In the Beginning We All Believed: Ramparts' Warren Hinckle Dies

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Running for mayor. Photo by Eric Luse, San Francisco Chronicle

Warren Hinckle, the progressive, flamboyant, truth-telling, hard-drinking editor and writer who earned the moniker "godfather of gonzo journalism" by publicizing the likes of Noam Chomsky, Eldridge Cleaver, Susan Sontag, Hunter Thompson, Seymour Hersh and Che Guevara, has died at 77. As editor of San Francisco's muckraking Ramparts in the 1960s, he was credited with turning the country's moral compass by publishing early denunciations of the Vietnam War, Cleaver's prison letters, Guevara's diaries and investigative pieces exposing CIA recruitment on college campuses, which won Ramparts the prestigious George Polk Award and the reputation of offering "a bomb in every issue." When Ramparts went broke, he went on to start Scanlan’s Monthly, and then to decades of activism and newspaper columns for San Francisco's Chronicle and Examiner.

Hinckle's mantra for writing and editing: “First you decide what’s wrong, then you go out to find the facts to support that view, and then you generate enough controversy to attract attention.” Always, reads one obituary, Hinckle "delighted in tweaking anyone in charge of anything and muckraking for what he fiercely saw as the common good." He was startlingly prescient about America's "professional megabuck politics," and the need to challenge conventional wisdom. Hinckle starts his 1974 autobiography, 'If You Have a Lemon, Make Lemonade': "In the beginning, we all believed. We believed in many things, but mostly in America...It could be said that the youth of America, who had so recently studied it in civics classes, tested the system — and it flunked.”

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Waiting to speak at a public hearing. Photo by Mike Kepka

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