Rag Thesis




Presented to the Faculty of the Graduate School of
The University of Texas at Austin
in Partial Fulfillment
for the Degree of

August, 1981




  I. INTRODUCTION - (Original text(pdf))
  The Super Salesman
  The Underground Press
  The Relevant Literature
  II. METHODOLOGY  - (Original text(pdf))
  III. THE RAG: 1966-1971  - (Original text(pdf))
  Marian Vizard
  Philip Russell
  David Mahler
  IV. THE RAG: 1972-1977  - (Original text(pdf))
  Danny Schweers
  Glenn Scott and Richard Croxdale
  V. CONCLUSION  - (Original text(pdf))
  The Rag
  Future Work
  EPILOGUE  - (Original text(pdf))
  APPENDIX  - (Original text(pdf))
  BIBLIOGRAPHY  - (Original text(pdf))



The Super Salesman

The gentleness and humor of the bobbing balloon contrasted with a few raised tempers in the crowd below. It was October 10, 1966, on the West Mall of the Austin campus of the University of Texas, a time and place where a balloon rising above a growing crowd was not an expected sight. What people thought of as unexpected was going to be changing, but those changes were still in the future. It was a warm fall day in central Texas, and new times were being greeted as something of a joke.

At the center of the crowd was a young man, a local political activist, George Vizard, IV. The balloon had the word "Rag" on it, and, again unexpectedly, George was hawking a newspaper by the same unlikely name. University officials and campus police tried to stop the newspaper sales without success. The first run of 1,500 copies sold out within four hours. Austin's underground newspaper, the Rag, had been born.

George was doomed. He was doomed by who and where he was. He had less than a year to live.

The Rag was doomed, too, but it would have nearly eleven years of life ahead of it first. That the strange newspaper with the drawn masthead would outlive the vibrant young man who was jostling, joking, and hustling those papers would have seemed unexpected then, too, had anyone known it on that October day.

Changes were coming. The newspaper was just a tiny part, a symptom. A new form of public communication was bursting upon the scene to rock politics, culture, and standard practices in American journalism. In Austin a community was finding a voice, a new voice to speak, to hear in dynamic times. Rag founder Thorne Dreyer later wrote:

Every day millions of sheets of gray print came off the big commercial presses of America. Every day these gray sheets find their way into American homes, American minds. But into this sea of gray came a colorful splash--the underground press.[1]

The Underground Press

The underground press was a relatively new phenomenon when about twenty people in Austin, Texas, found the Rag, but the new trend in journalism already had made a noticeable start. In order to understand what the underground press was and what the Rag's significance within that trend was, it in first necessary to take a brief look at the paper's immediate forerunners.

The Village Voice, founded in 1955 by Norman Mailer and others, is generally considered to be the opening gun of the underground press. The Voice demonstrated to alienated and discontented journalists and readers the viability of a creative, innovative, and progressive newspaper. The Voice dispensed with the impersonal, "objective" style of journalism, challenged barriers against words and subject matter, and catered to the cultural interests of its community.

While the Voice challenged journalistic barriers and societal conventions, the Realist, founded in 1958 by Paul Krassner, assaulted them.

Sex and politics, the subjects with which most popular publications are concerned in one degree of sublimation and displacement or another, were desublimated and put naked on center stage in the Realist.[2]

Krassner ridiculed the common journalistic notion that in objectivity lay truth to such an extent that he

...made no attempt to label what was "real" and what wasn't, and that certainly made the Realist even more outrageous and irritating.[3]

What was becoming clear was that there was a market for something different -- in style and content -- from the traditional products of American journalism. Much-documented problems within journalism itself (for examples, see Warren Breed's classic "Social Control in the Newsroom"[4] and Gaye Tuchman's Making News[5]) forced many sectors of the population to look elsewhere than to the existing mass media for either believable and/or relevant news or for their own channel of communication. For example, the Los Angeles Times "admitted having no contact with the subculture of Watts, the rock music world or the unpredictably explosive cult of motorcyclists."[6]

The Los Angeles Renaissance Faire on May Day, May 1, 1964, was the scene of the birth of the first newspaper considered to be underground when Arthur Kunkin distributed the Faire Free Press. Renamed the Los Angeles Free Press and commonly called the Freep, the paper would eventually have the largest circulation of any underground newspaper in the United States, with a circulation rated in 1971 by the Audit Bureau of Circulation at 90,000, "making it the second largest paid circulation among the weekly newspapers in the United States".[7]

The Free Press covered the emerging political movement in the United States as it grew from demands for civil rights by black people and a small anti-Vietnam war movement to encompass the demands of students, women, homosexuals, consumers, workers, anti-imperialist organizations, and an actual revolutionary underground. Its coverage was passionate and partisan, its reporters being often participants in the events they covered. Reporters wrote what they thought and felt, thoroughly rejecting the old notion that a reporter must be uninvolved and have no opinion in order to portray reality. The Freep's cartoonist, Ron Cobb, created biting and incisive political commentary which would be carried by many underground papers and remains an outstanding example of the use of cartoon graphics as a form of political statement.

In 1965 the systematic bombing of North Vietnam began, and the United States Marines invaded the Dominican Republic, and an uprising in Watts and the assassination of Malcolm X signaled the end of non-violent resistance in the Black movement. Students became more politically involved, began challenging the role of universities, and discovered drugs. Journalism, as an industry and as a mass communication form, was not immune to the whirlwind in which it lived.

The Berkeley Barb appeared in print on Friday, August 13, 1965, the creation of a middle-aged member of California's radical community, Max Scherr. Scherr once commented on his journalistic goals: "I am not seeking the understanding of my readers. I want my readers to feel it."[8] The Barb considered newsworthy

...the New Left, drug culture, sexual freedom, occult, police brutality, macrobiotics and all the other schemes and dreams that lived together uncomfortably in the Movement.[9]

Also in 1965, the East Village Other was founded, more out of the new cultural trends among the young than from the brewing political movement. Started by a poet, Allan Katzman, a painter, Walter Bowart, and a journalist, John Wilcox, EVO, as it was called, was described as "the first publication in America to think of itself as an art form".[10]

The newspaper broke all journalistic tradition in layout and format, dispensing with columns, running headlines down the side of a page, introducing art to the medium of newspaper, putting out an issue that unfolded like an accordion, all devices intended to capture visual attention and to communicate thereby. EVO's Katzman once stated that the paper "was in competition not with other newspapers but with the highly visual television screen."[11]

Yet another underground newspaper was begun in Detroit in November of 1965. Fifth Estate was organized by a nineteen-year-old former participant in the Los Angeles Free Press named Harvey Ovshinsky.

The next entry into the field of the developing underground press was "the most exciting graphically experimental newspaper in America",[12] the San Francisco Oracle.

The Oracle released its first issue on September 20, 1966, and, in twelve issues published over seventeen months, made a major impact on the graphics and content of the underground press and, in the long run, of the press as a whole. Let anyone who doubts that elements of the underground press live on in journalism and literature today take a look at a list of contributors to the Oracle. It would include Buckminster Fuller, Allen Ginsburg, Ken Kesey, Timothy Leary, Norman Mailer, Jerry Rubin, John Sinclair, Robert Theobald, and Allan Watts.

The Oracle took full advantage of the flexibility of offset printing, a technological development without which the underground press movement would have been impossible. Offset made publishing financially possible for all those who had previously been excluded from the megabucks world of big journalism, and it allowed for striking innovations in layout and graphics. The Oracle used six and eight colors bled and registered together, spaced prose within art, and produced center-fold paintings and full-page woodcuts of remaining artistic interest.

In 1966, ground had been broken for a new style, content, and format in journalism. People's needs for alternative news and other communications channels grew with the pace of events in the world. In February of 1966, the Selective Service System began drafting male college students who were in the lower levels of their classes. Kirkpatrick Sale says of the nation's 6,390,000 students in 1966 that

...many were certainly alienated, as the phrase went, disillusioned with much in the world around them, and ready to give vent to their anger, for which the university was at least the easiest target. The youth culture, too, had by now become firmly rooted, nurtured both by affluence and dissidence, and had brought forth its own special fruits in sexual behavior, the growing drug scene the new styles of music, dress, literature, art, food, and philosophy.... [13]

It was in precisely this social milieu that Sale describes, that the Rag was born. Only a handful of its kind preceded it, and only a handful would outlast it. In the intervening years, the underground press phenomenon would grow to include approximately 457 newspapers in 1970. [14] That figure does not include high school underground newspapers of which it has been estimated there may have been 3,000 at the same time.[15]

The Underground Press Syndicate, founded in 1966 by EVO's Wilcock, Katzman, and Bowart, had 200 members in 1972, producing an estimated circulation of 1,500,000.[16] Mass magazines estimate readership at six readers per magazine. Applying such an estimating tool to the readership of U.P.S. member newspapers "suggests a readership at over 9,000,000".[17]

The multi-faceted phenomenon of the underground press defies precise definition. In times of social and political upheaval people find ways to communicate their conditions, demands, needs, beliefs, from workers' leaflets in pre-revolutionary Russia to the culturally and politically radical magazine, The Masses, published in Greenwich Village before World War I, to Chinese wall posters of the Cultural Revolution, to the underground press of the 1960's and 1970's. All were dynamic media in rapidly changing societies with nations, classes, generations, and ways of living in collision. It is this dynamism that makes definition difficult.

Many definitions of the term "underground" have been offered. A former editor of a major underground newspaper, Michael Fellner of Madison's Take Over, defines the underground press as "a medium that was challenging the limits of politics and of journalism".[18] In a similar vein, Laurence Leamer calls it "a revolutionary medium that interweaves personal life journalism and activism". [19]

On the other hand, Robert J. Glessing takes a narrower view, charging that

The contemporary term "underground press" stems from the rush of anti-establishment newspapers in the early 1960's when most underground papers reflected the American drug culture. Since drugs were, and are illegal the name "underground press" caught on and held.[20]

In an unpublished 1970 Master's thesis, Richard Askin, Jr., defined the underground press as

...a composite of newspapers established in the 1960's, primarily, though not exclusively, youth-oriented; these papers define themselves as a medium of social, cultural, and political commentary and accomplish this commentary through the use of subjective reporting.[21]

None of the underground press of this period was truly underground in a political sense, save for Osawatomie, a magazine produced by the Weather Underground Organization in 1975, whose place of origin, methods of production and distribution, and staff were and remain secret.

The underground trend included many widely different newspapers. Some were highly political, differing from the traditional press primarily in content and in their avowed partisanship. They represented sectors of the progressive political spectrum such as the Black movement (The Black Panther), the Women's movement (Rat) and the G.I. movement (Bragg Briefs). Many were entirely cultural in orientation (Oracle). They challenged every aspect of the traditional press in content, style, layout, and graphics.

The Rag was never highly nor predominantly a political newspaper. It was produced by and aimed at a broader local community. The Rag's relationship to the political movement and to cultural aspects of community life will be one area of investigation in this study.

Another factor to be mentioned in any comprehensive view of the nature of the underground press, and certainly in any description of the Rag, is the overriding local nature of the papers. With few exceptions, most were "designed to serve the needs of a specific community".[22]

The Motivation

The underground press affected the practice of the profession of journalism in everything from layout to content, making acceptable to major newspapers changes from the ragged right column edge to participant-observer reporting. It openly mocked the uninvolved objective observer stance which reporters are trained to assume while it presented news the traditional newspapers ignored. The underground press pioneered the now-common newspaper practice of devoting specific space to announcements and evaluations of local cultural events.[23]

Aside from its impact as a newspaper form, the underground press has affected American journalism through its scores of former participants who have made careers in the field. To mention but a few, Todd Gitlin, a former reporter for the Guardian is today a professor of communication and sociology. Jeff Shero, a Rag founder, also started the New York Rat and the Austin Sun. Robin Morgan, also from Rat, is today a contributing editor at Ma., and Pat McGilligan, a former columnist for Madison Take Over, is senior editor of Playgirl. The late Thomas King Forcade, a motive force in the making of the Underground Press Syndicate, went on to publish High Times.

The underground press was important in the history of a critical period in the United States. It played a coalescing, communicating role within a massive social movement, and the attitudes of that movement are reflected in its content, in how it looks, and in how it was produced and distributed. An understanding of the underground press, therefore, is necessary to an understanding of the motivating political ideologies and historical development of the 1960's and 1970's. A study involving the underground press might shed some light form future study of oppositional political movements in general, and will certainly contribute to the historical recording of one.

Furthermore, a study of the subjective factors, i. e., the motivations, of underground press participants, is of historical, political, sociological, and psychological interest. What forces drove people to commit virtually all of their time to the almost always unpaid work of putting out an alternative newspaper? In the case of the Rag, weekly newspaper was kept alive for eleven years on almost entirely volunteer efforts.[24] Also, what did underground newspaper participants believe themselves to be doing and for what reasons? Such questions as these can be revealing in areas of several disciplines, such as history and sociology, and their answers need to be recorded before they are lost in the passing of time.

For the scholar of journalism, there is interest in the impact of the underground press on the field, from its countless innovations in style, graphics, and format to its implicit and explicit criticism of traditional media as part of an existing power structure with vested interests rather than a disinterested observer.

The internal workings of the underground press are also of interest in the study of journalism. A weekly was kept going for eleven years through a series of printers,[25] through major staff changes, through political and social changes, and that fact reveals an area deserving of closer observation. Part of that observation, too, must focus on such subjective factors as people's motivations if it is to produce any depth of understanding and a meaningful historical record.

It has been charged that the very routines of journalism are the means by which the dominant ideology is injected into news reporting.[26] The alternative press (a term synonymous with "underground press") established vastly different routines, which, in turn, produced a vastly different end product. Here lies another area for study useful to the field of journalism, the examination of the routines and processes of the underground press and of the thinking behind them.

The purpose of this study is to explore all of these issues regarding the historical and journalistic context and functioning of the underground press through a case study of one such newspaper, the Austin Rag. While one cannot generalize from one case study interesting facts which need to be recorded will arise, possibly leading to further study. The case study does lend itself to more depth, more prying into the inner workings of a phenomenon than a survey of its every manifestation can.

The biography of the Rag will provide a record which will preserve a small piece of a period of tumult in the world as a whole and within journalism in particular. The summary of the paper's birth, life, and death may also help lay a basis for future study in such things as, for example, tracing the changes in major topics covered over the period of its life.

The Relevant Literature

No studies have been done of the life of the Rag itself. A few books on the general phenomenon of the underground press exist, such as Robert J. Glessing's The Underground Press in America (1970),[27] Laurence Leamer's The Paper Revolutionaries (1972),[28] Michael L. Johnson's The New Journalism (1971),[29] and Roger Lewis's Outlaws of America (1972).[30] All are useful in providing a general context in which to examine the specific paper, the Rag, and they provide insight into the shared functions and ideologies of the underground press. However, that is all they provide. There is no sense of the day-to-day life of a paper, of its changes over a period of years, of the motivations of their people. Further, none of these survey books was written in the mid-1970's, the years when the underground press began to die, a period which, for the Rag, this study will examine.

Glessing's The Underground Press in America presents an overview particularly strong in its history of newspapers of this type. As a work describing various aspects of the phenomenon, it is helpful in placing the Rag in context in time (as one of the earliest underground newspapers) and in relation to others of its type (by giving an idea of what kinds of others there were).

The Paper Revolutionaries, by Laurence Leamer, relates the underground press to the cultural and political conditions from which it arose and gives an interesting account of the alternative publications of earlier times, a reminder that this study is examining a specific manifestation in specific times of a larger tendency for people to find the voice that they need through the best means available to them. Leamer traces the emergence of political opposition through newspapers to the first newspaper in North America, Benjamin Harris's Publick Occurences which lasted only one issue in 1690. The book contains a four-page section on the Rag which stresses the radical organization of the newspaper staff, a central fact which this study will trace through the paper's life.

Both Leamer and Glossing elucidate the lack of trust with which many sectors of the population viewed the traditional media and the aspects of the underground press which challenged the content and procedures of established journalism. Another work along the same lines is New Journalism by Michael L. Johnson who sees the underground press as part of a larger picture of many changes in journalism during the 1960's. He includes a short history and description of the underground press and excerpts from a few of its articles in a survey and discussion of such writing as the "new journalism" of Norman Mailer, Tom Wolfe, and others, and the writing of the "new muckrakers" like Ralph Nader and Tom Hayden.[31]

Roger Lewis's focus in Outlaws of America is on the issues which he believes created the underground press and make up its dominant content. Lewis expounds issues from the Vietnam war to the oppression of women, hopping from such topics as Freud's mysogyny[32] to rural Quaker communities.[33] He is given to generalizations of great sweep and which seem to boil down to being nothing more than his personal opinions. For example, Lewis says the underground press "now recognizes the irrelevance of conventional party politics...."[34] That is too general to be useful and was certainly not the case with the Rag, which was concerned with local politics in all its traditional forms throughout its life.

