And another eminent Catholic, President John F. Kennedy, then a senator from Massachusetts, summed up the matter in these prophetic words: "The lock on the door of the legislature, the parliament or the assembly hall, by order of the King, the Commissar or the Führer, has historically been followed or preceded by a lock on the door of the printer's, the publisher's, or the bookseller's."
Censors wither before such criticism and the NODL has since gone back to its intended function: issuing a list by Catholics for their fellow Catholics to consult as a guide to reading—if they wish.
A concern for the country's children has often been used as an excuse for censorship in the past—certain words, ideas, pictures, stories or subjects might have a negative effect upon a young, impressionable mind—might turn our children into a community of juvenile delinquents—or so the thinking went. And there was no less an authority than J. Edgar Hoover supplying suitable statements about the multimillion-dollar pornography business in the U.S. and its effect upon the nation's youth. Unfortunately, J. Edgar has always been something of a nut on the subject of sex, and while his words carry the impact of his important position as head of the FBI, he is not an expert on the subject—is not, in fact, even acquainted with some of the most fundamental research in the area. Hoover's statements notwithstanding, there is no multimillion-dollar pornography business in the U.S. Pornography has never become a well-organized national or even regional operation simply because, unlike gambling and dope, there simply isn't enough profit in it to make it worthwhile. Moreover, experts in the field of human behavior have never been able to find any causal relationship between reading habits and delinquency and do not believe that any exists—except that delinquents are apt to read fewer books and magazines of all kinds than their nondelinquent brothers. In the most thorough studies of crime, delinquency and their causes, reading habits have not even been included as a possible factor, because of the recognition by experts that no correlation exists. But some citizens like to believe statements like Hoover's, because they take part of the blame off the real, primary culprit—the home environment, for which the citizen himself is responsible. And such statements have a similar effect on the other side, too—taking attention away from the embarrassment of the nation's thriving crime syndicate that the FBI seems unable to do anything effective about, as it grows bigger and more prosperous year after year.
The implied hurt that a particular movie or article, piece of fiction or photograph might do to children wields a far greater power over the nation's publishers, the film industry, radio and television than one might at first suppose. For long before there is any question of censorship, the publisher or producer must himself determine what goes into his product and the pressure to make it "suitable for children" or "entertainment for the entire family" is a strong one. And the net effect of that, of course, is a society in which much of our popular culture and communication is strained to a thinness (all meat removed and sweetener added) pleasant to the taste and easily digested by children. Just what effect a society geared to the sophistication level of a ten-year-old is apt to have on its adults is another matter entirely. Instead of raising children in an adult world, with adult tastes, interests and opinions prevailing, we prefer to live much of our lives in a make-believe children's world. Without attempting to evaluate the results this is certain to produce in society as a whole over any period of time, it can be reasonably argued that it is also a lousy way to bring up kids and prepare them for taking their place in the world as mature adults.
The U.S. Supreme Court ruled on this question recently, striking down a Michigan statute as unconstitutional, because it used as its rationalization for state censorship the theory that it was thereby protecting its youth. The Supreme Court held that it is impossible to justify censorship in the adult community by referring to what may or may not be suitable for children without soon creating a community suitable for children only. Or, more probably, for no one at all.
The mind of the censor is often magnificent in its machinations and incredible in its incomprehensibility. Some examples of censorship would be amusing in the extreme, if fundamental rights and freedoms were not involved—as when, a short time ago, one U.S. community contemplated banning the books of Tarzan, by Edgar Rice Burroughs, from their children's library, because Tarzan and Jane had never been joined in holy wedlock and thus must be living in sin in their jungle home. (We'd always assumed, as a youngster, that they kept things straight by relying upon the honor system. In the movie adventures, starring Johnny Weissmuller and Maureen O'Sullivan, you may recall that "Boy" came from heaven only in the sense that he was the sole survivor of an airplane crash and was adopted into the Tarzan family. It never occurred to us in our innocent youth that Tarzan and Jane were anything more than good friends. It was Cheetah, the chimp, that we were always a mite suspicious of. He always seemed to be hanging around the tree house, when Tarzan was off on one of his vine-swinging excursions.)
The would-be censor in any community is rarely the best informed and best qualified for such a job, and this is probably because real knowledge of a subject and an interest in suppressing it do not often go hand in hand. Even if the censor had the necessary insight, it would not justify the forcing of his own particular tastes and interests onto the rest of society, but most often it is actually a matter of dragging down the tastes and interests of the community to a decidedly lower level. Far more energy is expended, for example, in attempts to suppress appeals to the normally heterosexual than to the somewhat more subtle offerings to sadism, masochism, the homosexual and fetishism. Few censors comprehend the labyrinthian twistings and turnings that suppressed or perverted sexuality may take in the human animal.
