Archive for the ‘censorship’ Category

This month in magazines: Oz in 1967

February 17, 2017
The first issue of underground magazine Oz in February 1967

The first issue of underground magazine Oz in February 1967

Oz was an underground magazine launched in London in February 1967 that became a leading part of Britain’s counterculture. Notice the word ‘London’ at the top left of the Oz title above. It’s there because Oz was originally an Australian magazine, founded by Richard Neville, Martin Sharp and Richard Walsh. They were prosecuted in Australia and Neville and Sharp came to London, where they launched another version of the magazine with Jim Anderson.

It was not the only magazine of its type – International Times, Ink and Friends were also influential – but Oz gained mainstream notoriety for the obscenity trial that followed the publication of the Oz School Kids issue (number 28).

The Oz Schoolkids issue

The Oz Schoolkids issue

The three editors (Sharp had left and been replaced by Felix Dennis) selected a group of youngsters aged between 14 and 18 to edit issue 28. The magazine’s offices were raided by the Obscene Publications Squad, the issue was seized and the editors were charged with conspiring to ‘debauch and corrupt the morals of young children’ because of some of the cartoons and discussion of sexual freedom and drug use.

Protest issue at Oz obscenity trial

Protest issue at Oz obscenity trial

For Felix Dennis, the Oz trial was the ‘finest hour’ for John Mortimer, their defence lawyer and later author of the Rumpole of the Bailey TV series and books. Although they were found guilty under the Obscene Publications Act, the verdict was overturned on appeal.

Like Private Eye, Oz might have looked crude, but it was an innovative user of the latest production techniques such as lithographic colour printing. It produced some amazing imagery by people such as Peter Brooke – now the leading political cartoonist on The Times – and Sharp’s iconic imagine of Bob Dylan, the Tambourine Man.

Another Australian who worked on Oz, in Sydney and London, was Marsha Rowe, and Germaine Greer wrote for it, too. Greer wrote The Female Eunuch in 1970 (and was gardening correspondent of Private Eye with the byline Rose Blight!) and Rowe was a co-founder of Spare Rib in 1972. She condemned a plan by Charlotte Raven to relaunch Spare Rib in 2014. The archive of Spare Rib can be found through the British Library’s website.

Felix Dennis went on to found Dennis Publishing, which launched Maxim and The Week. Since Dennis’s death, the profits from the company have been put to creating a massive forest. As well as the people behind Oz becoming mainstream, so have many of the ideas it, and the other undergrounds titles, argued for.  Oz is also one of the most collectable magazines.

The last issue of Oz - November 1973

The last issue of Oz

The University of Woollongong holds an online archive of the Australian issues of Oz, which was first published in Sydney on April Fool’s Day 1963 and continued until December 1969.This was set up with Neville’s co-operation after he returned to Australia and became a writer.

Woollongong also has all the London editions of Oz, from February 1967 to November 1973. The last issue cover carries a photo of the Oz staff naked overlaid on a background of disgraced US president Richard Nixon.

 


To see almost 500 magazine covers and pages, look out for my book, A History of British Magazine Design, from the Victoria & Albert Museum, the world’s leading museum of art and design

 

 

 


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Gawker and the ‘crude crunch of global litigation’

August 28, 2016

Gawker has joined the News of the World as road fill, cosmic particles or wherever it is that dead media go. Peter Preston of the Guardian (and one of its past editors) has written about its closure and his worries about the potential effect of legal busybodies on the media in print and online:

Hear the crude crunch of global litigation bent on obliteration, not arbitration. Trump issues writs as heedlessly as he massages statistics: 1,900 of them filed already. Silicon Valley is flexing its muscles. I know many readers here still see press freedom through a Murdoch prism. I know that Leveson’s followers hold his words as holy writ. But the internet – instantaneously, inevitably – gives news a different dimension. It isn’t just another great-and-good opportunity for the regulatory classes … we ought to care, deeply, about its fate.

When you find Private Eye and the world’s oldest English language magazine, The Spectator, on the same side against Leveson’s press regulation, that’s a big worry. Moneyed Silicon Valley, loud-mouthed celebrities, lawyers and their super-injunctions – a dark combination for press freedom.

