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How to Infuriate a Bank, an Airline, Unions, Printing Companies,
Immigration Authorities, Canadian Police, Vice President Agnew, and
President Nixon in Ten Months: The Scanlan's Monthly Story
If a magazine's achievements can be measured in part by whom and how many
it infuriated in the shortest amount of time, then surely Scanlan's Monthly
deserves to be honored. In its ten-month, eight-issue appearance on U.S.
newsstands in 1970 and 1971, Scanlan's drew the attention—and often the
ire—of business, labor, law enforcement, and government leaders. Scanlan's
also managed to print some of the most provocative muckraking journalism of
HOW TO INFURIATE A BANK, AN AIRLINE, UNIONS,
PRINTING COMPANIES, IMMIGRATION AUTHORITIES,
CANADIAN POLICE, VICE PRESIDENT AGNEW, AND
PRESIDENT NIXON IN TEN MONTHS:
THE SCANLAN'S MONTHLY STORY
Ohio University E.W. Scripps School of Journalism
45 North Shafer St., Apt. A4
Athens, Ohio 45701
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The Scanlan's Monthly Story—
In his 1974 memoir If You Have a Lemon, Make Lemonade, former Scanlan's
Monthly co-editor Warren G. Hinckle III summarized Scanlan's' ten-month,
eight-issue appearance on U.S. newsstands from March 1970 to January 1971:
During the short-lived Scanlan's carnival I became engaged in [a]
ridiculous battle with Spiro Agnew over the alleged pirating of a suspect
memorandum from his office; was censored in Ireland; upbraided by the Bank
of America for instructing love children how to counterfeit its credit
cards; sued for one million dollars by the Chief of Police of Los Angeles;
threatened by Lufthansa Airlines for an innocent editorial prank which they
claimed cost them dearly, and also some other things happened.
Few, if any, critics have accused Warren Hinckle of understatement during
his consistently controversial forty-year career in journalism. But some of
the "other things" that happened to Scanlan's were extraordinarily
atypical. Beside the curious events he described above, Scanlan's was also
subject to a nationwide boycott by lithographers and printers who refused
to work on the magazine's eighth issue and threatened to sabotage it
because it was "un-American," as well as the seizure of that same issue by
Canadian police and U.S. immigration authorities. Scanlan's also managed to
infuriate President Richard Nixon, who requested an FBI investigation into
Scanlan's' accusations against labor leaders whom Nixon invited to a
meeting at the White House, a lawsuit against the magazine, and an Internal
Revenue Service (IRS) audit of Scanlan's and its stockholders. If a
magazine's achievements can be measured in part by whom and how many it
infuriated in the shortest amount of time, then surely Scanlan's deserves
to be honored.
In the midst of such special attention, Scanlan's managed to print some of
the most provocative muckraking journalism of its time. It tackled a
bewildering array of topics: Vietnam atrocities, the murder of a member of
the Black Panther party, Mexico-U.S. marijuana smuggling, CBS' role in a
failed invasion of Haiti, Mark Twain, the environment, Charles Manson,
Russian pornography, the Mafia, counterfeit credit cards, and domestic
guerilla warfare, among others. Scanlan's also published the first examples
of Hunter S. Thompson's now-celebrated "Gonzo journalism," and two years
before anyone outside of Washington, D.C., had heard of Watergate,
Scanlan's called for President Nixon's impeachment.
Scanlan's Monthly was largely the byproduct of the adventurous, agitating,
publicity-seeking, and hard-drinking personality of Hinckle. In the late
1960s, he was well-known as the notorious editor of Ramparts magazine,
America's leading publication of the left. He first began working with
Ramparts in the early 1960s as a publicity man and to this day has never
lost the ability to create a sensation. By 1965, twenty-six-year-old
Hinckle had become executive editor and associate publisher of Ramparts
and, according to Time, had transformed the magazine "from a mediocre
Catholic literary quarterly into a rampaging crusader for leftist causes."
Under Hinckle, Ramparts was a tireless muckraker, exposing the CIA's secret
funding of the U.S. National Students Association, linking secret Michigan
State University research with the CIA, and printing the disclosures of a
former Special Forces sergeant who was taught methods of torture in
Vietnam. Ramparts was a firebrand critic of the Vietnam War, and the
magazine's full-color, provocative covers often conveyed its opposition to
the war as well as its articles and editorials did. Its December 1967 issue
depicted four unidentified hands each clenching a burning draft card
bearing the name of a Ramparts editor; one, of course, bore Hinckle's name.
The cover caused such a stir that the four editors were called before a
federal grand jury for alleged violations of Selective Service laws in June
1968, but the charges were eventually dropped. The magazine's
photography also packed a punch. An issue of Ramparts that featured several
photos of a Vietnamese mother and her lifeless baby, killed by American
bombs, helped inspire Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. to publicly announce his
opposition to the war.
Ex-Ramparts editor Peter Collier captured the style of Ramparts-era
Hinckle, if not his substance, in his book Destructive Generation:
Hinckle liked to think of himself as an old-fashioned newspaperman, a heavy
drinking, muckraking troublemaker in the tradition of Ambrose Bierce and
Citizen Kane. . . . [H]e was almost comically anxious to acquire panache
and cultivated a dandy's style that emphasized patent-leather dancing pumps
and three-piece suits. . . . His trademark was a patch covering a missing
or mutilated eye, whose fate remained a mystery. My son Andrew, then three
years old . . . referred to Warren as "that pirate guy." This was closer to
the truth than he could have known, as the investors Hinckle convinced to
put a king's ransom into Ramparts over the next few years could have
Indeed, Hinckle's ability to raise money for Ramparts, often from bizarre
sources, was as legendary as his ability to spend it. He enticed college
professors, a retired inventor, and a jailed mobster to invest in
Ramparts. Nor was he known for his frugality; once, when stranded in
Chicago and unable to fly to New York because of a domestic air strike, he
chose fly to London, and once there, purchased a seat on a London-to-New
York direct flight.
Hinckle's personal spending habits surely ate away at the Ramparts coffers,
but it was his editorial decisions that helped to empty them. For example,
he did not hesitate to take a Ramparts contingent to Chicago in August 1968
to cover the Democratic national convention. There, Hinckle and his staff
printed a "daily broadsheet" that cost the magazine $50,000, of which
$10,000 was for the staff's hotel suite alone. While the excursion may
have contributed to Ramparts' slide toward bankruptcy, it helped plant the
seed for Scanlan's. Also in Chicago that week was Sidney Zion, a New York
Times law reporter who had written both for Ramparts as a freelancer and
about Ramparts for the Times. He and Hinckle first met in New York in 1967
and hit it off instantly. Zion wrote about their immediate rapport in his
1982 book, Read All About It!: The Collected Adventures of a Maverick
Reporter. "We hit it off great; we clicked just like that," Zion wrote. "It
was more a matter of style than substance, as it turned out, but the style
was so similar that for years it seemed to cover our real differences. . .
. Mainly, it was the bar scene we had in common. Hinckle and I love a great
bar. It's our court."
In Chicago, Zion learned from Hinckle that Ramparts was "just about tapped
out," and the two began discussing ideas for a new magazine. But before
Hinckle could dive into a new venture, he first had to divorce himself from
Ramparts. His departure would be controversial, but controversy seemed to
follow Hinckle wherever he went.
By January 1969, Ramparts was on the brink of bankruptcy. In New York,
Hinckle told a group of magazine editors not to "pay much attention to
those stories about Ramparts' troubles," yet only a few days later in
Ramparts' San Francisco offices, he suddenly reported that the magazine was
bankrupt. He resigned as editor and president on January 29, and shortly
thereafter Ramparts' board of directors declared bankruptcy.
But Hinckle did more than just announce his resignation from Ramparts on
January 29; he also told reporters that he had been offered and had
accepted financial support for a new magazine to be called Barricades. He
added that the first issue of Barricades would appear February 25. This bit
of information led The New York Times to conclude that "plans for the new
publication had been under way for some time." Hinckle's abandonment of
the Ramparts ship did not thrill publisher Frederick C. Mitchell, who
probably spoke for other bitter Ramparts staffers when he sarcastically
told the Times, "[W]e know [Hinckle] must be weary from having tried so
hard to raise money."
Barricades' first issue did not appear on February 25, 1969; in fact, it
would be a year before Hinckle's new magazine would appear on newsstands.
Through the winter and spring of 1969, Hinckle and Zion struggled to find
investors for the magazine and managed to raise only $50,000. They soon
decided on a new idea: to take the magazine public. The first day
Barricades stock was issued, its price soared from $3 to $4.50. In November
1969, Charles Plohn & Co., the magazine's underwriter, presented
Barricades' editors with a check for $675,000.
Hinckle, thirty-one, and Zion, thirty-five, now had the money they needed
to start their magazine, but it had a new title: Scanlan's Monthly. The
title "honored" John Scanlan, an Irish pig farmer described by a group of
"old IRA guys" that Zion and Hinckle came across while touring Ireland in
1968 as "the worst man who ever lived in Ireland"—the father of seven
illegitimate children that he neither raised nor supported.
In late February 1970, Scanlan's Monthly finally debuted. Its first issue
featured the $675,000 check from Charles Plohn & Co. on its front cover
(see page 6), along with an editorial manifesto spanning the front and back
covers which read:
Since the halcyon days of the great muckraking journals of half a century
past, there has not been one publication in this country whose editors were
absolutely free—and had the cash—to do what journalists must do. That
vision of a free, crusading, investigative, hell-raising, totally candid
press has largely been consigned to the apologias of the smug
publishers who won the working journalists and to the barroom daydreams of
newsmen. . . . Scanlan's eschews the reliance on any outside economic
force—including that almost irresistible mistress advertising—and will
charge the reader enough to make it on circulation alone. . . . In the
meantime we have enough money to sustain ourselves and to print exactly
what we want. . . . We will make no high-blown promises about how great
this magazine is going to be. Pay the buck and turn the page.
