The first modern use of the word hippie can be traced back to 1965, when Michael Fallon, a San Francisco journalist, used the word to refer to the bohemian lifestyle emerging in the city’s Haight-Ashbury district. (Apparently, Fallon took the word hipster used by Norman Mailer and then shortened it into hippie.) By 1967, the mass media couldn’t stop talking about hippies. It was the Summer of Love in San Francisco, the defining moment of the counterculture, and the rest of the country was scratching its collective head, trying to make sense of it all. Who better to do it than William F. Buckley, the emerging voice of conservative America?
In this classic 1968 episode of Firing Line, Buckley tries to demystify the hippie movement with the help of three guests: Lewis Yablonsky, a professor of sociology and criminology at Cal State-Northridge; Ed Sanders, the activist poet who helped form The Fugs; and then Jack Kerouac, author of the Beat classic, On the Road. In many ways, Kerouac inspired the hippie movement. And he, himself, acknowledges the relationship between the Beats and the hippies. But, in watching this clip, one thing becomes clear: in style and substance, he and the hippies were also worlds apart….
Don’t miss Yale’s lecture on Kerouac and On the Road here.