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Magazines, like politics, make for strange bedfellows, and it stands to reason that political magazines would make for the very strangest of all. So it didn’t surprise us, as we looked back over our early editions in preparing this celebration of our 30 years in publication, to encounter an odd conjunction or two. The oddest may have been the photographs that illustrated some of our most matter-of-fact columns, of an incorrigibly goofy figure, a costumed jester pictured stealing a painting, sliding down a fire pole, or in fragrante with a rose between his teeth, dressed in a sailor suit. The images paid oblique homage to the topics at hand—the fire pole shot went with a story on the death toll caused by cigarette-ignited house fires. But still—this stuff was silly! The character’s name was Pinkie.

Pinkie provoked in us a feeling familiar to any adult looking back on errant childhood: embarrassment. And something else: envy. To have such fun in pursuit of such high goals! To wander so unguarded through the culture wars! Not that we don’t amuse ourselves on occasion, but, well, it’s not quite the same.

Were he asked, of course, Pinkie might have told us that things back in the late 1970s weren’t so different from how they are today. Turn the page in one of Mother Jones‘ early issues, and you’ll find yourself lost in news that an American president “wants broader power to wiretap citizens,” that energy companies have directly inserted skewed facts into the (same) president’s mouth, that propaganda is being dolled up as reportage and slipped into the media stream as news, that an airplane had been hijacked by a man whose aims didn’t include any expectation of landing, that people are being prosecuted for helping illegal Mexican immigrants, that panic-inducing flu pandemics are being spread by animals. You’d have to check the dateline to remind yourself that this isn’t 2006. The epidemic is swine flu, the president Jimmy Carter, and the hijacker D.B. Cooper, who parachuted out of his purloined 727 holding $200,000 in cash, never to be seen again.

Still, all that similarity just highlights how utterly things have changed. Unlike our current president, intent on claiming extensive power to spy on American phone communications and bank records, Carter was merely trying to defend the dry legal precept that presidents couldn’t be sued, as Richard Nixon had been by a former administration official whose home he’d bugged. (Nixon, by the way, was informed by Congress that such domestic surveillance was impeachable.) And D.B. Cooper never aimed a jet at a skyscraper. The writing may have been on the wall in 1980, the year Pinkie made his last appearance in these pages and decamped for New York (or “zee Big Apple” as the caption cringibly put it), but Americans of any persuasion would not have expected things to get so suddenly dire, for the nation to turn so dramatically to the right, for the corporate and government miscreants Mother Jones had done such a good job of confronting to come revanching back like Grendel’s mom, even meaner and fiercer than the first time around, having studied the left’s tactics and mastered them. Nor would they have expected a putsch awarding the White House to a group of old Nixon hands so extreme in their disdain for the Constitution they make Tricky Dick himself look like a strict constructionist. Can you imagine any magazine today running a headline saying, “New Orleans Before It’s Too Late,” referring to a not-to-be-missed jazz festival?

Of course, the collapse toward our current condition was already under way, and the rebellious freedoms of the ’60s had begun their wane, well before Pinkie’s era. Mother Jones was born in the gloaming of a radical time, not in its heyday. Still, to read those early issues of the magazine is to know that we haven’t lived just three decades, but two lifetimes, straddling two distinct political and cultural worlds.

Perched in the earlier of those worlds, it would be hard to envision the full force of onrushing cultural changes: the commercial targeting (and social self-absorption) that’s diced life into ever smaller spheres serving ever narrower interest groups, the technology that abets our isolation while giving the impression of intimate communal space—call it safe sects, community without real intercourse. Not to mention the corporate raid on fun itself. There was a time, not long ago, when nearly everything fun belonged to the left, and the left could connect those things to radical politics and reformist principles. Transgressive recreation was on our side. We sold revolution through boinking, bongs, and a good bass beat, oblivious to the danger that sex, drugs, and rock and roll could be co-opted, could be turned into the Trojan horses of Leftopia. They were our consumer items, after all, and when it came to pushing product, we weren’t exactly the experts. The other guys were! So, inevitably, Ma Bell and her brethren learned to be hip, and consumers of hip learned to think of corporations as providers of fun and (pseudo-)subversive behavior, and suddenly we, the gonzo left, began to sound stodgy and preachy.