Once they paid the buck and turned the page, readers quickly got a taste of
Scanlan's' muckraking, hell-raising content. Articles in the first issue
included Gene Grove's expose of CBS' role in the failed invasion of Haiti
by Haitian refugees; a veteran's account of atrocities committed by U.S.
soldiers in Vietnam; an investigative report on the cleanliness of New York
restaurants by New York Post writer Joseph Kahn; Sol Stern's account of a
disastrous Rolling Stones concert at Altamont Raceway in California where a
concertgoer was stabbed to death by Hell's Angels; a piece by Richard
Severo on Alabama's Cajun population; excerpts from Ben Hecht's book about
gangster Mickey Cohen; and even something for comics lovers, "The
Adventures of Tintin." Of course, Scanlan's would not have been complete
without an editorial section. Titled "What Obtains?" it included
biographies of Scanlan's' editorial staff (managing editor Donald Goddard
was described as "a goddam Englishman"), under the heading "Who Are We to
Make a Magazine?" "What Obtains?" also featured the editors' defense of
the right of reporters to protect their sources, and a review by Israel
Schwartzberg, "the underworld's foremost authority on the underworld,"
of a book about the Mafia.
Volume One Number One's robust mix of muckraking journalism, literary
criticism, film reviews, and photographic essays was widely reviewed in
mainstream newspapers and magazines, including The New York Times, Time,
Newsweek, and Commonweal. Henry Raymont's February 25, 1970, New York Times
article described Scanlan's' strategy to shun advertising in order to
maintain its editorial independence. "Unlike other national magazines that
are desperately struggling for the advertising dollar," Raymont wrote,
"Scanlan's is pledged to operate on the principle of the penny
press—wherein a publication proves its mettle by letting circulation foot
Scanlan's was widely criticized for what reviewers believed were alarmingly
lax editing standards. Peter Steinfels wrote in Commonweal:
Perhaps it is in the tradition of barroom journalism to paste your
publication together late in the night in some ill-lit speakeasy, thus
overlooking those finer points of makeup that indicate where one section of
the magazine ends and another begins, what is text and what is caption, and
so on. . . . If that is the case, then Scanlan's is certainly true to the
The March 9 issue of Time seemed to confirm Steinfels' suspicion that
Scanlan's was put together in boozy, haphazard circumstances. The New York
office, located in midtown Manhattan at 143 West 44th Street, was described
by Time as "sandwiched between a dilapidated Irish pub and a skin-flick
cinema." Inside, Time discovered chaos: cluttered desks and
typewriters, freelance writers demanding payment, and private investigators
in deep conversation with editors.
Hinckle proudly told Time, "We did everything we weren't supposed to. No
marketing studies. No direct-mail campaigns. No promotion. No ads. We
didn't even do a dry-run issue." Like Commonweal, Time felt that one of
the things Scanlan's was not supposed to do was edit in such a sloppy
fashion, singling out Grove's CBS/Haiti article as an egregious violator of
proper editing standards. Time added that Hinckle's and Zion's copy on the
cover of the issue read "like an ultimatum."
Hinckle's reputation as a financial profligate preceded him, and
Commonweal's Steinfels eagerly reported that Hinckle spent $300,000 of the
original $675,000 before the first issue had even appeared on newsstands.
He then added uncharitably, "I wonder what his next idea for a magazine
will be," referring to Hinckle's controversial departure from Ramparts.
Hinckle's ability to spend money was well established by this point, but
Zion readily admitted in Read All About It! that he was no miser himself.
While Zion wrote, "Nobody spent other people's money like Warren," he also
conceded, "I have no taste for accounting, either, and I'm a pretty good
spender. It wasn't all Hinckle."
Hinckle and Zion may have spent a little less than half of their seed money
by Scanlan's' debut issue, but they were expecting to issue a second public
floatation of stock in order to raise more money. This plan did not pan out
due to the crash of the new issues market, which eventually led to Charles
Plohn & Co.'s demise. Despite the absence of a second influx of cash,
Zion claimed that both editors were dedicated to putting out a high-quality
magazine, willing to pay writers far more than the going rate, and ready to
buy a first class ticket anywhere in the world for a reporter covering a
story. Zion explained the magazine's editorial and financial philosophy
in Read All About It!: "Nobody could keep a national magazine afloat on
$675,000, unless it were run on butcher paper and a close-to-the-vest
budget," Zion wrote. "Well . . . we wanted a big, exciting book with plenty
of four-color journalism and artwork. So butcher paper was out, and of
course so was budgeteering.
The name most commonly associated with Scanlan's today is not Zion or even
Hinckle, but Hunter S. Thompson. In 1970, Thompson was a
thirty-two-year-old freelance writer best known for his 1966 book, Hell's
Angels: A Strange and Terrible Saga. Hinckle first met Thompson in San
Francisco in 1966, and as he would with Zion, immediately discovered a
common love for the bar scene. 
In late 1969, Hinckle agreed to publish Thompson's article about celebrated
French skier Jean-Claude Killy that Thompson had originally written for
Playboy. The article was indignantly rejected by Playboy; one editor was so
angered by it that he composed an internal memo which declared, "Thompson's
ugly, stupid arrogance is an insult to everything we stand for." But
Scanlan's was not Playboy, and Hinckle was thrilled with the article, a
long and rambling story about an Olympic gold medalist who now spent his
time promoting Chevrolet automobiles. "The Temptations of Jean-Claude
Killy" went far beyond the accepted rules of objective reporting and placed
as much emphasis on Thompson's own role in the story as it did Killy's.
