In the fall of 1966, when I was still unable to imagine someday having second thoughts about the radicalism I had adopted as a profession, I joined the staff of Ramparts. It was standing on the epic cusp of celebrity and influence that would soon make it the most important magazine of the 1960s. Unlike the ascetic publications of the left until then, generally little more than mimeographed anthologies of wearisome assertion and typographical error, Ramparts was a shameless hussy—a four-color glossy on heavily coated stock with witty breakthrough graphics. It defined itself as a radical version of Time, had a bite as bad as its bark, and felt sure that it could put a thumbprint on reality by funneling New Left ideas into a growing middlebrow audience suddenly willing to believe the worst about what it was now calling “The System.”

A few months after I got there,...


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