A few books exist from the middle years of the underground press, none dealing with the daily life, none dealing with the retrospectively tedious rise and fall, none trying to get at people's reasons for creating and running all those newspapers. This study will tell the life story of one such paper, the Austin Rag, from birth to death and will preserve the memories and insights into the paper, into the times and into themselves of some of the people who created The Rag.


[1] Robert J. Glessing, The Underground Press in America (Bloomington; Indiana University Press 1970), p. 49.

[2] Michael Johnson, The New Journalism (Lawrence: The University Press of Kansas, 1971), p. 10.

[3] Laurence Leamer, The Paper Revolutionaries (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1972), p. 24.

[4] Warren Breed, "Social Control in the Newsroom", Social Forces, May 1955, pp. 326-335.

[5] Gaye Tuchman, Making News (New York: The Free Press, 1978).

[6] Glessing, The Underground Press in America, p. 18.

[7] Leamer, The Paper Revolutionaries, p. 28.

[8] Glessing, The Underground Press in America, p. 22.

[9] Leamer, The Paper Revolutionaries, p. 32.

[10] Glessing, The Underground Press in America, p. 22.

[11] Ibid., p. 40.

[12] Ibid., p. 23.

[13] Kirkpatrick Sale, SDS (New York: Vintage Books, 1974), p. 293.

[14] Glessing, The Underground Press in America, p. 6.

[15] Ibid., p. 178.

[16] Leamer, The Paper Revolutionaries, p. 14.

[17] Ibid.

[18] Michael Fellner, interview, March, 1981.

[19] Leamer, The Paper Revolutionaries, p. 14.

[20] Glessing, The Underground Press in America, p. 3.

[21] Richard Askin, Jr., "Comparative Characteristics of the Alternative Press 1970" (Master's thesis, University of Texas, 1980),p. 5.

[22] Roger Lewis, Outlaws of America (London: Heinrich Hanaw Publications, 1972), p. 24.

[23] David Mahler, interview, June, 1981.

[24] Marian Vizard, interview, June, 1981.
David Mahler, interview, June, 1981.
Daniel Schweers, interview, June, 1981.
Glenn Scott, interview, June, 1981.
Richard Croxdale, interview, June, 1981.

[25] David Mahler, interview, June, 1981.
Daniel Schweers, interview, June, 1981.

[26] Todd Gitlin, The Whole World Is Watching, Mass Media in the Makin and Unmaking of the New Left (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1980), p. 11.

[27] Glessing, The Underground Press in America.

[28] Leamer, The Paper Revolutionaries.

[29] Johnson, The New Journalism.

[30] Lewis, Outlaws of America.

[31] Johnson, The New Journalism, p. 144.

[32] Lewis, Outlaws of America, p. 39.

[33] Ibid., p. 107.

[34] Ibid.. D. 177.



Two sources exist from which a magazine biography of the Rag could be drawn. The first is, of course, the Rag itself. Nearly all of the Rag's issues are preserved in the Bell and Howell microfilm collection of the underground press.

The story of the microfilming of the Rag and other papers is an interesting sidelight to the story of the underground press. The deal to sell to Bell and Howell all issues of all papers belonging to the Underground Press Syndicate for microfilming in return for large royalty fees was made by the legendary Thomas King Forcade. Forcade, later publisher of High Times, managed the Underground Press Syndicate which provided for about 200 member newspapers such services as national advertising, exchange lists, graphics and articles, promotion, and advice on starting underground newspapers. A former colleague of the late Forcade called the contract with Bell and Howell his "greatest coup".[1] U.P.S. split the royalties evenly with the participating newspapers. Because of Forcade's business sense and because of Bell and Howell, the Rag and other underground newspapers are preserved.

A complete collection of Rag issues has also been preserved in the Barker Texas History collection of the University of Texas.

The Rag's own pages reveal some of its history. One can make inferences from changing names and changing content. I found as I examined the Rag itself that it was not telling me the things I wanted to know. I wanted to know who those people were over all those years and why they were there. The paper did not reveal its production and distribution process or say how editorial decisions were made. I wanted the voices of the people who had made the Rag.

The second source of information about the Rag would be the people who decided to create it, the people who decided to end it, the people who kept it going in between. Fortunately a few former members of the Rag staff were still in Austin and were willing to share their experiences. The pages of the Rag give us clues, but it is the perceptions of participants which can shed the most interesting light on a social and journalistic process.

This study is essentially a biography. The fact of its being a magazine biography does not alter its nature as a record seeking to preserve the details and essence of a life and times. The Rag was itself a vital and changing creature, and that story can best be told by the people who made it so.

Other background sources deserve mention. As the Rag was a mirror of its time, I will establish some of the essential history of the time without which the story of the underground press would be incomprehensible.

Foremost in telling the story of the student movement of the 1960's, a key force in the development of the underground press,[2] is Kirkpatrick Sale's masterpiece of research, SDS.[3] The book is a minutely detailed goldmine of information about Students for a Democratic Society, the organization which

was the first and for some time the most important organization to mobilize Americans against the war in Vietnam, supplying not only much of the analysis by which a generation came to understand that war and the system behind it, but also most of the shock troops for the marches, teach-ins, and confrontations, until ultimately a President was forced to resign and three-quarters of the country declared themselves against the official military policies of their government in time of war.[4]

I quote Sale to such an extent to give the reader a sense of the magnitude of the role SDS played in the decade that spawned the underground press. SDS's own newspaper, New Left Notes, published weekly (more or less) from January 21, 1966, until October of 1969, had an impact on the more political underground newspapers. Many Rag founders and staff people for its first three years were SDS members. The relationship of the Rag to SDS will be one area of inquiry for this study. Furthermore, Sale provides helpful historical information, a backdrop against which to see more clearly this one manifestation of social and media changes.

Ronnie Dugger's Our Invaded Universities [5] provides the setting of the University of Texas community during the Rag's early years and accounts of events (such as the firing of philosophy professor Larry Caroline) to which the Rag devoted consideration attention. Dugger accuses the university of being "hobbled to a state and thus to both politics and public opinion".[6] The university's relationship to the state was a factor in the formation of the Rag and in the content of many of its articles over the years. Dugger's often amusing recitations of major events at the University of Texas during the 1960's and early 1970's is helpful to anyone seeking to place the Rag in its context.

For information on the single most determining factor in the political movement of the 1960's and 1970's, the war waged by the United States in Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos, I draw from Peter A. Poole's The United States and Indochina, From FDR to Nixon.[7] Poole combines information from the Pentagon Papers with that from numerous other sources to produce a comprehensive and detailed account of the events of United States involvement in the war. The events of that war need to be called to mind because of the war's impact on the underground press, both from the political movement it produced and from the criticisms of traditional journalism that it fueled. The desire to tell what was really happening in Indochina and to break with sterile uninvolved "objectivity", to dare voice an opinion or challenge governmental statements, these were all products of a war which, in turn, built an alternative press.

A few other sources of interest to an inquiry into the underground press are deserving of examination. Two anthologies exist. Thomas King Forcade's Underground Press Anthology is a collection of some of the most memorable articles produced in that period, including one by Todd Gitlin.

Fire!, which lists as authors Paul, Jon, and Charlotte, is most useful as a collection of notable graphics. Unfortunately few graphic or prose selections are attributed or even dated, making it only a loose collection of examples of a journalistic style and nothing more.

Both anthologies look at the most spectacular articles and graphics, thus producing memorable collections but failing to give any sense of what was typical. They do help place the Rag in a stylistic context.

Ray Mungo's Famous Long Ago, My Life and Hard Times with Liberation News Service[8] is a history of the founding of the underground's news service. Mungo makes reference to the Rag, and an account of a stay in Austin is interesting but sheds little light on the newspaper.

A recent article in Columbia Journalism Review, "Sabotaging the Dissident Press" by Angus Mackenzie,[9] deserves mention because it reveals a previously undocumented side of the life of the underground press and, because it did, thereby stimulated one area of inquiry for this study. The article details operations by government agencies, the Central Intelligence Agency and the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the Army attempting to destroy the alternative press. This exposé documents the government's hostile attitude toward the underground, and it caused me to raise the question of harassment or subversion with interviewees from the Rag staff.

My own records and memories are yet another source of information in this study, a factor I will discuss in more detail in the next section, The memories and records of other Austin residents, particularly those in the political community, have also been of interest.

The Method of Approach

A study of the workings of one particular underground newspaper is important as a case study in the formation and maintenance of an alternative communications medium, a phenomenon of journalistic interest in itself, and of sociological, political, and historical interest as a chronicle of one part of a social movement at a particular moment in time. As that historical moment is defined by change, conflict, and new assertions, a medium specific to that moment is chimeral, contradictory and subjective. The methodology must encompass those factors.

Many books exist on the events and political movements of the 1960's and 1970's. I propose to examine instead the history and functioning of one example of mass communication specific to that period. The historical overview is important and forms the backdrop by which the specific can be understood, but the specific case study, while defying generalization, can provide more insight into the human interactions, subjective beliefs, and quotidian details which define a phenomenon.

A qualitative, descriptive method lends itself best to an exposition of the newspaper's overall story. There are conceivable quantitative studies of the Rag that might be of interest, such as various possible content studies, but without an already existing history to supply the context and all the immeasurable factors, like dedication and beliefs of Rag staff members to set the stage, it can produce only numbers devoid of understanding. Furthermore, as Todd Gitlin, critic of mass media coverage of social events, says, "...much of the subtlety I find interesting would probably be lost in quantitative sieves."[10]

A look at the context of the Rag's time is revealing of the need for descriptive research:

...In the 1960's the high-school-civics-textbook image of American life was disintegrating before the very eyes of the young, and the tools of conventional journalism just were not calibrated closely enough to capture the subtlety, irony, and pathos of that process.[11]

Nor are the quantitative tools of communication analysis calibrated closely enough to capture the subtlety, irony, and pathos of the communications medium which is wholly a creature of those times.

Gitlin, to whom this study owes a great methodological debt, says further:

At best, qualitative analysis is more flexible than the quantitative kind; it aspires to a level of complexity (I do not claim it is bound to achieve it) that remains true to the actual complexity and contradictoriness of media artifacts.[12]

In order to capture the history of the Rag, largely through interviews and in some complexity, I turned to the work of oral historians for some guidance. William Moss, Senior Archivist for National Security and Foreign Affairs at the John F. Kennedy Library, says:

The case for oral history is an obvious one. It can provide information that historians would not otherwise be able to acquire.[13]

In the case of the Rag, that is precisely the point. There is no other way now but through interviews with participants to get at such things as the Rag's production and distribution process, the editorial process, the perceptions participants had of their work.

The pages of a newspaper are limited in what they can reveal.

Events and moods that can no longer be picked up from letterbooks or carbon copies can frequently be plucked from the memory of the participants....Impressions, feelings, and attitudes that never quite reach any written document are available to the oral historian....[14]

It is the impressions, feelings, and attitudes that this study hopes to record. Granted, years have passed, but as Gitlin says, "...the only alternative to retrospective accounts is to write nothing....."[15]

Another major methodological consideration, flowing from the nature of the information sought and the sources of information, is the nature of the interview. I needed to create a setting in which an interviewee could be relaxed and open. Interviews were taped to provide an exact record and to allow a free flow of conversation. Moss's Oral History Program, a source of many useful suggestions, says:

An overly structured interview that intrudes upon the easy dialogue of an interview with good momentum and excitement can kill the interest of both interviewer and interviewee in what they are doing.[16]

That is a practical suggestion when the interest of the interviewee would be crucial to getting the kind of subtle and complex picture I sought. I drew upon all the background sources discussed in the preceding section of this chapter and constructed a list of a number of points to be injected into a conversational style of interview.

The contact between interviewer and interviewee is an important one. The interviewee must be able to trust, relax, and have some sense that the interviewer has some knowledge of the subject area. Again, William Moss is helpful:

Nor should an interviewer feel comfortable with so bold an intrusion into the lives of his interviewees as to expect candor and conscientious replies unless he has sufficient mastery of subjects and details to win the respect and willing cooperation of those he is recording for posterity.[17]

That suggestion brings me to another aspect of the method of approach. My mastery of subjects and details came not only from my study of other sources but also from my being in something of the position of a participant-observer. Again I draw methodological support from Todd Gitlin who now researches communication aspects of events in which he was a participant. Gitlin has produced a major study of mass media coverage of Students for a Democratic Society, The Whole World Is Watching, Mass Media in the Making and Unmaking of the New Left. Gitlin was himself an active member of SDS, serving as its national president from June, 1963 to June, 1964.

I was a member of the Rag's Austin community and even wrote one article for it and sold it far awhile in the summer of 1967 (I needed the money). I was an active member of the Austin chapter of SDS in 1968 and 1969, and knew several of the Rag staff members who were also involved. I was not a part of the Rag's daily life and do not claim to be speaking as a participant, but I did have some knowledge, familiarity, and friends that helped. I feel that my own participation in the political milieu in which the Rag functioned was an asset to the study. Not having had any personal stake in the Rag, I have no personal position to defend or interest to protect. Since the subject is part of what I seek, I do not fear the intrusion of shared memories with interviewees. Such experiences only strengthen the quality of the interviews, allowing them to reveal mare about the individuals involved, and it is a sense of the individuals that I want to record and preserve. I realize that, as Nancy Milford, biographer of Zelda Fitzgerald, said

...the boundaries of an inquiry are fixed not only by the person one is writing about, or by the persons with whom one speaks, but also by what is carried in the heart of the biographer.[18]

I realize that I carry in my heart memories which affect the course of this study -- I remember a balloon-carrying newspaper salesman; I remember hawking the paper on the West Mall; I remember things I found charming and things I opposed. All those memories I believe can strengthen a magazine biography of the Rag without detracting from accuracy and fairness. Participation does not invalidate experience. Rather, it can enhance perception of that experience and expand the bounds of an inquiry well beyond the view of someone standing "objectively" apart.

To some extent it is my participation that motivates me to want to record a piece of those times. Like Todd Gitlin

I aim to contribute to a new reckoning with the much mythologized sixties, already fast receding either into oblivion or convenient distortion.[19]

In the interest of organization, and caution, I will let the interviewees speak for themselves and will present verbatim excerpts from the taped interviews as major sections of the data presentation chapters. Chapter III, The Rag, 1966-1971, begins with a brief summary of some of the major events in the life of the Rag and in the tines. It is intended solely to serve as backdrop, a stage setting, for the interviews with Rag participants in that period, Marian Vizard, Phillip Russell, and David Mahler. Chapter IV, The Rag, 1972-1977, again will begin with an overview of major events of those years, followed by interviews with Rag participants Danny Schweers, Glenn Scott, and Richard Croxdale.

I chose this form at this time because I want primarily to present the data gathered in its original form, a form which will preserve a sense of the individuals. In the interviews most of the issues raised are addressed. In the interest of economy and readability, some editing will have to be done, but I will attempt to show the discussion of major developments and issues in its true complexity.

Chapter V, Conclusions, will draw out trends in the Rag's history, point out changes over time, and discuss the end of the newspaper. It will also speak to the strengths and weaknesses of this research and will suggest the means of further development of this magazine biography and possible related studies.


[1] Michael Chance, "Thomas King Forcade, Potfather", Take Over, November 9, 1979, p. 16.

[2] The relationship of the underground press to the student movement is discussed by:

Robert J. Glessing, The Underground Press in America (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1970).

Michael L. Johnson, The New Journalism (Lawrence: The University Press of Kansas, 1971).

Laurence Leamer, The Paper Revolutionaries (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1972).

Roger Lewis, Outlaws of America (London: Heinrich Hanaw Publications, 1977).

Raymond Mungo, Famous Long Ago, My Life and Hard Times with Liberation News Service (New York: Pocket Books, 1971).

[3] Kirkpatrick Sale, SDS (New York: Vintage Books, 1974).

[4] Ibid., p. 8.

[5] Ronnie Dugger, Our Invaded Universities (New York: W.W. Norton and Company, 1974).

[6] Ibid., p. 70.

[7] Peter A, Poole, The United States and Indochina, From FDR to Nixon (Hinsdale Illinois: The Dryden Press, 1973).

[8] Mungo, Famous Long Ago, Life and Hard Times With Liberation News Service.

Angus Mackenzie, "Sabotaging the Dissident Press", Columbia Journalism Review, March-April 1981, pp. 57-63.

[10] Todd Gitlin, The Whole World Is Watching., Mass Media in the Making and Unmaking of the New Left (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1980), p. 304.

[11] Leamer, The Paper Revolutionaries, p. 24.

[12] Gitlin, The Whole World Is Watching, p. 303.

[13] William Moss, Oral History Program Manual (New York: Praeger Publishers, 1974), p. 8.

[14] Ramon I. Harris and others, The Practice of Oral History (Glen Rock, New Jersey; Microfilming Corporation of America, 1975), p. 4.