But fun wasn’t the important casualty, so much as the confidence to have it. Every page of Mother Jones in the 1970s spoke of something now curtailed, a climate wherein progressives could still feel self-assured, not embattled; reckless, not careful; could argue about how to amplify and extend their vision, not just how to protect it or resurrect it. Ask people back then, as Mother Jones did, what they wished for the world 10 years hence, and the answers weren’t defensive. They were forward-looking and adventurous. However deluded their cheer in a time when the clouds were already gathering, these readers and writers were engaged in the engineering and construction of something grand and new, something they may even have thought inevitable. Today, it too often seems, all that their descendants on the left can muster in the ruins of that besieged vision is how to best protest against further demolition, how to turn things around sufficiently to forestall Armageddon and Apocalypse.

It would be easy to chide those early issues, to say, And you would bring a magazine into such a world? How easy you had it, being a new progressive voice when the culture was on your side and your side seemed ascendant and all you had to do to win your point was wink! In such a climate one could relax and be buoyant, and make sport of those poor square blokes about to be run to ground beneath the progressive juggernaut. Now, we could whine, things are serious. But that would be all wrong. Pinkie didn’t forsake his dignity on our behalf only to have us disown him. Better to give thanks to him for knowing the importance of being un-earnest, of taking undignified chances, for having the courage to risk all, risk being wrong, risk looking foolish. If there is in fact any secret at all to our amazing longevity, that’s surely near the heart of it: knowing how to act the fool like the future depends on it.

In the following pages, we present some excerpts wise, foolish, right, wrong, inspirational, provocational, and downright silly, from the early pages of “the magazine for the rest of us” (as we called ourself): Mother Jones.

From a Letter to the Editor
September/October 1976

I’m still trying to figure out who “the rest of us” are, but what the hell? I’ve been brooding on that for at least 20 years…and if $8 will get me the answer, here it is.

Yeah…and now it’s time for breakfast.

Woody Creek, Colorado

From a Letter to the Editor
July 1976

Given the increasing frustrations of defending territory that should have been secured—equal opportunity employment, the ERA, reproductive control, to name a few—it is no wonder that some women have become harsher toward each other rather than more understanding in these deceitful times. No wonder, too, that people focus on what they can control—petty things like body hair—rather than focus on what seems out of reach, like foreign policy.… H.L. Mencken wrote, “Puritanism is the suspicion that someone, somewhere is having fun.” Feminists were raised in America just like the rest of the people. Some feminists are therefore Puritans.

Just on the surface of things, if I see one more pair of overalls covering a strong, vibrant woman I might throw up. Women are beautiful.

Boston, Massachusetts

Ma Bell’s Watchful Eye
June 1980

Some people say that all mothers are alike, but frankly, we think that the people at Ma Bell are considerably more finicky than we are. We haven’t had any accident-prevention performance reviews at Ma Jones lately, but if we did we surely wouldn’t have plunged into them without consulting these “how-to” directions. Just out from AT&T, this new series of forms is designed to…uh…

AT&T Long Lines
Performance Review Items
Accident Prevention Performance Review
Proper Response
1. Show me where a blank U512 Hazardous
Condition Report can be obtained.
Employee must be able to locate
a blank U512 Hazardous Condition Report
and be able to explain when to use it per GI36.
2. Demonstrate how to properly go up and down the stairs. A. Uses handrail.
B. Places full length of foot on step.
C. One step at a time, does not run up or down stairs.
D. Looks at step to watch for obstacles.
E. Stays to the right.
3. Demonstrate how to properly open and close a door. A. Opens and closes door slowly.
B. Uses the provided opening device – knob, push bar, handle, etc.
C. Uses proper door if marked “IN” and “OUT”.
4. Demonstrate how to safely use the following tools: Pencils Pencils: Never touch point.
Never uses as pointer.
Use correct tool for job.

