Norman Mailer, the hipsters of 1969 and a new breed of “pyschic outlaws”…

A nice slice of Norman Mailer running for the Democratic ticket in the New York Mayoral campaign of 1969, courtesy of Adam Curtis’s BBC blog, who then goes on to make this observation of a class of person that Mailer’s (not very successful) electoral appeal drew towards, namely the ‘hipsters’:

…this new breed of “psychic outlaw” could be equally a candidate for the most reactionary or the most radical of political movements. And in the film there is a fascinating scene where Mailer takes on the trades unions on one of the avenues in New York. He tells them that in the past they were a heroic movement – but that now they have become a repressive, stultifying force in society – in particular in the way they are refusing to allow blacks and hispanics to move up society.

It is an odd moment because as you watch you realise that it was elements of this rebellious individualism that both Thatcher and Reagan would later harness. And that possibly, if the left had got hold of it earlier, then the history of the West might have been very different.

It’s an odd moment certainly, and one you won’t find too often in professional politics… There’s also a moment in which he’s almost a bystander on street corner in a black district with two voters hammering out the fundamentals of US politics: i.e., the mandated idea; and the capacity for practical implementation of such ideas. Tie that into the moment near the end, when Mailer’s father tellingly says, “I don’t want him to win. If he wins, he loses”…

The whole thing is slow moving (so you’ll want to take some time to watch the full forty minutes), but it is priceless in its telling detail…

Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty