Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Hellraising Magazine of the 60s

Steven Heller in Print.

Bertrand Russell by Norman Rockwell

In the 1960s, San Francisco’s youth culture of acid rock, underground comix, radical lifestyle movements and, not least, progressive counter-culture journalism (including newsprint tabs like Rolling Stone, The Berkeley Barb and the San Francisco Oracle) shocked and awed the world.

But even more threatening to the established order for their guile and grit were two monthly magazines that went head to toe with the status quo: Ramparts (1962–1975) and Scanlan’s (1970–1971).

Both challenged notions of “fair and balanced” journalism by reporting on what the mainstream dailies and weeklies were afraid to cover.

Originally a liberal Catholic journal, Ramparts magazine was founded by Edward Keating, a respected lawyer. The title referenced the national anthem lyric “the ramparts we watched.” The earliest issues were poorly designed, somewhat like a college literary magazine, with dreary illustrations and an undistinguished layout. 

Keating was a reformer who simply wanted a vehicle by which to challenge conservative Catholicism. Nonetheless, Ramparts evolved into a fearless independent investigative magazine, uncovering government and corporate hypocrisies, promoting civil rights and social justice, while lashing out at communist witch hunters and CIA interventions at home and abroad.

Ralph J. Gleason on Bob Dylan, Ramparts, March 1966

Ramparts was considered the “soft left” until its renegade promotion director, Warren Hinckle II, and Howard Gossage, a San Francisco ad man with activist passions, pushed Keating into the shadows. Hinckle became Ramparts’ crusading editor-in-chief, and a ballsy investigative journalist named Robert Scheer was hired as the publication’s investigative editor.

Dugald Stermer (1936–2011), Ramparts’ art director from 1964–1970, once explained that he designed a deliberately restrained bookish format because it “lent more credibility to what must have seemed then like hysterical paranoid ravings of loonies.” Hinckle never succumbed to partisan politics, but he uncompromisingly saw all sacred cows as moving targets. Scheer was skeptical of all -isms and reported the earliest stories about CIA involvement in the Vietnam War.

John Lennon in How I won the war by Richard Lester, Ramparts, October 1967

The magazine published what would now be called underreported stories, including the confession of a Green Beret sergeant who, years before The New York Times published the Pentagon Papers, disclosed the U.S. government’s lies about Vietnam War policies. 

Stermer said Ramparts’ goal was to “raise hell,” and among the magazine’s bêtes noires was the hypocrisy of liberals who claimed to support social justice but nonetheless maintained a status quo relationship to power. 

Ramparts’ targets included Lyndon Johnson for the Vietnam War build-up, and Robert Kennedy, who was never forgiven for an earlier relationship with Senator Joseph McCarthy.

The complete article here.


"Ramparts: Agent of Change" by Steven Heller in Design Observer.
"How Two Magazines Changed My Life" by Steven Heller in Print.

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