From “Semi-Tough: The Politics Behind 60 Minutes
By Jeffrey Klein
September/October 1979

“So many feminists in our business lose that soft, round, appealing quality—I don’t know how else to define it.” —MIKE WALLACE

From “What America Needs to Do Next”
By Robert Lipsyte
September/October 1976

We need an End to Masculinity—a revocation of that illegitimate birth certificate that imprisons the biological male in a web of burdens and responsibilities that limits his options as a human being almost as severely as his sisters have been limited by sexual discrimination…

I measure myself only against other men. The size of my bank account, the size of my penis, the imagined size of my obituary when it finally shouldn’t matter any more.

And I will always come up short so long as my brothers and I lie to each other, lock horns needlessly, cherish the delusions that no matter how else we may fail we are better than the other half of the world merely because we are men. “You no girls no more,” the sergeant told us in basic training, “you swingin’ meat now….”

From “The Ten Most Useless Products”
By Art Levine
August 1978


Hey, fellas, this one’s for you! Sex experts, and some kind-hearted women, have argued for years that penis size isn’t that important a factor in providing sexual pleasure, but some men still aren’t convinced. To reassure any anxious readers, let’s repeat some well-known facts: the average penis size when the organ is flaccid is only six inches, and a mere 12 inches when erect. The average length of intercourse, from penetration to ejaculation, is one-half hour. Most men have intercourse four times a day, with only about three different sexual partners a week. So there’s really nothing to worry about.

For you others, this penis enlarger is a plastic tube in which the penis is inserted…

From “Used Husbands for Sale”
April 1977

Majority Report, a New York women’s newspaper, is offering a unique service to its women readers.

The publication’s classified advertising section is out with a “used husbands exchange” that lists the former husband’s first name and last initial and then some of the least endearing qualities of the advertiser’s ex-mate.

The paper states it came up with the idea because “Every woman who has lived with a man knows something about him that should, in the spirit of feminist solidarity, be passed on to his next victim.”

One of the latest entries reads like this: “Alan Z., 32; unemployed taxi driver…spent seven hours one day at Kennedy airport waiting for a fare back to New York City; outstanding features: beer gut; conversation (‘Hi, babe, whadaya say?’).”

Frankly, we think this could all develop into something: swap-meets for spouses and exes, used husband-and-wife dealerships (“This little beauty has only 2,000 miles of housework…”).

And then, of course, we could ask, apropos of Richard N: “Would you buy a used…?”

Chewed Cans Mean Snow
July 1977

Radio station KRSB in Roseburg, Oregon, gives two weather forecasts. One comes from the United States Weather Service, the other from people who watch wild goats. When goats move toward the top of nearby Mount Nebo, Roseburg residents expect fair weather. If the goats stay near the bottom, rain is predicted. During one two-week period, the goats were right 90 per cent of the time; the Weather Service scored 65 per cent.

From a Letter to the Editor
July 1977

I am an inmate in Statesville prison. I have been incarcerated for five years on a seven- to 12-year sentence for an armed robbery of the largest retail bookstore in Chicago on Christmas Eve. All I could carry was $43,000 of their money.

I first got Mother Jones a few weeks ago from a brother who had gotten it from the library cart. He thought I would like to read your magazine because I am always saying that 90 per cent of books are written to make money (capitalism) and not to inform anyone.

However, I find Mother Jones to be relevant to surviving life in the mainstream of American life. Y’all doing all right.

Nonetheless, y’all still a bunch of white boys trying to clean up y’all’s daddies’ shit!

Joliet, Illinois

From “Will Coal Sink Manhattan?”
August 1977

According to some of his own top advisers, President Carter’s energy plan could have disastrous consequences for the environment. If carried out, the Carter energy plan could easily change the climate of the world in the next 30 years by more than it has changed in the last 100,000.

That heart-warming piece of advice comes from William Nordhaus, one of the President’s top economic advisers, [who] told a meeting of scientists that dependence on coal in the Carter plan will lead to a rapid rise in atmospheric carbon dioxide, which will in turn lead to a rapid worldwide warming trend.

And Now, the Exploding Gas Pump.
By Richard Parker
Table of Contents, June 1979

When gas averages $1 a gallon, the oil companies will blame it all on OPEC, Iran and anything else they can think of. But they’ll be laughing all the way to the bank.