[15] Gitlin, The Whole World Is Watching, p. 295

[16] Moss, Oral History Program, p. 37.

[17] Ibid., p. 11.

[18] Nancy Milford, "De Memoria", published in Janet Sternburg, ed. The Writer on Her Work (New York: W.W. Norton and Company, 1980), p. 34.

[19] Gitlin, The Whole World is Watching, p. 16.


III. THE RAG: 1966-1971

The Rag was born out of a whirlwind of social movements, but it was specifically sired by animosity in the university community toward the Daily Texan.

The editorship of the Daily Texan went to one John Economidy in the Spring of 1966 in en upset election in which the liberal vote was split.

Economidy presented himself as

A friend of Greeks, business majors, Young Republicans, the ROTC, and President Johnson's policy in Vietnam.[1]

according to the former Texan editor, Kaye Northcott.

At times of conflict among social forces, forms of public communication and access to it are in contention. Two years after the Berkeley Free Speech Movement, two years since the beginning of open rebellions in the black communities, the year following the murder of Malcolm X, the beginning of the systematic bombing of North Vietnam, the first national demonstration against the war, the Marine invasion of the Dominican Republic, in these times the student newspaper of the University of Texas was controlled by a man who supported the war effort and who worked openly and closely with the University News and Information Service.[2] Northcott, in an article on page one of the first Rag said:

Often the Texan editorial page this year has indeed been like a PR effort by a committee of knit-picking deans.[3]

Austin now had a newspaper which made no pretense of objectivity in its happy embrace of advocacy journalism.

World events and the induction of college students into the armed services, beginning in February, 1966, politicized part of the student community. Several had been involved in the civil rights movement. Others were alienated in different ways from existing social norms and expectations. Students wanted the freedom to affirm their sexuality and freedom from the certainty of life in corporate suburbia. In such a mix as this, another voice was forming and becoming conscious of itself. One newspaper from which changing views were excluded or belittled could not hope to serve the university community.

In the Summer of 1966 a group of about twenty people gathered at the home of Thorne Dreyer and Carol Neiman to discuss the formation of a new publication. One person who attended that meeting, Rag founder Marian Vizard, describes the people involved as

...a bunch of people of many different sorts who were minorities in and around the University of Texas area. A lot of these people were involved in political things -- S.D.S. -- and beginning to be conscious of political life outside their boundaries. There was other people too who were bikers and foreign students and other sorts....[4]

Some, including Marian, had done newspaper work before and were not interested in retaining traditional journalistic forms or structures. It was those with journalism experience who insisted on a collective structure and no editor as such.[5]

One man in the group, Larry Freudiger, was a printer with his own press. For about sixty dollars the Rag was started.

On October 10, 1966, the Rag made its splash into the Austin community, announced by a balloon over the West Mall. Not only did George Vizard, husband of Marian, sell all of his newspapers that day, but also he wrote an article about the experience for the next Rag issue.[6] The underground press portrayed a growing movement with realism and feeling because the fact of its reporters' participation in the events they covered. Participant-observer reporting would become characteristic of the Rag throughout its history.

The first Rag office was at 2506 Nueces in a large house -- no longer standing -- in which several staff members lived. That, too, would be a pattern in the Rag's early years.

One must remember that the University of Texas was perched in a rather special place in the growing conflict over Vietnam. It was the state university, in the state's capital city, and the state had produced the President, one Lyndon Baines Johnson, who had ordered the massive build-up of United States military forces in Southeast Asia and the aerial bombing of North Vietnam.

Texas journalist and historian, Ronnie Dugger, has observed the political climate in Austin at the time:

...The serious trouble arrived at the University of Texas in the combination of Lyndon Johnson in the White House, American bombs and fighting men in Vietnam, big business's Governor John Connally at the State Capitol, Johnson's and Connally's man Frank Erwin at the Tower, and the new freedom breaking out among the students and faculty.[7]

It was into this "serious trouble" that the Rag jumped enthusiastically.

The Daily Texan, on October 11, 1966, ran on its front page an article titled "Off Campus Paper Sells Out First Day"[8] which detailed threats against further selling of the paper on campus under a Board of Regents' rule "forbidding commercial solicitation on state property without permission".[9] The article continued

Persons who assembled the paper contended that their work is not a student publication and, therefore, not subject to the rules and regulations of the University.[10]

The front-page Texan article the following day, "New Newspaper Hits Second Day With High Sales",[11] began with the line "Muckraking is not dead", attributed to the Rag staff. On the second day of Rag sales the paper vas sold in front of the Co-op and in the lobby of the Texas Union. The article quotes George Vizard:

We feel there is a need here for an iconoclast-type underground newspaper....People enjoy that sort of fun.

We can print humor outside the censorship of the Texas Student Publications Board since the Rag is an off-campus publication, as well as printing a variety of articles, including those about undiscovered folk singers and avant-garde movies that ordinarily would receive no notice....[12]

The new newspaper was magazine-size of twelve pages and sold for ten cents. Early issues included such front page features as an attack on Daily Texan editor, John Economidy,[13] an article on the Texas Student League for Responsible, Sexual Freedom,[14] an exposé of conditions at the Austin State Hospital,[15] and exclusive coverage of a sit-in by ten women at the office of the Selective Service System.[16]

In issue number 4, the Rag called for a new sort of event, unlike any other in University of Texas history, Gentle Thursday.[17] Students, musicians, activists, gathered and talked with strangers, played music on the West Mall, and ended with a group painting anti-war slogans on an R.O.T.C. airplane and dancing around it. Gentle Thursday was repeated in April of 1967 as part of something called Flipped-Out-Week which brought black power advocate Stokely Carmichael to the campus. The Rag played an initiating, communicating, and organizing role in the event.

In April of 1967, the university administration, in the person of President Harry Ransom, prohibited a meeting by S.D.S. that had been called to organize an anti-war demonstration at an upcoming visit to the Texas State Legislature by then Vice-President Hubert Horatio Humphrey. The meeting, and the demonstration, took place anyway and S.D.S. was denied its status as an official campus organization, six students faced disciplinary hearings, and three non-students, including George Vizard, were enjoined from setting foot on the campus because they were "vocally and openly opposing the United States of America in its foreign affairs".[18] Before the week of April 25, 1966, was past, the University of Texas would have joined the growing ranks of universities affected by large-scale student activism as hundreds demonstrated on the Main Mall.[19] Rag staff members played key organizational and communication roles, and devoted a majority of newspaper space to participant coverage of the events. Following a semester of activism in Austin, the Rag moved to Houston where it was published during the Summer of 1967, although its business office remained in Austin.

On July 23, 1967, George Vizard, IV, who had not gone to Houston, was murdered at the Town and Country convenience store where he worked in North Austin. Marian Vizard and other S.D.S. members were questioned by police and led to believe they were suspects. The Associated Press story pointed out that the fifty telegrams received by the Austin police demanding the arrest of the jailer were "most of them from Eastern States" and referred to S.D.S. as a "so-called 'New Left" organization.[20] The Rag never said a word about the murder, about the subsequent harassment of the political community, or about media coverage of the crime. No arrests were made. There would be no more balloons.

That same Summer black rebellions in Newark, Detroit, across the country, ignited and strengthened militance in the black movement. Huey P. Newton founded the Black Panther Party whose program included armed self-defense of the black community.

At an anti-war rally in Austin in the Fall of 1967, a new assistant professor of philosophy. Larry Caroline, stepped to the microphone and set off yet another political fracas at the University of Texas. Caroline minimized the effectiveness of rallies and marches in halting the war and said instead that "What this country needs is a revolution".[21] By the time Caroline was officially fired in May of 1968, the Rag had devoted extensive space to this issue of academic freedom and had itself played a political role in mobilizing support for Caroline. The Rag even printed an extra edition called Ext Rag, "The Caroline Issue", May 11, 1968, devoted solely to the firing.

1968 is a year that it is hard for the memory to encompass. The Tet uprising in January of 1968

...convinced many Americans that their government had been lying to them. Instead of leading to military victory in the fairly near future, the war of attrition strategy seemed to be leading to a steadily increasing commitment of troops and money, rising casualty rates, and the danger of all-out war with Russia or China.[22]

Within a few months, Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy would be dead, students and workers would nearly topple the French government, three black students would be killed by state troopers in Orangeburg, South Carolina, major student strikes would occur, notably the one at Columbia University which would solidify the student movement's direction toward confrontation with the universities. In the Summer black communities would burn again and in Chicago at the convention of the Democratic Party the last nail was driven into the coffin of any possibilities of the existing political parties containing the growing movement. By this time both the black movement and the student movement had significant and influential sectors which openly called for revolution.

These are the events which form a backdrop against r which to view the early years of the Rag. These are the events that the Rag not only covered but which formed the political consciousness of its reporters, who, in turn, communicated their perceptions to the larger community, which, in turn, created more political events.

Through changing homes and changing printers (Freudiger's little press having been long since abandoned), the Rag continued to publish. Printers were hard to keep throughout its history.

In June of 1969, Students for a Democratic Society split apart as factional differences coalesced into the forming of essentially separate organizations around the major groupings, the S.D.S. national leadership which became Weatherman and then the Weather Underground Organization, the then-Maoist Progressive Labor Party, and the Revolutionary Youth Movement which soon spawned a host of minor parties. The shock waves were felt throughout the movement including in the underground press. The community which produced the Rag was no longer an undifferentiated mass united through alienation.

Also in 1969, the University of Texas Board of Regents tried again to prevent the sale of the Rag on the campus. Texas historian, Ronnie Dugger, recalled the event:

The regents condescended to prohibit the sale of the la, an underground newspaper, on the campus, except inside the student union. The Rag is about as stoned, unreliable, stimulating, and occasionally good as the other papers of its kind, and of course its staff took the regents to court. A three-judge federal court ruled that the First Amendment cannot be set aside by the will of an administrator, but the regents appealed to the highest court before ignominiously withdrawing the ban.[23]

Five years after its birth, the Rag was hailed by the newspaper it had been formed to counter, the Daily Texan. On October 11, 1971, the Texan ran an editorial under the headline "Happy birthday Rag" which began:

Today the Rag celebrates its fifth anniversary. There have always been and will no doubt always be times when the Texan fails to meet the needs of the University community. Five years ago was one of those times. It was the time of the Free Speech Movement; the time of the farm workers' struggle in the Rio Grande Valley; the time of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. It was a time of change, and, through one of the queer perversities of fate, the editor of the Texan was John Economidy, a conservative, who greeted this change by ignoring it.

The Rag was born in response to his silence. It was a good response. It provided a liberal thoughtful voice when there was none. It provided an alternate medium for publication when one was badly needed. It provided, in essence, a vehicle for change.[24]

Marian Vizard

M: There were a bunch of many different sorts who were in minorities in and around the University of Texas area. A lot of these people were involved in political things -- S.D.S. -- and beginning to be conscious of political life outside their boundaries. There was other people, too, who were bikers and foreign students and artists and other sorts.

But some of the folks got together. There were some of us who, for one reason or another, wanted to put out a newspaper. I wanted to be involved in it because I had been involved in newspaper stuff in high school, and I wanted to do it because I wanted to write....I was a journalism major, and I didn't like the Daily Texan. The Daily Texan was run by the authoritarian journalism department of the University of Texas.

S: Had you been in the journalism department?

M: I had enrolled there and I took one class there then.... It was just awful. Oh, it was awful....Yeah, at 8:00 A.M., man. In the morning, this history of journalism class, and you couldn't write anything. Nobody cared. The professor said that women didn't belong in journalism.

S: He said that in class?

M; Yeah, he said it any time anywhere. He said that was his opinion.

* * *

M: I was getting involved in political struggle and wanted to write about that and wanted to know about that. Other people did it for similar motives. People did it because they just thought it would be fun. I don't think anybody did it because they saw it as an organizing tool or anything, unfortunately.

S: What did you see it as?

M: A communications network among -- all sorts of.... We didn't even have a name for it. We weren't hippies.

S: But it was a need you knew was there, right?

M: Yeah.

And there was a guy who was a printer and he had a little printing press, and he know how to run it. We could publish about a thousand of them, for sixty dollars worth of paper and ink. And take 'em out and sell 'em. And sell ads. Sell ads to the places where we ate or where we bought our books. There was the beginning of, I don't know, just a different community around the campus area particularly, and a newspaper was necessary.

S: Had other people who started it worked on newspapers before besides you?

M: Yeah, I think a couple of them had. Maybe more than that. I think Jeff had and Thorne might have. Yeah, others may have but not, you know, it wasn't very widespread. But it was very democratically organized, guess, from the beginning.

We made the decision, it was about twenty people in a room.

S: Who were the people or do you remember?

M: Thorne Dreyer was our funnel.

S: How did the meeting come to happen? How did there come to be twenty people in a meeting deciding to put out a newspaper? Did it come out of other political struggle that you'd been involved in or just social ties or what?

M: I don't know. It was at Thorne's house.

S: Carol did newspaper. I knew that. Carol did newspaper in my high school.

M: Carol Nieman.

Yes, Carol Nieman. Yeah, that's right. See she wound up doing all of the (pause) what they called the shit work.

S: Oh. The beginning of a pattern.

M: She did the work, while Thorne was the funnel. And everything came through Thorne.

S: How did Thorne get to be funnel?

M: Because Thorne was like a funnel. Because Thorne just skipped around from here to there and whoever saw Thorne would tell him stuff. He would come back and relate it.

S: Oh.

M: That was a conscious political decision that was made to make him that, and it was somewhat of a power struggle about it. Other people would like to have been called an editor, to have been an editor and had an editorial structure but a bunch of people who had worked on newspapers before at all said "No, no. We don't want an editor. Editors fuck you up." Whatever people write and bring in, and if they're willing to work and do stuff.

S: Anything that anybody had written would have been printed?

M: Yeah. Yeah....

It might get changed, too. You had to look out for that. Oh. It might get changed from what you wrote.

S: How did it get to be called funnel?

M: Because that's what his relationship was to the community.

S: As opposed to an editor? But didn't Thorne end up acting like an editor?

M: Sometimes he did and sometimes other people did. It varied a lot. It varied a lot. We went through some unusual structures. Some things about that were good and some things about that were not so good, and things changed. At a different point they had editors or they had issue coordinators, where at least there was one person, it was a different person, who was responsible for what went in. And nobody really wanted to do it all of the time anyway.

S: Was that the main reason because no one wanted it all the time? Or were there political problems?

M: Oh, there were political problems for sure. A lot of people were real good about it and did interesting and informative things. But it was very political in that sense and it didn't, Your know, it didn't didn't achieve a lot of the intricacies that paper from Madison....

S: Take Over.

M: Michael's paper had I think because the scene wasn't so involved socially, politically, culturally, and in any other way. You can look at other papers after that, too, like the Sun which did some good things, but don't think it really achieved what's needed to win, to win.

I was in and out of the Rag for awhile because the structure, it was terrible to work within. It was self destructive to people.

S: How was that?

M: Well, people did go on power trips with it. I think and seized the Rag and controlled, you know, and put out and put in production political, cultural, personal, racist, macho, feminist, you name it. I don't like your mother's dog, reasons, you know in there. And there was no money in there.

S: No money at all?

M: People got paid at various time. Various you know, pittances.

S: Was anybody supported off of it?

M: Hmm. Depends on what you call supported. If anyone did live on just that, poor little thin runty rundown things they were, suffering in an attic, you know, struggling to put out the Rag! The Rag!

* * *

S: What was the process that lead up to the first Rag coming out and there's I have real specifically about the dates. On the microfilms, the first Rag that's in there listed I think as number 1 is dated in August. It's followed by...wait a minute I'll show you a copy. I have some of them here. It's followed by another one dated in October which has an article by George about selling the first Rag on October ninth. No that's in the first one, and then it's followed by this other one. The dates are screwy. I looked at that and thought, well maybe they didn't know what month it was. There's some explanation. I want to figure it out at some point just to clear it up.

M: General John. This is the first issue. This is not the one.

S: The first Rag. And then this is the next Rag which is the one you've got.

M: Is this October? It's October 10. Yeah.

S: So why is the next one listed in August?

M: It's just a screw up.

S: I keep wanting to get back to this decision-making process. You're going to put this thing out. So then what happened? Who were those twenty people all involved in it?

M: Well, to an extent, Jeff Shero and Carol Neiman helped organize it. That is, we agreed that people who knew something about the process of getting started, should say what should happen to make it work and that people would then do that.

S: So you were conscious of an entirely different editorial process than what we've known in the traditional media. Were you developing that yourselves or were you trying to pattern it on anything? Had you looked at any other alternative media? Some of them were existing by then. Did you have some model or was this really it?

