ACID DREAMS by Martin Lee and Bruce Shlain

by JF

The subtitle to this book is “The Complete Social History of LSD: The CIA, The Sixties, and Beyond,” and as far as the beyond goes, this was written back in 1985, but it reads like something that was published today, such is the ongoing, albeit clandestine, history of the Orwellian “War on Drugs” in America.

Most Americans don’t know the real history of the origin behind LSD, and how it came to be ubiquitous in this country. It emanated from a “Cold War” project of the CIA which sought to find a “truth serum” for spies and other political prisoners. The CIA was so smitten with the LSD formula that the entire department began acting like a bunch of overgrown children with a new forbidden toy, and it wasn’t long before many of the CIA’s professional “researchers” began dosing one another up for fun and giggles. Then, when the fun ran out of that, the attention-deficited boys at the CIA research department were precociously patriotic enough to begin secretly dosing innocent American citizens, even setting up “safe houses” in San Francisco with two-way mirrors and employing prostitutes to lure unsuspecting whore-mongers into coming over and drinking a mickey they no doubt never forgot, and all the while the peeping tom CIA “researchers” were getting their jollies off behind the mirror and probably even jotting down a few notes here and there. Though LSD failed to consistently perform effectively as a “truth syrum,” it was recognized as a tremendous weapon in controlling populations via “psy-ops.”

Thus, it wasn’t long after this “Cold War research” that LSD began to appear en masse on the streets in San Francisco, just in time to confuse and defuse the then-burgeoning anti-Vietnam War movement.

This is a fascinating tale, and the history here is so ambiguous and strange that the story itself, as written by these two highly competent writers and researchers, begins to resemble the effects of LSD itself. This is a truly masterful job of metaphorical writing by Lee and Shlain, and one that is seldom seen in non-fiction prose. In discussing so many of the colorful and often shady whack-jobs who peopled the popular LSD movement in the late 60s and early 70s, the authors themselves evince real confusion over whether this or that LSD scion was truly a popular revolutionary, or if he was a spy sent in to infiltrate the movement, etc, etc.

The 60s and the story behind LSD could easily be the most byzantine era ever produced by this sick nation’s history, but this book makes the most sense of it that this reader has ever encountered. There is a tremendous amount to be gleaned here and, as usual, here is yet another hugely significant book that every single American should read but never ever will. Sigh.

Rating: Δ Δ Δ Δ Δ
11/2009

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