Douglas Brinkley, the editor of two collections of Thompson's letters, has
stressed "how important a role the editor of Scanlan's Monthly, Warren
Hinckle, played in the development of Thompson's infamous Gonzo style."
Thompson told Playboy, the same magazine that once rejected his submission,
that Hinckle was "the best conceptual editor I ever worked with."
Indeed, Hinckle's enthusiasm for Thompson's unusual brand of journalism
provided the latter the opportunity to publish articles that few other
magazines would. Thompson, who once defined Gonzo as "a style of reporting
based on William Faulkner's idea that the best fiction is far more true
than any kind of journalism," would take the style to new heights a few
months later, again in the pages of Scanlan's.
While Thompson's work is now widely praised, at least one contemporary
critic was unimpressed. Commonweal's Steinfels slammed the piece, writing
that the article "is so bad that Playboy looks good" for rejecting it.
In a January 12, 1970, letter to his friend, author William J. Kennedy,
Thompson wrote that he was optimistic about the future of Scanlan's. "The
first issue is due in March, and I assume it will be something like the
old, fire-sucking Ramparts," Thompson wrote. "If their taste for my Killy
article is any indication, I'd say it will be a boomer. . . . Hinckle has
weird and violent tastes."
Hinckle's "violent tastes" were evident in the April 1970 issue of
Scanlan's. The cover read, "You've Read Too Much About Atrocities. Now
Listen to One on Page 3." The eighty-page issue included a bound-in record
containing testimony from the court-martial trial of an Army lieutenant who
was charged with deliberately killing a South Vietnamese soldier. April's
issue also featured articles about the influence of the Mafia in Jersey
City, New Jersey; a Studs Terkel piece about the wives and girlfriends of
the jailed Chicago Seven; Pan Am Airlines' role in U.S. military
interventions; an astrological portrait of President Nixon; and a second
installment of the "Dirty Kitchens of New York" series. In "What
Obtains?," the editors attacked both Arab terrorists and Jewish-American
organizations and also outlined their letters policy, which charged writers
25 cents per word, or $1 per word for letters "which we find particularly
dumb, boring or offensive."
But it was not an article or editorial from April's issue that attracted
the most attention; instead it was an advertisement—or what appeared to be
an advertisement—for Lufthansa Airlines on the back cover (see page 13).
The doctored advertisement was created and sold by a freelance writer to
Scanlan's for $50 and used the original copy (which featured the tag line
"This year, think twice about Germany") and photographs, with two notable
exceptions. One "replacement" photograph showed a nude woman with her hands
bound behind her back being whipped by a soldier, while a third person
filmed the scene; another showed three Nazi Luftwaffe soldiers giving "Heil
Hitler" salutes. In the May issue of Scanlan's, the editors re-printed an
Advertising Age article in which Zion said the advertisement was a
"natural" for Scanlan's because "it seemed awfully odd for Lufthansa to be
using a line like, 'think twice about Germany.' When they invite second
thoughts, this is what can happen."
When it was not busy printing doctored versions of legitimate
advertisements in its own pages, Scanlan's was doing its own advertising.
On May 10, an eye-catching, full-page advertisement bearing the headline,
"YOU TRUST YOUR MOTHER BUT YOU CUT THE CARDS," appeared in The New York
Times, and the advertisement was run again four days later (see page 14).
The tongue-in-cheek, irreverent copy described who ran Scanlan's, the
magazine's mission, and past, present, and future articles. "You could
think of SCANLAN'S as a cross between RAMPARTS and THE NEW YORK TIMES," the
advertisement read. "You'd be dead wrong, but you could think of it that
way if you wanted to."
The same month that the "You Trust Your Mother" advertisements first
appeared, Zion told Newsweek that Scanlan's was selling 75,000 to 80,000
copies of each issue but needed to sell more than 110,000 to break
even. It's possible Scanlan's expected its June 1970 issue to reach the
110,000 circulation mark; its attention-grabbing cover
featured an illustration of President Nixon's face with a fist firmly
planted in it, under the headline "Impeach Nixon." The editorial in the
"What Obtains?" section accused Nixon of high crimes, misdemeanors, and
"outright fraud" including the undeclared invasion of Cambodia, as well as
the "rape of the stock market, mayhem on the economy, and felonious assault
on the Supreme Court."
The June issue also included a "how-to" article on counterfeiting credit
cards and getting away with it, complete with step-by-step photographs.
Also included was a piece on the murder of Black Panther Fred Hampton by
Chicago police, an examination of the advertising industry's appropriation
of environmentalist imagery, and an insider's look into Newsweek magazine
by a former staff member.
