Vox Populi

A Public Sphere for Poetry, Politics, and Nature

Abby Zimet: Warren Hinckle, Godfather of Gonzo Journalism, Dies

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.”

First published in CommonDreams. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License.
hink_big_920x920Running for mayor. Photo by Eric Luse, San Francisco Chronicle


Warren Hinckle and police officers Marty Saco and Ross Laflin taking him out the Chronicle on Feb. 14, 1985.

Police officers escort Warren Hinckle out of the offices of  the San Francisco Chronicle on Feb. 14, 1985.

One comment on “Abby Zimet: Warren Hinckle, Godfather of Gonzo Journalism, Dies

  1. sharondoubiago
    August 30, 2016

    Warren Hinckle’s funeral is starting in a half hour down this hill, in big view, in a half hour. Some talk of attending but our view is probably adequate to do homage–and observe. And I haven’t been in a Catholic building since about the age of 9. I certainly wouldn’t know how to dress–or have such. I wonder if he is being in protest to it being there?!

    Liked by 1 person

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