M: I had been exposed to a couple things. And I think a couple of other people had been exposed. You know; because some folks had traveled, and you know, I don't exactly remember who had been to New York or who had been to, hell, to Houston. In Austin there was a thing, Paul Pipkin was in town, and brought some memorabilia things with him, some copies of a thing called the Austin Iconoclastic Magazine which was put out by Gilbert Shelton and Jerry Crown, and was shocking and iconoclastic and modeled itself upon this Waco newspaper, a famous Texas historical newspaper, the fellow who was the editor of it had been in duels and things like that. It was the Old West type thing, but these guys, they did the "Adventures of Jesus". Wonder Warthog started there. They did racial things, social racial commentary that was scandalous, but it was good. It was good.

S: Was it anti-racist?

M: It was, but it portrayed things like as they really were sometimes, super racist of the extreme form in jokes, kind of you know -- hah! hah! Caricatures of black people! It was southern humor, and it was anti-racist, and it was extremely well done. We had some influences there. Gilbert did cartoons regularly for the Rag and commented on things. Nobody ever questioned Gilbert. We just felt graced that Gilbert every week on time, he never came in the office. He didn't involve himself in any of the fray or, you know, but, when we got ready to do layout, it would be there, and it was always great.

S: He's gone on to great things since then.

* * *

S: Who did you think would read the Rag, and what did you expect?

M: We thought a lot of people would read it. We thought a lot of people would be curious about it, would be intrigued, that we could interest people in our ideas. We could address people out loud on the street and break the traditional silence of the passersby or whatever and involve people in a transaction, gather a crowd....

* * *

M: This is the thing George wrote on the Austin State Hospital.

S: I noticed that in the first issues there was more stuff like that, the local exposés, and, later, as the war builds up, it begins to focus more on the international, on the war, it becomes....

M. It didn't have one of their real good writers either after awhile.

* * *

M: Oh, I remember this, the Selective Service Office. Right on! Right on! Right on! Oh boy, did we have a good time down there. They didn't know what to do about us. They'd never seen anything like us in their lives. This was in October of 1966, and we just went to the Selective Service Office. They didn't know we were coming. The only press present as the demonstration began was the Rag press. They had an exclusive on the story....

We had a baby with us....We were all dressed up. We wore make-up. Some of us were married.

S: Yeah, they make a point of saying that in the article, that you were married.

M: "Mrs., Mrs., Mrs."

S: It made you legitimate, I guess. It's funny to read about "the girls" now.

* * *

M: Gentle Thursday! Gentle Thursday. This was the one where we really fucked them up! Hah! Hah!

S: Do you know that's in here, in Sale's SDS book? Painting the airplane.

M: Yeah, I've seen that.

S: Sharon Shelton and I figured out that painting that airplane was the first thing we ever did together....

M: I'll tell you something about ROTC. When we went over and sat in on an ROTC plane. It was a hot day. I was on the West Campus and someone said, "They're sitting in on the ROTC plane!" Somebody said George was over there, so I went over to see what was going on.... So I went over to take a look. I wanted to see the ROTC plane. I hadn't been over there that much.... It wound up getting into the whole confrontational thing and a crowd gathering and sitting on, sitting on a plane.

S: Were the police there?

M: The ROTC's were there and other students were there and a sort of a neutral area crowd was there and then there was this confrontation that went on. A lot of it was just real emotional and not emotional in a dangerous sense. It could have been dangerous but wasn't really. It was more like just shock and surprise and dismay at what we were doing. People were genuinely indignant.

S: There hadn't been a sit-in?

M: Hey! "On our plane! You can't sit on our plane! You can't sit on our plane!" See we were the people then, see this was SDS, we were the people then, we didn't think the war was cool. We thought the war was immoral. That was the line. That was the line for a long time. We thought the war was immoral.... There was that whole long bullshit about imperialism, and whether you could say what you were talking about.

S: Yeah, can we call it what it is?

M: Can we call it what it is. Yeah. We went over there and we wound up sitting in on that plane and sitting there all, all, all day. I had on a red, long-sleeved cotton shirt and a red ribbon in my hair and I wound up like a lobster. In pain. I had a white line across here. I was cooked. It became a matter of absolute pride. I would not move, motherfucker. And some of them joked and laughed, some of them you could banter with some of then said "Why are you doing this?" "Because: end the war in Vietnam, innocent people are being killed. Besides that, this is an airplane. We're just sitting on it hey. You know, it's like even if you're right, then, so what? What's the big deal about this plane." The variety of levels that it was carried on at was astounding.

S: Was that really the first antiwar action on this campus?

M: On the campus?

S: Yeah. Or even in town?

M: It might be.

S: There was a march the first year I was here I didn't have the nerve to go on. Sometime in 1965-1966.

M: The International Days of Protest were then. There were two of them, one in the fall and one in the spring.

S: Right. I remember.

M: There was one before that in town. It was a march, and I didn't have the nerve to go on that.

S: I didn't either. I went and watched it take off.

M: And there was another one at Easter at the LBJ ranch.

S: Right. I remember that.

M: And I didn't go because I had to go to my mother's house.

* * *

M: See, they had this big house. They rented this big house and there was this big room downstairs. That's where we did it. That became the Rag office. They lived in it. This was the pattern. Thorne and Carol and Michael Beaudette who was our motorcycle editor and various other people, many people lived there. The Rag office during a certain period of the Rag's development, if you lived in the Rag office, you were a part of the Rag staff, too, by virtue of the fact that you shared space. You were there. Also it was cheap rent. A lot of people lived there because they liked to be around it. A lot of people lived there for a lot of different reasons.

S: Was there much drug use in '66 when the Rag started?

M: There weren't much drugs. There was some marijuana. There wasn't a whole lot of that.

S: This was the beginning of the drug culture. Did this have any impact on the Rag?

M: It was the beginning of the drug culture, the hip culture. There were bands getting started right about the same time and places where bands could play. There was a couple of people that, by this time, had been to San Francisco.

* * *

M: The Rag staff got collectiveized, and, then, other people could come (pause) address the Rag staff, speak to the Rag staff, convince the Rag staff...

S: As an entire body? Or could you just go to one of them?

M: There would be some people who would be in charge. Sometimes they were paid small stipends. Sometimes they lived in the office. Different people would be in those positions, but, under that if you really wanted to push something then you could insist on a general meeting. They recognized that there had to be a general meeting on a regular basis. The Rag staff collective, which was defined in different ways at different times.

* * *

M: There was alternative culture starting to emerge, and we put out this paper. It was pretty good at first. There weren't that many people at first who were writing for it. The sales were going up. We were getting some harassment. The fact that we were getting some harassment made a lot more people want to see well, "What is this? What's going on? What've they got in there? I want to see what they've got in there." A lot of it was just redneck perversity. The nice thing about fascism is that it does piss people off. Or it did at that time.

S: Who were the major people involved with the Rag during its first year?

M: Myself, George Vizard, Thorne Dreyer, Jeff Shero, Carol Nieman, Gary Chason, David Ledbetter, Alice Embree....

S: Were there any major staff changes during the first year?

M: There was every issue.

S: And why was that?

M: Because everybody always had something different that they wanted to do.

S: So most people didn't see it as their primary commitment. It was like something you might do and then you go on to something else?

M: A lot of people saw it as their primary commitment, some for a long time. Carol Nieman, for instance, if it hadn't been for Carol, it could not have happened. She did all the typing. She did all the layout. Other people came in and did some, but she did all these things.

* * *

S: In the spring of 1967 was the University Freedom Movement that mobilized hundreds of students. How was the Rag involved in that?

M: The Rag reported on it...and played a very important role in reporting on it. A lot of people didn't come to those meetings, so it gave them something to reflect on.

S: By the time the University Freedom Movement ended, which was in the spring of 1967, what state was the Rag in? Could you give a description of the state of the Rag at that timer financially, internally.

M: Pretty exhausted, pretty exhausted. A lot of people pissed off at each other. No moneys people maybe living off money their parents sent them, and school's over, and the money's over. That's it.

The Rag needs a new perspective, and the Rag needs to do something different. What are we going to do with the Rag? Some of the people with the money to do it went to Houston. The Rag published down there.

S: Was it distributed in Austin also?

M: Kind of.

S: But predominantly in Houston that summer?

M: Yeah. It was written from Houston. It was good there was even some good theory behind it....Thorne, and Carol. The Fitzgeralds.

S: And you didn't go?

M: No. (Pause) We didn't even consider it. George had been arrested. He had a court cast coming up.

S: Which bust was that?

M: I get them mixed up. Humphrey and Rusk. They were too close together.

S: What would you say George's role in the political community was at that time?

M: He was very prominent. He Was very active, vocal, energetic, opinionated, educated, verbal, fair, honest, loudmouth, you couldn't miss him. You couldn't miss him. You see pictures of George, and now styles have changed a whole lot since. See, they killed him then that summer, while they were here and they were there. The Rag, I'll just say this to you, the Rag did not comment on his death.

S: Why not?

M: Well, they said it happened in July, they didn't get out until August or September. By then, it was old news.

S: Oh, the old "newsworthy" trick!

M: Old news, yeah. Everybody knew all about it, so....

S: I find that really horrifying. Did you speak to them about it?

M: Did speak to them about it? (Long pause) I did, at different times, in different ways. I did not write something myself and take it to them, type it up, and put it in. I was shocked. I was crushed. I was horrified, too. I went to Russia because we were in the Party (Communist Party), and that's why they didn't.

S: That's why they didn't? Because you were in the Party?

M: Well, they would have had to say it, I guess.

S: And they didn't want to admit there was a Communist on the staff.

M: We weren't on the staff. George wasn't on the staff.

S: Why was that?

M: We didn't go to Houston.

M: The reason I say they didn't cover George's death is we were in the Party, because we were, and there was a lot of controversy. We were public. We were up front from the beginning. Hah! Hah! Nobody's been a Commie around here yet, but we are now! We went to San Antonio, joined up, paid our dues. Now the main reason, I think, really that it wasn't covered was simple neglect or lack of ability to comprehend and deal with what was happening. The Rag was very radical in the things that it did cover, and it did discuss different viewpoints. Often those viewpoints were misleading, incomplete, did not reflect concretely reality. There was controversy about its contents. It was not objective reportage at any time. It really never made any pretense of being that. What it was partisan to changed from time to time. When George and I and a few others formed a Communist Club, it threw a rock into this thing. We were real serious. We just wanted to change things, and not just a town but a country -- and we lost a lot.

Philip Russell

S: What was your first contact with the Rag?

P: Well, I was in Chicago at the time that it was founded, but I knew several of the founders.

S: How did you know them?

P: Oh, through the civil rights movement.

S: Okay, so when did you come to Austin?

P: Well, I had been in town before the Rag was founded, but I came back in 1967. Shortly after its birthday. I assume it was born in 1966, right?

S: October of 1966.

P: So I came back in the summer of 1967.

S: Why did you come back? Why are you here?

P: I had dropped out of the University of Chicago, and had gone to undergraduate school here and had a lot of friends, so I came back here. And then shortly after that, about Thanksgiving, I left again and went to New York for the North American Congress on Latin America, and then left there and came back here the following year and then actually worked on the Rag. My first real input to the Rag was after I got back from Cuba in 1968. Very few people were into Cuba then, and was invited on an SDS tour of Cuba. And I wrote a couple of long articles on Cuba for the Rag.

S: I remember those.

P: And I didn't even have a copy of them, and I sent off for my FBI files I got back a copy of the article I'd written for the Rag.

* * *

S: Can you describe the social/political issues at the time when you first came back to the Rag in 1967?

P: Oh, it was early radical student movement, and Austin was one of the major centers for the new left at the time and had a lot more activity than most places around the country and sort of a unique hippie/ anarchist flavor that contrasted with the more conventional lifestyles of the east coast new left.

S: Do you think the Rag contributed to the new left?

P: Uh, it was important as a vehicle of communication. It spread the values and reinforced them into part of a cohesive community.

S: Did it have any effect on your politics?

P: No.

S: Lifestyle?

P: No.

S: And were you in SDS at this time?

P: Yes.

S: In 1967, what would you describe as the Rag's relationship to SDS?

P: Oh, mainly overlapping membership. Again, SDS was such a loose concept, it didn't really have membership or guidelines or a political line, or anything else. It was just sort of to what degree you were an activist or a hanger-on.

S: But the Rag wasn't an organ of the SDS?

P: No, no. Not that it probably would have been very different if it had, because the concept of the SDS was so incredibly loose, that it probably would have been hard to tell the difference if it had.

S: Okay, so when did you start working on the Rag?

P: My first contribution to the Rag was my two articles on Cuba in 1968, and then subsequently I worked on distribution.

S: Do you know what time of year that was?

P: I would assume it was the spring of 1968, because went to Cuba in January and February, and it was shortly thereafter. It was not much longer after that.

S: Did you continue to write for the Rag?

P: No, I didn't really have much to say. I worked as their local distribution manager when Dave Mahler was sort of the head honcho and running the Rag out of Twenty-Third Street.

S: Can you describe what the distribution process of the Rag at that time was?

P: Well, it was pretty similar to a standard paper in that it had some subscriptions, and some rack sales, and some regular news racks. And I did the new racks including some nonconventional outlets like say the San Jacinto Cafe, which was sort of a hangout for, you know, some moderately nonconventional types.

S: Did they get any percentage of the sale?

P: Oh yeah. Uh huh.

S: But they weren't doing it for the money.

P: It was mainly either a political statement or not being emphatic enough and saying "no". The Rag sold for either fifteen or twenty-five cents.

S: I think it was a quarter. I used to sell it individually.

P: Yeah, I did some of that too on the Drag.

S: Is there anything else about the distribution system? Did other people work with you or did you do it by yourself?

P: Well, I did that, which was very clear-cut. You know, was just making the rounds. I would just take the Rags and pick them up, so it was only a couple of hours a week. It was very cut and dry.

S: And you weren't paid for this?

P: No.

S: You didn't get any percentage?

P: No.

S: Why did you do it?

P: Oh, convention, and liking the Rag. It was sort of a peer group activity.

* * *

S: Were there any changes in the political climate of Austin that year (1968)?

P: I think that was the time SDS was becoming more factionalized and the PL and non-PL -- well, not to say non-PL -- but whatever faction was opposing them, which I think here was centered more around Greg Calvert. There was PL vs. somebody else. I don't even know who the somebody elses were in other parts of the country.

* * *

S: And this was when the Rag office was like over on Twenty-Sixth Street?

P: When I first got back it was on Twenty-Sixth Street. When I was working in distribution it was on Twenty-Third Street.

S: Were you aware of 1967 or 1968 or later what kind of feedback the Rag got like from the community in general, or university, or youth communities, or politicos? Does any of that strike you? Was there any kind of feedback, positive or negative or otherwise?

P: Not really. I sold the Rag out in the street and saw people buy it and I read the letters to the editor, but those are the only two chances I really got to get feedback. With one exception. This is kind of interesting just as a little juicy tidbit to put in. When the Rag, was over on Twenty-Third Street, every publication day an unmarked police car from the police department would come up and buy a whole stack of Rags and take them down to police headquarters. An interesting example of how that material was used was one time when Larry Jackson, who you might remember was a local black activist. When he was on trial for assaulting a cop at the Don Wheedon Gas Station Demonstration, his good character became an issue in evaluating his testimony and conduct, the police trotted out this clipping from the Rag where he had made some very inflammatory statements that would lead one to believe he wasn't as benign as he tried to portray himself in the courtroom.

S: Do you have any other sense of the police observation or harassment or infiltration of the Rag?

P: No.

S: An article came out this spring in the Columbia Journalism Review about the Cointelpro documents on the underground press. The extent of infiltration and subversion is very serious. We found that out in every other aspect.

P: Oh yeah.

S: Getting advertisers to pull out was one technique. Or, with infiltration or manipulating things within. Coming off of that, I was just wondering if anyone at the Rag had an inkling of anything like that.

P: No, I don't think. I mean, we were remarkably paranoid at the time, but I think reality even exceeded our paranoid delusions of the importance. I know the Rag got kicked out of this building next door here. Another time it got a room in a house down on Twenty-Second Street, which is now a co-op, and the city building inspector told the landlord that if the Rag was rented to he would bust that big old house for all of the numerous building code violations it was in possession of, which would be an investment of several thousand dollars to bring it strictly up to code. As far as he was told, if he didn't rent to the Rag, there wouldn't be an inspection made, and life could go on as usual. So it did actually have harassment as far as finding space to rent.

* * *

P: There were at least three generations of people that put the Rag out, probably more. I'm using that term as a kind of group where no member really overlapped with the previous group. It went through at least three different sets of operators.

S: Would you describe who those basically are?

