The story ended with the statement: "Meanwhile, religious leaders urged community action in taking smut literature off newsstands and out of bookstores, where it is often purchased by juveniles." And with quotes from Msgr. John M. Kelly, editor of the Catholic newspaper, New World, who said, "Literature or pictures that adversely affect the minds of adults or children are immoral, and can be presumed to hurt many. It's a far worse thing to threaten human minds and souls than to threaten human bodies," and a Protestant and a Jewish clergyman expressed related sentiments.
There were no comments from educators, sociologists, psychologists, pathologists, or psychiatrists—i.e., no scientific evaluation of the significance and effect of obscenity on society; no comments from experts and constitutional law on the legal implications of such censorship or juridical opinion on whether or not the material in question actually fell within the Supreme Court's definition of obscenity; no comments from writers, editors or publishers on the importance of a censor-free society as a necessary environment for the survival of independent newspapers, magazines and books; no comments from the Civil Liberties Union or others concerned with the protection of free speech and press in America. Presumably none of these sources of far more pertinent comment were solicited; certainly none were published.
That same week, radio station WLS began a concentrated, daily anti-obscenity campaign.
The next Chicago's American story was headlined, "COPS SEEK TO BAN 'Playboy,' " which stated, "The Police Department, at the request of the Corporation Counsel's office, today began a drive to halt further sale of the June issue of Playboy magazine. Brian Kilgallon, Assistant Corporation Counsel in charge of enforcing the city's obscenity ordinances, said police throughout the city will attempt to purchase the magazine at newsstands, drug and bookstores, and other distribution points. Warrants charging the sale of obscene matter will be sought against dealers who sell the June issue with knowledge that the city has declared it objectionable, he said."
The newspaper did not point out to its readers that, in issuing this declaration, the Corporation Counsel was guilty of illegal intimidation of the city's magazine dealers, since the issue could not be considered legally obscene until its case had been tried in court. The point was academic, since the issue was already completely sold out, but no one bothered to mention that the fact that "the city (meaning Corporation Counsel John Melaniphy) had declared it objectionable" was not a basis for banning the magazine, since only a court of law is empowered to legally determine a question of obscenity and Playboy had yet to have its day in court.
The American went on to quote Kilgallon as saying, "'Most people are concerned over how we can prevent this type of magazine from falling into the hands of children.' Kilgallon estimated that two out of three of the magazine's readers are under 21 years of age." We exposed, last month, the fallacious nature of that "estimate" and pointed out this is but one more example of using a "concern" for the children to justify the attempted censorship of adult reading matter.
This story concluded with the suggestion from Assistant State's Attorney James R. Thompson, that citizens form community vigilante groups to illegally boycott retailers who display or sell books and magazines of which they do not approve.
Chicago's American completed round one of its Playboy campaign with an editorial that described the Jayne Mansfield feature and then stated: "Hefner's philosophy appears to be that the 'modern urban male' likes and even needs to look at pictures of naked, suggestively posed women; that this a very healthy and virile way to be, and that it's practically a duty to encourage the habit—the law should have no right to interfere.
"Our view is that mass-produced lewdness can have a weakening, damaging effect on the moral framework of a community, and that the community should have—and use—means of restraining it."
Bypassing the point that the American knows full well, or should know through its contact with CDL, that the photographs in the June issue of Playboy were not the actual, underlying cause of the arrest, we would point out that the expert scientific opinion, which the American did not bother to seek out, refutes the notion that sex in books and magazines—either written or pictorial—has any such "weakening, damaging effect" on society; that a significant portion of the scientific fraternity specializing in the subject, including Drs. Kronhausen, Ellis, Reik, Roch, Karpman, Caprio, and many others, believe that it has just the opposite effect—acting as a healthy release for sexual tensions, inhibitions and repressions; that it is the suppression of sex rather than its open appreciation that, as history has proven all too well, can have a "damaging effect" upon society; that if society cannot enjoy an open appreciation of positively expressed heterosexual sex, as published in Playboy, it will turn to sick or antisocial sex instead—homosexuality, sadism, masochism, fetishism and all manner of other perversions, plus the repression that produces frigidity, impotence and a variety of other neurotic ills; that these are not our opinions, but the opinions of modern science.
Moreover, the "moral framework" to which the editorial refers is not the moral framework of our entire community—a substantial portion of that community has made Playboy the most successful publishing venture of our generation; it is, instead, the moral framework of a particular segment of our society—a minority, portions of which give every evidence of wishing to project their personal moral views onto the rest of society, whether we want them or not.
"The actual issue here," said the Chicago's American editorial, "is how far a magazine can go in presenting this kind of display."
We disagree. The actual issue here is whether or not any segment of society has the right to suppress the opinions of the rest; whether we truly believe in our democracy; whether we are willing to grant to those with whom we do not happen to agree the full freedom of expression guaranteed by the Constitution of the United States.
It is not Playboy that considers itself above the law—that "the law should have no right to interfere." It is the full protection of our right to equal justice under the law that we feel is jeopardized when religious sentiment promotes governmental action against us that the law itself, as clearly established by recent high-court decisions on obscenity, does not demand. (For the Corporation Counsel confirmed, according to reports in other newspapers, that he was "fully aware of the difficulty in getting a conviction in the Playboy case, in view of recent Supreme Court decisions" and unidentified spokesmen for the CDL "admitted that there was little chance of obtaining a conviction against the Playboy photos inasmuch as the Supreme Court has already ruled that the [portrayal of the nude] male or female does not constitute obscenity. But the CDL feels that it has achieved success whenever it secures the arrest of an individual, since this causes untold harm and injury.")