From “Detroit Grabs for the Globe”
By Richard Parker
May 1979

As Ford, GM and Chrysler turn their attention elsewhere, labor unions worry that jobs in Detroit, already being lost to nonunionized plants in the South, will—like electronics and textiles—slip overseas, exacerbating Detroit’s already serious urban problems.

From “The First Post-Oil Society?”
By Richard Parker
February/March 1979

The People’s Republic of China is on the verge of breaking into industrial statehood in a big way [which] holds out the possibility for what a friend of mine calls “the world’s first post-petroleum culture.”… China…has 100,000 autos for over 900 million people—a ratio…that would yield less than a thousand cars in all Los Angeles county…. The likelihood that Shanghai will become the Detroit of the Far East seems, at this point, remote.

From a Letter to the Editor
January 1977

Just received my first copy of your magazine and am quite pleased. Specially happy about the article written by Mr. R. Parker on Mobil and Rhodesia (“And the Oil Goes Round…,” September/October 1976). How nice of him to dwell on that unconfessed and uncomfortable issue.

Perhaps you have noticed the logo on this letter. I have been working as a researcher and copy editor in Mobil’s public relations department; as of tomorrow, I will not. Out of curiosity, have you any need to employ a freelance researcher and writer? Attached is my résumé.

New York, New York

From “The Next Six Vietnams”
By Roger Rapoport
November 1976

One thing about America’s next war is certain: it will not be another Vietnam. It cost the U.S. military a dozen years and nearly 60,000 lives to learn one important tactical lesson: don’t get involved in a long, protracted ground war.

From an Editor’s Note
March/April 1991

Bush’s determination to seek a military rather than a diplomatic solution has been especially perplexing for the absence of any convincing argument about how the underlying causes of the crisis might be assuaged by war…flattening Iraq may simply lay the groundwork for a grand jihad against Israel and the United States.

But if the Bush administration can be faulted for failing to think through postwar issues, its strategy to win hearts and minds at home has been simple: Squash any meaningful role for the press.

From “The Iranian Hundred Years’ War”
By Eqbal Ahmad
April 1979

What kind of state might result if Khomeini or his followers take power? As someone who has talked with him at length, I believe that, when Khomeini speaks of an Islamic state for Iran, it is a Shi’ite scholar’s way of saying that he wants a good state in Iran. His concept of a good state includes democratic reforms, freedom for political prisoners, an end to the astronomical waste of huge arms purchases, and a constitutionalist government.

From an Editor’s Note
April 1980

The Left is always better at seeing what leads to revolutions than at seeing what may follow them. A case in point: Mother Jones on Iran.

A year ago this month we published a piece that, despite a good analysis of the shah’s overthrow, now seems embarrassingly nearsighted about his successors…. Why was our perception skewed?

As we look at it now, it seems that we momentarily donned an all-too-familiar set of blinders. Since World War II, much of the Left’s work in the United States has gone—quite rightly—toward opposing U.S. support of various corrupt dictators: the shah, Thieu, Somoza and so on. But too often we automatically assume that any movement that vigorously opposes one of these tyrants is going to turn out pretty well. And, having been politically nurtured in the universities ourselves, we tend to be immediately sympathetic to militant-sounding student activists overseas. Victory to the Heroic People of ___ in their Liberation Struggle!

From a Letter to the Editor
December 1979

Your recent article on Apocalypse Now is somewhat erroneous. Since I wrote the original screenplay, perhaps I can shed some light on the subject.

The central incident, which you refer to as a “fabricated act of Vietnamese terror,” is indeed true. But rather than argue with you about its veracity, I would rather point out how interesting it is that you think this act could not have occurred.

What always disgusts me about impassioned activists is their prevailing blindness to the immorality of their own cause. It is blindness that makes them less than human—automatons for a dogma—spilling forth the party prattle in spite of all evidence to the contrary.

A-Team Productions
Burbank, California

Asses Not Yet Extinct
July 1978

Criticizing environmental legislation, Minnesota power company executive Henry Holm recently asked, “Wouldn’t it be nice to look out a window and see a saber-tooth tiger swallowing the last of your beef cattle?” You might have seen it, Holm asserted, if we had had environmental laws long ago.