P: Well, the initial group that I know, was Jeff (Shero), and Thorne Dreyer and Alice Embree and, I guess, Marian Vizard and her husband, George, who, I met him I guess, the day or so before he was shot. That was just when I got back here, and it was that group. At the time I was working with it, it was Dave Mahler. I don't think any of them were associated with it, and then later on, when it was headquartered in the Y offices, in the, quote, new Y. It was Judy Smith and the guy she was with, I can't remember his name, and Phil Prim who kind of monastically sat up there and cranked up the Rag, and everybody for about two years couldn't figure out why they were doing it because it seemed to be just totally irrelevant to what was happening then. I know the Rag finally died, and when I asked about it once, or it came up in discussion, it turned out it died two months before that conversation. I wasn't even aware of it, which is some indication of how, at least for me, it had ceased to be relevant, and, I think, for just about everybody else, but, it was just that these people felt a commitment to it. It, quote, ought to be here, or maybe they just enjoyed doing it. But, one way or another, they kept on doing it quite a while after it had ceased to have much of an impression and after the movement which was sort of a catalyst for initially had ceased to exist.

S: I want to explore that a little more, but let me ask you something before I forget it. When you arrived, right after George was killed...

P: That was before George was killed. It was about two days before he was killed.

S: What was the response of the people on the to this?

P: I know there was a meeting up in the Y where people kind of met and talked about it, but then, again nobody really knew then, again, people being generally paranoid, it was assumed that it was a politically motivated act, but other than losing a friend, and being sympathetic to Marian, there wasn't much of an attitude, of well, we're going to burn down the ROTC building to show them, or anything like that.

S: There wasn't any attitude that an alternative newspaper might have a role to play at a time like that?

P: No, I think that it was pretty well known to anyone who was in the slightest bit interested that George was in CP (Communist Party), and it was assumed that that was the cause of his death, and his general activism. But the Rag I don't think was seen as being significant in his supposed political assassination at the time.

S: And those people at the Rag, you know the Rag didn't cover it; they didn't say word one, not a word, about the murder. And, I find that very surprising. Marian found it very painful.

P: Have you talked to her about this?

S: Yes.

P: What was her, I mean, I wasn't even aware of that. And, again, I had just come back into the community and my initial hunch would be that George was seen as an old left straight CP type and not part of the hippie/radical/dope-smoking/long-haired Rag community. I wasn't even aware of that division, but again...

S: You hit it.

I always thought it was that they were scared. Marian thinks it's the CP...

...it upset Marian a lot just talking about it.

P: Oh, yeah, well it was her husband, so she was obviously more involved and probably felt, again, that they had let her down....

They saw their role as denouncing the structure of the American system, and not righting an individual wrong just on the basis of putting some facts together.

S: Did they see it as a wrong to the movement in general?

P: Oh yeah, everybody at the time thought that the killing was political, and the rumor was around then that the fact that money wasn't taken or something to that effect, proved the fact that it was political because obviously if it had been a robbery, they wouldn't have left any money and so the only other logical motive was that it was political.

S: Can you talk more about the process you mentioned earlier about the Rag becoming less relevant? What was it that became less relevant, and at about what time?

P: I guess, I'd say about 1971. In the early days of the Rag it was a very small, say, culturally isolated group that was both politically and culturally very differentiated from the rest of the community, and the Rag was a medium which helped to gather. They were writing this kind of press, and thinking they had invented radicalism and communism, and you know, really having a big impact on the community, and getting a lot of publicity from the straight media. But some four years later, these people had wandered off into other pursuits. The American troops were either going or gone from Vietnam. The draft wasn't existing. The sharp contradictions just weren't there. Almost everybody was smoking dope by that time. And it wasn't a big deal to have long hair at that time, so the narrow community which the Rag had defined was much more diffused, and conversely, ideas that were kind of, in the 1950's, the Texas Observer introduced the idea that maybe politicians lied and maybe didn't do what they said in their campaign promises, and in the 1960's the new left and the Rag introduced the ideas that maybe the war in Vietnam was not just and maybe the U.S. didn't treat people very nice in international relations, but by the 1970's people had heard all that and so the Rag really ceased having anything new to say and it didn't come up with any new material. It was saying something new initially, and culturally the community it represented in 1967 was much larger in terms of long hair and dope, and so a very large part of that generation was into it by then. And, conversely, the number of people who were into left politics was much smaller and so the really sharply politicized groups were down in the political level, and yet a lot more young people were somewhat more radicalized because of what they had seen in Watergate and Vietnam and that whole syndrome, and so by this time the younger generation was not so naive, and so the ideas that the Rag had originally introduced were not as shocking and/or either informative or disgusting, depending on their point of view, so the Rag had nothing new to offer, and didn't have a unique constituency to serve as a communication link for.

The Austin Sun started not too long, or actually it might possibly have even overlapped the Rag a little bit, but even though it was founded by one of the founding fathers of the Rag, it was very calculatedly aimed at a much broader constituency, which is the, quote, young adult market, but without being wildly divergent either in cultural lifestyle or in politics. It was to the left of center, and kind of accepting dope smoking and whatever other unconventionality, but not being explicitly nonconventional in cultural terms either, and so although there might have been an overlap by that time, again, as far as I'm concerned, I think this is true, that the Rag had become completely insignificant.

S: Do you know why people working on the paper changed so much?

P: Oh, I think in counter-distinction to some political movements we know, rather than people vying for leadership and losing, it was more a matter of rats getting off a sinking ship and people who remained around just sort of ended up in positions of doing the work. And I don't think it was so much that they had outmaneuvered or out-staffed, it was just that other people, including myself, were doing other things at the time, and just couldn't put the energy into it.

S: And your Rag articles showing up in your files, which files were those?


S: And the entire Rag article was there?

P: Uh-huh.

S: Like, just reprinted, or...

P: Xeroxed. I mean, the files are on 8 1/2 x 11 paper. It was clipped out of the Rag and then mounted on 8 1/2 x 11 sheets and then xeroxed for my copy.

S: Was there anything else about the Rag or any other political events of the time that showed up in those files?

P: Lots of stuff, I mean my file must have been seventy pages, but it was just mainly little garbage that I went to some SDS, or I was the owner of Phil's Record Shop, which of course was not the case, but they had a lot of disinformation of a rather harmless nature, along with just a lot of such that I was at such and such meeting and did such and this, and spoke in Mexico City, and various things like that.

S: Did they have everything you'd said and stuff like that?

P: Oh, no, very little direct quotation. They had it down that I'd been to Cuba and had me down several times as a potential presidential assassin. Now, I assume, since I've never owned a gun in my life, and very rarely even shot one, I assume that simply when LBJ was around here that anyone who was an SDS activist was fingered as a potential assassin.

S: I had no idea they might have thought that. I had no idea they took us that seriously.

P: Well, let's see. LBJ got out of office in what year, 1968? Was that, yeah. I guess having been to Cuba plus...you know, anyway, I'm not sure. That was enough...

S: ...to get you watched the rest of your life.

P: Yeah, uh-huh. At that time you know I violated the travel ban and this was before the Venceremos Brigade, and...

S: What year was this when you went?

P: The first time I went was in 1968, which was before the Venceremos Brigade, and very few people were going at that time, and, of course, we went to the Mexico City airport, which has subsequently been revealed, which we assumed at the time they would literally put you up against the wall and take a mug shot before you left Mexico City airport, and that mug shot, of course, is turned over to the CIA. But, I mean, Mexico is such a contradiction, I mean, on the one hand, it doesn't join the blockade with Cuba and cut off relations and transportation, and yet it cooperates with the CIA by mugging you.

* * *

P: In the beginning there was a very small sharply defined community and it was a medium for that community, and then as the community both became larger and less differentiated from the rest....

S: In some ways differentiated within itself. By the time the Rag and a lot of these publications started dying, you had a women's movement, a gay movement, a black movement, a G.I. movement.

P: Uh-huh. And, again, all these sub-constituencies were riot quite as differentiated from their age group and the, quote, straight society, and the early Rag people saw themselves as being culturally and sexually and politically, and everything, they sort of saw themselves as the cutting edge of a whole new society, and by five years later people didn't see themselves as being as different.

S: Is there any particular coverage of the Rag that you remember as being particularly noteworthy?

P: No, I mean, as we have sort of, you know, I sort of referred to, I mean they never did any great journalism as far as bringing up any deep hidden secrets, I mean, they just sort of enunciated their values.

S: Was there anybody who saw themselves as journalists, primarily journalists, and continued to do journalism? Well, Sharon to some extent, but that's different.

P: Yeah, to some extent, and myself to some extent, too, I mean I'm sort of a writer/researcher. You know, had never in the slightest thought of myself as a writer until I went to Cuba and the whole experience of going to Cuba and then when there was a desire on my part to share some information, I just sat down and wrote, without thinking of myself as a writer, and as a result of that experience and doing lecturing, I decided there needed to be a book on Cuba,[25] and went back in 1970 and decided I didn't have anything else to do with myself and decided there needed to be a book on Mexico, [26] and did that, and continued, and so that sort of initiated my career, too. But, I certainly didn't think of myself as a writer at that time, and the best I can remember, the only, of course you'll have to check my CIA files, the only thing I ever wrote for the Rag was that two-piece article on Cuba, but it did start m' writing out.

S: Well, that's good. Are you working as a writer now?

P: No, as a researcher, with a California based organization.

S: Oh, which one is it?

P: The Institute for Food and Development Policies.

S: Which does?

P: The same thing the Rag did, tell the truth.


David Mahler

S: Is that where you grew up, on the east coast?

D: New Jersey.

S: Why did you decide to come to Texas?

D: I got a scholarship.

S: What were you going to study?

D: Science Ed.

S: Had you been politically active?

D: No.

S: How would you describe the climate in Austin, political and social, when you first came here in 1966?

D: Fraternity, sorority. About fifty weirdos, and they all knew each other.

S: What were the fifty weirdos doing?

D: They were doing the Rag -- by the time I got here. I wasn't here in the very start. See, because they started scheming that in the spring before when John Economidy got elected.

S: Is that what precipitated the Rag directly, John Economidy's election?

D: Pretty directly.... It was really the John Economidy thing. Plus Austin had some real strong ties to San Francisco. Different people went. back and forth. The sexual freedom movement and a couple of those things, it was a little bit of cultural trade. It was ripe. It was early. There were only a few newspapers around at the time.

S: Yeah. It was one of the first.

D: Thorne Dreyer was one of the main movers....The first I knew of the Rag, they were on the street selling their first issue....

I don't remember exactly what the timing was because, around the same time, I went to an SDS meeting and met some of the same people.

* * *

The year before I came down here I went through an internally radical political thing. I went from being a Barry Goldwater fan in high school. I met him, actually...I was essentially minimum interested in that at all. Towards my last years in college, in Pennsylvania, it became totally obvious to me that the Vietnam war was totally wrong. I essentially came to that conclusion mostly from reading behind the lines. Nobody came and propagandized me. I don't think I read any anti-war literature until I was almost totally convinced of all those things.

S: Really? You got this just from what you read in the regular press?

D: I think so. I don't remember all those exact sequences....

I had during the last year or two in college an interest in folk music, primarily because of being turned on by Bob Dylan....I went to a couple of very early Philadelphia Folk Festivals in, I guess, the summer....

So when I went to Austin, I went to an SDS meeting... which was also a very social thing.

S: Can you talk a little bit more about that, the social phenomenon?

D: The social thing was that I was an unhappy person of five years standing in a little town in Pennsylvania, one of the least productive five years of my life....

So I came to Austin...never lonelier than in the millions of people. The first people to talk to me were at an SDS meeting .... Within a day or two I had talked to several people on a purely human level. I went to a meeting, talked to people, was told there was a benefit party in the first office.

* * *

S: Were people into drugs?

D: Yeah, it was. I was very straight looking, and I didn't do drugs the whole time I was involved with the Rag at all....I started out being very distant from that whole kind of thing....

I got involved in maybe the second issue. They needed people to come that night. Freudiger was printing then, and large numbers of people sat around in a room with piles of those things and hand collated and folded them.

S: I'm curious about the production process.

D: I can't remember if it was three or four or a dozen people who would sit around, but people would sit around and wind up with black ink all over themselves. I think that was my first volunteerism for the Rag.

* * *

D: Larry Freudiger had a big old press. It was real old. It was really an antique. He and Nancy had a little house. The press was huge, just incredibly large. He had a funny size paper. You look at the first Rags there, bigger than legal, some weird size. So Freudiger just ran them off, and the press would break down. They had to go downtown to get the plates made. The guy did it the first time, but he didn't want to put "fuck" on one of the others, and that was censored off because of problems with the plate maker. There was all sorts of complicated stuff.

You'll see the format changes around the middle of that year. That's when it switched.

S: Switched to what?

D: I don't remember the sequences of all those presses and who did what. At different times there were different schemes. Sometimes there would be problems with printers and sometimes there would be censoring, and some printer would probably get pressured. We never knew.

S: So you went through a whole series of printers.

D: We went through a series, probably four, or five, or six over the years I was there. Although, there were some times it was stable for a couple years. We went down to Seguin for years, but he censored some, too.

* * *

D: At the same time this was going on, of course, lots of the SDS stuff was going on. Essentially what we were doing was going overt making the news, then coming back and writing it over. It was the same people.

S: Did the straight press cover stuff that SDS did?

D: Very little. There was this huge side that the traditional media were completely ignoring. As long as we got it in print and got it out, it was finally there. Then they had to start covering it.

The media in the United States changed very dramatically because of the willingness at this particular point in history for the other press, the underground press to goad them as the same way, at other points, there have been other things that have goaded the media....The underground press was a tremendous pressure on them that they absorbed. They absorbed the underground press, but they became what they ate. That's what happened. I don't know if that's accepted very much, but I felt very much that that process was happening.

We all had very much a sense of what it was to be like in a tiny minority position and how you could never win anything, but it wasn't your function to win. It was your function to make some waves, to get some motion.

* * *

D: The thing I missed before the Rag was the Ranger.

S: I missed that, too.

D: I missed that totally, but one of the remnants was (Gilbert) Shelton who then did a lot of the cartoons for the Rag which was real high level journalism.... Some of the articles individuals wrote was really high level journalism of a certain kind. I was never one of those writers, but I always have a lot of respect for Gary Thiher, any (Dick) Reavis wrote some good stuff now and then. Jeff Shero wrote some really outstanding things, and Alice Embree did. There's a couple of interviews with people that was in on, one with Judy Collins that ran four issues that was really interesting stuff.

S: Yeah, I remember that.

D: And I did one with Malvina Reynolds who I sat down with. It was one of the highlights of my whole involvement in that. That was wonderful, one of the great points of my life, sitting down, just me and Malvina Reynolds and taping her....

Some of those people on the Rag really thought of themselves as journalists. I never did. I thought of myself as a naturalist and a radical who was in this position.

S: What's a naturalist?

D: I mean almost a professional in terms of -- I've always worked in camps. I worked in this Greenbriar (alternative school) thing. Mostly what I did with kids was being outdoors with them and taking them places and teaching science and doing trees. That's what I'm doing now.

But some of these guys came in really perceiving themselves as journalists and then being radical journalists. They were really into what it looked like and spent a lot of time discussing their role as journalists. Those years were wonderful for long conversations.

* * *

D: Some of them really saw themselves as theater. Thorne really saw himself as a theater person.

S: Did you all see the Rag as theatrical.

D: Yes, and there were even discussions of that. Some of the ways the articles were written Jeff wrote a couple pieces that were written out in short-story, fairy tale theater, which was just against all the rules of political journalism.

* * *

D: I would do more bureaucratic stuff. I started pretty soon, after a few issues doing all of the distribution.

S: What kind of distribution process did it have in the first years?

D: It had a process of taking the front seat out of my Volkswagen and getting the cart that was painted all psychedelic, that was green with all sorts of hippie-dippie stuff on the side, big metal cart, with a top thing and a big metal thing underneath, like a bus boy dish cart, a real big one. It meant taking the side front seat out of my Volkswagen -- I was one of the very few people that had a vehicle -- putting this cart in there, piling up hundreds of Rags -- bundles, tied up in bundles.

S: Do you remember how many were printed?

D: I think, almost the whole existence of the Rag it never got less than 1,000 or more than 2,000. It may have gotten a little bit above that at some points, maybe 3,000. So you'd put 500 in the car and drive over to the Drag and meet somebody there, and then you would take out the cart, and that person would say "Rags! Rags!" Other people would come to the cart and get them for - what the hell -- something. Then I would drive back. I might have to figure out who was going to take over the cart at 12:00, and somebody would have to pick them up, at the end of the day, and somebody would have to take them to different book stores. So I took on a bunch of that stuff. Broke the damn window in my car, too, once.

* * *

D: That was just an incredible spring (1967). That was when Stokely Carmichael was down, and Allan Ginsberg was down and held our hands and talked to a whole bunch of us and told us we weren't crazy, because, you' know, we felt real lonely -- fifty people and we all knew each other. Allan Ginsberg had just an incredible effect on that group....

S: So in that spring, what was the editorial process? Were you "Chief Bureaucrat"?

D: Something like that.

S: You were something in control over there apparently, apparent control, or leadership, or something.

D: No, it was purely bureaucratic.

S: Purely bureaucratic? No political leadership or any thing? Managerial or something?

