SLACKJAW by JIM KNIPFEL
May 27, 2018

A Dangerous Mind

 

Legendary underground publisher, journalist, editor and writer Adam Parfrey died on May tenth at age sixty-one after suffering a stroke. A day after hearing the news, I sat down and wrote a long memorial column, sharing a few anecdotes from our thirty-year friendship—a friendship, sadly, which ended on an ugly and pointless note last October, and was never reconciled before his death.

            The column, I had to admit, was not one of my best. Then I had a better idea.

            I’d admired the hell out of Adam since first becoming aware of him in the mid-Eighties, and we were formally introduced by a couple of mutual friends who brought us together at an East Village Indian restaurant one winter’s night in 1990. Two years later, while still writing for the Welcomat in Philly, I interviewed Adam as part of a much longer feature in which I also interviewed Boyd Rice, Michael Moynihan and James Mason, all of whom were equally as notorious as Adam had become. I thought a much better tribute to a man who was such a seminal figure in the American underground of that era would be to let him speak for himself. So here’s an excerpt from that 1992 story. Please forgive the twenty-six year old “timely” references.

****

The mainstream media has been polluted the last few years with a hysteria over the threat posed by “neo-Nazi skinheads.” The explosion of neo-Nazi skinhead violence amid the ruins of Eastern Europe has only added fuel to the American fire. The term itself has taken on the independent power of “disgruntled employee”--utter “neo-Nazi skinhead” in mixed company, and you’re sure to strike fear into the hearts of everyone around you.

            But there’s another group spread out across America--a group of very well-spoken artists, writers, musicians, publishers, thinkers—very intelligent people—who also happen to be Nazis, or at least find themselves accused of being Nazis for one reason or another. These contrarian beliefs, whether or not directly associated with National Socialism, fuel their creativity.

            They put out their own magazines, they have their own record labels, and they speak to each other in a code as delicate and well-established as any Christian or Moslem sect, any group of academics or investment bankers. The Fifth Path magazine and, to a lesser degree, Answer Me! cater to this very small, very intense sub-subculture. In them, you regularly find the same people interviewed--the people whose names keep popping up in the acknowledgements of each other’s books and albums.

            Strangely enough, most of these people, in one way or another, are connected, however loosely, with The Universal Order, a revolutionary right wing organization founded by a fellow named James Mason, who worships Charles Manson as much as he does Adolf Hitler and George Lincoln Rockwell. What’s more, most of them have full heads of hair!

            Don’t get me wrong. I’m not taking this too lightly. There are things in the world to be concerned about. Vladimir Zhirinovsky, newly elected by the Russian populace, has already had meetings with German nationalists in which he’s proposed annexing Poland again. Thousands are dying in Bosnia, Somalia and what have you. Los Angeles is going to burn again in a few years. New York landmarks will be blown up again and again and again. Of course, all of these things brighten my day, so that’s not what I’m talking about. The thing that most worries me is the rampant, vile, willing stupidity that is flooding the world.

            The German government is banning a documentary film about neo-Nazis because, although it claims to be anti-Nazi, it’s not anti-Nazi enough. The Canadian government is seizing copies of Answer Me! magazine because it contains a clearly satirical piece by one of the editors entitled “I Hate Being a Jew.” And across America, state and local governments are passing “hate crime” and “hate speech” legislation, banning the use of certain words, the expression of certain ideas, tacking extra time on the sentences of convicted criminals if it can be proven their crimes were motivated by certain political ideas. Now that’s something to be concerned about--not a Portland-based publisher who puts out books focused on things most people would rather not think about.

            Adam Parfrey, who over the years has been with Exit magazine, the Amok catalog and bookstore, and who now runs Feral House Press, continues to this day to be called a Nazi by those too stupid to understand what he’s up to. In 1987, Parfrey, then with Amok Press, published a translation of Joseph Goebbels’ novel, Michael. Not a very good novel, but one of undisputed historical interest. People started talking. Later that same year, he edited and published Apocalypse Culture, a collection of essays by nihilists, terrorists, Satanists, necrophiles, psychopaths, schizophrenics . . . and Adolf Hitler. People started screaming. Obviously this Parfrey fellow was a Nazi, and a dangerous man. The accusations continue to this day, despite the fact that he’s gone on to publish a biography of filmmaker Ed Wood, something called Tortures and Torments of the Christian Martyrs, an expose of the California Youth Authority, and a monograph of paintings and drawings by Joe Coleman. Hardly a swastika to be found in any of them.

