like spotting the old fossils pictured nearby advocating our celebration of the 100th anniversary of the Russian Revolution that rolls around in another few days. Even at Berzerkeley, there were few takers. No one was stopping at their table to pick up any flyers.

And then there’s the things you overhear. A speaker at a conference on campus this week made reference to a recent David Brooks column where Brooks compared Donald Trump to the old sixties-era provocateur Abbie Hoffman:

In the late 1960s along came a group of provocateurs like Abbie Hoffman, Jerry Rubin and the rest of the counterculture to upend the Protestant establishment. People like Hoffman were buffoons, but also masters of political theater. . .

So in 2016, members of the outraged working class elected their own Abbie Hoffman as president. Trump is not good at much, but he is wickedly good at sticking his thumb in the eye of the educated elites. He doesn’t have to build a new culture, or even attract a majority. He just has to tear down the old one.

Well, you can’t say this kind of thing to a Berkeley audience, because Hoffman is a hero of legend, while Trump is Hitler. So the conversation with the speaker (a lefty) after his talk went like this:

First person: It’s totally wrong to compare Hoffman to Trump! Trump is president; Hoffman was just an activist! Big difference!

Second person: That’s right! We need to flame David Brooks in the Comments section at the Times!

Yeah, I’m sure flaming more people in the Comments section at the Times will bring about social revolution. Hoffman must be rolling over in his grave.


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