June's issue was also notable for Thompson's "coverage" of the annual
Kentucky Derby horse race in Louisville. Thompson originally asked Hinckle
to hire Denver Post editorial cartoonist Pat Oliphant, a Pulitzer Prize
winner, for the article, but when he proved unavailable, Hinckle flew in
thirty-four-year-old Ralph Steadman, a Welsh illustrator acclaimed in the
United Kingdom for caricatures of British politicians. According to
Brinkley, the "combustible pairing" of Steadman and Thompson "changed the
face of modern journalism." "The Kentucky Derby Is Decadent and
Depraved" matched Thompson's "viciously funny, first-person, Gonzo
perspective" with Steadman's "perversely exact illustrations . . . drawn in
lipstick to shock the unprepared reader. The outrageous, ribald result won
The article was written by Thompson while "locked in [a] stinking hotel
room with a head full of pills & no sleep for 6 days, working at top speed
& messengers grabbing each page out of the typewriter just as soon as I
finished it." The result was antithetical to traditional sports
coverage, chronicling Thompson's and Steadman's alcohol- and drug-fueled
(and mace-infested) escapades in Louisville while somehow managing to
debunk a celebrated American tradition:
"[Thompson:] Hell, this clubhouse scene right below us will be almost as
bad as the infield. Thousands of raving, stumbling drunks, getting angrier
as they lose more and more money. By midafternoon they'll be guzzling mint
juleps with both hands and vomiting on each other between races. . . . The
aisles will be slick with vomit; people falling down and grabbing at your
legs to keep from being stomped. Drunks pissing on themselves in the
betting lines. Dropping handfuls of money and fighting to stoop over and
pick it up."
[Steadman] looked so nervous that I laughed. . . . "Don't worry. At the
first hint of trouble I'll start pumping this 'Chemical Billy' into the
The article helped catapult Thompson toward celebrity status. Soon, his
Gonzo journalism would appear regularly in Rolling Stone and in
"The Kentucky Derby Is Decadent and Depraved" may have been a roaring
success, but Thompson's optimism about the future of Scanlan's had faded.
In a May 15 letter to Hinckle, he wrote:
As for Scanlan's general action . . . well, what little I saw of the NY
scene leaves me slightly worried. Something is badly lacking in the focus,
the main thrust—and $10,000 ads in the NY Times only emphasize what's
missing. . . . [T]he vibes I got in NY were somewhat mixed—and the only
cure I can see is impossibly drastic.
The fucker should work. It's one of the best ideas in the history of
journalism. But thus far the focus is missing—or maybe it just seems that
way to me; perhaps something missing in my own focus.
Thompson was not Scanlan's' only critic that month. In the May 25 issue of
Newsweek Lee Smith lamented, as Time and Commonweal had in March,
Scanlan's' untidy editing. He believed that "nobody seems to have to
exercised much control over the three issues that have appeared so
far." His conclusion was fairly damning: "[U]nlike Ramparts, which
attracted attention to itself with explosive exposes, Scanlan's has not
created a public scandal, an unhappy condition for a muckraking magazine."
Smith also suggested Scanlan's was suffering from internal strife,
describing managing editor Goddard's imminent departure as well as the
problems posed by Hinckle being in New York only ten days a month. Smith
quoted one anonymous staffer: "Warren creates a Gotterdammerung [marked by
catastrophic violence and disorder] atmosphere in which he will go down as
the misunderstood genius." In Lemonade, Hinckle conceded that his
decision to spend most of his time in San Francisco created friction
between himself and Zion. "The chemistry that made my friendship with Zion
did not serve to make a magazine," he wrote. "Scanlan's became an East
Coast-West Coast tug of war."
But then again, nothing brings a magazine's staff together like calling the
vice president of the United States a liar in print. In a July 22 New York
Times article published six days before Scanlan's' August issue hit the
newsstands, James M. Naughton reported that the August issue featured a
memorandum dated March 11 (labeled "page 2 of 4 pages") linking Vice
President Agnew with a report allegedly written by the Rand Corporation.
The memo appeared to confirm the existence of a report by Rand that
analyzed the possibility of canceling the 1972 presidential election and
repealing the Bill of Rights. The document also mentioned the use of CIA
funds to inspire "spontaneous demonstrations" supporting Nixon's Indochina
policy by construction workers in several U.S. cities.
Agnew, whom the Times allowed to preview Scanlan's' August issue so he
could comment, said it was "ridiculous" that the magazine believed the memo
was authentic. Agnew added that the letterhead used in the Scanlan's memo
was different from what was used by his office. "My denial is unequivocal,"
Zion told the Times that the memo came from "a source who had never misled
him in the past," but he did not disclose who it was. "The document
came directly from Mr. Agnew's office, and he knows it," Zion said.
Scanlan's further answered Agnew's denials on July 30 and again on August 2
with a full-page advertisement in The New York Times titled, "THE FAMOUS
AGNEW MEMO" (see page 19). In it, Scanlan's expressed surprise that Agnew
would "get quite so livid" or "so picayune," and said it was "pleased to
submit our credibility against his."
In its Fall 1970 issue, Columbia Journalism Review criticized Scanlan's for
making "little effort to establish any authenticity for the document; in a
news story the editors merely remarked that the item was a source that had
never misled them." CJR then repeated Scanlan's' statement submitting
its credibility against Agnew's, but it concluded, "It's not a choice a
reader wants to make on faith alone."
