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Parent Issue
Day
17
Month
January
Year
1975
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YOl HA VE A LEMON, MAKF. .ƒ- MONADE; Memoirs ofg l.unatk Decade. Warren Hinkle. l'utnam. 'sN.(5. The close of the decade of i he Sixties. saw the departure ot' many major radical institutions from the politica! landscape. One notable exception is Ramparts magazine. Founded in 1962 as a volee of liberal Catholic laity, it developed irrto one of the mosi nfluential publica tions of the amorphous movemeni known as the New Left. Today. Ramparts continúes to provide a radical critique of the absujdities and injustices of our society, and remains one of the more widely read and icspected ournals of the meiican left. The individual most responsible for Ramparts transilion hom smalt; liberal Catholic quarterly wit h a circulation ota few thousand inlo a magazine selling over a quarter million monthly was Wanen Hiqkle. In )nt linea f.i'ifum, Uaki' l.enumaile. Ilinkle tells the story of 11 is education in the parochial school system in San Francisco, hts college years under the Jesuiis at the University of San Francisco, and of hisseven turbulent years at Ramparts. Hinkle's interest in journalism began early . and he served as editor of both his high school and the USF paper. He was reporting for the San Francisco Chronicle when approached by tdward Keaiing to take the position of promotional director at Ramparts. During liis seven years with the magazine. Hinkle pushed Ramparts to national prominence with a style of aggressive investigative reporting tliat enabled it to score coup after journalistic coup in uncovering the abuses of many of America's most esteemed institutions. Hinkle's delightful use of imagery and detail, as well as his omnipresent cynicism make the telling as entertaining as the story itself. The book also tells much about the author himself, and it reveáis the ideosyncratic personal style which make working with and under him difficult. The first target of Ramparts muckraking was the institution from which it had originally sprung -the Catholic Church. Some of the magazine's early jabs at the Church included a major critique of Catholic higher education; support for The Deputy, a play highly critical of the inaction of Pope Pius in the face of the extermination of the European Jewish community by the Nazis; and revelation of the important role played by the Catholic hierarchy in promoting U.S. intervention on behalf of the repressive Diem regime in South Vietnam. It was, in fact, the Church's support of Diem wliich put Ramparts on the scent of the story which was to be its central focus for the next eiglit years-the war in Vietnam. Ramparts was an early, vocal, and consistent critic of American presence in Vietnam. Throughout the decade, it printed anieles which revealed the roots of American involvement in the affairs of the South Vietnamese regime and laid bare the lies and distortions used by successive Washington administrations to justify increasing military intervention in that country. It must be remembered that in the mid-Sixties, the U.S. role in Vietnam was supported by virtually the whole political spectrum, from red-baiting Richard Nixon to Socialist Norman Thomas. At first. Ramparts was virtually a lone voice in opposition to the war, but its position was ultimately vindicated. In late WM.Rampans published a story by RoberJ Scheer -later to become editor at the magazine which examined the roots of American involvement in Vietnam. The article showed liow the U.S., seeking a non-Communist alternative to Ho Chi Minh, had discovered Ngo Dinh Diem and set him in power. The piece also showed how the U.S. deliberately subverted the (cueva Accord provisión tor tree elections in Vietnam because it feared that Hu Chi Minh would be the victor. The February. 1966 issue featured a cover story on Donald Duncan. a tonner Green Beret. Having experienced 18 montlis with the Special Forces in Vietnam, Duncan revealed the complete failure of the much-touted "Pacification Program" in attempting to win over the hearts of the Vietnamese to the Saigon government. Duncan'sevaluation was amply borne out by the Viet Cong successes in the 1968 Tet Offensive, which finally convinced tens of millions of Americans that victory was impossible in the war. In April of 1966, Rum par ts printed a story which uncovered the role of Michigan State University in creatinga democratie fa cade tor the Diem regime, while also providing training for the secret pólice which enabled Diem to suppress any dissent lo his government. Ramparts revealed that members of the faculty of MSU under the