We’d like him to team up with New York State Senator James Donovan to write a logic textbook. Donovan recently told a religious group: “There would be no Christianity if it were not for the death penalty. Where would Christianity be,” he questioned, “if Jesus had got eight to fifteen years, with time off for good behavior?”

And how would the Ten Commandments read if there were no asses?

From an Editor’s Note
February/March 1980

Obviously we’re not predicting revolution by 1990. Indeed, the next decade will bring severe economic troubles and probably some frightening victories for the Right. But one thing we are sure of is that ten years from now the issue of corporate power—who owns this country and who should own it instead—is going to be on the nation’s political agenda in a way it never has been before. We predict:

There’s going to be nationwide debate over nationalizing the oil companies.

From an Editor’s Note
June 1978

It is all too easy to poke fun at the illusions of ten years ago; all of us who were around then were to some extent naïve. The overwhelming horror of Vietnam made all political choices seem urgent and simple. In retrospect, one unspoken assumption seems to lie behind many of those articles. It was that the whole system we were fighting was so weak that a few shouts, kicks and a good hard shove would bring it all crashing down. It didn’t, but at least we’re wiser in the knowledge of what a slow and cooperative job real change is going to have to be.

From “Are They Just Full of Granola?”
By Joe Klein
November 1979

More than anything else, I guess, I figured that the antinuclear movement was a holding action—something to keep the activists busy until a really important issue, one that disturbed real, live people, one that directly affected their lives, came along. It also seemed a bit of an evasion: rather than address the immediate problems of humans who were suffering—the 40 percent unemployed in the ghettoes, the textile workers—the Left (the effete, middle-class Left) had chosen to organize around an abstraction. The movement had the feel of a granola-tasting party. There was a sappy, wholesome quality to it. It reeked of backpacking.

Roaches Enter MoJo Contest
June 1976

Have you found the perfect method to exterminate cockroaches? Can you tell male and female cockroaches apart? Do you have a favorite book about cockroaches? Mother Jones is planning a collage of cockroach information: history, habits, literary references, perfect poisons, etc. Send us your cockroach trivia (with a self-addressed stamped envelope if you want it back again), and if we print it, we’ll send you $5.

Anything/one else you love to hate? MoJo is starting a contest now for the year’s ten worst villains. Politicians, other people, chemicals, machinery, statistics, institutions are all eligible. Cockroaches are ineligible.

From a Letter to the Editor
November 1977

An Open Letter to Feminists:

We are pleased to announce the end of the boycott against Mother Jones. This year the women on the staff of the magazine have formed a caucus, and on July 16 members of the Feminist Writers’ Guild met with that caucus. Working together, we created a set of minimal conditions that both groups felt would begin to make Mother Jones responsive to the feminist community. These include:

  • 1. One specifically feminist article will appear in at least every other issue.

  • 2. When funds are available, a feminist woman will be hired as a full-time editor.

  • 3. The magazine will work toward a parity of male and female contributors and will make a special effort to solicit more articles by Third World women.

  • 4. When funds are available in the future, the Foundation for National Progress will give half of its grants to women.

Those feminists who withdrew or withheld articles from publication in the magazine in support of the boycott are now, according to this agreement, invited to submit their articles again.

We feel most optimistic about this agreement because of the existence of a women’s caucus within Mother Jones that has expressed a desire to continue working with the Feminist Writers’ Guild.

For the Feminist Writers’ Guild

From an Editor’s Note
June 1978

We now have a broader definition of what is “political.” If you had suggested that sexual harassment at the office (p. 21 of this issue), or the exploitation of secretaries (p. 19), or the way women’s unemployment correlates with mother-centered child-raising theories (p. 60) was a proper subject for a political magazine, all but a handful of women’s movement pioneers would have laughed.

From “Things That Last”
By Richard Hyatt
February/March 1976

SOCKS: Go to any reasonably priced store and buy the most expensive and heaviest kind. Sears’ socks are great. (Sears makes a lot of good stuff, actually. However, their labor practices are deplorable; if they’re being struck, go somewhere else.) Whatever socks you buy, get them all the same color and it won’t matter when you lose one.

From an Editor’s Note
February/March 1980

Four years ago, when we started publishing Mother Jones, we made an interesting mistake—interesting because it showed us something about the mood of our time.