The Agnew memo did more than prompt Columbia Journalism Review to reprimand
Scanlan's in print —by July, it also had attracted the attention of the
White House. John Dean, former White House counsel to Nixon, revealed as
much in his 1976 memoir Blind Ambition. On July 24, 1970, his first day
of work at the White House, thirty-one-year-old Dean was handed a
confidential memorandum with specific instructions: "It was noted that
[Scanlan's' printing of the memo] was a vicious attack and possibly a suit
should be filed or a federal investigation ordered to follow up on it."
After consulting with members of the White House staff, Dean learned that
the person who described Scanlan's' printing of the memo as a "vicious
attack" was none other than President Nixon. Dean was "astounded" that
Nixon was "so angrily concerned about a funny article in a fledgling
magazine." He then sent the president a memorandum on August 4, 1970,
which warned against a lawsuit or FBI investigation. On that memo, Nixon
hand wrote, "H—Have I.R.S. conduct a field investigation [on Scanlan's] on
the tax front."
Soon after receiving instructions to proceed with an IRS investigation of
Scanlan's, Dean met with an acquaintance and complained, "I'm still trying
to find the water fountains in this place . . . [and] [t]he President wants
me to turn the IRS loose on a shit-ass magazine called Scanlan's
Monthly." Dean then turned to White House staffer John J. Caulfield,
who discovered that a tax inquiry on Scanlan's was fruitless because the
magazine was only six months old and had yet to file a tax return. However,
Caulfield asked the IRS to look into the tax records of Scanlan's' owners.
Dean wrote in Blind Ambition that he had no idea how Caulfield was able to
get the IRS to agree to act so easily nor did he discover what became of
the IRS inquiry.
What Dean did not know was that the IRS commonly undertook investigations
for political reasons upon the request of the FBI, the CIA, and the White
House. Investigations by the U.S. Senate's Select Committee to Study
Governmental Operations with Respect to Intelligence Activities (commonly
known as the "Church Committee" in reference to committee chairman Frank
Church, an Idaho senator) in 1974 and 1975 determined that the IRS
investigated individuals, organizations, and publications, including
magazines such as Ramparts, Playboy, Commonweal, Rolling Stone, and The
A month later, Dean found himself dealing with Scanlan's once again. The
magazine ran a full-page advertisement in the September 15 and 20 editions
of The New York Times titled "The Great White House Tea Party." The
advertisement featured a photograph of President Nixon in a meeting with
four construction union leaders (see page 22) and accused the union bosses
of various crimes and indiscretions, including extortion, racketeering, and
running a nearly all-white union. The advertisement for the September issue
included a summary of Scanlan's' previous contents and repeated the "You
Trust Your Mother" motto, underneath which the copy declared, "In seven
months we've cut the cards on a lot of mothers."
Back at the White House, Dean was told to have the FBI check into
Scanlan's' charges that the labor leaders with whom Nixon had met were
"shady characters." But shortly afterward, Dean wrote, "Scanlan's went
out of business, its editors unaware of how much trouble they stirred up at
the White House."
During that summer and fall of 1970, Scanlan's had no inkling that the
White House was busy investigating its claims or ordering the IRS to
investigate its owners. The magazine was holding its own; Zion recalled in
Read All About It! that Scanlan's looked as if it was going to make it,
"despite our spending habits." There is little evidence to suggest that
anyone at Scanlan's believed it was on the brink of extinction; Hinckle and
Thompson had agreed on a series of monthly articles titled "The
Thompson-Steadman Report" that would debunk American institutions such as
the Kentucky Derby, Mardi
Gras, the Super Bowl, the America's Cup sailing races and other events.
Sadly for Scanlan's, its eighth issue would be its last.
Months before the October 1970 issue was due to arrive at newsstands,
Scanlan's staffers were busy at work on the issue, which was devoted
entirely to "Guerilla Warfare in the U.S.A." According to Zion, the issue
"was Hinckle's baby, and the core idea was to document acts of sabotage and
terrorism in the country going back to 1965." It included a
thirty-two-page section that documented approximately 1,500 incidents of
bombings, sabotage, and terrorism in the U.S. during the previous five years.
The difficulties which eventually led to Scanlan's' demise began when the
116-page issue was sent to Barnes Press, a New York City printing company
that Scanlan's was contracting with for the first time. On October 3,
The New York Times reported that members of the Amalgamated Lithographers
of America who handled lithographing duties at Barnes refused to process
the magazine on the grounds it was "un-American" and "extremely
radical." In particular, the lithographers objected to the issue's
"What Guerillas Read" section, which featured American "guerilla
propaganda" from both extreme right-wing and left-wing groups, and included
instructions for the construction of a bomb from a Colorado-based
Zion quickly held a press conference in Scanlan's' New York office and told
reporters that the lithographers' actions were "paranoid" and a violation
of the First Amendment. "The assertion they make is so brazen—that they
have the right to say what's printed in this country," Zion said. The
Times also reported that Barnes Press offered to take back the magazine to
have it printed after Barnes had reached an agreement with the president of
Amalgamated Lithographers of America. However, Scanlan's declined the offer
because, according to Zion, the financial terms were not the same as those
agreed upon before the dispute.
