My high school didn't have a baseball team, but the local American
Legion post wanted to co-sponsor a team with a local automobile dealer,
so I tried out and made the team. I was the only one who brought a
shoehorn to all the games to help put on my spiked shoes. My parents
brought a pitcher of orange juice.
Every Sunday morning I became a living parody of a Norman Rockwell
painting on the cover of the Saturday Evening Post. I would be wearing my
uniform with the American Legion logo on the front and "Universal
Cars--Sales & Service" on the back, riding my bicycle on my newspaper
route, with my dog Skippy in the basket.
Frank Sinatra became my role model when I was an adolescent and he
made a 10-minute film, "The House I Live In." The lyrics of the title
song inspired my idealism: "All races, all religions, that's America to
me. . . . The right to speak my mind out, that's America to me."
I wanted to be a G-man--an FBI agent--when I grew up. I was such a
patriotic kid. But things change, and I became disillusioned.
In school I had to do a report on a political candidate. I chose Vito
Marcantonio, who was running for mayor of New York. I didn't know
anything about him except that Sinatra was supporting his campaign and
sang at a fund-raiser. Marcantonio was running on the American Federation
of Labor ticket, but my teacher called him a Communist, got very agitated
and phoned my parents.
At home I learned that the Constitution didn't guarantee the
separation of politics and culture. One of my favorite songs, "But Not
For Me," included the phrase, "More clouds of gray than any Russian play
could guarantee," but on the radio I heard an altered version: "More
clouds of gray than any Broadway play could guarantee." The Cold War was
Flash ahead to October 1968. An FBI agent was reading a profile of me
in Life magazine. He sat down at his typewriter, creatively trying to
choose every word so carefully that it would reek of verisimilitude, as
he composed a letter to the editor on plain stationery: "Your recent
issue, which devoted three pages to the aggrandizement of underground
editor Paul Krassner, was too, too much. You must be hard up for
"Am I asking the impossible by requesting that Krassner and his ilk be
left in the sewers where they belong? That a national magazine of your
fine reputation (till now that is) would waste time and effort on the
cuckoo editor of an unimportant, smutty little rag is incomprehensible to
me. Gentlemen, you must be aware that The Realist is nothing more than
blatant obscenity .... To classify Krassner as some sort of 'social
rebel' is far too cute. He's a nut, a raving, unconfined nut ...."
The letter was signed "Howard Rasmussen, Brooklyn College, School of
General Studies." Before mailing the letter to the magazine, "Rasmussen"
was required to send a copy to FBI headquarters in Washington, along with
a memo requesting permission because "the Life article was favorable to
The return memo--approved by J. Edgar Hoover's top two assistants,
Kartha DeLoach and William Sullivan--stated: "Authority is granted to
send [the] letter, signed with a fictitious name .... Krassner is the
editor of The Realist and is one of the moving forces behind the Youth
International Party, commonly known as the Yippies .... This letter
could, if printed by Life, call attention to the unsavory character of
In 1969, the FBI attempt to assassinate my character escalated to a
more literal approach. I discovered this, not in the file kept by
Cointelpro, the FBI's counterintelligence program, but as part of a
separate project calculated to cause rifts between the Jewish and black
The FBI produced a "WANTED" poster featuring a large swastika. In the
four square spaces of the swastika were photos of Yippie leaders Abbie
Hoffman and Jerry Rubin, SDS leader Mark Rudd and myself. Under the
headline "Lampshades! Lampshades! Lampshades! Lampshades!", the copy
referred to "the only solution to Negro problems in America" as being
"the elimination of the Jews," listed in the following order:
"*All Jews connected with the Establishment. *All Jews connected with
Jews connected with the Establishment. *All Jews connected with those
immediately above. *All Jews except those in the Movement. *All Jews in
the Movement except those who dye their skins black. *All Jews. (Look
out, Abbie, Jerry, Mark and Paul!)"
The flyer was approved, once again, by DeLoach and Sullivan:
"Authority is granted to prepare and distribute on an anonymous basis to
selected individuals and organizations in the New Left the leaflet
submitted. . . . Assure that all necessary precautions are taken to
protect the Bureau as the source of these leaflets [which] suggest
facetiously the elimination of these leaders [to] create further ill
feeling between the New Left and the black nationalist movement . . . ."
And if some overly militant African American had obtained that flyer
and "eliminated" one of those "New Left leaders who are Jewish," the
FBI's bureaucratic behind would be covered: "We said it was a
facetious suggestion, didn't we?"
Now, a few decades later, the FBI is in disarray. And, rather than
censoring song lyrics, the White House Office of National Drug Control
Policy has budgeted $195 million for five years of an anti-drug media
campaign, including $800,000 to the 'N Sync Web site management team,
Music Vision, so that the popular group will instill in youth the notion
that "mind reading, scary movies and hand puppets" are anti-drug
measures. However, mind reading isn't anti-drug; mind control is.
The Vietnam War evolved into the Drug War, and the military-industrial
complex has become the prison-industrial complex. In the United States of
Marketing, patriotism has been replaced by consumerism. Adbusters
magazine is distributing American flags with the 50 stars being replaced
by 50 megacorporate logos.
The paradox of America is that, while the nation seethes with
corruption, we still have the freedom to expose that corruption. It's a
Political satirist Paul Krassner is the author of "Sex, Drugs and the Twinkie Murders: 40 Years of Countercultural Journalism" (Loompanics, 2000)
Copyright © 2001 Los Angeles Times