‘Maxwellisation’ is no excuse for Chilcot

September 16, 2015
John Kay's piece about Chilcot's 'Maxwellisation' at ft.com

John Kay’s piece about Chilcot’s ‘Maxwellisation’ at ft.com

Incisive piece in the FT by economist John Kay on the use of the word ‘Maxwellisation’ in the context of the Chilcot inquiry on the war in Iraq and the trumped-up excuses for delays in the findings being published.

Kay writes:

The use of the word ‘Maxwellisation’ to describe a process by which the rich and powerful obstruct criticism of their actions is, perhaps, an appropriate legacy for one of the most flamboyant and litigious crooks of recent times.

Too true. Maxwell owned Pergamon and fancied himelf as a Fleet Street newspaper baron, buying the Daily Mirror with its Watford printing plant, and founding the European. However, he used his wealth to stifle journalists probing the truth about his nefarious activities with legal threats, most famously in a mammoth battle with Private Eye. He then stole the pensions of Mirror Group employees in the 1980s. They are still having to live with the effects of Maxwell’s chicanery, the scale of which had not been seen since that of another publishing pioneer, former FT chairman and John Bull editor Horatio Bottomley.

‘Maxwellisation’ should be no excuse for the delays.

New Statesman’s curious case of John Major’s ‘mistress’

August 23, 2015
new_statesman_2015jul17_660.jpg

New Statesman’s ‘motherhood trap’ cover illustration earned the ire of several women politicians (17 July 2015)

New Statesman is a leftwing magazine that, as befits a political weekly, likes to stir things up occasionally. This recent cover for ‘The motherhood trap’ by Helen Lewis generated a fuss when it was criticised by SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon as being ‘crass’ and reinforcing prejudice. The Tory leader in Scotland, Ruth Davidson, tweeted: ‘oh do sod off’.

But New Statesman really got itself into deep water in the 1990s with an article, ‘The curious case of John Major’s “mistress”‘.  It sparked a libel  case that became curiouser and curiouser, damaged the PM and had a stunning denouement – nine years later. At the time, the article nearly sank the magazine as it celebrated its 80th anniversary year with a revamp to try and boost its 22,000 circulation.

New Statesman 1993 jan 29 John Major Clare Latimer

The curious case of John Major’s ‘mistress’: New Statesman of 29 January 1993 with a photomontage by Richard Camps showing Clare Latimer in the background

It was January 1993. Major was the son of a trapeze artist and former City banker who had never been to university. He had risen through the Tory ranks to take over as prime minister and leader of the Conservatives after the ousting of Margaret Thatcher in November 1990. He then won a tight election in 1992. Major himself was regarded as the grey man of British politics. However, his government was plagued by sexual and financial scandals and led to the label of ‘Tory sleaze’. Prominent among these scandals was actress Antonia de Sancha selling a kiss-and-tell story to the News of the World of a ‘toe-sucking’ affair with David Mellor. Major vowed to back his culture minister ‘through thick and thin’, but Mellor eventually resigned as a minister. Such scandals derailed Major’s ‘back to basics’ campaign that aimed to encourage support for traditional morality and the family.

The New Statesman article set out to investigate who was driving persistent  rumours that Major was having an affair. It had been obliquely referred to in newspaper diary columns and the satirical puppet-based TV series Spitting Image. The standfirst and headline summed the article up:

It is the ‘story’ that dare not speak its name. Steve Platt and Nyta Mann investigate the rumour, gossip and nudge-and-a-wink innuendo behind … the curious case of John Major’s mistress

It talked about a ‘deliberate attempt to undermine the new prime minister’, ‘dissatisfied Thatcherite Tories’ and ‘investigative muckraking’ by the newspapers. The ‘mistress’ often surrepticiously cited was named as Clare Latimer, who  had done the catering for events at 11 Downing Street when Major was chancellor from 1989 and carried on working for him when he was PM.

Major and Latimer separately sued for libel, against both the New Statesman and the satirical magazine Scallywag, which also carried the story.

The New Statesman insisted the article never intended to assert that an affair had taken place. It was ‘anatomy of a rumour’. But Major and his lawyer, David Hooper, who was reputed to charge £250 an hour, pressed the writ. The magazine’s wholesalers, distributors and printers quickly apologised and paid damages without a fight. These were seen as ‘soft’ targets. However, they, in turn, were able to make New Statesman pay these costs. In an article that argued Major had damaged his reputation in bringing the case, the Sunday Times estimated the damages at £26,500 to Major and £30,000 to Latimer with costs of £80,000 (11 July).