Two days later, Scanlan's filed suit against Barnes, demanding it print the
issue under the original terms of the contract. In the interim, Scanlan's
searched for another printer and found a San Francisco-based press that
agreed to handle the issue. Yet when Scanlan's sent a check to the company
as a binder, it was returned without explanation. Later that month,
Scanlan's reached an agreement with Medallion Printers and Lithographers of
Los Angeles to print the guerilla warfare issue and future issues. However,
president Larry Narry of Medallion telephoned Scanlan's managing editor,
Tom Humber, in New York to inform him that he could not print the issue
because union workers at the plant called the issue's content "un-American"
and threatened to sabotage the issue if forced to work on it.
At an October 22 press conference in New York, Zion told reporters that San
Francisco police told a Scanlan's contributing editor, Earl Shorris, that
the magazine would never again receive press credentials if the issue in
question featured illustrations of how to make bombs. Meanwhile, Scanlan's
was told that lithographers employed by three printing companies in Denver
and one in Missouri refused to work on the issue. Managing editor Tom
Humber told Publisher's Weekly that by the end of October the delays had
cost the magazine $100,000 at a minimum.
Later that fall, Scanlan's finally found a printer, albeit one in another
country: Payette-Simms Co. Ltd. of St. Johns, Quebec. On December 10, 6,000
copies of what was now titled the January 1971 issue were seized by U.S.
customs agents in distributors' warehouses in San Francisco and Oakland
after arriving from Quebec, but the issues were then ordered returned to
the warehouses without explanation. The order calling for the seizure cited
a possible violation of U.S. law prohibiting importation of "materials
advocating treason or forcible resistance to the nation's laws."
On the same day that U.S. customs agents were seizing copies of Scanlan's
in California, Montreal police seized 80,000 copies of the issue at the
printer's warehouse, while another 22,000 copies were seized from a truck
en route to the U.S. In Read All About It!, Zion claimed that Montreal
police told the Canadian media that U.S. authorities requested the seizure.
"[Canadian Broadcasting Corporation] radio asked the chief of police of
Montreal why," Zion wrote. "He said, 'The United States Government asked us
to stop it.'"
Zion told The New York Times on December 11 that the seizures were made "in
collusion with the United States government," while Montreal police
told the newspaper that the seizures were made because Scanlan's lacked a
proper printing registration. The magazine finally received the proper
registration (with the condition that it not be sold in Canada), but the
binder with which it had contracted now refused to work on the issue, and
soon afterwards Scanlan's' national distributor dropped the magazine.
What's more, news dealers in thirty cities, including Chicago, Detroit, Los
Angeles, and Philadelphia, refused to stock this issue. Zion claimed that
he spoke with anonymous news dealers who said "government officials" had
visited them personally and told them that selling Scanlan's wasn't good
for the country or for the news dealer.
Time reported in January that several printers claimed they had refused to
print the issue because of uncertainty about Scanlan's' financial status,
not because of its contents. However, Time also reported that a business
information service, Dun & Bradstreet, said the magazine's net worth was
$497,976. In Read All About It!, Zion claimed the press ignored
Scanlan's' problems because of rumors about its shaky finances. Despite
Zion's claims, Scanlan's travails were covered by a largely supportive
mainstream press, including a few magazines which had not reviewed the
magazine positively months before. A Publisher's Weekly editorial read:
If the staff at Scanlan's is feeling a bit paranoid . . . it has good
reasons. . . . [W]hat is involved in the Scanlan's case is censorship not
on moral but on political grounds. . . . If a publisher can be
systematically denied access to the means of communication, freedom of the
press is destroyed.
Columbia Journalism Review and The New York Times also printed similar
editorials supporting Scanlan's and accusing those who had refused to work
on the issue of censorship.
The January 1971 issue of Scanlan's finally hit New York newsstands on
January 14, and Scanlan's' managed to organize a makeshift distribution
scheme in some parts of the U.S. Because of the delays, the issue was
printed on cheap butcher paper, excepting the cover, which declared in
stark, bold print: "SUPPRESSED ISSUE: GUERILLA WAR IN THE U.S.A." (see page
27). On page one, under a headline reading, "WE'VE MOVED TO CANADA,"
Scanlan's explained why it had "fled" the U.S.:
[Canada's] atmosphere is eminently more conducive to the publication of
Scanlan's than the hardhat state of America. Here, printing plants in
states from coast to coast knuckled under to sabotage and other blackmail
rather than print Scanlan's. . . . This issue tells the truth of what is
going on in this country. Some ruffian printers decided they didn't want
the truth printed. . . . Subsequently, Scanlan's has been turned down by
other large printers in Colorado and Missouri. Their reason: the
had "put the word out on Scanlan's." Any printer who had tried to print the
magazine in America clearly would have had trouble.
The editorial also asked readers to tell friends, newspapers, radio
stations, and congressmen about the situation, and it pleaded for new
While many publications discussed Scanlan's' victimization, few actually
reviewed Volume One Number Eight. Anthony Wolff wrote in the January 25,
1971, issue of Newsweek that readers "whetted by the publicized delay may
be disappointed" and noted a "lack of editorial commitment to the
revolutionary struggle." He criticized the "Guerilla Attacks in the
United States" section, which he deemed a "dry tabulation of events from
bombings of Selective Service centers to more ambiguous acts of vandalism
that Scanlan's sometimes generously interprets as in the guerilla spirit."
