Run the Screw Ad
PRESTO, CHANGEO, close your eyes and it's gone, so fast that you might think an ad for Screw magazine had never been there in the first place. But it was, almost.
You won't be reading ads for Screw in The Crimson today, tomorrow, or anytime in the near future. With a slight-of-hand worthy of Houdini himself, a majority of The Crimson has managed to begin to dismantle the First Amendment--all in the name of a greater good.
What this good is or who it will benefit is not clear, but we do know for sure that it includes refraining from exploiting women. Screw magazine is an easy target for charges of exploitation, not nearly as obvious as Time magazine, or other publications currently pandering Al Haig and the new Reaganism that promises to exploit the urban poor and the aged.
The majority does not explain whether it plans to extend its decision censoring Screw to other publications, but the potential exists for such a ban because The Crimson has no policy stating the guidelines for the acceptance of an ad. Most other ads are probably safe, though, because, as the majority notes, The Crimson needs money to stay in business. The opinion implies, however, that if it were freed from financial constraints, the majority would reject many other ads.
There are, after all, many good causes to fight for, and protecting women from exploitation is certainly one of them. We do not sanction the activities or the contents of Screw. But we prefer not to use the limit of our power to obstruct Screw magazine from expressing its opinions.
Instead we put our faith in the capacity of free discussion to ferret out the truth from malicious falsehoods. We believe The Crimson should run all ads as they are submitted.
We strongly endorse and offer our support to individuals and organizations involved in the fight against exploitation of women. However, readers should understand that these are not the motivations behind the majority's opinion.
The group of ads which seems to bother the majority is not those which exploit women, but those which involve The Crimson in the exploitation of women. Thus, the reason for not running Screw's ad is at base a desire to keep the pages of the Crimson free from such "tasteless" material.
If the majority were really sincere, and not merely looking for an easy way out of the current controversy, it would give up on soliciting all advertising which is derogatory to women and instead ask for contributions or take money out of its own pocket.
But the majority tells us that no such thing will occur. Instead, Pernod ads and others with luscious blondes will continue to appear on these pages because their offense against women is at this stage subliminal and because The Crimson needs to make money to stay in business.
So the majority recognizes the necessity of participating in the capitalistic system, but it deprives others of access to this newspaper because they too participate in the game of advertising. The majority states, in fact, that freedom of speech is not involved in the Screw case because paid advertisements are not speech. Thus The Crimson has first required individuals to pay for space in this newspaper, and then said: since you have to pay for space, you can't say what you want.
Using the advertising-speech distinction is a dangerous act of hypocracy. Dangerous because under The Crimson's ruling, Southern newspapers unsympathetic to the Civil Rights movement would have been perfectly justified in refusing to print ads submitted by Blacks, who had organized, and fought hard to raise the necessary money. Hypocritical because while we can safely assume that the majority would oppose any statute which infringed on journalist's rights, The Crimson will not extend an equal amount of protection to Screw magazine.
Of course the majority does not plan on pulling political ads. But what about an ad submitted by the National Socialist Party of America? Or what about a full page ad which has already appeared in the Crimson last week, submitted by the Conservative Caucus and urging the elimination of "legal services for the poor"? Are Jews or the indigent any less deserving of protection against exploitation than women?
The majority has attempted to draw the line at discrimination against women and failed because there is no fair way to distinguish between one man's art and another's trash--unless you assume that you are more intelligent than your fellow man, or at least that you know what is best for him.
It is unlikely that running the Screw ad would help the magazine, as the majority contends. On the contrary, many people who were unfamiliar with Screw would learn never to subscribe, and some might even be motivated to work actively against Screw and other forms of pornography.
Of course some people might also decide to subscribe to Screw. That is a risk we are willing to incur in order to preserve an unblemished First Amendment.
The majority, however, is not willing to take that chance. But the majority has already paid a far higher price. That price is the denial to Crimson readers of the opportunity to choose for themselves, and the weakening of the principle of free speech.
While presenting itself as the champion of good versus evil, the majority has betrayed its lack of faith in its fellow man, and opened the door for a day when even the presses of the Crimson may be subjected to the scrutiny the majority mow unjustifiably imposes on Screw magazine.