Paperboy threatened by libel laws: New Statesman of March 12

Paperboy threatened by libel laws: New Statesman of March 12

New Statesman editor Steve Platt fought the case, quickly raising £100,000 from an appeal to readers for donations towards its costs (as Private Eye did in cases such as its fight against Robert Maxwell). It campaigned for reform of the libel laws to protect printers and distributors from such claims with a cover story entitled ‘Would you sue your paperboy?’

Its legal bills topped £200,000 and the magazine came close to collapse. However, Major settled in July for just £1,001 in damages, in what the Sunday Times called ‘a derisory climbdown’.

The Economist agreed, describing Westminster talk of ‘John the Wimp’ (10 July):

A popular reading of Mr Major among his Tory critics is that he is a man who throws in his hand when the stakes get raised against him. This week’s settlement seems to bear that out.

New Statesman hits back: the cover the week after Major settled the case (16 July)

New Statesman hits back: the cover the week after Major settled the case (16 July)

But the magazine survived. Major left the leadership after losing the the 1997 election to Tony Blair (an article by the then shadow home secretary, ‘Why crime is a socialist issue’, was one of the cover lines alongside ‘The curious case’), but stayed on as an MP until 2001. Then, in 2002, former Tory minister Edwina Currie ‘shopped’ Major, revealing she had an extra-marital affair with Major in her memoir Diaries (1987–92). The book told of a four-year affair when they were party whips from 1984, a time when they were both married; Major to Norma, and Currie to her first husband, Ray Currie.

The news led the magazine to threaten legal action to get its costs back, saying Major’s libel action appeared to be based on a false premise.

In 1994, Currie had written a novel, A Parliamentary Affair. An Observer Magazine profile summed up the plot:

[A] cabinet member has an affair with a rent boy and a junior minister makes love to a breast-jiggling journalist on Westminster Bridge. Meanwhile, Elaine, a backbencher not to be confused with her creator, has rear-entry sex in a Commons office.

So it’s no wonder that the Guardian said of Currie’s Dairies revelation:

The nation was shocked by Edwina Currie’s revelation that she had an affair with John Major, not so much because of any moral concern over fidelity, but because the idea of them at it took us to places we never, ever, wanted to go.

Let’s give the final word to Richard Camps who did the pre-computer photomontage for ‘The curious case’ cover:

I remember watching footage on the news of rabid Tories angrily waving this illustration in parliament. A proud moment. John Major has since proved himself to be a man of unquestionable integrity and fidelity who would never get involved in anything as sordid as an extramarital affair.

Charlie Hebdo: will you buy it?

January 13, 2015
Defiant pencil from the Charlie Hebdo homepage

Defiant pencil from the Charlie Hebdo homepage

Charlie Hebdo has raised its print run tomorrow to a massive 3 million copies – probably 60 times its normal run – with copies being distributed far beyond their normal scope. And it has a cartoon of the Prophet Mohammed on the cover.

Will you buy a copy?

I will, because the past week has been a historic one in the history of journalism and magazines. However, without such a professional impetus, the answer is not straightforward. While I have bought copies of Charlie Hebdo in the past, it has always seemed to me that it is an extreme magazine with editorial values that I could not share. It has been censored by the likes of Apple iTunes. And last week it came up against an even more extreme entity, in the form of extremist Islamists.

Do you agree with the statement today from the cartoonist who drew tomorrow’s cover: ‘There is no “but” when it comes to freedom of speech’? Even though another staff member has pointed out that: ‘We are not obsessed by Mohammed more than the Pope or [former French president] Nicolas Sarkozy.’

Charlie Hebdo exists to bait its targets by word and image, and to push the boundaries of what is allowed in print. But most newspapers and magazines would not go there. This can become an unequal battle being waged by highly literate – and after the revenue comes in tomorrow, well-resourced – journalists. What form of response is there for many of their targets? Muslim groups have tried to stop the magazine’s attacks by using the law, but from what I have read, have failed. However, the magazine was banned when it attacked Charles de Gaulle after his death. This does raise the issue of whether all people are equal before the law.

