Bernie Sanders Wrote Something Embarrassing 43 Years Ago

Probably like a lot of you, I read Bernie Sanders’ 1972 “underground” newspaper piece on sex and gender attitudes and found it mildly embarrassing–not a terribly unusual finding for alternative journalism of that particular era–but not alarming unless you are really literal-minded. That didn’t prevent some predictable conservative Twitter nastiness, of course. So it’s probably good that Salon‘s Katie McDonough not only pointed out that Sanders was obviously mocking stereotypes about women having “rape fantasies,” but also detailed his record over the years in fighting rape and other violent acts against women.

I do wonder if some younger folk might not be aware of the nature of “underground” (they were not called by the less incendiary label of “alternative” until much later) newspapers and their content back in that day. There was a lot of revolutionary posturing and a lot of epater les bourgeois cultural outrage as well, and not a little bit of bad writing. There were nuggets, too: in my own local underground paper of that era, Atlanta’s Great Speckled Bird, there was a columnist calling himself Og the King of Bashan who influences my writing style to this very day.

I was a bit too young to contribute in the Bird‘s 1960s heyday, though I did, to my eternal embarrassment, get myself photographed at an anti-war rally protesting a Spiro Agnew appearance in Atlanta by holding a sign that read “Free Kim Agnew” (Kim was the Veep’s teenage daughter, whom he prohibited from wearing a black armband to school to protest the war being prosecuted by her daddy’s boss and benefactor, Richard Nixon). As I recall, one of the older protesters–probably a Young Socialist Alliance militant from Georgia State–frowned at my sign and said: Can’t you put something more substantive on there like “Two Four Six Eight We Don’t Want No Fascist State?”

Yeah, let’s give Bernie and everybody else a plenary indulgence on underground newspaper writing from the 60s and 70s.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.