Wolff's Newsweek review was possibly Scanlan's' last. The magazine was
nearly penniless; the printing delays had cost Scanlan's more than three
months of newsstand sales and new subscriptions, too much to bear for a
magazine that relied solely on income from those sources. "Once we were
wiped off the newsstands," Zion later wrote, "it was obvious we were
finished." Scanlan's' directors voted overwhelmingly for bankruptcy,
despite Zion's attempts to sell the magazine and Hinckle's effort "to keep
the magazine going at any cost."
Zion wrote in Read All About It! that the pressure of struggling to print
the eighth issue destroyed his friendship with Hinckle. If Zion wanted to
repair that relationship, he did himself no favors later in 1971 when he
divulged that Daniel Ellsberg was the man who leaked the Pentagon Papers to
The New York Times. Hinckle and former managing editor Humber responded
to what Zion had done by issuing a joint statement that read, "Sidney
Zion's reprehensible act is that of a publicity-seeking scavenger."
Hinckle and Humber were not the only persons whose relationship with Zion
soured following Scanlan's demise. Thompson wrote Zion a scathing letter in
February 1971, calling him a "worthless, lying bastard" for refusing to pay
him the $3,400 Hinckle had agreed Scanlan's owed Thompson in fees and
expenses. Thompson called into question Zion's value to Scanlan's:
What the fuck would you know about Scanlan's dealing with writers,
financial or otherwise? The only interest you ever showed in the magazine,
as I recall, was that useless, atavistic series on 'dirty kitchens' that
was a constant embarrassment to the magazine. . . . As far as I or the
other writers were concerned, Hinckle was the editor & you were some kind
of two-legged nightmare to be avoided at all costs. . . . You never knew
anything, Sidney. You were humored. . . . In ten years of dealing with all
kinds of editors I can safely say I've never met a scumsucker like you.
You're a disgrace to the goddamn business and the only good thing likely to
come of this rotten disaster is that the name Sidney Zion is going to stink
for a long, long time.
Thompson was far kinder to Hinckle in a February 28, 1971, letter to
Rolling Stone editor Jann Wenner, in which Thompson proposed a critical
article titled "Farewell to Scanlan's" (it was never written): "Hinckle was
the only editor in America you could call at 3.00 a.m. with a sorry idea &
feel generally confident that by the time you hung up you'd have a $1500
story in your craw, plus massive expenses & whatever else you needed to get
the thing done.
Scanlan's managing editor Don Goddard once called the magazine "the ignis
fatuus (foolish fire) of liberal journalism." Foolish or not,
Scanlan's was taken seriously enough by the U.S. government to attract its
attention and apparently its ire. And there's little doubt that government
intervention contributed to Scanlan's' downfall. In Read All About It!,
Sidney Zion seemed proud that it was the special attention of "The Nixon
Gang" that helped shut down the magazine:
We were plenty aware of the trouble the Nixon crowd was causing us, only we
couldn't convince anybody in the news media; they thought we were broke,
paranoiac, or both. Again, this was long before Watergate; who would
believe that the President of the United States would bother to go after
what John Dean called a 'shit-ass magazine'? . . . Enough for me that Dean
said Nixon was after us—at least now nobody could tell me that I was some
kind of nut. The Nixon Gang had put us away, a precursor to Watergate, and
who can gainsay it?
Zion also wrote that he was "proud" of Scanlan's' achievements, and looked
back with fondness on the magazine's experience:
[T]he point is we stayed true to our dream. We combined muckraking with
literature and laughs—always there with laughs. Which is how Hinckle and I
started. . . . [T]hough the laughs ran out for Hinckle and me, I drink to
us every year on the anniversary of our death. To Scanlan's, not to Warren,
not to me, to Scanlan's.
Hinckle, on the other hand, appeared ambivalent about Scanlan's when
writing about the experience in Lemonade, and suggested his heart was never
quite in it. "Like a toy soldier running down," Hinckle wrote, "I went
through the motions of launching a new venture for the seventies, but the
spirit wasn't there, even if the money was."
Neither Zion nor Hinckle abandoned journalism following Scanlan's' passing.
In fact, both men are still active columnists; Zion contributes to the New
York Post, while Hinckle writes a twice-weekly column for the San Francisco
Examiner. Hinckle, never one to shy away from controversy, was censored by
the Examiner in 1991 after writing a column criticizing the Gulf War.
Twenty years after Scanlan's' demise, controversy—and censorship—continued
to follow Warren Hinckle.
 N, S.
 L 48
 Peter Collier and David Horowitz, Destructive Generation: Second
Thoughts About the Sixties. (New York: Summit Books, 1989), 259-260.
Hinckle injured his left eye in a childhood accident.
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 "ACLU Joins Scanlan's In Dispute With Printer," Publisher's Weekly,
November 2, 1970, 29.
 See Ibid.; and "A.C.L.U. Plans Suit to Help Magazine," New York
Times, October 23, 1970.
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