We wanted to put out a magazine that would confront American capitalism head-on: one that would talk about the enormous power the large corporations wield over our lives and suggest alternative systems to take back that power. But we thought readers were not as “radical” as we, so we soft-pedaled the magazine’s politics. We were sure no one would read what we cared about unless it was surrounded by articles less threatening. Thus, for most of our first year, our pages were filled with pieces about backpacking and cooking, circuses and airline discounts.

Readers hated it. Most didn’t renew their subscriptions. We stayed up at night trying to figure out where we had gone wrong. And we took a reader survey. To our surprise, the survey showed that our readers liked precisely the same kind of pieces that we enjoyed doing—corporate exposés. Stop giving us all that backpacking stuff, they said. From that point on, the magazine began to hit its stride. We were not the first radicals to arrogantly underestimate the savvy of our audience.

From a Letter to the Editor
July 1977

I am enclosing my check for $6 to renew my subscription to Mother Jones for one year (rather than three) because I am 85 years old an’ my brakes are draggin’. I may “expire” before my present subscription to Mother Jones runs out. But I’ll renew my sub to Mother Jones one year at a time, as long as I last.

I like Mother Jones better than The Nation, The Progressive and Madalyn Murray O’Hair’s American Atheist—and almost as well as Wild Turkey Bourbon.?

Now I’m gonna take a snort to your health—and mine.

Bellevue, Ohio

Get the Picture?
July 1978

Now it can be revealed: Zbigniew Brzezinski, national security adviser to President Carter, is a closet doodler. One participant in a recent Capitol Hill meeting with Brzezinski noticed him drawing on a slip of paper and picked it up when their conference was over. The penciled doodles are reproduced here in their entirety, without permission. Laser-guided computer reconstruction of the two scribbled words reveals them to be “power,” “problems.” However, our team of experts cannot agree on the drawings. Is that an exploding atom on the woman’s hat? Are the two men on a sinking boat or a submarine sandwich? What about that Solzhenitsyn beard? And is the lowest figure Zbig’s accidental revelation of the new “teeth bomb,” far deadlier than the neutron bomb?

From “What America Needs to Do Next”
By Kate Coleman
September/October 1976

Utopia? Nirvana? You betcha. Who wouldn’t bet the whole kaboodle, blow the three precious wishes to get social justice, the end of oppression of Third Worlders, workers, women, and anyone else under an opprobrious yoke? I want it all! Unfortunately, the spelling out of such socialist cornucopia is as boring as that innocuous word, “peace.” Fuck it.

I’ve opted for the personal—some might say selfish—vision: Please God, please scientists, please grant-givers, find a goddam cure for emphysema…

I’d make a lousy revolutionary. Sacrifice is fine if you don’t care for what you give up. I’d kiss off booze, money, clothes, my own car—you name it—but not ciggies.

From a Letter to the Editor
February/March 1977

Perhaps a well-placed kick with a working man’s steel-toed safety shoe to the site of your “singular pleasure” might set you in the right, if you’ll pardon the expression, direction. It’s obvious why you students of the ’60s are lost. You can’t even find your clitoris or foreskin without an illustrated guide.

Beckley, West Virginia

From “The New Conservatives: Old Whine in New Bottles”

By Kirkpatrick Sale
June 1976

You would think, wouldn’t you, that a group of people who go around attacking the idea of federal planning, the welfare state, racial progress, human and social equality, and democracy itself, who unblushingly applaud capitalist traditions, aristocracy, and imperialism, and who claim the United States is pretty near perfect just as it is, would be dismissed as being in the throes of dementia. Well, the fact is there is such a group of people, and not only are they not dismissed, they are, it pains me to say, being taken seriously in the councils of our government and making a considerable impact on the political and intellectual life of this nation. Don’t say you weren’t warned.

From “Golden Arches May Fall”
April 1979

If there’s a movement that’s unifying Americans of every stripe these days, it’s the Hamburger Wars. The enemy is McDonald’s…and the opposing army includes the likes of yippies, Bible thumpers, vegetarian guerrillas, and at least a fifth of the residents of Martha’s Vineyard.