D: No, I wasn't an editor. I would put my opinions in.

S: You weren't an editor at all?

D: Editing was a very communal affair. Somebody would bring something in, and Thorne would look through it and say "This is bullshit!" and scratch through a bunch of stuff, and somebody would say "No, I like it", and people would argue for days whether we should put something in. It was a free-for-all.

S: Was there anyone who dominated, who had final authority?

D: Thorne. No, not final. I mean people were seeing each other sixty, seventy, eighty hours a week, living in the same house, hanging around each other's place, partying together, doing this thing. Going to demonstrations together. Those relationships became very personal, and all the editing decisions wore theoretical and personal at the same time.

* * *

S: Could you discuss the Rag's relationship to what happened in the spring of 1967 (University Freedom Movement)?

D: The Rag's relationship was total to what happened. It really was total. It was a lot of the same people. Thorne would do something, and Gary would go write about it.

S: Can you just briefly explain what happened?

D: There was a bunch of us that were willing to be outrageous by all community standards, and it was just about time because things were so prudish that it was inevitable that there was a whole bunch of repression and a whole bunch of wishful support and a whole hunch of liberal support and a whole bunch of other people that were slowly willing to become crazy.

We were in the middle of it, creating events. We just dreamed up Gentle Thursday. Some events were forced on us. Sometimes the administration would just show up some day with cops and say that we weren't going to be allowed to sell on campus. We wouldn't know about it. Somebody would write about what happened when the cops picked them up. Some of those events were our own choice and some weren't. We had much more flexibility to move in that crazy situation than these stodgy bureaucrats. They would always win because they had the power, but they were pretty easy to make look silly.

* * *

S: What was people on the Rag's reaction when George was killed?

D: Was that in the summer?

S: The summer you were gone.

D: I sort of knew George. I didn't know George real well. I was gone, and then it happened. I didn't get back until a month after it was over. So it really was much less of an experience for me than it was for a lot of people. The Humphrey thing was a real experience for me.

S: Yeah, me, too.

D: I was inside the Capitol building. Somehow I just walked in. See, I looked straight. He was going out one of the side doors, surrounded by all sorts of bigwigs. I said, "Mr. Humphrey!" He walked over and shook my hand. I said something like, "History will condemn the war!" or something like that. I was completely surrounded by Secret Service men. It was a weird experience.

S: Advanced for the times.

D: I kind of had blundered in there....

* * *

S: You did anything you wanted graphically in the paper?

D: Well, we could.

* * *

S: So what happened when you came back in the fall of 1967?

D: Thorne had left.

S: Is that when Thorne went to New York?

D: Yes. I had to get a house. I rented a house for sixty dollars a month, on Twenty-Third, between Rio Grande and Nueces. We set up the front room with more tables, a fluorescent light overhead. Real rinky dink stuff.

S: What was your production process?

D: We would edit it for several nights. Then there would be this fever pitch, depending. Sometimes there would be a crisis, everybody running around, everything written at the last minute. There would be editing meetings the night before with big lists of what was coming in. We were supposed to count on how long an article would be. Hours and hours of discussions. Editorial meetings -- all that collective decision-making took time. We got it out of our system.

* * *

D: Mainly we just provided some information, like the Kennedy thing. The straight media didn't publish that at all until the really off-the-wall-willing-to-be-outrageous people had just published enough that they had to start covering the coverage. A number of things along that line -- discussions of dope, willing to tell people there's bad dope on the street. Or just even report that people in Michigan were smoking toad skins and think that they are getting high. Who else was going to cover that?

S: What about international news?

D: Yes, that we would pick up from the real early things -- probably the Berkeley Barb. We would take their cartoonist. You saw lots of them. They were real good political commentary, real hard core political. commentary. Or was it the L.A. Free Press? There was a few. And L.N.S. (Liberation News Service) came somewhere in there. We carried that stuff. In the early free press nobody minded. People picked up Shelton from us just for free.

S: No copyrights?

D: No, we pick up this guy's cartoons. They pick up Shelton from us. People didn't believe in that stuff. People didn't believe in making money off of their cartoons. Or if they believed that they should, didn't believe that they could -- not if they wanted to publish that kind of stuff. We were very much linked nationwide....

If you were selling one or two thousand Rags, you had many, many more people reading it than that. I felt I really knew that, that one Rag would really be passed around. That one Rag would be read by tens or dozens of people. People passed it around in the Chuckwagon and outside, in places and houses.

It had a big effect, all that stuff coming from other cities. You who are feeling weird, you who are turned off by the fraternities, you who don't support the Vietnam war, you who have given up all hope on these things, and you who smoke dope, there are other people around the United States just like you, so don't feel quite as lonely. That was an incredibly important connection, and it was done completely for free, with speed, by the whole underground newspaper network.

* * *

D: The Rag's function was shot out from underneath it.

S: Why was that?

D: The shock. Just the shock.

S: What shock?

D: Of all the things that I've just gone through that the Rag did in terms of saying all those things and bringing that international news in, talking about drugs, the whole list. After the regular media started to cover some of that stuff, the Rag just didn't have that strong a function. It wasn't as necessary.

S: Had there been a change in the community that the Rag had been serving also?

D: Drastically, drastically. Just huge expansion -- you know, where you're getting half of the population of Austin against the war in Vietnam. You know that's totally out of your control, but you also know that that fifty percent had to start out as the five percent, and you were the ones who had to be the five percent. The function of the Rag as that small, little, weird thing saying outrageous things later on just couldn't carry it.

S: Because it wasn't outrageous anymore?

D: Yeah, it wasn't as outrageous, because they'd been saying it, and everyone else it started saying it. It would be in movies. All the traditional media would cover how bad the Vietnam war was. There was all sorts of slick things that would talk about sex, and there was all sorts of things that would talk about drugs, There was no one thing that would talk about all of them together. There was Rolling Stone and all those things. It did what it had to do.

* * *

S: The Columbia Journalism Review over here contains an article on the Cointelpro documents that people have gotten on the sabotaging of the underground press. It turns out there was consideration. There were threats against advertisers who sometimes pulled advertising out and ruined some publications...I would be curious to know if anything of the sort happened to the Rag?

D: A lot of weird things happened to us, and there's dozens of scenarios for each of those weird things that could explain them. It would be extremely hard to sort out where most of it came from....

I don't know what effect it had. It made us paranoid, It made us uptight with certain people...We were in a dangerous situation at times. We were breaking laws at times.

They may have spent huge amounts of money and a whole lot playing Dick Tracey, listening to all sorts of weird conversations over the phone, and what the hell good did it do them? I know that at some points they killed people, but they also spent a lot of time spinning their wheels because there wasn't much there to find. They spent all sorts of money getting nothing accomplished, and we were spending nothing getting all sorts of things happening.

* * *

S: What was the role of women in the Rag? I remember that there was discussion about the pictures and the way the early Rag talked about women. Do you have any comment on any of that?

D: The whole women's liberation progression happened very much in Austin in the same circle of women who were the key elements of the Rag. The first women's consciousness group in Austin that had some awareness that it was a women's consciousness group was upstairs in the house that I lived in. It was comprised of ten women, about half of whom I knew pretty closely from working on the Rag.

The Rag, despite whatever politics it had went through the exact progression that the general American society has gone through. It did it much more quickly. It did it much more dramatically. It did it much, much, much more sensitively because we really were trying to be sensitive to each other. If we hadn't been the shock troops and learned how to deal with some of it well, American culture that followed, if we had handled it worse, would have handled it worse, too.

III. THE RAG, 1966-1971

[1] Kaye Northcott, "Gen. John Economidy: The First 100 Days", Rag, October 10, 1966, p. 1.

[2] Ibid., p. 3.

[3] Ibid., p. 3.

[4] Marian Vizard, interview, June 1981.

[5] Ibid.

[6] George Vizard, "Ragamuffins Face Fuzz", Rag, August 17, 1966 (should be October), p. 1.

[7] Ronnie Dugger, Our Invaded Universities (New York: W.W. Norton and Co. Inc., 1974), p. XVII.

[8] "Off Campus Paper Sells Out First Day", Daily Texan, October 11, 1966, p. 1.

[9] Ibid.

[10] Ibid.

[11] "New Newspaper Hits Second Day With High Sales", Daily Texan, October 12, 1966, p. 1.

[12] Ibid.

[13] Northcott, "Gen. John Economidy: The First 100 Days".

[14] Gary Chason, "Sexual Freedom League: The Naked Truth", Rag, August 17, 1966 (mistake in date), p. 1.

[15] George Vizard, "Austin State Hospital Crossly Mismanaged", Rag, October 24, 1966.

[16] Thorne Dreyer, "All-Women Sit-In at S.S. Office", Rag, October 31, 1966.

[17] "This Thursday is Gentle Thursday", Rag, October 31, 1966.

[18] Dugger, Our Invaded Universities, p. 124.

[19] Dennis Fitzgerald, "Student Revolt", Rag, May 1, 1967, p. 1.

[20] "Cry Raised in Slaying at Austin", Dallas Morning News, July 25, 1967, p. 6A.

[21] Dugger, Our Invaded Universities, p. 125.

[22] Peter A. Poole, The United States and Indochina from FDR to Nixon, (Hinsdale, Illinois: The Dryden Press, 1973), p. 179.

[23] Dugger, Our Invaded Universities, p. 239.

[24] "Happy Birthday, Rag", Daily Texan, October 11, 1971, p. 2.

[25] Philip Russell, Cuba in Transition (Austin, Armadillo Press, 1971).

[26] Philip Russell, Mexico in Transition (Austin Colorado Press, 1977).


IV. THE RAG: 1972-1977

The 1970's are often seen as a decade characterized by infantile egocentrism in contrast with the socially conscious 1960's. That is not the reality. The political and social events of the 1970's were of epic proportions and enduring significance. Possibly what changed was the media portrayal -- or lack of portrayal -- of the process of history.

The period 1972-1976 saw the resignation of a President in disgrace, the military, political, and moral defeat of the most powerful nation in the history of the world, and the military, political, and moral victory of a small nation with none of the weaponry or murderous technology of its enemy.

Things were not calm in Austin during those years, and the Rag, now ensconced in the Y.M.C.A, at 2330 Guadalupe, continued its tradition of participant-observer reporting.

The anti-war movement was reaching a numerical peak in the nation and in Austin 1972, and the was remained a major topic in the Rag. In April of 1972, between 2,000 and 3,000[1] people took part in an antiwar upsurge in Austin. Following the massive B52 bombing of North Vietnam and the mining of the harbors of Hanoi and Haiphong. According to the Austin American-Statesman,

Tear gas and "Mace", a spray deterrent were used by city and campus police to disperse demonstrators at the Lyndon B. Johnson Library, the UT Main Mall, along Guadalupe Street near the campus, and in the UT Main Building.[2]

The April 24 Rag devoted a two page centerfold to the demonstration. The article includes sections written by different people expressing varying opinions of the activities and reporting on their own participation.

The growing movement had, however, changed substantially since the 1960's. No longer were there tens or hundreds feeling unity with each other for no other reason than being against the war, or growing long hair, or preferring marijuana to alcohol.

The movement of which the Rag was a part was not a fixed entity. Sectors coalesced and grew on their own, necessarily but sometimes painfully. There was a women's movement in which leading Rag staff members were major participants, and the paper devoted many articles to issues of specific concern to women, such as "Midwifery: An Alternative",[3] printed in 1974 and "IUDS "[4] in 1972.

Another group of people asserted themselves during the years of the Rag's life. In June of 1969, homosexuals in a New York gay bar refused to accept the standard societal penance of the police raid, fought back against one and inspired another movement for human dignity and equality.

The Rag was a supporter of gay liberation, as one activist comments:

When gay liberation started in Austin around 1970, 1971, the Rag was one of the friendly sources for that. The Rag was probably quicker -- the movement itself was just so abysmal on gay liberation. When gay liberation had its big battle with the university for years the Rag covered those things well.[5]

Ecology, health, the arts were all continuing concerns of the Rag. Lengthy features, such as Dave Fricke's "Acupuncture Outlives Westernization Attempt"[6] on alternative forms of health preservation and medicine appear repeatedly. Local politics remained a major focus.

On October 10, 1976, the Rag celebrated ten years of life. It was then the second longest running underground newspaper in existence, Detroit's Fifth Estate being first.[7] The twenty page tabloid of 1976 seems very different from the strange-sized little paper of 1966. By this time, a lot had changed; the economy had changed. Printing costs went up. It became harder for people to devote substantial portions of their time to wholly volunteer work. The political movements were transformed. The level of activism dropped.

Finally, the Rag died, buried by three of its long-time attendants in the City Dump. The Austin American-Statesman ran an article on July 9, 1977, of which the following is a part:

The Rag, one of the nation's first and most rambunctious "underground" newspapers, apparently died an unnoticed death with its last issue three weeks ago.

* * *

At its height in the late 1960's and early 1970, when the radical political movement it reflected was at its zenith, the Rag made many conservative readers flinch with its then unheard of coverage of women's and gay's rights, anti-war demonstrations and local goings on.

Alan Pogue, a photographer for the paper since 1969, said the passing of the Rag was inevitable because of an ever-dwindling unpaid staff. "We had as many as thirty people working on the paper at one time. When we got down to twelve people about a year and a half ago, we went to a twice-monthly format. But when it got down to eight recently we decided to quit," he said.[8]

Death came following a long period of slow suffocation. It was so slow the process was merciful for all concerned. The death was hardly noticed, a fact revealing of its cause. The little newspaper that had begun in battle and laughter had slipped away.

Danny Schweers

S: The social community was important in getting you involved, was it not?

D: Yes....I'd always been very introverted. I sort of kept apart from things, and so, here was a community I could plug myself into.

S: So you got to know these people in 1971. Was that when you started working on it? In 1971?

D: I would say so. It was very gradual. We'd get together -- you probably already knew this -- we'd have, I believe it was Thursday night, meetings. We'd sit down at 7:30 and see what stories there were, and see what stories there were, and -- No, this would be Wednesday night. We had dinners on Tuesdays and Thursdays. So by Wednesday night people would have written stories, and we'd look at then. We would look at the various news services, Zodiac News Service, Pacific News Service. We would look at the various other publications that came in. We had trade-outs with all the other undergrounds. So, we would decide what was going to go into the paper.

S: "We" who? Was there an editorial board?

D: No, it was an egalitarian principle. You know, everyone had a voice. I don't think there were any rules in terms of what constituted agreement for a, story going in, but, generally, it was everybody would agree that a story would go in. Or "All right you can put it in, but I don't like it." never came upon any hard and fast rules of how things were decided. But there were de facto leaders who had the strong, assertive personalities. They ran things pretty much.

S: Who would you describe as running it in that period (early 1970's)?

D: At the period I came in, it would have been Judy Smith principally.

S: I keep hearing that, I guess she got more involved in it after I left town. what function did you end up playing for the Rag? Did they still have the box where they listed names with titles, like "shitworker" or "funnel"?

D: No, no titles.

S: It looks like they even stopped using names after a point.

D: No, they kept using names in the "staff" box, but they would just list all the first names, so you had Bill and Bill and Bill and Linda and Linda.

S: Was that for security reasons or what?

D: No, it was just kind of not wanting to have an ego trip involved with it. We weren't involved in this to get our names on the masthead. It was stupid for security reasons. I mean, anyone could just walk in and see who was there.

S: What kinds of things did you do? You did articles?

D: I'd write articles.

S: And you said you had no previous experience?

D: No, I had come here with a Bachelors degree in physics and philosophy. So, I knew physics so I started looking at the energy problems, and that issue was big, so I was doing some articles on that. Eventually I did the classified and the survival page. We had a listing of all the different numbers you could call if you were looking for help. So I'd work on that. I type up other people's articles that they had written and they needed to be typed. So, just doing a lot of the shit work.

S: What was classified like? Did you get a lot of classifieds? Was that a big source of income?

D: No, it wasn't. There weren't very many. In fact, they wouldn't allow any type of sexist advertising.

* * *

S: You were involved from 1971 up to the summer of 1977. That's when it ended.

D: Okay, yeah. So what I ended up doing was taking over the letters page, and as part of that was building up the prisoner circulation.

S: What's wrong with that?

D: Well, they had always had a stated policy of giving free subscriptions to prisoners and people in the service. But, it wasn't something that was at all pursued, so I think when I started getting interested in that I had maybe ten prisoner subscriptions, or something like that. Or maybe thirty, I don't really remember. At that time the Berkeley Barb was running free prisoner classified: "I'm a Virgo looking for a Leo", you know, and just bad stuff, and so, I think I put an ad in the Barb, in their classifieds, saying, I don't remember what I said. You know, we've got a free newspaper, or we'll run free classifieds, or nonsexist, of course.

S: Of course.

D: And even started up a letter writing, pen pal, you know, "you're in the pen and need a pal."

S: That's funny.