We make a plea for freedom, not for license—though the latter word is used too often to describe the freedom that someone wishes to deny to others. We do not favor editorial irresponsibility. But we do request the right to edit our magazine in our own way, without extra-legal coercion or intimidation, for that particular portion of the community with whom we have managed to establish a genuine rapport.
What saddens us is not simply the American's campaign against Playboy—and we are certain that it is sincerely inspired, for the American has displayed no Playboy prejudice in the past, having published an extremely complementary front-page series on our success little more than a year ago—but the fact that no daily newspaper in this city saw the church-state implications in the case; bothered to determine, through outside legal opinion, that the charge of obscenity against the June issue of Playboy was without any legal merit, or saw fit to editorialize on the grave implications in censorship—a cause in which every citizen, and most especially every member of the fourth estate, has a vital stake.
It took a newspaper as faraway as California to seriously question the censorship aspect of the case. The Fremont News Register said, in a first person editorial devoted to the subject: "...What we have here is a small group of self-appointed judges and 'protectors' of our morals, who feel that they must protect from the inevitable disastrous effects of a few photographs. Why they thought these particular photographs were dangerous and the thousands of others almost exactly like them published every day in numerous other magazines were not, is still a mystery to me....
"It would seem that this is definite attempt to censor the magazine or dictate the content of it. This, I feel, is the most dangerous phase of the whole problem, for censorship in any shape, form or degree is definitely against the fundamental principles of our democracy.
"What is even more dangerous, of course, is the seemingly increasing number of public officials who place themselves [in the position of] censors and attempt to dictate what we, the public, should read and be allowed to see.... It would seem to me that the people of Chicago would profit much more if the police department there spent more time patrolling the streets and giving traffic citations rather than attempting to judge the value of magazines or any other type of literature."
No such sentiment was expressed on the editorial pages of any of Chicago's daily newspapers and not only was the question of religious prejudice never raised, Father Lawler and his Citizens for Decent Literature, who instigated the entire affair, were never ever mentioned.
It took the weekly Crusader to publicly tie the CDL in with the arrest. Under the headline, "NAKED JAYNE MANSFIELD IS OBSCENE, SAYS CDL," the paper stated: "Hugh Hefner, who put Chicago on the international map of sophistication, this week found that like most prophets he is a hero except in his own hometown. Hefner, 37, editor and publisher of Playboy magazine and maître de of the homes for live Bunnies, the Playboy Clubs, was arrested and jailed on charges brought by the Citizens for Decent Literature concerning photographs of busty cinema actress Miss Jayne Mansfield in the altogether.
"The Citizens for Decent Literature, a group of Victorian housewives, still smarting from the effects of a recent edition of Playboy magazine's philosophy, which hailed the Supreme Court for liberalizing obscenity tests, prevailed upon the office of John Melaniphy, city prosecutor, to secure a warrant for Hefner....
"The New Crusader has learned that more than 400 arrests of individuals have been made in the last two years, since the CDL moved into high gear in its campaign to make itself the censor of what Chicagoans can read in newspapers, [books and] magazines.
"The danger of giving in to the CDL and conforming to its edicts was expressed this week by an Indianapolis distributor. He was the only wholesaler in the community when he was visited by CDL representatives who asked that he not carry certain paperback books. He gave in and removed the books from those he distributed. Each week the list grew. Finally, it reached the point where he was told not to distribute this month's McCall's or a certain issue of Reader's Digest because the contents did not conform with the views of the CDL.
"The CDL has enlisted the air lanes also in its book-burning campaign. Radio station WLS is broadcasting earnest appeals to its listening audience to give assistance to the Citizens for Decent Literature. The radio appeals state that the way to stop the sale of obscene material to minors is to cooperate with CDL. Actually, even though CDL professes to be after pornographers and dealers who sell to persons under the age of 16 certain matter it deems to be indecent, there is not a single case on record where the defendant is charged with the sale of merchandise to minors.
"The CDL is also active on the legislative front. House Bill 1072 has been introduced which, if passed, would entitle authorities to put bookstores out of business by permitting injunctions against them when they carry books not to the liking of the CDL."
Censorship From Jazz to Bunnies
Even if Chicago's daily newspapers failed to discern the link between CDL, the Corporation Counsel and the Playboy arrest, they should have remembered that this was not the first time the city's Catholic hierarchy had struck out at us.
In 1959 Playboy contemplated producing the world's greatest jazz festival. The city was sponsoring a Festival of the Americas that summer, in connection with the Pan-American Games, and they invited us to stage our jazz spectacular in Soldier Field as a part of the Pan-Am event. Then, after a joint press conference announcing the event, and after Playboy had signed contracts with most of the $100,000 worth of talent scheduled to appear, city officials unexpectedly withdrew the invitation and permission to use the Field.
The official explanation given was that the jazz festival might harm the cinder track to be used for the Games. Public and press reaction ranged from incredulity to indignation. Irv Kupicinet wrote, in his Chicago Sun-Times column: "Playboy is getting a nifty run-around in trying to learn the real reason its August 8-9 dates for a jazz festival in Soldier Field have been denied. 'Run-around' is an apt description, for supposedly Soldier Field's new running track is the cause of the mysterious refusal—even though Playboy had no intention of erecting stands on the track or using it in any way. The Park District refused the festival dates 'on recommendation of the Pan-American Games Committee.' And Jack Reilly, executive director of the Pan-Am, who originally hailed Playboy for bringing the jazz festival to Our Town, countered with, 'It's the Park District's baby—they have complete jurisdiction over Soldier Field, not us.'"