The censor may be driven by any of several motivations: he may anticipate some personal or political gain for his involvement in censorship; he may enjoy the sense of power achieved through a control over what others can do and say; he may be a quite sincere, if misguided, citizen who believes that the world would be a better place if only the rest of the community held the same values and beliefs he holds; or he may be one of those whose dedication to the suppression of certain aspects of our society is itself a symptom of subconscious sexual needs and guilt feelings.
The U.S. Post Office has built a reputation in times past as a watchdog of public morality. Not because it was qualified for such a task and certainly not because it had any legal right to be involved, but simply because some members of the postal authority wanted to use that authority to control the free communication of ideas. There have always been ample laws for the prosecution of illegal use of the mails, but it is a peculiar fact that censors—whether from government or some civic or religious group—rarely find due process of law satisfactory to their needs. The censor's methods are almost always illegal.
In the most famous case involving censorship and the Post Office, an attempt was made to deny second-class mailing privileges to Esquire magazine in the mid-Forties. The publication defended itself, finally winning a unanimous decision in the Supreme Court. In the landmark determination written by Judge Thurman Arnold, of the U.S. Court of Appeals, the postal authorities were told that their job was to deliver the mails, not censor them. Judge Arnold finished his decision as follows: "We intend no criticism of counsel for the Post Office. They were faced with an impossible task. They undertook it with sincerity. But their very sincerity makes the record useful as a memorial to commemorate the utter confusion and lack of intelligible standards which can never be escaped when that task is attempted. We believe that the Post Office officials should experience a feeling of relief if they are limited to the more prosaic function of seeing to it that 'neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed round.'"
Incredibly, even after that decision, the Post Office continued its quite illegal activities in censorship right up until two years ago, when the new administration brought in a fresh Postmaster General who, unlike his predecessors, apparently feels that delivering the mails inexpensively and well is quite enough of a task for his department. Unfortunately, though they won their case unanimously in the highest court in the land (at a cost of over $1 million), Esquire was badly frightened by the experience (if they had lost their second-class mailing privileges, they would have been put out of business) and the robust quality of the magazine's earlier issues was never to be seen again. Playboy locked horns with the Post Office twice in its first years of publication and thoroughly trounced them in the courts on both occasions. We've never been bothered since, nor have any threats or attempts at coercion from any quarter ever influenced our own editorial judgment.
Americans were so generally embarrassed by sex in the early part of this century that sex statutes still standing in some of our states do not even define the behavior or activity they prohibit. The legislators were seemingly able to spell out fornication and/or adultery with only an occasional blush, but when they moved into the slightly more exotic areas of fellatio, cunnilingus and pederasty, it appears that some of them broke into a cold sweat and were just too intimidated by the entire subject to explain what offenses the laws were intended to cover. Thus, in place of the specific, the state statutes prohibit "vile and contemptible crimes against nature."
Every state in the Union has some laws covering the sexual activity of its citizens, and it is a further indication of our changing mores that almost none of them, except those concerned with minors, acts of violence and prostitution, are regularly enforced. Dr. Kinsey and his associates have estimated that if all the sex laws in the United States were fully and successfully enforced, the majority of our adult population—male and female—would be in prison. Since they go unenforced for the most part, it would seem that we are finally reaching that level of maturity where we recognize that a man's morality, like his religion, is a personal affair best left to his own conscience. Some of our state laws are now being rewritten to reflect this enlightened attitude.
Freud and Kinsey must be given a maximum amount of credit for the awakening of the past few years—Freud for setting the stage and Kinsey for trotting out the players. It is surprising that no popular philosopher stepped forward to shape and polish our new understanding of ourselves and form a consistent cohesive constant for living—even as rugged individualism found its Ayn Rand and Little Orphan Annie—but perhaps that lack partially explains Playboy's phenomenal impact and popularity. By default, as it were, and quite without planning, Playboy has become a voice for the new generation, reflecting a new view of contemporary man and the world in which he lives.
This is what the writers and critics, quoted earlier in this editorial statement, mean when they suggested that Playboy has become more than simply a magazine—that it is, to use of their own terms: "a way of life"..."a movement"..."more than just a handbook for the young-man-about-town: It's a sort of Bible."
If there is any truth in this, and we don't deny that there may be, it has not been as a result of conscious calculation. Playboy's attitude and point of view has always been an editorial expression of the things in which we personally believe. If Playboy's voice is one to which this particular, most remarkable generation responds, it is perhaps because most other publications (along with other media of communications in America today) are still in the hands of—or at least under the ultimate control of—the older generation, whereas we ourself are a generation younger and think and feel naturally the same things others of our generation think and feel. The total of these thoughts and feelings is what makes up The Playboy Philosophy.