May 25th, 2009

New Tilley Hat

The Open Conspiracy: A different kind of remembrance

Apparently, the Harvard Crimson is digitizing all of its library. They got to this review of my mother's book, published on May 8, 1970:

Books: The Open Conspiracy
IF YOU'RE willing to pay four bucks to see Woodstock at a Sack theatre, then you will certainly grab the opportunity to give up seven bucks for Ethel Grodzins Romm's extensive collection of spicy excerpts from the underground press.

Few Woodstock participants actually want their mud-soaked experience unfolding in leaden colar in a tightly ushered, red-carpeted, air-conditioned movie house which charges anti-people prices. Similarly, few persons who have been closely involved with the underground press can really appreciate Mrs. Romm's commentary which supplements this collection of cartoons, articles, and photographs. The Open Conspiracy however, is not directed at these intensely partisan initiates so much as it is aimed at the silent, confused legions of Middle America.

In fact, Mrs. Romm seems to view her anthology as a test of the fragile open-mindedness of silent majoritarians who are dangerously close to slipping from misunderstanding into repression. In her preface, she tells her readers that much of her salacious "actual raw material" will offend them and asks them to be tolerant:
The review goes on, saying as much about the underground newspaper culture at the time as it does about the book.

I find this period interesting, because the legacy of the counter-culture press is today's bloggers. Bloggers exist, and have risen to importance as a means for people to get their news, for the same reason then as now: The failure of the mainstream media to report the news. Then as now, the press was dominated by conservatives who, all too often, were more concerned about immediate headlines and access to high-level politicians than they were concerned about telling their readers what the heck was going in the world. (Excuse me, ... what the fuck was going on...) Then as now the mainstream media is just not getting it. Then, independent newspapers were failing, and were gobbled up by corporations; now, print newspapers are failing and either going on-line only or simply ceding their function to bloggers.

I grew up surrounded by stacks of underground newspapers, most of which I ignored. But I really do appreciate the "paperless office". The computer hasn't completely eliminated the need for paperwork, but it's a vastly different (and different smelling) world of research.

Somewhere around here, I have a box of The Underground Conspiracy. The specific politics of the 60s will both be alien and frighteningly familiar. And many of the wild-ass charges made turned out to be spot on: J Edgar Hoover was a gay megalomaniac, LBJ was a crook who wasn't telling the whole story about Vietnam, etc.

Thanks to my cousins Jenny and Dean for digging this up.