(from the November 1983 issue of Hustler Magazine)
The Politics of Porn
Never in publishing history has any magazine been censored and prosecuted as much as HUSTLER. Many have asked why. The answer is simple: We are a political journal as well as a sex publication. And believe me, politics is what gets us in trouble, not pornography.
The famous illustration on this page prompted our indictment in Cleveland, Ohio, in 1976. During my well-publicized obscenity trial in Cincinnati in 1977 the prosecutor became obsessed with a cartoon in the magazine that showed Santa Claus holding his large cock that had been intentionally exaggerated. The caption had Santa saying, "This is what I have to ho-ho-ho about."
After the trial the prosecutor, Simon Leis Jr., was interviewed by the Thames Television network from Great Britain. He was asked why, of all the pornographic magazines for sale in Cincinnati, he had chosen to prosecute HUSTLER. The interviewer in effect asked, "Isn't what HUSTLER is doing just good, dirty fun?" The prosecutor replied that there was nothing funny about the magazine attacking every institution in the country, including Santa Claus.
After hearing that, I wonder what the Europeans thought about our Constitutional provisions for a free press. I was found guilty in that trial, sentenced to seven to 25 years in prison and denied bail while murderers, robbers and rapists were freed on bond. The case was eventually overturned on appeal, but I am facing retrial on October 24 of this year-seven years after the original indictment.
A year after the Cincinnati trial, on March 6, 1978, in the Atlanta suburb of Lawrenceville, Georgia, I was again tried for obscenity. The prosecutor was all bent out of shape-not by our outrageous Scratch 'n' Sniff Centerfold for that month -- but by a quarter-page black-and-white cartoon of a nun taking a shit. The turds were in the shape of crucifixes. Between God, Country and Santa Claus I couldn't seem to win for losing. At that time it dawned on me that freedom of expression in America could no longer be taken for granted.
The court recessed for lunch that day. I went to a cafeteria a few blocks from the courthouse with my attorney. We talked about what kind of verdict to expect. My previous courtroom experiences convinced me that if anyone got justice, it was a fluke. But I refused to give up hope. If I was found not guilty after being found guilty in Cincinnati, I would be an embarrassing reminder of the 1973 Supreme Court decision allowing local communities to set their own standards for obscenity.
My hopes were short-lived. While walking back to the courthouse, I was shot three times in the stomach with a.44-Magnum rifle, permanently paralyzed and given less than a 1% chance to survive. The judge kindly declared a mistrial, and the prosecutor dropped the charges, figuring justice had been well served. A straw poll of the jury revealed that they were going to acquit me. That is only a partial view of our legal hassles.
HUSTLER's circulation has also been limited by wholesalers and retailers who censor us by restricting our distribution within their communities, usually for political reasons. For example, we lost sales when Jewish retailers were offended by our making Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin Asshole of the Month, even though we did it for reasons that had nothing to do with anti-Semitism. Conservative retailers have been outraged by our attacks on such people as Richard Nixon and William F. Buckley. And, of course, the Moral Majority has made us its numero uno target.
I have mentioned only a few examples of the things that have caused us so much trouble with circulation, let alone the millions of dollars I have spent in legal fees. Had I simply wanted to be a rich man, the decision would have been easy. I could have done as Hefner and Guccione did with Playboy and Penthouse; that is, masqueraded my pornography as art by wrapping it in articles purporting to have socially redeeming value. But by not compromising my principles and by remaining honest with my readers, I have proved that HUSTLER is the most preferred men's magazine. The only reason we're not outselling both Playboy and Penthouse together is the censorship efforts I spoke of. But the day shall come when HUSTLER will take its well-deserved position at the top, because nothing can prevent an idea whose time has come. And I will get there without copping out.
I am not defying the law. I am exercising my rights under the law, and the people who don't like it can kiss my dead, paralyzed ass. That includes everyone from the lowest prosecutor all the way up to President Reagan. The First Amendment and the Bill of Rights belong to me and the people who read HUSTLER as much as they belong to Reaganites and the Falwellians of the world and their Moral Majority. I'm not against democracy, but majority rule simply cannot exist without regard for individual rights. I seek no protection that isn't afforded me under the Constitution of the United States, the law of the land. With your continued support we shall prevail. If you have difficulty obtaining HUSTLER in your community because of censorship problems, I suggest that you subscribe.
Larry Flynt, Publisher
Plaintiff's Trial Exhibit 3
THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO LARRY
THE DESECRATION OF AMERICA
Henry David Thoreau once said that in an unfree society the only place for an honorable man to be is in prison. Last December I was locked up in California and Illinois federal penitentiaries for a very simple reason: I still believe in the First Amendment and in a free press. I was put in jail because I refused to reveal my confidential sources as an editor and publisher. That alone is why courts from Los Angeles to Chicago to Washington, D.C., continue to persecute me.