            I decided it would be best to ask Parfrey himself how he got involved in all this nastiness, and see for myself if he was, indeed, what everyone was telling me he was.

            “It started for me back in 1984,” he told me from his home in Portland. “I was living in New York, working at the Strand bookstore. I was working in the literature aisles, and met George Petros, who was working in science. I was interested in publishing an artist’s monograph, so we got together and started to put out Exit magazine. I guess this is where my interest in this, uh, milieu comes from.

            “At the time I noticed--looking at the art scene in New York and most of the world--that it was taken up with confession. And artists were confessing that they were confused. All I saw were doodlings from a very self-abnegating point of view. That’s what you found in RAW, Wierdo and similar magazines. So I thought, ‘Why not try it from a different aspect?’ So in Exit we used clean lines and authoritarian, totalitarian images. It wasn’t ideological for me—I was just being a bad boy. I didn’t know what I was getting into. Art Spiegelman didn’t like it--but that was intentional.

            “For the third issue of Exit, I wanted to do something on Manson. The second was on Nietzsche, but that wasn’t really contemporary enough. I heard through this dominatrix about this guy, Boyd Rice, who had Manson’s Bible with the book of Revelations all marked up. I wanted to do an issue of that.

            “I was collecting material that nobody wanted to look at or confront. Now it’s everywhere you look in ‘zine culture and publishing. So I got in touch with Boyd, and Boyd told me about this guy (James Mason) who was an extreme right winger who was also a Manson acolyte. I got in touch with him, and he sent me this flyer, and I incorporated it into the Manson issue.

            “It really surprised me—especially considering that he was a right winger. I figured it was the result of some incredible genius, or madness, or both. It was a very frightening and threatening piece.”

            What about the politics? I asked. I mean, do you consider yourself a Nazi?

            “I never really considered myself part of the Nazi movement—I was just flirting around with the aesthetics.”

            Well, then I have to ask you about this piece by Hitler you included in the first edition of Apocalypse Culture. A lot of people latched onto that, and it was conspicuously missing from the second edition (replaced, oddly enough, with an essay about G.G. Allin).

            “We had this piece on Artaud by Elinor Fuchs (in the first edition). At the end of the piece, I stuck on Artaud’s letter to Hitler. You find this sort of thing in a lot of artists of darkness, this flirting around with Romanticism. I got a letter from Elinor, who thought it was great. But then people started talking to her, and she wrote back and said, ‘you gotta pull that Hitler thing.’ By this time, I’m in the third printing of the first edition. So I decided to pull the Artaud piece for the second edition.

            “Now, the Hitler quotes were from something called Hitler Speaks, and I learned they were spurious quotes—Just Thirties propaganda attempting to portray him as a rug-chewer. If I hadn’t talked to right wingers or those people who work on different planes--nobody would’ve said a word,” he went on. “Are we supposed to be quarantined? People think they need to be saved from this stuff. Am I knocking over stores or causing mayhem? Am I hurting people? What happens when information goes covert? What happens when you ban the swastika in Germany? Its like drugs in the sixties. I was the only person who would publish these things at the time. The Goebbels’ novel--I had no problem taking that to the B. Dalton’s chain.”

            Do you hold onto any politics at all? Give yourself any kind of political label?

            “I’m encouraging people to drop out of the political process altogether . . . But let me give you an example. In California, everyone is mandated to carry auto insurance. The insurance companies were making one hundred percent profits. There was a referendum, and we voted to roll that back. The referendum was passed. But the vote was stopped by the corporations--who in turn raised their rates, just out of spite. And they admitted publicly that it was out of spite. The country is run by powerful corporate interests. It’s an oligarchic totalitarianism. As for me, I guess I’m a pseudo- or quasi-libertarian. I just see all these people with smiling faces, forcing me to do things. The Friendly Fascism of Reagan has gotten even worse with the smiling faces of the Clinton administration.”

            Then Parfrey’s call waiting kicked in. He excused himself, and came back a few minutes later.

            “That was Debbie Goad from Answer Me! magazine. She did this story called ‘I Hate Being a Jew.’ Well, now the Canadian Jewish council has instigated the government to seize all the copies of the magazine. Un-fucking-believable.”

            I asked him what he thought about the notion of hate crimes, because that’s where this story really began.

            “My next book, actually, is going to be Crying Wolf: Hate Crime Hoaxes. That’s my biggest political hot potato right now. Nobody wants to distribute it, and nobody wants to carry it. Let me give you an example from the book that took place right here in Portland. There was a lesbian couple. One was black, one was white. The white one was a prison guard, the black was in a wheelchair. One night, things started happening to their house—bricks through the window, swastikas painted on their house. There were a bunch of stories in the paper, the police started staking out their house. There was a big parade through Portland. Ten thousand people, and along the way these women said some skinheads attacked them. And guess what? They (the lesbians) were doing it to themselves! But they were caught. The woman in the wheelchair wasn’t crippled. She also claimed she had cancer, but she was shaving off her eyebrows and attributing it to chemotherapy.

            “At the verdict for the guys who beat up Reginald Denny during the LA riots, the judge said, ‘You can’t beat people of different races.’ But why not say ‘You can’t beat people in general?’ These are the Righteous and Good people talking. The Good people in the fifties were Ward and June Cleaver. But they’re not anymore. It’s always been a crock—those people riding in on their white horses. These self-proclaimed ‘Good people.’ I think they’re fucked-up.”

            In 1988, Amok Press published an unquestionably pro-Manson book entitled The Manson File. It contained essays, letters, documents and songs by or about Manson and his Family. The book, incidentally, was co-edited by the above-mentioned Boyd Rice. I asked Parfrey about the whole Nazi-Manson connection.

            “You don’t have to put Nazis or Manson on a book to be threatening. Manson could attract anybody—he got the kaleidoscope working for him, from the Weathermen to (Universal Order founder) James Mason. The LA Free Press was behind Manson to begin with. The Leftists were the big dangerous people in the sixties--Now it’s time for the other people to stomp in and kick things around awhile.”

            Speaking of James Mason, do you find him a dangerous man?

            “I don’t find Mason dangerous—he’s amazing. He put things together and synthesized something completely different.”

            After dealing with some of the people you’ve dealt with—Manson, Mason, (Church of Satan founder) Anton LaVey, would you say that any of them are “evil”?

            “How is the evil current passed down? All these myths. I don’t think there are completely evil or completely good people. People have their shadow side and their light side. People will try to suppress it--whether in the form of witch burnings, or the inquisition, or Randy Weaver or hate crime legislation. It’s just a witch hunt. They should look at international corporations and polluters. Is Weaver destroying the world? Or is it Exxon or Dow or overpopulation? Look at Earth Day. I was in seventh grade during the first Earth Day. I mean, what’s that? How’s the earth going to celebrate? I think the earth would celebrate if a billion people just up and died.”

            Let’s go back to the beginning for a minute. People call you a Nazi. People will probably always call you a Nazi. I don’t think you are--but let’s be blunt. Do you consider yourself a racist?

            “I think the better way to approach this is to ask all these egalitarian-minded people if they’re racist. My father’s dead, and my mother now goes out with a black gentleman, whom I like a lot. But on a personal level, I object to this patronizing attitude taken by liberal whites in the way they deal with blacks—who feel compelled to treat people of other races differently. If you want to live in a multicultural society, you have to start treating everyone the same. Hate crimes, on the whole, are perpetrated against blacks, and that’s all. In a way, it’s a covert racism--it’s a way of mollycoddling blacks in an attempt to defuse black anger. Or look at the example of Affirmative Action. You take a black or Hispanic who’s really earned his stripes, who’s worked his way up, who’s taken all the same tests and excelled. But once he’s given that job, everybody assumes it’s a charity case.

            “I mean, sure I have racist feelings. I think everybody does. But I’m not out there beating people up—I’m not a skinhead. But I know that if I go into Watts or Harlem, I should expect trouble. The culprit isn’t racism, but these liberal responses to it.”

 

You can contact Jim Knipfel at this address:

With occasional exceptions Slackjaw generally appears weekly. For email notification of other Jim Knipfel publications (books, etc.) and events please join the Slackjaw email list here.