If you hold up a sign saying ‘Je Suis Charlie’, what are you supporting? Free speech? The right of Charlie Hebdo to carry on baiting Muslimists and its other targets? The 17 victims of the gunmen last week? If you buy a copy tomorrow, what will you be supporting then?

Back to the drawing board at Charlie Hebdo

January 8, 2015

If the gunmen thought they would shut Charlie Hebdo up, here is the response from the French satirical magazine’s lawyer:

The next edition of Charlie Hebdo will come out next week and a million copies will be printed.

Charlie Hebdo’s typical sale for an issue is about 45,000 copies. The Guardian assesses the magazine’s likely reaction under the headline ‘Fight intimidation with controversy‘.

The Telegraph has updated its slideshow of cartoonists’ reactions, led by this one from pocket cartoonist Matt:

Telegraph cartoonist Matt's reaction to the 12 murders at Paris magazine Charlie Hebdo

Telegraph cartoonist Matt’s reaction to the 12 murders at Paris magazine Charlie Hebdo

The Financial Times also put up a page of cartoons this morning. Magazine reactions have continued at their websites. At the New Yorker:

The attack on Charlie Hebdo is only the latest blow delivered by an ideology that has sought to achieve power through terror for decade

The Spectator magazine ran a photograph of the vigil at Trafalgar Square with a comment article sparked by the Financial Times that – like many of the paper’s own readers, and commentators around the world – took aim at an opinion piece by one of the paper’s writers:

I am just back from a ‘Je suis Charlie’ vigil in Trafalgar Square, and the solidarity was good to see. I fear it won’t last. I may be wrong. Perhaps tomorrow’s papers and news programmes will prove their commitment to freedom by republishing the Charlie Hebdo cartoons.

But I doubt they will even have the courage to admit that they are too scared to show them. Instead we will have insidious articles, which condemn freedom of speech as a provocation and make weasel excuses for murder without having the guts to admit it.

Tony Barber, Europe editor of the Financial Times was first out of the blocks:

‘Charlie Hebdo is a bastion of the French tradition of hard-hitting satire. It has a long record of mocking, baiting and needling Muslims.’

The writer forgot to add that Charlie Hebdo has a long record of mocking, baiting and needling everyone. It is a satirical magazine in a free country: that is what it does.

The websites were still quiet at Private Eye and Le Canard Enchainé, but perhaps taking time to think is a good thing.

Charlie Hebdo: cartoonists react

January 7, 2015
Je Suis Charlie - Charlie Hebdo's website after the murderous attack on its Paris office

Je Suis Charlie – Charlie Hebdo’s website after the murderous attack on its Paris office

After putting up a post on the murders at Charlie Hebdo this morning, I passed a Standard news-seller holding up copies of the London paper shouting ‘Paris killings. Read about it. In your Standard.’ It was like stepping back 30 years. This was real news, not the puffed-up, pre-prepared variety that is now the daily fare of most newspapers, from the Standard to the Guardian.

But it was dreadful news and I watched through the day as details of the killings emerged. Cartoonists reacted quickly to the murders of two policemen and 10 staff on the magazine. While there is little doubt that Charlie Hebdo set out to irritate and wind people up, it did this to all its targets – which led to it being banned for comments about de Gaulle for example – but that is no reason to pull a gun.

Three masked gunmen killed 12 people in the attack, including the editor, Stéphane ‘Charb’ Charbonnier, and three cartoonists, Jean Cabu, Bernard ‘Tignous’ Verlhac and Georges Wolinski, who was 80 years old. The attack took place during a morning editorial meeting and Bernard Maris, a contributor and economost was another victim. As well as drawing for Charlie, the victims contributed to Paris Match, Le Nouvel Observateur, Marianne, Fluide Glacial and Paris-Presse, amongst others. Wolinski had also been the editor-in-chief of the monthly Charlie Mensuel.

People gathered in both Place de la Republique in Paris and Trafalgar Square – London has been described as France’s second city – but, surprisingly, some satirical magazines have been slow to comment. 

The Telegraph ran a slideshow of cartoonists’ reactions, and at the paper’s website, Adams came up with this brilliant riposte to those who would silence the cartoonists:

Brilliant reaction to Charlie Hebdo killings by Adams at the Telegraph

Brilliant reaction to Charlie Hebdo killings by Adams at the Telegraph

 Dutch illustrator Ruben Oppenheimer also made his mark: 

Ruben Oppenheimer reminded us where the 'war on terror' began

Ruben Oppenheimer reminded us where the ‘war on terror’ began

 Yet, in France, Le Canard Enchainé, a rival satirical weekly founded in 1915, had made no comment by 8pm, just publishing its usual edition in the morning.