They claimed that I was in contempt of court. Well, in a philosophical way they were right. I have always thought this nation's courts were deserving of contempt.
We cannot take them seriously until they take our First Amendment rights seriously. What else but contempt can we have for judges cloaked in black robes who cloak the crimes of white-collar gangsters? What besides contempt can we feel for judges who conspire with multimillion-dollar criminals and then jail the hungry and unemployed who have stolen a loaf of bread for their families? Can anything be more contemptible than courts that permit our environment to be destroyed by giant corporate polluters? Are judges who permit the FBI and the CIA to tap the phones of honest Americans, and spy on their every move, worthy of anything but contempt? And what better word can describe courts that for almost 200 years allowed citizens of a darker color to be forced to sit, work and study apart from others of lighter skin?
As I sat behind Ronald Reagan's prison bars, I reluctantly concluded that I could no longer run for the Presidency of this country. I could not see myself presiding over the organized filth and corruption that calls itself the U.S. government. This does not mean, however, that HUSTLER or I will let up in our campaign to expose and do away with the hypocrisy, lying and madness that have become commonplace in the halls of financial and political power.
Many of you may have read about my being charged with desecrating the American flag last November when I wore what appeared to be such a flag during an appearance in court. The meaning of the word desecrate, according to Webster's New Collegiate Dictionary, is "to treat irreverently or contemptuously often in a way that provokes outrage on the part of others."
Treating sacred cows irreverently and contemptuously -- in order to make a point -- is exactly what HUSTLER has always done throughout its 8 1/2 years of publishing and will continue to do as long as the First Amendment is upheld. And outrage could well be my middle name. I'm outraged, for example, about how the American flag was desecrated when it marked airplanes that carpet-bombed Vietnam and Cambodia back into the Stone Age. I'm outraged about how the flag was desecrated when U.S. Marines were sent to invade and bully Grenada, a backward island the size of a golf course, just because the senile actor in the White House and his gung-ho cronies no longer approved of that nation's government. The greatest outrage is how our flag is desecrated as it stands next to Ronald Reagan when that warmonger appears on television spewing forth his usual coverups and deceptions.
Our flag should symbolize peace, not a suicidal nuclear-arms race. It should stand for honesty and integrity, rather than information gaps and Presidential lies. It should represent equal rights for all, instead of discrimination against the minorities and ethnic groups that compose much of America. Our flag should stand for defense of individual rights, not the blatant trampling of such rights by the courts, the Congress and the White House.
I was jailed because I still speak out against those who violate those rights. Throughout history, jailings, arrests and persecution have never been able to stifle the truth. I fully expect that those who seek to subvert the truth will imprison me again. If you ask me what I'm doing in jail when that happens, I'll answer the same way Thoreau did: "What are you doing out of jail?"
Larry Flynt, Editor
Plaintiff's Trial Exhibit 20
PUBLISHER'S STATEMENT: MEETING THE CHALLENGE
I'm happy to be out of prison in time to write this month's Publisher's Statement. In my ten years of publishing HUSTLER, I've had a lot of ups and downs. I've been incarcerated three times for defending the First Amendment. I've been shot and paralyzed because the power elite disagrees with my philosophy. In this our Tenth Anniversary year I have tried with difficulty to look back on HUSTLER's brief but turbulent history. My intention from the beginning was to deal openly and honestly with sex and have some fun in the process. I guess I was naive to feel that freedom of expression, including that of sexual expression, should be absolute, that censorship was something only the Communists did, that a free press was a right we Americans could take for granted.
Every step of the way has been a struggle -- a never-ending battle to keep HUSTLER on the newsstands without compromising the quality of its editorial content. I'm not just talking about the photographs. We seem to have more censorship problems over the outrageousness of our articles and cartoons than anything else, especially if they have religious or political overtones. But I'm not going to allow these problems to dissuade me from continuing to provide you with the best possible magazine you can buy.
The second half of '80s offers an interesting challenge, and HUSTLER is prepared to meet this challenge. I'm the first to admit that in the past year HUSTLER has fallen short of delivering the goods, and the sales have reflected its shortcomings. It would be easy to blame HUSTLER's weak editorial package on the fact that I was in prison, but that would be a cop-out.
Shortly after I was imprisoned, there was a power struggle for control of my company. When my wife, Althea, lost the conservatorship bid in California State Court, she refused to participate in the running of HUSTLER. With Althea and myself both absent, the magazine became nothing more than one of our second-rate competitors. But Althea and I have both returned, and in the future you can expect your old HUSTLER back with some fresh new ideas. You know what you got without our presence. Now, in the coming months, judge for yourself just who and what makes a difference at HUSTLER.
Larry Flynt, Publisher & Editor