Saturday, September 26, 2009

Ramparts and Bay Area radicalism in the sixties

From David Horowitz's website, part of an interview with SF State professor Peter Richardson, who has just published a history of Ramparts Magazine, which I read religiously as a young San Francisco rad. I post this not because I agree with Horowitz on a lot of issues, but because the interview and the book---which I haven't read---deals with a Bay Area "cast of characters," including Warren Hinckle, who still has his hand in, more or less, with a website.

"Front Page: Can you tell us a bit about the cast of characters and what they went on to afterwards? How about the staffers who ended up repudiating the magazine's politics for one reason or another?

Well, it was a very colorful cast. I've already mentioned Keating and Cleaver. The other key players were Warren Hinckle, who brought a lot of showmanship to the magazine. Art director Dugald Stermer was an important part of the magazine's success. The addition of Robert Scheer took Ramparts to another level. You might say that Hinckle, Stermer, and Scheer were the band. When they got together, fireworks happened. And I don't think the magazine could have succeeded without any of them.

Hinckle left the magazine in 1969, when it declared bankruptcy for the first time. He formed Scanlan's, which only published eight issues, but one of them teamed Hunter S. Thompson and illustrator Ralph Steadman. So Hinckle helped launch Gonzo journalism. Of course, former Ramparts staffer Jann Wenner later published Thompson's most famous work at Rolling Stone.

Scheer and Stermer departed later that year, when David Horowitz and Peter Collier took over the magazine. Scheer eventually landed at the Los Angeles Times and now edits Truthdig. Stermer is a faculty member at the California College of the Arts in San Francisco.

Right, several staff members later repudiated the magazine's politics. The key figures there are David Horowitz and Peter Collier, who ran Ramparts from 1969 and left in 1973, two years before its collapse in 1975. They've been very active, often together, on a number of fronts since. But there were others, too, including Sol Stern. Stern wrote or contributed to many of the magazine's big stories. He's now at the Manhattan Institute. Brit Hume was actually at Ramparts for a short time. He was never a leftist, but as a Jack Anderson protégé, he was a muckraker and served as the magazine's DC correspondent before joining ABC News and then Fox.

Everyone's story is a bit different, but the main two bones of contention were the Black Panthers and Israel. In Radical Son, Horowitz cited the murder of Ramparts bookkeeper Betty Van Patter, purportedly by the Black Panthers, as the beginning of his move to the right. For Stern, it was Israel. He was born there and later fell in love with the country, married an Israeli, and began to part ways with colleagues who were more critical of Israel..."

The rest of the interview.

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