Paul Krassner, who died yesterday, was one of the leading lights of what we might call post-hippy revolutionary America – part of Ken Kesey’s Merry Pranksters and a founding member of the Yippies, the anarchic, sometimes inspired, sometimes irritating Youth International Party who were known for political protest and mischief – among their pranks were putting Pegasus the Pig forward as a Presidential candidate in 1968 and causing chaos at anti-war demonstrations.
As a writer, Krassner published The Realist, a satirical anti-censorship magazine that ran through the 1960s and into the 1970s. Famously, he produced a poster that proclaimed FUCK COMMUNISM in the hope of being arrested for obscenity (he wasn’t), and the story The Parts That Were Left Out of the Kennedy Book, which spread the story of Lyndon Johnson sexually penetrating the bullet hole in JFK’s throat. Amazingly, this story spread into the mainstream – a 1960s version of the David Cameron pig fucking story.
Krassner published many books and essays, for everyone from Playboy to City Lights, performed as a stand up comedian, and in later years was much in demand as an expert on the counter culture and revolutionary politics of the late 1960s. His life and work are a reminder of a time when revolutionary politics meant defiantly defending free speech and the right to offend – an idea now incomprehensible – and as a time capsule of the era when hippy idealism turned into something more combative and provocative.