Though modern American protests have a different identity from vivacious 1960s counterculture journalism, the notion that underground culture is dead is misdirected. The American underground culture still lives, it just evolved into something else, something the generations of today can relate to. With hacktivist societies such as LulzSec and Anonymous now part of our culture, it’s hard to dismiss the power of the new counterculture spirit in the nation.
Remember the Occupy Wall Street protests? The similarity between the two movements is their ability to utilize existing means of mass communication. Occupy Wall Street inspired publications took cues from the 60s underground press to offer readers a holistic view that the mainstream media could not provide. The success of Occupy Wall Street was facilitated by social media which provided tools that allowed protestors to organize quickly.
The Role of American Underground Culture in The 60s
Counterculture in the 60s mobilized people to stand up and air their concerns when it mattered. During that time, America was at war in Vietnam and opposition from the American public was growing, and so was the number of civil rights movements in the country. Unlike mainstream media at the time, these publications addressed the public’s concerns in a way that the biggest newspapers in the country couldn’t.
Underground, popularly referred to as ‘Freaks’ — a name they happily embraced — was all about expression of authenticity through individualism. They were deeply suspicious of the government and society, and to them, being true to oneself meant rejecting the middleclass culture. Hippies did not always agree with each other, but their desire for authenticity was the unifying force. The desire for a community as well as an insistence upon individualism were the major pillars of the 60s counterculture spirit.
The Fall of Underground Culture
The underground culture took a hit when mainstream media such as the Washington Post and the New York Times embraced investigative journalism in the 1970s. The notion that only the underground culture could report about political establishment and abuses by corporations was dispelled. However, the advent of the internet, social media, and its penetration has led to the emergence of progressive websites where readers and bloggers try to build a sense of belonging — as a community— but lack the energy of the 60s underground culture.