Rare Medium

Hand Me That Rake

A Ramparts magazine retrospective is a reminder of the eroded state of contemporary journalism.

Book CoverIf you need a reminder of how degraded, sycophantic, lazy, smug, boring, and predictable contemporary journalism has become, San Francisco State University mentor Peter Richardson's (American Prophet: The Life and Work of Carey McWilliams) A Bomb in Every Issue: How the Short, Unruly Life of Ramparts Magazine Changed America (The New Press) accounts for the brief, sparkling life of Ramparts magazine (1962-1975), which carried on in the best American muckraking tradition, winning awards and exposing numerous government depredations, illegalities, and worse (e.g., the use of napalm in Vietnam).

With a national circulation of 250,000 and a list of contributors that includes Warren Hinckle, Robert Scheer, Eldridge Cleaver, Adam Hochschild, David Horowitz (yes, that David Horowitz), Jessica Mitford, Christopher Hitchens, Jann Wenner, Tom Hayden, Todd Gitlin, Thomas Merton, Paul Krassner, Peter Collier, Michael Lerner, Susan Griffin, Noam Chomsky, César Chávez, Seymour Hersh, Angela Davis, and Susan Sontag, we have ample clues to why the San Francisco-based magazine was so influential.

Looking over today's bland, commerce-driven media landscape, only Mother Jones, Scheer's Truthdig (both legacies of Ramparts), and TomDispatch show any signs of intent to rabble-rouse--sadly a nearly extinct practice.
blog comments powered by Disqus