The slippery slope

For the last hour and a half, I have been picking lint out from between the keys on my keyboard. I used the canned air so much that my fingers are now numb, showing signs of possible frostbite. The good news is that my work station has never been cleaner. The bad news? After 90 minutes of stall tactics, I still have no idea how to begin this week’s column.

And it’s not for a lack of subject material. For some reason, I just find it difficult to comfortably segue into this week’s topic, or topics, I guess I should say. See, I’m trying to find a tactful way of discussing those things that appeared, kind of, sort of, on the back page of last week’s Telegraph. You know, the ones that were hidden behind a couple of strategically placed pieces of cocktail garnishment. OK, I’m talking about the boobs – all five of them. There, I said it.

How I got stuck with tackling this horny, er, thorny topic, is beyond me. I suppose being the only woman writer on staff would make me the in-house expert on the subject of boobs, seeing as how I have some. Being the case, it is something I am willing to take a stab at, for the sake of clearing the air and, ahem, getting everything out in the open.

For starters, I would like to extend a sincere apology to all parents out there who were suddenly thrust into an unexpected and impromptu treatise on the birds and the bees. While we did provide fair warning on the Page 1 masthead, we know that no one other than ourselves ever understands or even pays attention to those things. We did consider a more overt warning, but thought a plain brown wrapper would only call more attention to the situation.

Of course, this begets the next complaint, which was the placement of the “twins,” as we have taken to referring to them, on such a prominent piece of real estate in the paper. Without getting into the finer points of press management, there are only so many pages where we can carry color in the paper. And given layout constraints and prior ad placement, we decided the back page would be a more appropriate spot than the one in the centerfold, next to the innocent children of the San Juan Youth Symphony. So, with due apologies to the Carver brothers, the back page it was. And I don’t care what anyone says, you guys can hold your own next to hot, naked chicks any day.

Anyway, we have taken this concern over placement to heart. Being the mother of two small children, who has been forced to do take fast action when the Discovery Channel suddenly veers from recreation to procreation, I fully appreciate the desire to reveal the mysteries of the universe all in due time. Preferably sometime when the kids are safely in college. So, in an effort to help with the smut patrol, we will do our best to put the risqué material where kids will not be as likely to see it. Like on a really boring page with lots of words, such as this one.

Of course, this all leads up to the biggest questions of all: Why? Did we take leave of our senses? Were we morally hijacked by greed? Were we trapped under something large and unable to get to the delete button in time?

The answer to all these burning questions is an unequivocal “no.” Don’t get me wrong, I’ve got mouths to feed, mortgages to pay and brand new gear to procure, just like everybody else. But I will truthfully admit that money did not play a factor in running this ad. Nor did temporary insanity or corrupt morals, at least as far as I’m concerned.

Yes, I did look at the ad and cringe. And I agree that it was tasteless and offensive on many levels, something I shared openly with the owner of the establishment. In turn, I was told, in certain terms, that I was not exactly his target audience. If by this, he means people who were more disturbed than entertained by the image, I stand guilty as charged. But just for the record, don’t take that to mean I can’t power down martinis with the best of ‘em. I just prefer to get mine from a clad waitress. And cherries? A complete martini sacrilege.

Alas, before I digress any further, there is a point I want to make somewhere here, in those murky, boozy waters separating bad taste from obscenity. Actually, it’s more of a line than a point. And while I feel it was definitely pushed, it was not crossed. To bastardize a phrase from former Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart, “I know it when I see it.” And this, as tacky as it was, was not it.

But perhaps, most importantly, was not what we risked by printing the ad, but what we risked by not printing it. See, it may seem like a bunch of sentimental, journalistic b.s., but one of the things we hold near and dear here at the Telegraph is the concept of freedom of speech, even if it means occasionally taking it squarely in our cheerleader skirts. Sure, we could have refused to run the ad because it did not agree with our principles. But if that’s the case, why stop there? Why not just quietly remove any and all content that we find disagreeable, from other ads to letters to the editor to opposing viewpoints in news stories. Why? Because that, my friends, is what we see as the slick, silicone slope to censorship. And we’ll take our lumps – shaken, stirred, straight up or on the rocks – over that any day.

– Missy Votel