D: And we started working with a priest over in the Catholic Student Center, and we got about sixty people writing letters to people, the prisoners. And I've even run into people who are still doing that.

S: Really? Were they any political prisoners?

D: No, we'd get a couple, but no. Our prisoner situation went from ten to thirty or so to six or seven hundred all over the U.S. There's an incredible prisoner network. And we got letters from somebody in the brig in Japan, somebody in jail, I think in Germany, so I would think there would be that kind of communication.

* * *

D: The office was in the University Y, 2300 Guadalupe, upstairs above Somers Drugstore, with open windows looking out on the Drag. There was tear gas wafting in one night from the street.

S: In 1971?

D: Yes, 1972 it would be.

And, it was pretty funky, you know, big chairs, a door made into a table, typewriters wherever we could find them. The stories were typed so many inches and a quarter wide, and just left ragged. We didn't try justifying it. And we just did it on whatever typewriters we had. It made the paper not very legible. And, of course you had people, all volunteers, with different typing skills, varying from Phil Prim who was a two-finger typist, and he types a lot. So, we would lay it out on big pieces of paper that we got from, I guess, the University Co-op, and paste down the typewritten copy with paper cement, rubber cement.

S: Did you have light tables?

D: No light tables, no, no.

S: Just tables?

D: Just tables, and we'd find some space and lay it out, border tape, and for the headlines. We eventually, Hunter Ellinger and I and some other people, bought a copy camera and so we started doing our own PMT's, and half-tones.

S: Do you know about when that was?

D: That would have been about 1972.

S: Was that out of your own money, or did the Rag pay for it?

D: Yeah, it was our own money. You know, I was working for the Fusion Research Center as a computer programmer then. Hunter Ellinger was working in the gas engineering department, also a computer programmer. We were making enough money, you know, we had it, so we just went ahead and bought it. The women's press now has that camera. It was given to them, or they just kind of inherited it. That's the Red River Women's Press.

* * *

S: Would you gay that's the biggest pitfall, one of the biggest pitfalls, in working for an underground press?

D: Well, they, the Rag, died because there weren't the people with a sense of mission.

S: Is that what it was?

D: Yeah, I think so. So people just left, people always leave, they get burned out, and people weren't replaced by other people. It just gets smaller, in terms of fewer people, and so those people are getting burned out quicker and so it just sort of ends.

S: Really. Why do you think that was, that people stopped being replaced.

D: Well, society changed. The Vietnam war ended. The whole hippie/psychedelic/counter culture had happened and the young people who were coming along, well, they wanted to do something new. They didn't want to do the same thing that everyone else had been doing.

* * *

S: Did you feel when you were working for the Rag that it served any certain community?

D: It's hard to say. Generally, I tend to think not. It was more the form than the content. I know that the Furry Freak Brothers had a big audience.

S: Yeah.

D: People were outraged, wanted to be outrageous. I think a lot of the many particular articles were, would have an interest where there were some people who were involved doing something. But then most of the articles, you've probably seen them, a lot of them were very general in nature, where it would be the individual taking what interested them and expressing it, pretty much regardless of whether they had an audience or not.

S: Often it was something they had done, so you would cover yourself.

D: Oh, very much so. It was hard to get people to do anything else. I mean, there had to be some ego involvement, pretty much, or people weren't writing.

S: Do you feel like it served a need, as far as the needs in the community that the regular press didn't?

D: Oh, I think very much so.

S: Do you have any specific examples of that?

D: I remember, not so much specifically, but the City Council, in the City Council elections, the Rag would cover the city, and the city government, being real critical of things, would be a rallying point, and they would listen to it. You write things in the Rag, and people read it. And I'm talking about people in the establishment.

S: You got feedback?

D: Oh, yes, from the council people, from the mayor, they were interested.

S: That's funny, because in the early days -- the Rag, oh my God!

D: Well don't know that it got respectable, but what, I would say, especially after Friedman was elected, but even before that, when Roy Butler was mayor, reporters from the Rag were making it a point to go to the Council meeting, having something every week about the Council, what they were doing, and you just can't give people that kind of attention without them coming back, and they were, I'd say it was some of the best coverage in the city, too. Bill Meacham did that for years.

S: Who were the main people? Were there any major changes in personnel the years you were there, and if so, did people drift away, were there splits?

D: No, there were no big splits. It was continuous. You knew people coming, leaving. It was continuous. There were people who continued, maybe five or ten people, who were always pretty seriously working on it.

S: Like who?

D: Oh, let's see, there was Bill Meacham, Bill Gordon for a while, the Smith sisters, Suzanne, I'll try and remember her last name; I'm bad at names.

S: When did Richard and Glenn and those people come in? They came in a little later.

D: Richard and Glenn, yeah, they were working real hard, and there was another couple who worked on it for a year or two.

S: Morris and Missy?

D: Morris and Missy, yes.

S: And through all this, it was still a collective process?

D: Yeah, Phil Prim.

* * *

S: What kind of circulation did you have? I mean, do you remember that at all?

D: Yeah, I guess it was right about 3,000.

S: The whole time?

D: Yeah, I don't think it ever diminished substantially. Towards the end it started to. I can't remember the figures. Circulation wasn't hurt that much. Advertising revenue -- I think we'd get in about $100 a week, something like that, maybe $150. Hunter Ellinger made a play of getting some racks. People used to just go out and hawk it.

S: Right. That's what it was when I was there.

D: Yeah. There was a system of racks, and, of course, we always had them in stores. And it was just on honor, you know, here it is. You can rip it off if you want, but we were asking for a dime. Our best locations wore the health food stores. We'd occasionally get mare than a dime at the health food-stores, and about 90% of all the papers that were taken were paid for. Our lowest percentage was on Congress Avenue, where it was just the general public, and in the law school.

S: And you were going to a printer at this time? How much were you paying?

D: Printers. Printers. A variety of printers. About $130. Not a whole lot.

S: You were getting a hundred in ads and then maybe just pulling in a little more?

D: Yeah. That's right. That's right. We were working on about $200 a week.

S: You could pull that in off the paper itself.

D: Yeah.

S: And that put it out?

D: Uh-huh.

S: And you all supported yourselves with other jobs? This didn't support anybody?

D: Right.

S: It paid for the office?

D: It paid for the office. It paid for supplies. It paid for the typewriters that were always breaking down and needing repairs.

S: But that's all it paid. It didn't pay any salaries?

D: Yeah. We were always doing something to raise a little extra money.

S: Benefits, or what?

D: Yeah, or we've got to go out and sell some more ads. So we'd go out and sell ads. We'd do that and get in some ad revenue, or have a book sale, something like that.

S: Glenn and Richard said some part of what became a problem over time was the rising cost of the paper.

D: That was. It didn't help things, because I, like say, I got the prisoner circulation up to five or six hundred. The mailing costs were three cents a copy of something, so right away that's an additional thirty dollars a week.

* * *

S: Do you remember who the printers were?

D: We originally went to Waco.

S: Really?

D: Yeah, 'cause no one in Austin would print it.

S: Why not?

D: Just because it was the Rag.

S: Was that political or social?

D: Yeah, it was political. They just didn't want to touch it.

S: So you had to go to Waco. How many printers did you have there? Do you know?

D: Well, okay, we started to go to Waco. That was a hundred mile drive and we did that every week. And then we started going to -- I forget the sequence, but we did print in Smithville for a while. The fellow that owns that is very right wing, but a lot of people in the right wing feel that people should be free to print whatever they want to. We went to San Marcos for a while; they were very cheap down there. We even did some issues in color, for, only thirty dollars more you could have color in them.

* * *

S: Did you feel that in the time you were involved with the Rag that women had an equal role, that people were at least concerned about sexism?

D: Oh yeah, all the way through. Especially at first when the women's liberation movement was so strong, and five, six, seven of those women were working on the Rag.

S: It's a far cry from when the Rag started.

D: I think so.

S: Columbia Journalism Review came out with a piece last spring where they detailed what's been learned from the Cointelpro suits on subversion, infiltration and subversion of the underground press, and in fact it turns out it was very significant.[9]

There were instances where advertisers were scared away by a federal agency, which in several cases was the death of certain papers. There was infiltration....I'm curious if in the period you were there, you all had any sense that something like this might be happening.

D: Well, Bill Meacham did, under the Freedom of Information Act, get a look at his files that the F.B.I. had on him, and he found out the Rag had been looked at. I'm not sure over what period of time.

They had examined the Rag to see if there were any ties to the Communist Party, if they were being funded by the Communist Party.

S: It was clear that was their concern? It was a C.P. tie they were looking for?

D: I believe so, because their conclusion was that it the Rag had little to do with Communists. There were some Marxists, but it was much more people wanting to be liberated. If you had to put some label on it, it would be anarchist.

So apparently the F.B.I. had given us a clean bill of health.

Oh yeah, Bill applied for some job. I think this was what made him curious. He applied for some job. I think it was I.R.S. At an interview he was asked -- he went to a party celebrating the Paris Commune back in 1969 -- and so, in 1976, the I.R.S. was asking him what he was doing at this party. He was kind of taken aback.

Glenn Scott, Richard Croxdale

S: Okay, what was your first contact with the Rag?

G: Well, I had left Austin after going to graduate school for a year and a half to go teach school in Ft. Worth.

S: And when was this?

G: It was 1973 to the summer, 1973 and 1974. And then I returned to Austin the fall of 1974, feeling the need to do, and I decided to live off my savings for as long as I could. I'd saved up 2,000 bucks to do women's history research, try to produce some materials on women, because with the young women in my classroom there was hardly anything, or on Mexican-American history either. And, began to do that. And I did know about the Rag, because out, it was out on the street, and all that. Then I was interested in getting involved in journalism, doing some local journalism.

S: Had you done journalism before? Had you been politically active?

G: My only activity had been participation at grassroots level in antiwar rallies here in 1972.

S: Did you feel that the Rag played any role in that, in those demonstrations here at that time?

G: I don't remember picking up and reading one. I know that people talked about it, and people who sold the Rag were out on campus, and they were considered part of the movement, and people referred to them, but personally didn't. It was definitely part of that radical culture. And then in 1974 I walked in, sometime in September, into the Rag office up above the YWCA, and said hello to a surprised group of people. I guess they didn't have that many people who, I mean, they had people who walked in off the street, but usually they weren't, I'm sure I looked fairly, uh, well, they hadn't seen me before, and I just walked in off the street and said "Yes, I want to work on the Rag and I want to write for it." And they didn't get that many regular volunteers that weren't street people or weird, or semi-crazy, or whatever. At that point, you know. They were also very definitely interested in finding women to write for the Rag. So I started participating on a regular weekly basis, and every weekend we'd spend Friday night and sometimes part of Saturday.

R: I just started working on it in the spring and I'd go up and I'd start typing, and then I'd learn how to do layout, and then I started writing.

S: What had led you to work with them?

R: Well, a lot of it, I mean, I always like to write, and I was going to economics graduate school and started doing some more popular economics writing to popularize it, make it more understandable. I started using the Rag as somewhat of a vehicle.

G: At the time I started working with the Rag there was a woman named Jude, Jude Smith, had just left Austin a few months before I arrived.

S: And she was one of the holdovers from the original Rag?

S: Well, there were her sisters still working with the Rag?

R: Her name was Lynn.

G: Huh?

R: Lynn.

G: Lynn Smith. She was an older woman. She was older to me then. She was like close to forty, something like that. And a younger woman my age, Suzanne Gott. A very tall, large woman. And they were the first main women and, oh, I had little spurts or it, certainly, all along, but, because of work and everything. They were the first feminists I ever worked with.

S: It's very unusual to find feminists on the Rag, because the early history of the Rag is very sexist, embarrassingly so.

G: I can remember them showing me some of the early sexist history, the photographs of the women in the nude typing, you know, for the Rag. That had totally been changed, part by the women, and by Jude before she left. Jude was not directly related to the Rag, but very into rape crisis organizing, organizing against rape, working for abortion. She was seen as a big feminist in the early days of 1972, about 1970 to 1972. She was a very commanding person, and she had gone off to one of the immigration places where Austinites who were radical at the time, one of them was Missoula, Montana. And she'd got on a boat to Missoula, Montana, and four or five other leftists had gone up there. Anyway, she'd gone up there. These women were attempting to continue that tradition. We would have meetings. The women would try to get a more feminist process in the meetings. The men wouldn't rail on and on and on. They would stop them from talking a lot. We'd have long copy meetings.

S: Would you tell me something about the process of the production meetings?

G: We had regular, it was important to have collective copy meetings. We sat down, I believe it was on a Monday or Tuesday night, was it, or Thursday night?

R: Thursday night. Thursday night was copy meeting and then...

G: And then you started....

R: Layout was the next three days, basically, and they'd expect you to have it done by Sunday so it could be sent off to the printer.

S: Who was the printer then?

R: We were going to Hays County, the Hays County Citizen.

G: We had been going to Seguin.

S: Had you been going there a long time?

G: It had been about a year, and then before that it had gone to Seguin. Before that I don't know.

R: We were producing camera ready copy.

S: You were producing camera ready copy then?

R: Yeah. We just sat directly down to film everything.

S: Do you know about what it cost to run? How many you were running and what it cost for that?

R: When I came on we were printing about 4,000 or 5,000, I think. I think the cost of everything was $200. That was for the office, and the equipment, for the printing, and everything.

G: Supplies and everything. In fact, I can remember some issues when the printing bill was under $100.

R: Yeah, ninety-eight, ninety-nine dollars.

G: And then it went up to $125, and that was the big crisis point. Sometime in 1975 it must have gone up to $125, then it went up to $130 or $140, and we were printing 4,000 issues of a sixteen page.

R: Yeah, it was supposed to be a sixteen-page, occasionally it would go up to twenty pages.

G: There was a big emphasis on collective process.

S: Was there an official editor at that time?

G: No. It was a collective editor.

R: People would be designated as, oh, somebody would be responsible for making sure the copy was there, somebody would be responsible for layout, somebody would make sure the copy got over to the camera, and that was rotated every week.

G: Yeah. Each week there was a coordinator who would follow through the process, be responsible for following through, but in terms of the copy, we got, since we were part of the network of the underground newspaper, we got copy from all over the country. From all over the country people would send various things to the underground networks.

But I definitely remember there were many times when people would criticize something in the copy, that needed to be changed, or, I can't really remember any specific examples, but you know, there's be a feeling that something wasn't...

R: (Mumbles) -- people would bring up comments on it and say, you know, it's going to have to be changed before it goes in, and, we'd have long discussions about it.

S: Was that mainly writing style questions, or political questions?

R: Political. Political.

R: Somebody would obviously go through and correct all the grammar. Phil Prim was a nut on making sure you had all the correct punctuation.

G: There's also writing style. I can remember having some touchy things, debates, about, this sounds sort of funny now. There was a commitment not to change the intent, this came out of feminism, a sense that if you change something that somebody writes, in terms of editing, like the normal bourgeoisie, or establishment, editors, that in a way its twisting and changing reality and putting it into a simplified package, an establishment type way. And that's one of the critiques they all had about establishment newspapers. It all read just the same; they all used the same style. You were welded into this style. Why not be more open and allow for some things that may not be exactly journalistically correct? And so there was this strong commitment in those early months anyway until those two women left Austin in 1975. But while they were there there was definitely this commitment that if one of the regular people, in particular, was submitting something, that you took a lot of care not to edit out their own particular personality or style. And so, in some cases, some very poor writing got in under that rubric.

S: What was its format at this time? Like number of pages, size of pages.

R: It was a regular tabloid, about sixteen pages, generally.

S: What day did it come out?

R: It hit the stand on Monday.

G: We would stay up Friday night. We'd start typing, people would start typing, Friday afternoon, Friday, evening, and then layout would be Saturday night. And I remember a lot of our friends were amazed, mean, it even amazes me now, that for almost two years I spent Friday nights, and many times, Saturday nights working up at the Rag.

S: That is amazing.

G: Yeah, working up at the Rag.

R: It was very late at night a lot of the times.

G: Yeah, we'd be up to one or two o'clock. Another interesting element was that there was a fair number of political people in town who really didn't see it as an important political job to be doing. In fact, it's really more confusing than anything. It's the feeling that the Rag was such a mix of politics. There were some people who were spiritual, us who were socialists, people who were not socialists or spiritual, there were...

R: A lot of anarchists.

G: Yeah, a couple of anarchists, one guy who's a Marxist-Leninist.

* * *

S: What were your subscriptions then?

R: Our mail-ins were 400, about 400.

G: We mailed out four or 500, and distributed...

R:  A lot of them were exchange copies.

