Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Washington Free Press, February 1st 1969 / Quicksilver Times, November 10th 1970

Well...never believe me when I say what's next. I didn't get any post time for Liberty this weekend, and I'm going to instead first post a couple more underground papers. I scanned these last week, and I feel like posting some material that is fresh in my mind for a change. Big thanks to McCoy for great edits on both of these, the Quicksilver was truly trashed. Both of these papers come from the D.C. scene, the Washington Free Press issue marks the counter-inauguration of Nixon, and the Quicksilver Times points to a further radicalization of the press. These are the first D.C. papers I've laid hands on, but I've been curious about the Washington Free Press since reading Raymond Mungo's Famous Long Ago (which you can read here). Mungo's book, written about the time tonight's issues span, describes the rise and fall (from Mungo's point of view) of the Liberation News Service (wiki here), an organization meant to provide news to many of the underground papers across the country. Mungo's book centers around a power struggle within the LNS between the politically-oriented "vulgar marxists" and the original founders of the LNS, Mungo and Marshall Bloom. In August of 1968, the situation at LNS comes to a head with a schism between these groups. You can see the original NYT reportage here though you'll get a much better narrative from Mungo's Book. The schism at the LNS would be repeated at many papers (I'm thinking about papers like the Boson AVATAR, New York Rat, or Berkeley Barb/Tribe) where where the politically-minded sort of "take over" or break away from the original editorship. Years of activism in the peace movement had met with little result in ending the war, and there was a growing sentiment that more extreme tactics were necessary. During this time, LNS shared a house downtown with the Washington Free Press, so Mungo's book includes mention of many staffers from tonight's first paper.


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Get a scan of the entire issue here.

The Washington Free Press began in 1966 and was published as a biweekly. The paper's original founders and editors included Michael Grossman, Arthur Grosman and former State Department employee William Blum (whose name-checking by Bin Laden has apparently hurt his appeal on the university lecture circuit - see wiki. Mungo's book likes to poke fun at the frequent meetings at the Washington Free Community. Perhaps a bit of what he writes about is on display in first couple pages of this issue that lay out the proper mindset.


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A common feature in the underground press, the outing of narcs.


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A chronicling of the events surrounding the counter-inauguration of Nixon with running commentary at the center of the page


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I think this book review might be the most interesting part of this issue, a book review of a supposedly neutral and objective tract from the writers of the Washington Post. Mungo describes the DC riots in his book, and it's interesting to see here how the underground press calls out the inclusiveness and objectivity of the mainstream's reportage. The way The Movement interpreted/was fueled by/appropriated the urban uprisings of the 60s seems pretty complex. Certainly the riots fed the notion you'll see in both of tonight's papers that the revolution has already begun or is right around the corner.


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A two page spread from Jerry Rubin, Emergency Letter to My Brothers and Sisters in the Movement.


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The Centerfold is a funky 2-sided jobber, one-side with a somewhat incomprehensible graphic, very new age, and the other is a set of two visual poems by Allen Ginsberg.


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And the back cover, a concert poster in the Fillmore style. Artists like Victor Moscoso and Rick Griffin took lettering and exploded it. Text as art, some of this stuff would fuel graffiti styles. In Laguna Art Museum's superb recent book on Griffin, Heart and Torch, Chaz Bojorquez credits Griffin as birthing the west coast style of graffiti. Some of the posters in this style are very wild, you have to either concentrate very hard or concentrate not at all to see the words...


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And our second paper tonight comes from the tail end of 1970


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Get a scan of the entire issue here.

This publication is entirely new to me, and I couldn't really find out much about it on the web. It ran from June of 1969 through August of 1972 and was published every 3 weeks. I'd call this a fairly radical paper, but really it's just a reflection of the increasingly political and desperate nature of The Movement. A quick aside on what a quick web search did turn up, this paper, like many others along with the LNS, was a target of government infiltration. One of the less-often told stories of the history of the times is the widespread covert actions the government took to spy upon and sow dissent within various groups. Agents sought discord among groups from the these papers to the Black Panthers to the American Indian Movement and all other manner of leftist organizations (wiki on COINTELPRO acronym for Counter Intelligence Program here). As the movement begain to splinter in this period, the activity and known existence of agents among the organizations of the left led to an atmosphere of intense paranoia that did not foster harmony. Angus Mackenzie's Secrets: The CIA's War at Home has some material on an agent who infiltrated the Quicksilver Times which you can see some of here. Susan Tichy, an author and poet who worked at the Quicksilver Times reflects on the war and expresses surprise that she had dated this agent here.

A little reportage by the paper on a traditional peace march points to the feeling The Movement was changing, becoming more complex and there was a feeling that new approaches were necessary. Headlined:





Many did not want peace per se but revolution, some by any means necessary. I'll be frank and admit that as a pacifist much of this material puts me off, but I also understand that in the face of the horrors of the Vietnam War many were pushed to the extremes. Here we see Norman Spinrad, author of the science fiction classic Bug Jack Barron, writing that indeed the revolution had already begun. I see again and again how many people were certain that revolution was at hand and that a new order was on the way, I guess this is a zeitgeist that it's hard to relate to unless you were there. In any case, Spinrad's chilling article here will no doubt bring up issues that echo our current dialogue on terror, and indeed I think it's very important that we acknowledge that there was a time not so long ago when many people in our very own country felt desperate enough in the face of federal rule to consider violence an option. Fast forward to Oklahoma City and the recent attack on the IRS by plane and consider that terrorism is weapon that has been used and will continue to be used by all manners of desperate souls...


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Wild, man. And the wildness continues, the paper prints this page which tries to tie violence to class struggle and as a preface to pages on weapons making. Chilling stuff, and I admit I am disturbed as a pacifist to scan it, but I put aside these reservations as a scanner, as History ought be preserved in toto, eh? This material is very relevant in my eyes to our current situation regarding fear of government. This fear of fascism and government crackdown has been echoed recently in the conservative media, it's pretty interesting how such wildly different ideologies might share the same feelings of disenfranchisement and fear of the government...


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But not to leave on such a downer note, one last image, from the classifieds in back. These papers ought be taken in context and that includes an appreciation of ads, letter columns, graphics, etc., and I have great fun reading through these little notices pulled out of the time-stream.



I'll be returning to the topic of the underground press on and off in the future, as really it was the main motivator for the creation of this blog, and these papers continue to fascinate me every time I open one. Scan yours today!

5 comments:

Ryan Shepard said...

Thanks very much for posting these - hope you'll consider scanning more DC underground press material in the future.

jbdclaw said...

In August 2010, I donated the entire publication history of the Quicksilver Times Newspaper to the Newsmuseum in Washington, DC. I am hoping they will scan the articles and make theme available on-line.

Ryan Shepard said...

You donated a complete run of the paper?

Bob Sumner said...

I was in the QT collective for it's short life. I've lost track of most of the collective other than two who live in NYC. I knew Sal well and to my memory there was considerable concern about him before he disappeared after declining to move in and join the collective.I can be reached at laborunion@cox.net super

Stannous Flouride said...

I worked on QT too in 70-71. I wish I could open the file but none of my Apple tools work.