A local incident is fairly representative of a situation developing throughout the nation. The council of the PTA, concerned about juvenile delinquency, publicly demanded that certain magazines be withdrawn from the newsstands because, it alleged, they were demoralizing, particularly in their sex emphasis. The city’s daily newspaper gave editorial approval, saying, “We think the PTA members who have shown initiative in helping to make our city a decent place for children and young folk are deserving of support by every parent.” In response to this pressure the agency handling sales banned 25 men’s magazines of the “girlie type.”

Immediately several professors in the law school of a large university in the community protested the extra-legal proceeding. On a single day 300 students of the university signed a protest, similar to that of their professors, urging that such censorship over reading matter available on the newsstands violated the freedom of the press. They asked that it be discontinued. These opponents insisted: “An axe has been used where a scalpel was appropriate; freedom of the press is one of the most important and most deeply cherished of our constitutional rights; a publication is not obscene just because it is offensive to some persons; the magazines in question have not been legally proven obscene in a single instance; if obscene magazines are appearing, there are legal means to deal with them, rather than the haphazard and untrained judgment of a small private group.” The opponents concluded their argument thus: “We prefer to trust in the traditional orderly processes of government to determine such delicate and complex questions rather than to rely on even a public-spirited pressure group.”

An effort was ...

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