Merchants of Sin – Part 4: Opening the Floodgates

Allen Ginsberg

Part 1, Part 2, Part 3

“Under the [Hicklin test], any obscenity in a work, no matter how slight, contaminated the whole; under the [Roth test], any slight redeeming trait purified it.” – Leo Pfeffer1

The first major publication to reap the benefits of the precedent set by the Roth decision (discussed in part 3), was Howl and Other Poems by the Jewish “Beat” poet Allen Ginsberg.

The Beats, or the “Beat Generation,” were a literary clique centered around Ginsberg. They were all criminals, degenerates, junkies and mentally insane sexual deviants, and indeed reveled in those qualities and promoted them as the ideal way to be. In effect, they were the precursor to the broader “counterculture” movement which would ultimately revolutionize America with “Sex, Drugs, and Rock and Roll” in the 1960s and 1970s (see part 5).

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