Salient: Victoria University of Wellington Students' Newspaper. Vol. 32, No. 10. 1969.
Opinions expressed in Salient are not necessarily those of VUWSA.
May 28, 1969
The curious reluctance within our printing industry to publish material which is legally inoffensive was exemplified in more ways than one in our last issue.
A front page story revealed two instances where Organ Bros., a subsidiary of Devil-Dan Riddiford's Wellington Publishing Company had refused to print material in Cappicade, which they had found "offensive". This was despite the fact it had been passed by Cappicade's legal adviser.
It is logical to assert that if it was in fact legally unacceptable, as the mysterious "second opinion" offered by Organ Bros. claimed (their letter of explanation hasn't been received yet), then Salient displayed a certain recklessness in publishing it on the front page in a relatively provocative manner.
Which is pure crap. The material was never questioned at any stage of production, and its reception was predictably tame.
To suggest that it would be inappropriate to apply the moral standards of the manager of Organ Bros. to the community-at-large would be banal. But it would be to compound the felony to make the same application to a purely university community.
A parallel situation although not nearly as reprehensible occurred in the production of last week's Salient.
The word "fucked" was excised from a poem printed on the Literary Pages. The poem, which had previously been published in an unexpurgated manner, was checked with our legal adviser, and accepted by the typesetters, in effect, the agents of the Wanganui Chronicle.
The reason given for the excision by Mr Mead, the Managing Director of the Chronicle, was that a member of his staff had found the word "offensive", and had, without Mr Mead's knowledge cut the word out.
Some, are of the opinion that a four-letter word leering out from the front page of the Dominion in 60 point type should not result in any action against the publisher. The other extreme is that under no circumstances should "that" word appear in print. The alternative which exists where the publisher makes a realistic assessment of the effect publication of the word will have on his readership, is that in certain circumstances the usage is appropriate.
The Chronicle has not made a realistic assessment. Despite displaying all the characteristics of an unlettered philistine, it has not ruled, a priori, that the word should never appear in print. The Chronicle, is prepared to be convinced which is more than one can say for Organ Bros. It has been part of the English language for hundreds of years, it is used extensively by the children of a society which perpetrates the situation by its reluctance, no, outright refusal, to take a stance both unequivocal and unhypocritical.
And it is used at an age which makes it difficult for the generation the Chronicle represents to understand or accept the fact. Words can only be brutal or crude or depraved or corrupting or whatever the Mother of Innumerable Children like to call it, when they are used in a brutal or depraved or corrupting way. No word in inherently disgusting, but the context in which it appears can make it so.
A university community cannot be guarded from four-letter words. The realisation and acceptance of this by Organ Bros, and the Chronicle is of critical significance.