The Realist Archive Project completed
November 9, 2010 12:05 PM   Subscribe

The Realist Archive Project (previously) is now complete. The Realist, edited and published by Paul Krassner, was a pioneering magazine of "social-political-religious criticism and satire" in the American countercultural press of the mid-20th century. Although The Realist is often regarded as a major milestone in the underground press, it was a nationally-distributed newsstand publication as early as 1959. Publication was discontinued in 2001.
posted by Joe Beese (6 comments total) 17 users marked this as a favorite
Try as I might, I just cannot favorite this FPP enough.
posted by NoMich at 12:55 PM on November 9, 2010

This is terrific. Thanks!
posted by languagehat at 2:20 PM on November 9, 2010

Man, I thought I just dreamed that I'd read some of these. It's startling to go back and see them again in the actual newsprint. This one in particular warped my young mind. I thought it was actual journalism. Some part of my brain still believes that LBJ did that ... what Paul Krasner says he did ... on Air Force One, coming back from Dallas. I'm not sure if the Realist was good or bad for American culture, but there it is kids, in all it's glory.
posted by Faze at 4:56 PM on November 9, 2010

For the uninitiated, this is what Faze is referring to:

Krassner’s most inflammatory hoax was the cover story of the May 1967 issue, “The Parts that Were Left Out of the Kennedy Book.” The book in question was The Death of a President, written by the historian William Manchester with the authorization of the Kennedy family. The public’s curiosity had been ignited by news that Jacqueline Kennedy was demanding portions of the manuscript she felt offensive be deleted. Failing to obtain the missing material, Krassner, in his role of investigative satirist, decided to author it himself.

Like Jonathan Swift, with his “Modest Proposal” that eating Irish babies was a solution to famine and overpopulation, Krassner attempted to make the excerpts as convincing as possible. He imitated Manchester’s style and improvised on information that was a matter of record, such as that Jackie had told the writer Gore Vidal she’d witnessed Lyndon Johnson leaning over John Kennedy’s casket, chuckling. In Krassner’s version, she watches him moving rhythmically while crouched over the corpse. “And then I realized—there is only one way to say this—he was literally fucking my husband in the throat. In the bullet wound in the front of his throat.”

Krassner, who believes the ultimate target of satire should be its audience, included an editor’s note requesting readers include their zip code when canceling their subscriptions. Those who opened the magazine eager for sensationalistic revelations found themselves shocked to have their expectations met in the extreme. Others who complacently accepted daily reports of the presidentially sanctioned napalming of Vietnamese villages found themselves revolted by Johnson’s “neck-rophilia.” Cancellations poured in, with subscribers dutifully including their zip codes.

There was no official White House reaction; any denial would, in effect, be a concession that the incident was credible. As Krassner pointed out in a follow-up report, one of Johnson’s favorite jokes is about a popular Texas sheriff running for reelection whose opponents decide to spread a rumor that he fucks pigs: “We know he doesn’t, but let’s make the son of a bitch deny it.” However, news of the story had become so widespread that UPI correspondent Merriman Smith felt compelled to make a statement. In a ludicrously contorted attempt to discredit the story yet remain within the bounds of propriety, he wrote, “It is filth attributed to someone of national stature supposedly describing something Johnson allegedly did. The incident, of course, never took place.”

The article was intended as a metaphorical truth about LBJ’s crudity and lust for power. But there were many who accepted it as fact, including an ACLU lawyer, a Peabody Award–winning newsman and people in high levels of the intelligence community who were in a position to know that such activities occur. Daniel Ellsberg believed it, and he would eventually go on to release the Pentagon Papers.

posted by Joe Beese at 5:13 PM on November 9, 2010

Fantastic, thank you. The Awful Truth About Scientology is a rip-snorter.
posted by unliteral at 8:07 PM on November 9, 2010

But there were many who accepted it as fact, including an ACLU lawyer, a Peabody Award–winning newsman and people in high levels of the intelligence community who were in a position to know that such activities occur.

To what does "such activities" refer? Necrophilia? You don't need to be a person in a high level of the intelligence community to know that. Neck wound rape by Vice against Presidents? I literally cannot tell what this sentence is supposed to mean.
posted by DU at 7:28 AM on November 10, 2010


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