Writer, Professor of writing, University of California, Publisher of AMASS Magazine
John O'Kane has a doctorate in literature and a masters in sociology. He has published over a hundred and forty stories, essays, articles and poems in a variety of publications, and three books.
AMASS Magazine is published quarterly in Los Angeles by the Society for Popular Democracy. It was founded in 1976 at the University of Minnesota by Tom Conley under the name of ENclitic, and has been published continuously since. In its earlier phases it was published twice a year.
Originally a journal of literary and cultural criticism with a European slant, it also published creative writing and visuals from authors inside and outside the academy. Some of the prominent contributors of this period were: Jacques Derrida, Yve-Alain Bois, Maurice Blanchot, Marie Claire Ropars, Kaja Silverman, Dudley Andrew, Mary Ann Doane, David Bordwell, Samuel Weber, Mary Ann Caws, Marguerite Duras, Louis Marin, and Wlad Godzich.
Later it evolved into an interdisciplinary venue for culture and politics. Some of the more notable contributors of this period were: Nat Hentoff, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Hubert Selby, Jr., Paul Krassner, Robbie Conal, Richard Goldstein, Harry Shearer, Michael Urban, Carolee Schneemann, Dave Alvin, J. Hoberman, Greil Marcus, Kate Braverman, Richard Meltzer, Allen Cohen, Kedric Robin Wolfe, Larry Grossberg, Andrew Ross, Nikki Finke, Wanda Coleman, Ruben Martinez, Nancy Fraser, Jack Hirschman, Amy Gerstler, Erika Rothenberg, Andrei Codrescu, Charles Bukowski, James Ragan, Lewis MacAdams, John Powers, Sandra Tsing-Loh, Marc Cooper, Jill Stewart, Carl Boggs, Susanna Hecht, Jamie Court, Charlie Rose, and Clarence Page.
The name was changed to AMASS in 2000 to clarify its dedication to the urgent social, political, economic and cultural issues of the day, and to reflect a change in readership consistent with it. The magazine prints articles and essays as well as creative writing, and especially journalism: literary, op-ed and investigative. They address an audience that seeks solutions to these issues, as well as one that remains unsure of the questions to ask about a system which appears broken. These certainly include the economy and the two-party domination of the political process, neither of which serve the people’s interests. And its overriding tone is populist. It exposes the increasing gap between the vested interests at the top and the powerless below (See A People’s Manifesto, 2015, by John O’Kane). But it also publishes a great deal of critical writing on media, environment, health, food, lifestyles, and culture not found in the mainstream media.
The magazine’s purpose is to increase awareness of these alternative ideas and expand citizenship, the basis for an improving democracy. This notion of conversion is central to the name. The most popular meaning of amass is to accumulate, but the one intended by this publication is to assemble or gather together the bodies and ideas that can catalyze this expansion. One of the unfortunate consequences of mass society is a considerable degree of alienation and isolation. It manufactures atomized individuals who easily accept limited messages; a groupthink instead of an awareness that contributes to the formation of new group consensuses.
The magazine avoids sectarian positions and the restrictive languages that accompany them, like other publications with similar content. It is not meant to suggest a thematic kinship with The Masses or The New Masses, publications from the past century focused on the issues of mass society.
Like the many alternative weeklies around the country, it’s free locally but sold nationally and internationally through distributors, as well as to libraries, archives and individual subscribers. The free circulation is concentrated in the Harbor Area of Los Angeles, primarily Long Beach and San Pedro, but also reaches Venice and parts of West Los Angeles. The total circulation is 25,000. The advertising base is mostly from the local area.
Some of the more prominent contributors since the name change are: Mike Davis, Tim Robbins, Peter Dale Scott, Gore Vidal, Erwin Chemerinsky, Arianna Huffington, Philomene Long, Harry Northup, Noam Chomsky, James H. Kunstler, S.A. Griffin, Lionel Rolfe, Greg Palast, Bill McKibben, Chris Hedges, Jeremy Scahill, Francis Fukuyama, Paul Krugman, Michael Moore, William Blum, Robert Borosage, Robert Reich, Dave Zirin, Bill Maher, Rachel Maddow, David Sirota, Cindy Sheehan, Ralph Nader, John Pilger, Naomi Wolf, James Galbraith, Bill Moyers, Tom Hayden, Harvey Wasserman, Joseph Stiglitz, Paul Craig Roberts, Van Jones, Ximena Ortiz, Nomi Prins, Andrew Bacevich, Medea Benjamin, William Greider, Ron Paul, Michael Hudson, Jeffrey M. Smith, Linh Dinh, David Cay Johnston, Ellen Brown, Dean Baker, Bill Quigley, Jim Hightower, and Larry Beinhart.
It is published and edited by John O’Kane, and designed by Heli Swensson.