Fear and Loathing in America: LSD and the Freak Politics of the 1960s

David Parsons at Online

Thu, Jun 25 at 8 p.m.   |   75 minutes
Olios: Drop-in classes led by professors

In this Olio, we’ll examine the impact and influence of LSD on American culture and politics in the 1960s. As the drug became popular among a wide range of radical thinkers, artists, and activists, a kind of “freak politics” attempted to merge personal transcendence and political liberation.

First discovered by Swiss chemist Albert Hofmann in 1943, lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) was used by psychiatrists throughout the 1950s to treat a variety of conditions, from depression to alcoholism. Over the course of the 1960s, though, LSD (or “acid” as it became commonly known) evolved from clinical tool to countercultural sacrament, as millions of Americans ingested the drug for its psychedelic, seemingly mystical properties. For a generation of young people raised in the culture of the Cold War, the “acid trip” became a collective rite of passage into an alternative vision of reality.  

In this Olio, we’ll examine the impact and influence of LSD on American culture and politics in the 1960s. As the drug became popular among a wide range of radical thinkers, artists, and activists, a kind of “freak politics” attempted to merge personal transcendence and political liberation. We’ll take a look at the Diggers’ efforts to create a “free community” in the Haight-Ashbury, the ritual to “levitate” the Pentagon at an antiwar demonstration in 1967, U.S. soldiers tripping in Vietnam, Hunter S. Thompson’s “Freak Power” campaign for sheriff in Colorado, the militant insurgency of the Weather Underground, and other highlights of a wild historical moment, as we seek to understand how a mysterious drug took American politics through the looking glass.  

Teacher: David Parsons

David Parsons, Ph.D., received his doctorate in History from the Graduate Center of the City University of New York (CUNY). He is a professor and writer whose work focuses on the political, social, and cultural history of 20th century America. He teaches courses in U.S. history and media at California State University, Channel Islands, and hosts a long-running weekly podcast on history and politic


Venue: Online

Zoom link will be sent upon signup.

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Think Olio is here to put the liberation back into the liberal arts.

Classically, the liberal arts, were the education considered essential for a free person to take an active part in civic life. To counter a humanities that has been institutionalized and dehumanized we infuse critical thinking, openness, playfulness, and compassion into our learning experience.

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Liaisons Host an Olio

Olio: A miscellaneous collection of art and literature.