direction of the CIA had written the paper conslitution whose democratie features were much quoted bv proponents oi U.S. support for Diem.llowever., at the same time MSU colleagues were providing the Soutli Vietnamese dictator with the tools, which he used io malee thal document meaningless. In 1968, Ramparts published a story implicating ilien President K and other high South Vio hui mese officials in heroin smuggling foj U.S. markets, a revelation which was instrumental in ky"s rjtrwnfall. The U.S. tntelligence network was anoiIil'i target of famparft 'muckraking. In ll(-7. the magazine printed ar) ai i iele which described how the CIA had provided substantia] subsidies to the National Student Assoclation so thal NS members could provide ntelligence information on foreign students to the ag_ency I he resul t ing scandal foi eed ( 'ongress to termínate Ihe subsidy program. Another Ramparts piece, published in 1 970, revealed thal American radio surveillance, ol the Soviet Union, was so extensive, thal the U.S. mrlttary was monitoring transmissions from Communisl l'aii Chiei BrezhneVs car, and could pinpoinl 1 1 1 o lo catión of every taxi in Moscou. Plus carne out ai i time when Defense officials were claiming thal the U.S. was lagging behind the U.S.S.R. in intelligente capacit) and üsking foi large funding increases fot monitoring the Soviets. While Ramparts was achieving gieai journalistic successes, ïis Hnancial picture was much loss bright. Continually operating at a deficit, atul saddled witli huge dehts trom its initial expansión, the magaine was torced to constantly seek oul new investors to keep itself afloat. With traditional souices of capital unavailable to il because of the publication's ancomproniising railical editorial stance. Ramparts' taitón found it necessary to look for rich lettists willing to underwrite the magaine. When this source finally petered out in 1969, Ramparts filed for bankruptcy. At this point. Warren Hinkle left the magazine, and a new phaseof Ramparts began. To piece the story of Ramparts lince 1969 together, I spoke with some current staffers at the magaine. Ramparts went thiough soveral years ot' directionless drifting following Hinkle's departure. Forced tü opérate with a reduced staff and sharply curtailed budget. Ramparts nu longer had the resources to do the type of investigative reporting which had established its reputation. At this time other publications had taken over reporting which liad been Ramparts exclusive province. It underwent several years of dropping circulation until it found itself in 1973 with less than a quarter of the readership that it had at its late Sixties peak. During this period, Ramparts undercontinued on page 18 Book Review continued (rom page 13 went a second bankruptcy proceeding and reorganization. In the past year. however. the circulation has stabilized. The curren l editors teel thal this is a resull of a new sense of direction and purpose whlch the magazine has evolved. One aspect of the new role whieh Ramparis is pkiying, according to cm rent edi(ors Patricia Shell and David Kolodney. is acting as a local point. a "nexus" tor the varied struggles which makeup the contemporary radical movemënt. This is parlicularly necessary, tliey point out, in a period whemio single direction such as opposition to the Vietnam War unifies the lelt. Thus. Ramparis luis done m-depth reporting on welfare rights organizing, the United Farm.jWorkers the ac'ivities of environmentalists and alternative energy advocates, to give several examples. In its coveiage. the magazine attempts to show huw these diverse efforts have a unity of purpose and a cominon opponent. This is seen by the statïas a matured vimuii. Wliere the Ramparis of the Sixties raised an otitraged voice at the scandals of the Catholic Church, racism, and the War. the contemporary Ramparts operates witli the understanding that . as stated in the stalt motto. "The system is a scandal." Bevond offering a critique of the American system. Ramparis is providing a forum tor ideas on how to cope with the serious problems which conlïont our society adjustment at the end of rapid economie growth. the need foi new sources of energy. the effects of more equitable trade relations witli the rest of the world, and the global food crisis, to name a few. "In the Sixties," says David Kolodney, "we were iconoclasts because we didn't believe. Now, we are iconoclasts because we believe ( t hut solutions can be found)". Having found a new direction. and possessing a revived sense of purpose, Raniparts should serve a purpose in coming years as vital as the one it served under Warren Hinkle in the "lunatic decade" of the Sixties.