From an Editor’s Note
December 1980

Support for family life…is something we’ve let the Right define and ultimately monopolize. It’s time to break that monopoly.

From “The War Against Choice”
By Deirdre English
February/March 1981

The Right has taken over words like life and love that were the lexicon of the Left.

From “Back to the Drawing Boards for Anti-Reaganites”
By Frances Moore Lappé
February/March 1985

Progressives need to talk the language of human values in order to communicate with the majority of Americans. Values like freedom, family, democracy, efficiency, fairness, self-reliance, individualism, and responsibility fit into a progressive program. But the Left has allowed the Right to claim the high ground. It’s as if progressives are embarrassed to talk about values; we seem to fear if we talk about values we’ll sound religious or demagogic. We need to reclaim values as part of the progressive vision.

From “Like Outlaws and Thieves”
By Joan Zoloth and Doug Foster
April 1976

Most of those apprehended by the Border Patrol are processed like memos or commodities. They sign a “voluntary departure” form and leave for Mexico in the afternoon. This form releases the U.S. government from its obligation to provide a deportation hearing, as it is required to do by law. Without this form, it would be impossible to summarily eject nearly a million people from the country—as the Border Patrol is doing this year… The migration of workers across the border has not been dented. One Border Patrol agent told us, “It’s like pitting a sieve against a tidal wave.”

From a Classified Ad
December 1980

Country land! How to find, choose, buy. $3. A 15-day money-back guarantee if not satisfied.

From “From Commune to Condo”
By Michael Weiss
December 1980

A few weeks before the end of 1979 I walked into a title company office and picked up one of those discreet manila envelopes with a cellophane window, the kind that gives your spirits and bank account a lift because it usually holds a check. I opened it gingerly and looked at the figures. It was for twice as much money as I had ever earned in a year and was the profit from the sale of a property that had once been a commune predicated on collective opposition to pernicious capitalism.

So ended for me what pop sociologists are fond of calling the Counterculture Era.

From Editor’s Notes
January 1978

It feels rather strange to find Mother Jones approaching its second birthday next month. The mortality rate of new political magazines is so high that sometimes we feel like some shell-shocked survivor of Verdun, who knows that, statistically speaking, he should not be alive at all.

September/October 1978

If everything goes according to plan we will, sometime in 1979, become this country’s first Left magazine in the last 35 years to break even.

February/March 1981

This month Mother Jones celebrates its fifth anniversary. At times, we didn’t think we would get this far…. We will save further birthday thoughts for our tenth, in 1986. One thing we’re sure of: we’ll be here then, and that celluloid cowboy will be back home at the ranch in Santa Barbara.


We’re falling behind our online fundraising goals and we can’t sustain coming up short on donations month after month. Perhaps you’ve heard? It is impossibly hard in the news business right now, with layoffs intensifying and fancy new startups and funding going kaput.

The crisis facing journalism and democracy isn’t going away anytime soon. And neither is Mother Jones, our readers, or our unique way of doing in-depth reporting that exists to bring about change.

Which is exactly why, despite the challenges we face, we just took a big gulp and joined forces with the Center for Investigative Reporting, a team of ace journalists who create the amazing podcast and public radio show Reveal.

If you can part with even just a few bucks, please help us pick up the pace of donations. We simply can’t afford to keep falling behind on our fundraising targets month after month.

Editor-in-Chief Clara Jeffery said it well to our team recently, and that team 100 percent includes readers like you who make it all possible: “This is a year to prove that we can pull off this merger, grow our audiences and impact, attract more funding and keep growing. More broadly, it’s a year when the very future of both journalism and democracy is on the line. We have to go for every important story, every reader/listener/viewer, and leave it all on the field. I’m very proud of all the hard work that’s gotten us to this moment, and confident that we can meet it.”

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We’re falling behind our online fundraising goals and we can’t sustain coming up short on donations month after month. Perhaps you’ve heard? It is impossibly hard in the news business right now, with layoffs intensifying and fancy new startups and funding going kaput.

The crisis facing journalism and democracy isn’t going away anytime soon. And neither is Mother Jones, our readers, or our unique way of doing in-depth reporting that exists to bring about change.

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