He levitated the Pentagon, brought down Lyndon B. Johnson, shamed Richard Nixon, challenged Wall Street and pioneered a cultural revolution.
Sometimes I still hear his Brooklyn meets Boston accent when I think about Abbie Hoffman, his family or his legacy. I directed Steal This Movie to capture what I consider to be Abbie's greatest gift: using satire and culture to impact and inspire people to take action. Steal This Movie was the last narrative film I did, and Abbie inspires me to this day.
Abbie died 22 years ago this month and that's got me thinking about what he would do to stop the Koch brothers.
Remember when he nominated a pig for president at the 1968 Democratic National Convention? Whether it was the Vietnam War, income inequality or environmental causes, Abbie always struck the right note.
That's how I first heard his name. His action on Wall Street — where he literally threw cash down to the floor of the New York Stock Exchange — merged intrigue and interest with activism in a way no one had even conceived of. He believed in never making it boring, which is advice I've followed as a young New Yorker picketing and protesting lunch counter segregation at the Harlem Woolworth's, and later as a director and political activist.
But behind the strategic humor and laughs was a serious and lifelong conversation about the haves and have-nots. Abbie would be disgusted at how much money there is in politics today. I know he'd have a few zingers aimed squarely at the big corporations that have demonstrated they own what Abbie would refer to as “the whole pickle.”
That's why I know Abbie would take on the Kochs full throttle. More than anyone else today, the Kochs have a thirst for unchecked power, and that's a trait Abbie detested.
That two oil scions could amass $43 billion in wealth and spend $324 million exerting political influence would have infuriated him. But it also would've inspired Abbie, because it is a fight about the lifeblood of our democracy, which is at stake today.
Let's make Abbie our muse as we think about ways to stop the Koch brothers quest to remake our democracy in their image. Our Koch Brothers Exposed and Brave New Foundation videos are meant to be equal parts informative, entertaining and engaging. It's a model with Abbie's fingerprints.
Thinking about Abbie today, I wager he'd acknowledge social media as the great force for democratization. He'd have an iPhone (after all, Jerry Rubin was an early Apple investor), he'd have a page on Facebook and would interact with critics, imitators and allies through Twitter. His YouTube channel would feature young protesters everywhere from Cairo to Madison, WI.
I can only image how his LinkedIn profile would read.