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The FBI and Me--an American Story

July 04, 2001|PAUL KRASSNER | Political satirist Paul Krassner is the author of "Sex, Drugs and the Twinkie Murders: 40 Years of Countercultural Journalism" (Loompanics, 2000)

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.

For the Record
Los Angeles Times Friday July 13, 2001 Home Edition California Part B Page 17 Op Ed Desk 1 inches; 21 words Type of Material: Correction
Labor--Vito Marcantonio was a candidate for mayor of New York on the American Labor Party ticket. A column that ran July 4 misidentified the party.

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 on.

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 material.

"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 Krassner."

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 Krassner."

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 communities.

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 . . . ."

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