Salient. Victoria University Student Newspaper. Volume 33, No. 1 18 February 1970
Magazine Branded as 'Filth'—Sales Banned
Magazine Branded as 'Filth'—Sales Banned
Mrs Mary McDermott of Johnsonville was "sickened and disgusted" when she "glanced at a current issue of Masskerade 69 which accidentally came into my hands". She considered that the magazine was obscene, blasphemous and sacriligeous, "Its depraved contents", Mrs McDermott said, "would make Satan blush with shame".
Mrs McDermott was just one of the many people who wrote to a local newspaper about Masskerade 69. Eventually, the magazine was referred to the Indecent Publications Tribunal—by, of all bodies, the Professorial Board of Massey University. This action—which must have damaged student-staff relations at Massey—is not wholly inexplicable. Whereas reactionaries such as K.B. O'Brien and I.D. Campbell are sufficiently rare at Victoria for some progressive action to be taken here from time to time, the Massey academic staff is almost completely without sympathy for the student point of view.
Which is not to suggest that the behaviour of student officials at Massey is in any way calculated to further the interests of students through other than trilling "incremental reforms', Massey student politicians have adopted a posture of obeisance vis-a-vis the administration and academic stall to the point that one wonders how any of them manage to communicate their existence to the Council and the Professorial Board, let alone an) "demands'. The Masskerade debacle was, therefore, interesting as much for the light it threw on staff-student relations at Massey as for any insights it gave into the workings of the Indecent Publications Tribunal.
Massey students were represented at the Tribunal hearing by Greg Taylor, immediate past-President of the Students' Association, and Robert Anderson, President since July. Taylor told the Tribunal that while three censors—a clergyman, a housewife and a lawyer—had considered material for Masskerade, their power of veto was 'unfortunately not conveyed to them' 'On many occasions their opinions were listened to but not followed, but in some instances they were followed." said Taylor. While sellers of the magazine were instructed not to sell copies to school pupils, Taylor said he "wouldn't be surprised if a considerable number of copies were found in the hands of secondary school students". Taylor also said that, in his opinion, the 3,000 unsold copies of Masskerade held by the Massey Students" Association should not be sold even if the Tribunal did not declare the magazine to be indecent.
It is difficult to see how Taylor's evidence could have done other than prejudice the case of the Students" Association. Robert Anderson was a little more positive when he came to give evidence, but neither he nor Taylor could be said to have provided a justification—however superficial—for the publication of a capping magazine in any form. Anderson told the Tribunal that "steps are being taken to ensure adequate censorship of the magazine in the future." Such statements were a tacit concession of the Prosecution's contention that some of the material in Masskerade should not have been published.
In its decision, the Tribunal 'declared that Masskerade 69 was "indecent in the hands of people under the age of 17 years." The Tribunal's impression of the magazine was one of "barely relieved vulgarity." "In word and in picture, its content is coarse in conception and crude in expression. Its frequent resort to the subject of sex as a prop for its humor, the tactless attacks on religious form and attitudes, and a series of jokes involving disease, bestiality and racial prejudice undoubtedly make this a magazine which offends against the normal standard of propriety and good taste."
All of which was fair enough. Masskerade 69 was as worthless a publication as the magazine had been in any previous year. While it is the best-selling capping magazine in New Zealand. Masskerade is that in which one can most reliably expect to find a complete dearth of humour—let alone satirical content of any merit whatsoever. Students here have been fortunate in that the satirical and humorous content of Victoria's Cappicade has, in recent years at least, attained quite a high standard. Cappicade profits, from 1970, will be used to finance those Capping Week activities which are directly related to work done for charity. Masskerade profits, suitably enough, have been used to pay for a sports centre.
The 'Prosecution sought in its case to establish "some standards to which capping magazines must conform," The Tribunal admitted that, while its judgement would "provide a guide to acceptable standards", any decision it might make "cannot forestall massive distribution of another magazine and no decision, subsequent to distribution, can recall the copies sold." So the capping magazines are safe. Robert Anderson is still President at Massey. There is not the slightest suggestion that Masskerade 70 will be any more worthwhile a publication than any of its predecessors. There's got to be a message in this somewhere.