* * *

G: This was a time when the whole movement, the whole radical culture was dying, or going through a period of decline, after a peak in 1972, and so it's hard to evaluate it. I mean, I feel we reached a lot of people who would have never picked up a coherent political paper in that sense. We also, though, since it was a subculture, didn't reach more ordinary folks. There were people alienated from the radical/hippie paper, so, you know, it cuts both ways. You know, we would get numerous things, and other things from various people concerning police brutality in East Austin where the regular newspapers weren't covering it very well. And Alan Pogue, you know, that was his earliest and only outlet was the Rag. That's where he published his photographs, photographs about the early black community efforts around the independent school, that was before my time, and the police brutality marches they had in 1972 and 1973 and 1974. And so I feel we did make a contribution. It had a lot of imperfections, but...

S: When did the Rag end actually?

R: I think it was 1977.

S: Really? It made it to 1977?

R: I'm pretty sure. We stopped being weekly, moved to twice a month, moved to monthly, and in the summer of 1977, people just finally, we were ready for the summer break....We sort of kept putting it out every other week, for eight or nine months I think, and then put out a couple of monthly issues, and gave it up. Gave up the ghost.

G: There was a big argument about going from weekly to two weeks, because they'd say, that's going to be the first step, you know....They were definitely right, but nobody could continue to put out the weekly. Nobody was coming onto the paper, and people who were doing it were getting real tired of it, and we were basically getting no support from anybody.

S: Any positive feedback from anywhere else at that point?

R: Almost none.

S: Can you pin down at all when you feel that process began, that it stopped? When it started, it spoke to a wide range of people, never perfectly, nobody ever really liked the Rag, right? But there was this whole group of people who were alienated.

R: I don't think it ever stopped speaking to people, it was that no one was willing to work on it, that's what killed it because it was all volunteer. We couldn't pay anybody. It took a certain amount of energy. At that time it wasn't just happening locally, it was happening nationally. Everybody was just dropping off.

R: The three of us, Jim, Bill Meacham, and I put it all in the back of a van, took it out to the county dump, and dumped it away.

S: Dumped the Rag?

R: Dumped it. Buried it. We just kicked it out of the back of the van.

S: What did you haul out to the dump?

R: Everything. All the old, well, we saved a set of back issues for the Austin Public Library.

S: I want the whole story. I want to hear the whole story of the burial of the end of it.

R: We saved one set, just as complete as we could get it, for the Austin Public Library, and another one for UT, and I think, I'm not sure we ever took it anywhere. I think we just left it up at the Y. We had to come up with enough emotional strength to take it someplace. It was all the back issues of the newspaper, all the exchange copies of all the newspapers we'd had, all the Berkeley Barbs...

S: Oh, no.

R: Yeah. You know, all those little files...

G: Graphics files, we had huge boxes.

S: If you're ever in this position again, send it to the Wisconsin Historical Society. They got a lot of the SDS stuff.

* * *

G: I began to get frustrated with the Rag, just, when Suzanne and Lynn, Suzanne Gott and Lynn left in, a year later, it was in late 1975, early 1976, I attempted to try to get some other women involved, involved in the Rag and was never really able to. I began to get increasingly sort of alienated, feeling that it just, I just, and plus, I'd been there for two years, when you constantly have to pull together the money each week to know that, you can't see it ever getting in a better financial position. We could never find one of the key things that broke a lot of underground papers on a volunteer basis, was finding someone who would make apart-time income from selling ads. It takes a special kind of person to get into going around to people, selling themselves, for ads. So when that never happened...

S: What was your ad process?

G: Well, there was, early on there was one or two who would go around and sell ads, and fairly successfully, but again, when they went and did other stuff, you know, there were few people to replace them, and for a long time we divided up ads. We had a route of ads. Three or four people had connections to ads, that we would accumulate enough to put out an issue, but again, you only had to put out 150 bucks, to keep, to keep things going. Poor Jerry Montezuma brought in a seventy-five dollar ad from a movie. You just wouldn't need that much more. So, but as the economy, paper costs started escalating, and there wasn't enough energy to sell the ads. At the end part of the whole thing was the decline of the culture, the hippie culture/radical culture type stores and enterprises began closing down, or not to have enough money to pay for advertising. There were many folks in town who would just regularly give an ad, and they knew and we knew that they never got concretely, maybe, the dollar value return on their ad, but they were supporting the Rag.

R: Oat Willie's, Les Amis, Half Price Books, Freewheeling...

G: Bicycles.

R: Bicycles, and that was just about it. There was some camera shop that Alan Pogue was always able to bring in and Clarksville Cream Shop, but that was about it.

S: Do you remember what they sold the ads for?

G: Lowest rates in town. Lowest rates in Texas.

* * *

G: I certainly ran out of money and had to look for full time work and had less available time. The Rag put me in connection with a lot of political activity and a lot of groups and a lot of efforts. I had moved on to get into those things. I started having this frustration that I was just being this objective, standoff-and-look report-at-things when I wanted to start getting more involved with other things.

S: When did you start getting involved in other things when you were working on the Rag?

G: 1976 and 1977.

S: You felt like the Rag put you in touch?

G: Sure.

* * *

R: We weren't doing any street sales. We were just selling it off stands.

S: So from about 1974 until the end it was mainly sold from stands?

G: Oh, almost entirely through stands.

S: When did it stop being street sellers?

G&R: I don't know.

S: Was it before you came here?

G&R: Yes.

G: It was sometime between 1972 and 1974.

S: Was there a distribution system set up with stands by then? Was someone in charge of the distribution?

G: We all had a route.

R: We each had a route, each person who had a car. We'd drive around to these stands or leave them in stores.

G: We collected a good twenty percent of our budget from money in the stands. It was volunteer-stick-your- money-in-there, and people paid. Even toward the end.

S: Was that a political decision, to essentially give people free access to it?

R: Yes.

G: That was always part of it. It should be a free paper, and if people had the money to contribute they could do so.

* * *

S: Did you get any harassment because there certainly was in the early days?...Did you ever have any indication of infiltration or subversion?

R: The police in this city I don't think bothered us. I think we sent off under the Freedom of Information Act at one point and got all the records. They kept tabs on us, but they saw us a "no threat" I think they said.

S: Did they tell you that?

R: It said so in the documents.

G: There were people who came on and off for brief periods of time or would sit on....There was one of those cases where they're either extremely disruptive as an agent or disruptive as a person, and it serves the same purpose.

* * *

S: When exactly did somebody decide this was the end? Did you sit down and have a meeting to say goodbye?

R: It was about four people who came to a meeting, and very little conflict. We just decided we were not going to take responsibility for this one. If somebody shows up and does it, then it will happen, otherwise no way. I think we had money in the bank, but we were down to about 1,000 - 2,000 issues. It was hard to distribute them. People were reading them when we distributed them. It was just that we couldn't find people power to push them....We shut it down. At some point the Y asked us to clean it out. That's when we dumped it.

G: There's something that's very rare these days about seeing something from beginning to end, the entire production process. There are so many working people who see only a tiny piece of what they do. It's inspiring in a certain way that you know every step of it.

As a volunteer thing without some kind of better financial support, it's not very realistic that it can last very long because people just can't keep it up.

IV. THE RAG: 1972-1977

[1] "UT Storm Subsides: Student Strike Eyed", Austin American-Statesman, April 23, 1972, p. A2.

[2] Ibid.

[3] "Midwifery: An Alternative", Rag, June, 1974, p. 11.

[4] "IUDS", Rag, April 24, 1972, p. 6.

[5] Richard Johnson, interview, June, 1981.

[6] David Fricke, "Acupuncture Outlives Westernization Attempt", Rag, April 19, 1976, p. 1.

[7] Mark Pritchard, "Rag celebrates birthday", Daily Texan, October 14, 1976.

[8] David Frink, "Once unruly 'Rag' dies after 11 years", Austin American-Statesman, July 9, 1977.

Angus Mackenzie, "Sabotaging the Dissident Press", Columbia Journalism Review, March-April, 1981.



The Rag

I sought no certain and definable conclusions in this project. My goal was to describe and preserve.

There are, however, tendencies which can be noted, possible life stages to be described. There is commonality among the interviewed participants despite the different times in which they worked on the paper.

Above all, the Rag was a creature of its times, locked in a cause-and-effect circle with the movement of which it was a part. The Rag people created political events as political activists. As journalists they reported the same events, thereby communicating with and informing a larger audience. The larger audience became more politically active, and the cycle continued. Somewhere momentum was lost and the spiral declined.

As much as the Rag created the movement, it was itself reflective. When the political movement was dominated entirely by male leadership, the Rag ran nude photos of women and encouraged women to essentially aid in the sexual liberation of men. When feminism became strong political tendency within the movement, there were no more such pictures or articles.

The underground press must be seen not only as part of a rebellion in society but also as part of a rebellion within journalism. I found no evidence, not even hearsay, that the Rag ever once even pretended to objectivity nor that it ever shrank from creating the news it reported.

The achievement of keeping an alternative, entirely voluntary newspaper alive for eleven years is significant. Interviewees cited commitment, dedication, peer pressure, social ties, and, in one case, journalistic ambitions as factors in their involvement.

That the Rag was kept alive for so long is an achievement, but the fact of its being managed solely through collective effort is mind boggling. The founders who had experience in traditional journalism rejected the whole idea of an editor, and the decision stuck. It is a strength, a testament to the political commitment of staff members to living their politics, and also a weakness. There is efficiency -- and responsibility -- in leadership. Yet, the Rag shows that a radically different decision-making process can be sustained for a weekly for a substantial period of time.

A study of the Rag is also a study of the ebb and flow of alternative media and periods of social conflict. When nations, races, classes, social and political groupings contend, they will find a means of mass communication. That medium will, in turn, be the product of the conflict. The underground press is a good example. A new press was created to express opposition to a war, to present different ways of living, and to disseminate a wide range of news and opinion not carried by the traditional press. The tools available were many creative minds and offset printing and all the possibilities that combination could produce.

The nature of the underground press was also determined by the dominant medium of its time -- television. The Rag and other alternative newspapers recognized the appeal of communication through visual impact. A glance at several random Rag covers provides examples.

There are many criticisms that can be and have been made of the Rag. It has been called sexist, inefficient, "individualist, elitist, barely political",[1] and sectarian. It failed to speak to a determining point in its own existence, the murder of one of its founders. However, that the Rag, lived at all is something of a success. That it lived so long and touched so many is testimony to the intensity of the times and the dedication of the people.

Stages in the Rag's life can be noted. It began as the creation of a small group, but it touched a chord in a larger community. In fact, as Alan Winter has noted in an unpublished Master's thesis, "The Gay Press of the United States", "The move from the spoken to a written word is a major step toward an open community."[2] The Rag took that step in Austin. The community recognized itself, and the Rag grew and changed with it. Nothing is static. Circumstances changed and the community changed. The medium that reflected that community no longer spoke with a strong voice, and it began to falter and die. The downturn for the Rag came in the mid-1970's. What is really reflected in the rise and decline of the Rag, is the rise and decline of social movements, which ebb and wane in different forms at different times. The Rag and the underground press in general were manifestations of one of those times. There is not yet equality, dignity, economic and political freedom in the world. There will be other upsurges -- and other media to reflect them.

As Michael Fellner, the former editor of Madison's long-running Take Over, said

What people don't understand is that the underground press was supposed to self destruct. That was as it should be. The destruction process starts when people realize they don't need that voice anymore.[3]

Future Work

The next step in this research will be to identify key areas for further investigation. One such area will be contacting other Rag staff members. Severe limitations were imposed by time and funds. Some key figures in the Rag's history not represented in this study, notably Judy Smith, could fill in the story. The goal of extending this project will be to produce an integrated, narrative history of the Rag and the 1960's and 1970's in Austin, Texas which also maintains a sense of the people themselves through their own words.

As this project developed, after the data had been collected, I found myself thinking of a book that had not entered into my methodological considerations. The book is Five Sisters: Women Against the Tsar,[4] a 1977 translation of the accounts of five revolutionary Russian women, "five memoirs from the last century's tumultuous sixties and seventies and after, when the fires of revolution began to catch and spread...."[5] The women had been saved in a way to share their experiences with future generations. We can learn from the past, and it is my desire in this project to preserve some of it in its own variations and complexity.

Content studies of the Rag might also be of interest. Changes in language (like dropping the word "chick") might be revealing of something if recorded and correlated with other events at the time (like the women's movement).

Future work might also investigate patterns among the responses and memories of Rag staff members. Similarities in backgrounds, motivations, difficulties, and such, could be of interest from the points of view of history, psychology, or sociology.

Similarities and differences among the Rag and other underground newspapers is another area of possible study. If experiences were common to larger trends, that fact should be established.

The underground press is a part of the history of our time as well as a part of journalism history. The Rag is one case, one of hundreds similar, and yet unique, the product of the particular place, personalities, and circumstances. Those specifics make a story that deserves remembering.


[1] Austin S.D.S. leaflet, Progressive Labor Faction, 1969.

[2] Alan Winter, "The Gay Press of the United States: A History of the Gay Community and Its Publications."

[3] Michael Fellner, interview, March, 2981.

[4] Barbara Alpern Engel and Clifford N. Rosenthal, editor and translator, Five Sisters: Women Against the Tsar (New York; Shocken Books, 1977).

[5] Barbara Alpern Engel, Five Sisters, p. XI.



In 1980 a man was arrested in Austin on a charge of using a stolen credit card. He was a suspect in a series of robberies in the Austin and San Antonio area and in the murder of San Antonio real estate agent, Julian Dess.

It turned out that the same man was under investigation by the Treasury Department because, while his mother's Social Security checks were regularly cashed, no one had seen the lady since 1974.[1]

His name is Robert Joseph Zani. When he was arrested in March, 1980, his wife told investigating officers Paul Ruiz and Robert Martinez that he had killed his mother, hacked her body into pieces, and buried her over three states.[2] She also told police that Zani had killed George Vizard, "that smart-ass communist"[3], in 1967.

On July 23, 1967, George Vizard, a local radical and one of the founders of Austin's underground newspaper, the Rag, was deliberately executed with two shots from a .357 magnum in the cold storage locker of the Town and Country convenience store where he worked.

Robert Joseph Zani had been a student at the University of Texas in the 1960's. He ran for the office of President of the Student Government in 1966. He advocated the abolition of student government and wore Mickey Mouse ears in a picture in the Daily Texan.[4] He lost the election. Zani joined both SDS and the ultraconservative Young Americans for Freedom.

Robert Zani had worked at the Town and Country store and had been fired by the manager, George's friend, Torn Mantle. He knew the store layout, procedures, safe combination, and when a clerk would be there alone -- like early on a Sunday morning. Zani was known to be in need of money. On Friday, July 21, 1967, he had tried to convince two other students to go in with him on the easy robbery of the store where he had worked. When those two students read of the murder at the Town and Country store they called the police and gave them Zani's name and informed them of their Friday night conversation.[5]

Robert Joseph Zani had left his fingerprints on a butterscotch candy wrapper, a pastry wrapper, and a loaf of bread, all left on the counter. He had been seen by customers -- whom he had attended after the murder -who would be able to identify him fourteen years later under hypnosis. It would have been easier then.

The Austin police had the following evidence at the time: witnesses to the probable murderer, material evidence, a person with knowledge of the store, its procedures, a motive, and a hot tip naming an identifiable suspect. It is too simple a plot even to sell to television. Although Marian Vizard was forced to take a polygraph test the week of her husband's funeral, and other SDS members were interrogated, in 1967 the Austin police never so much as questioned Robert Zani.[6]


[1] Scott Lind, "The Politics of Murder", UTmost, Spring 1981, p. 53.

[2] Ibid., p. 51.

[3] Ibid., p. 53.

[4] Mark McKinnon, "Former student suspected in 1967 slaying", Daily Texan, July 25, 1980, p. 1.

[5] Lind, "The Politics of Murder", p. 52.

[6] Tom Knutsen, "Zani sentenced to 99 years", Austin American-Statesman, March 20, 1981, B2.



Inaugural Rag


2nd anniversary peace accords


Let Lorene Go


Radioactive Texas


10th year anniversary issue



Askin, Richard, Jr. "Comparative Characteristics of the Alternative Press, 1970." Master's thesis, University of Texas, 1970.

Chance, Michael. "Thomas King Forcade, Potfather," Take Over, September 9, 1979, pp. 14-38.

"Cry Raised in Slaying in Austin," Dallas Morning News, July 25, 1967, p. 6A.

Dugger, Ronnie. Our Invaded Universities. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, Inc., 1974.

Fitzgerald, Dennis. "Student Revolt," Rag, May 1, 1967, p. 1.

Forcade, Thomas King. Underground Press Anthology. New York: Ace Books, 1972.

Frink, David. "Once unruly 'Rag' dies after 11 years," Austin American-Statesman, July 9, 1977.

Gitlin, Todd. The Whole World is Watching, Mass Media in the Making and Unmaking of the New Left. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1980.

Glassing, Robert J. The Underground Press in America. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1970.

Johnson, Michael J. The New Journalism. Lawrence: The University Press of Kansas, 1971.

Leamer, Laurence. The Paper Revolutionaries, the Rise of the Underground Press. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1972.

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