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The New Underground By: Richard Poe
FrontPageMagazine.com | Thursday, June 01, 2000

SINCE THIS IS MY FIRST DAY on the job, I should probably say a few words about who I am. Like most visitors to this site, I was drawn here by my interest in David Horowitz, our founder and editor-in-chief. I never knew his name until recently. But as a young journalist in Syracuse, New York, I heard a great deal about Ramparts, the radical magazine David edited during the '60s and early '70s.

People were still talking about Ramparts in 1984, when I started work at the Syracuse New Times. Like the era it embodied, Ramparts was long dead. But it symbolized the kind of journalism I longed to do. Like many in my age group, I felt cheated. The '60s had come and gone before I reached college. Much of my youth was spent trying to recapture the excitement I thought I'd missed. Though styling itself an "alternative" paper, the New Times showed little promise of satisfying my craving for action.

In 1985, I moved to New York City and became managing editor of the East Village Eye. Here at last was a real underground publication, covering the avant-garde art scene in downtown Manhattan. The press was abuzz with talk of a "New Bohemia" in the East Village. We were right in the thick of it. Graffiti artist Keith Haring worked out of our building. Details magazine was upstairs. One night, I ran into a very tipsy (or perhaps stoned) Grace Jones in the elevator, flanked by two bodyguards.

It was heady stuff for a kid from Syracuse. But disillusionment set in quickly. Promoters of the East Village "scene" were fond of likening it to the '60s counterculture. But the East Village of the '80s more closely resembled Weimar Berlin, with its seedy cabarets, jaded chanteuses, pale men in lipstick and foreboding of future horrors.

In the East Village, I was forced to ask myself why I had ever wanted to be an underground journalist in the first place. Most of the underground characters I met were repellent. Their politics were uglier still, from the cruel Marxism of Alphabet City squatters to the "post-modernist" pretensions of art scene hangers-on, gabbing about "subverting" the bourgeois order, over wine and cheese at gallery openings.

Ever since reading Murray Rothbard's For a New Liberty in college, I had been calling myself a libertarian. But Tom Wolfe's The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test and other romantic accounts of the '60s had lent a hippie-ish taint to my creed. I was an "anti-anti-Communist," a useful idiot who spent years defending a Left whose beliefs I did not really share. The East Village helped cure me of that hypocrisy.

Slowly but surely, I learned to be a real libertarian. In later years, as senior editor of Success magazine, I discovered a different sort of underground, a world where God-fearing, hard-working men and women strove to make a life for themselves, through franchising, multilevel marketing and other do-it-yourself businesses. I learned to love and draw sustenance from the authors they loved -- Dale Carnegie, Napoleon Hill, Zig Ziglar, Norman Vincent Peale -- names that would have drawn a scream of derisive laughter from any self-respecting post-modernist.

Eventually I became something of a self-help guru myself, writing bestselling books on sales, marketing and personal development. I found that there was no greater joy than helping others succeed, and no better tool for accomplishing it than free enterprise.

Then came the year of Monica Lewinsky. Like so many Americans, I watched aghast as Filegate, Chinagate and other Clinton scandals were forgotten in the media spectacle surrounding Monica's busy lips. I saw a Congress as impotent as the Roman Senate under Nero, a press as emasculated as Pravda or Izvestia. Burning with indignation, I began writing for NewsMax.com. And suddenly I found myself in the underground once more.

In the May 16, 2000 Village Voice, left-wing writer James Ridgeway singles out NewsMax.com and other conservative news sites for praise. "If you're not checking them out, you're missing half of the story," he writes. By contrast, Ridgeway admits that most left-wing sites are "knee-jerk predictable."

Ridgeway should know. A former contributor to Ramparts, he is an underground man from way back. Ridgeway knows the real stuff when he sees it. And it is from the Right that the real stuff is emanating these days.

The Left simply has nothing to say. Firmly ensconced in power, the Left speaks through White House spin doctors, cable talk shows and network news anchors. Its voice is the soulless drone of the Establishment.

Now it is the Right that defies authority. We have become the freedom fighters, the counterculture. The Internet is our new underground. It is fitting that David Horowitz should find himself in the vanguard of this incipient revolution. Having breathed the fetid air in the belly of the Marxist beast, he is more qualified than most to warn of its horrors.

I join David's team with the deepest pleasure and pride. From all that I hear about my predecessor Chris Weinkopf, his act will be a hard one to follow. In the weeks and months ahead, I will do my best to ensure that readers of FrontPage find all the humor, passion, vitality and daring on our website that they should rightly expect from Ramparts' successor.

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