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Deemed offensive.

If you come across the Summer 1993 issue of Whole Earth Review--it's the twenty-fifth anniversary edition, guest-edited by Stewart Brand, who founded the original Whole Earth Catalog--you'll notice that the lower half of Page 93 consists of a solid block of black ink on which are imposed, in white, the following words:


Thanks to the good people at Whole Earth Review and the miracle of fax transmission, I was able to obtain instant satisfaction of my curiosity about the censored cartoon. It deals with one of the great issues of our time--the nasty squabble between Woody Allen and Mia Farrow--and I'm confident that employees of Publishers Press in Louisville, Kentucky, are not the only folks who may find it offensive. It's not as offensive, in my judgment, as the average soap-opera commercial or a speech on the Senate floor by North Carolina's Jesse Helms, but it's offensive nonetheless.

Along with the suppressed cartoon came an explanation from Howard Rheingold, the editor of Whole Earth Review:

"Whole Earth Review, as everybody must know by now, is economically marginal. We spent the better part of six months looking for a printer that could provide quality printing at a better price than we were getting from our previous printer. The printer we found in Kentucky came in with a bid that was $25,000 a year lower than the next-best offer. They did good work. But their employees objected to the cartoon.

"We told them they might lose our business if they wanted to try to tell us what to print. They told us they would rather lose our business than their employees. We had the option of picking a different excerpt [from The Realist]. We decided that the printer ought to have the courage to own up to its censorship, so we asked them to black out the cartoon and explain that they were censoring it. If we had picked an alternative excerpt, none of our readers would have known. . . .

"We aren't going to allow any printer to tell us what to put in the magazine and what not to put in the magazine. If we go out of business, however, the point will be moot. Right now, that extra $25,000 is critical. We have to try to find another printer at a reasonable price, or we can't continue to publish the magazine."

I can sympathize on a couple of counts: first, because here at The Progressive we know all about what it means to be "economically marginal," and second, because some people--though never our printers--have suggested from time to time that some of our graphics ought to be suppressed. As Nancy Bellaci, the office manager at Whole Earth Review, told me, "You can say almost anything you want, but if you've got a picture. . . ."

Somebody--the owners of Publishers Press or the editors of Whole Earth Review or somebody--needs to conduct a freedom-of-the-press seminar for those printers in Louisville, explaining to them that they're not responsible for the content of what comes rolling off their presses, but they are responsible for preserving the great traditions of their honorable craft. Suppose some ink-stained wretch had "deemed offensive" Tom Paine's scurrilous attacks on the character of King George III?

Whole Earth Review, like the first Whole Earth Catalog, promotes "access to tools and ideas"--especially tools that are environmentally sound and ideas that are creative and provocative. The Review, a quarterly, costs $20 for a one-year trial subscription. If you write to 27 Gate Five Road, Sausalito, CA 94965, you may persuade someone to send you a copy of the offensive Realist cartoon so that you can judge it for yourself. Judging for yourself is a procedure I highly recommend, but it becomes difficult when printers take it upon themselves to be censors.

If your memory goes back as far as the first Whole Earth Catalog, you may also recall The Realist and its irrepressibel editor, Paul Krassner, who helped usher in the counterculture of the 1960s. Krassner has an article in the Summer '93 Whole Earth Review--that's why the Realist cartoon was there in the first place--and an accompanying blurb describes his magazine as "cheerily defiant of authority and taboo, nothing-to-lose honest, with a wicked satirical edge." That's about right.

After a long hiatus, The Realist is back in business, publishing interesting facts and imaginative fiction without bothering to distinguish between the two. A year's subscription (six issues) costs $12. The address is Box 1230, Venice, CA 90294. Subscribe at your own risk.
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Title Annotation:25th anniversary issue of 'Whole Earth Review' censored by printer
Author:Knoll, Erwin
Publication:The Progressive
Article Type:Editorial
Date:Jul 1, 1993
Previous Article:The Media Monopoly.
Next Article:Doomsday machine.

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