Irish Republican Journalism Politics

The FBI, The IRA, And Warren Hinckle, Gonzo Journalist And Editor

The name Warren Hinckle will probably be unknown to most ASF readers but for a time he was one of the most famous left-wing journalists in the United States of America. From 1964 to 1969 he was the executive editor of the Ramparts, a glossy political and literary magazine published in San Francisco, which gained a decidedly anti-establishment reputation under his stewardship. Beginning as a liberal Catholic publication, the Californian-born reporter turned it into a beacon of the then New Left movement in the US. Its fame – or infamy – was enhanced by its tendency towards gonzo journalism and high-profile exposes of important political figures and issues. Indeed, its splash covers are still regarded as industry classics, stirring up more controversy than the articles themselves. Eventually Hinckle moved on to a somewhat more conventional career with several newspapers but he never abandoned his radical roots.

Warren Hinckle

The website MuckRock reports on the FBI’s interest in the journalist and his supposed links with supporters of the Irish republican cause in the San Francisco Bay area during the 1980s (which I touched on before in this discussion of John Dolan, the War Nerd).

Warren Hinckle didn’t appear in the files of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) until the early 1980s, but by that point, the arguably-Rubenesque rapscallion had already solidified a spot as a San Francisco leftist legend through his role as Ramparts editor-in-chief and as the man who set Hunter S. Thompson up with his iconic illustrator Ralph Steadman.

It was his support of the Irish Republican Army (IRA), however, that ultimately initiated the Bureau’s interest in him. In a file begun in August 1981, alongside that of Irish anarchist John McGuffin…

More here.


14 comments on “The FBI, The IRA, And Warren Hinckle, Gonzo Journalist And Editor

  1. I remember Hinckle well, having attended high school in the San Francisco Bay Area. He wrote for both of San Francisco’s major daily papers at different times and in the early 1990s he resigned from the San Francisco Examiner to run for mayor (returning after he lost). He was indeed a character, and seems exactly the sort the FBI would have kept tabs on.

  2. Wow. I met Hinkle and John McGuffin, whom I liked. In fact I have McGuffin’ s book “The Fenians in England” ’cause he lent it to me and I didn’t return it. I met them, and others because I attended New College of California, a disorganized private school on Valencia street in San Francisco, which was shut down in the early noughties for being a diploma mill.
    It was accredited by WASC for many years, which is why the degree in Irish Studies I received there means something. Daniel Cassidy led that program and organized the events that took place in the theaters on the 2 campus’s, which were across the street from each other.
    I remember feeling like there was an underbelly to the community events, the ceilis and hooleys and talks and discussions. I think I remember Gerry in the parka, and a few other incredibly hard bitten men who would show up to the talks with shaved heads, and accents so thick and an air of traumatized & feral watchfulness to them.
    Danny kept the students away from a lot of that stuff and once told me plainly that there were limits I should put on myself to getting involved and it was a serious conversation.

    • Ok, two coincidences from one story. You and CBC both knew Hinckle. It’s a small world. Would love to hear more about the other side of the local community events in SF. I knew the city had a strong Irish (republican) connection but it was apparently stronger than most realised.

      • I am working with the history of Irish nationalism in the Mission District currently: it’s hosted militant nationalists since the 1860’s–that would be the Irish first, and later in the twentieth century, South /Central Americans escaping the proxy wars in El Salvador, Nicaragua, and Guatemala…
        …but to the history of Fenians in the Mission: yup, I’m all over it and going to London in five weeks to look at the British consul’s file at the National Archives to read up on all the MI5/MI6 activity in San Francisco, mostly the South of Market and the Mission District from 1902 to …1919? 1920? I have read estimates that at least 200 British agents were on the loose during that time, spying on people. I’d be happy to talk to you offline about this.
        Also, check this out” The Oakland Museum of California (it’s a GREAT museum) has a collection of protest posters, which are online and many of which dates from the moment in time that Dolan was discussing…lots of NORAID posters and ephemera.
        If you follow this link, and type in Ireland or Irish in the search bar, you will see all kinds of stuff. It’s very cool. One of these days, I’ll write them and ask them to do a show for the month of March that exhibits these posters.

    • I can’t comment on how good or bad the Irish Studies course was at New College (as other people were probably involved in it), but Cassidy himself was a nut. His book on Irish and American slang is an incompetent piece of crap which is completely without merit and Cassidy had no degrees or qualifications beyond a high school certificate, which means that his taking a position as a professor in a WASC-accredited institution was presumably an act of fraud (i.e. about nine years drawing a salary he had no right to!). As for his comments to you about not getting further involved, it was probably an attempt to convince you that he was deeply involved in the movement. Like all narcissists, Cassidy liked to surround himself with people who bolstered his ego, either by adoring him or by being successful themselves and allowing him to hang around with them. McGuffin, I believe, was a difficult man but at least he had genuine talents and achievements. I wonder if he got on with Cassidy or if he eventually saw through him and realised what a piece of work he really was?

      • you know, debunker, for someone you think is a waste of time, you sure spend a lotta time thinking about Mr. Cassidy.
        get a new hobby, wouldja?

        • Obviously, if Cassidy hadn’t been such a colossal hole in the air, it wouldn’t be necessary to debunk all the rubbish he left behind. However, there is one point your comment leaves unclear – do you think I should get a new hobby and stop blogging about Cassidy because (a) you think I’ve got it wrong about his fake degrees, his fake career, his fake book and his fake etymology, or (b) because you know he was a fraud but you don’t want people telling the truth about him? I don’t really care much what the answer is but I think it’s a question you should really ask yourself.

          • I think if he were alive, you could be accused of harassment and stalking. Really, guy. Give it a fucking rest.

            • If Cassidy were alive, he’d probably be in prison for taking an academic job he wasn’t entitled to. Unfortunately, writing fictional books of etymology while pretending they’re real isn’t a criminal offence but it’s deeply immoral. As is your defence of this man and his shenanigans. If telling the truth and persisting in telling the truth is harassment and stalking, I’m guilty as charged. I hope people will take a look at my blog. The smart ones will quickly realise which of us is lying.

  3. john cronin

    Have you ever read “Watching The Door” by Kevin Myers? I know an sionnach regards Myers as the Antichrist, but it was a pretty good book I thought. John McGuffin gets a lengthy mention in dispatches: an appallingly obnoxious figure by Myers’ account.

    • Aithníonn ciaróg ciaróg eile … Kevin My-arse is a professional controversialist who has made a living out of offending people … 🙂

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