Agents of Chaos: Thomas King Forçade, High Times, and the Paranoid End of the 1970’s by Sean Howe
Hardcover – Hachette – Aug 2023 – 421 pages
At the end of the 1960s, the mysterious Tom Forçade suddenly appeared, insinuating himself into the top echelons of countercultural politics and assuming control of the Underground Press Syndicate, a coalition of newspapers across the country. Weathering government surveillance and harassment, he embarked on a landmark court battle to obtain White House press credentials. But his audacious exploits—pieing Congressional panelists, stealing presidential portraits, and picking fights with other activists—led to accusations that he was an agent provocateur.
As the era of protest faded and the dark shadows of Watergate spread, Forçade hoped that marijuana could be the path to cultural and economic revolution. Bankrolled by drug-dealing profits, High Times would be the Playboy of pot, dragging a once-taboo subject into the mainstream. The magazine was a travelogue of globe-trotting adventure, a wellspring of news about “the business,” and an overnight success. But High Times soon threatened to become nothing more than the “hip capitalism” Forçade had railed against for so long, and he felt his enemies closing in.
Assembled from exclusive interviews, archived correspondences, and declassified documents, Agents of Chaos is a tale of attacks on journalism, disinformation campaigns, governmental secrecy, corporatism, and political factionalism. Its triumphs and tragedies mirror the cultural transformations of 1970s America, wrought by forces that continue to clash in the spaces between activism and power.