Political ramifications

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In the primordial days of DIY publishing, the term "zine" didn't exist. Long before the advent of the photocopier, beatniks, hippies, and all types of rabble-rousers were cranking out politicized diatribes on newsprint. In the '60s, underground newspapers carried a cachet of nascent rebellion. That vaporized as "underground" became synonymous with teen-targeted marketing, but back in the day the mere possession of a copy of the Revolutionary Worker or some such could get you marked as a pinko anarchist--and that was cool.

Now that the second Bush administration is fully settled in, many zinesters are experiencing a rekindling of anti-establishment ideals. As did Ronald Reagan in the '80s, Dubya provides an excellent target for zine publishers. For some politically oriented self-publishers, however, the embers of revolution never cooled. Clamor is a prime example of the left-leaning publications that have examined all aspects of life in a political context from day one.

"Even things like sexuality and leisure involve political decisions and have political implications," says Jason Kucsma, co-editor of Clamor. "I don't really think that recent electoral politics has changed a whole lot about our magazine. I come from a train of thought that people are always trying to find ways to eke out their own independence and autonomy within the framework of our contemporary culture."

Published in Bowling Green, Ohio, Clamor seeks to inspire readers to evaluate the political ramifications of everyday life. The table of contents is divided into several categories: Economics, People, Sexuality and Relationships, Media, Politics, Places, and Culture. Articles are laden with political theory and prove that, like life, nothing is as simple as it may seem.

As the magazine's sole staff members, editors Kucsma and Jen Angel (an alum of Maximumrocknroll who also publishes the highly regarded Fucktooth) do all of the design and administrative tasks. Still, the bimonthly magazine, which has a circulation of around 10,000, has yet to turn a profit. Kucsma says he hopes that he and Angel can at least realize self-sustaining revenues in the future.

Thanks to its glossy cover, its designation as a magazine (as opposed to a "zine"), and professional distribution methods, Clamor lacks the patched-together feel of many revolutionary publications. Kucsma and Angel both got into the independent-publishing world via zines, but for this project they went the magazine route in hopes of reaching a wider readership.

"We think the zine community is exclusive to a certain extent," Kucsma says. "That exclusivity is not a bad thing--it provides an imagined community where people can trade ideas outside of the grasp of the mainstream. But we also thought that there is a lot to be shared with people who wouldn't necessarily pick up a zine. There were ideas that weren't getting shared in the zine format, and we wanted to bring those ideas to some people in a mainstream format. And we've taken a lot of flak for that."

Clamor serves as a public forum for assorted factions of the leftist community. Kucsma says he and Angel don't shrink from publishing writers they don't agree with, but they draw the line at ideas they find repellent--overt racism, sexism, etc. Some of the articles are quite opinionated and come to decisive conclusions, so the editors require that contributors state their sources. "Fact-checking is an issue that Jen and I are always dealing with," Kucsma says. "We do make sure that our contributors cite their sources. If they're going to make some claims, we ask that they make references at the end of the stories."

That breadth and rigor paid off in Clamor's designation as Best New Title in Utne Reader's 2000 Alternative Press Awards. Clamor does presents highly intellectual fare, and its articles are well written and well intentioned, but the overuse of revolutionary rhetoric sometimes wears on the reader. Even the far left has its lemmings, and the virtual canonization of Leonard Peltier, Mumia Abu-Jamal, and Noam Chomsky is sometimes questionable. But Clamor does strive to go beyond the usual left shibboleths and keep a finger on the pulse of subterranean political ideology. Whatever their political orientation, most any reader would raise an eyebrow at titles like "I'd Rather Masturbate Than Copulate," "Was Abraham Lincoln a Racist?," and "Hollywood and the Business of Propping Up Nation-States."

"There's no mistaking that Clamor is a left-leaning magazine," Kucsma says. "I think that we sort of serve as community organizers. We don't necessarily go in with a certain political ideology, we just try to recognize that people are coming from different perspectives. We want to recognize that we all have a lot in common despite the fact that one of our readers might call [herself] a Marxist, one might call himself an anarchist and another might consider [herself] a middle-American worker." (Clamor can be found at better bookstores and newsstands. It can also be ordered online at www.clamormagazine.org.)

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