Le Canard Enchainé, a rival satirical weekly, had made no comment by 8pm, just publishing its usual edition in the morning

Le Canard Enchainé, a rival satirical weekly, had made no comment by 8pm, just publishing its usual edition in the morning

It was also quiet at Private Eye:

Private Eye ran no comment on the Charlie shootings

Private Eye ran no comment on the Charlie shootings

Private Eye‘s editor Ian Hislop did turn up on the Daily Mail website saying the victims of the Charlie Hebdo shooting had ‘paid a very high price for exercising their comic liberty’.

Private Eye editor Ian Hislop quoted in the Daily Mail

Private Eye editor Ian Hislop quoted in the Daily Mail

However, The Spectator ran two big stories during the day on its website.

The Spectator ran comment pieces of the Paris killings

The Spectator ran comment pieces of the Paris killings

There was a similar reaction at the US literary magazine, the New Yorker:

The New Yorker's reaction to the attack on the Charlie Hebdo offices

The New Yorker’s reaction to the attack on the Charlie Hebdo offices

The Daily Mash website put up a cover of ‘le journal irresponsable’: 

The Daily Mash marks the Paris attack

The Daily Mash marks the Paris attack

 Magculture hinted at the range of victims of Charlie Hedbo’s vicious pens:

Magculture home page on Charlie Hebdo murders

Magculture home page on Charlie Hebdo murders

Charlie Hebdo itself ran a powerful, simple image on its website – ‘Je Suis Charlie’ (I am Charlie) that reminded me of the Time Out cover after the 7/7 London bombings. The page linked to a PDF of the words translated into other languages, including Arabic. People held up printouts of the home page image at protests around the world this afternoon.

12 killed at satirical magazine

January 7, 2015

At least 12 people have been killed by two gunmen at French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo in Paris this morning – 10 staff and two police officers. Five others are seriously wounded. Charlie Hebdo has been threatened for publishing cartoons about Islam and  was attacked with a firebomb in 2011.

Two gunmen were seen with assault rifles, who are on the run.

‘Because we are a country of liberty, we face threats,’ French president François Holland said after the killings.

Charlie Hebdo has always been controversial. The nearest British equivalent would be Private Eye. The weekly launched in 1969 with a viciously satirical agenda that led to issues being banned or seized as it took on every sacred cow in French society from the start. In its first year, it was banned for its comments on the death of General de Gaulle. Its closure at the end of 1981 led to a fight during a televised debate about the magazine.  It was revived in 1992. Stephane Charbonnier (Charb) has been editor since 2012.

In 1996, it was fined for for libel and abuse after complaints by a National Front mayor and another politician. Charlie Hebdo’s reaction was that the conviction marked the death of the right to write satire and an effort to bring down a satirical publication.

In 1997, it claimed that 15,000 women in France had been sterilised against their will, including Down’s Syndrome sufferers.

The French right wing is a regular target: Charlie Hebdo once claimed to have registered the National Front’s trademark after the party failed to renew its right to the name. ‘Better to be fucked by Chirac than raped by Le Pen’ is one of its famous political quotes.

In 2006, the magazine fought off a law suit by five Muslim groups who tried to block it publishing the caricatures of the prophet Mohammed from Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten that had led to violent protests and deaths worldwide. The magazine ran its own caricature across the front page. The US administration blamed Syria and Iran for inciting violence among Muslims over the cartoons and most US papers did not publish them. French president Jacques Chirac condemned ‘overt provocations’ that could inflame passions. Charlie Hebdo put out a second printing of the issue after it sold out within hours.

Collectors come out for £2,700 Oz on eBay

March 31, 2014

 

Oz magazine first issue

Oz magazine first issue January 1967

Underground magazine Oz is one of the most collectable titles – and proved the point in March when half-a-dozen bidders took their offers up from the £999 starting price to £2,728 in just nine bids. The set included all 48 issues ‘in exceptional condition’ of a magazine that sparked the 1972 Oz trial and introduced Maxim millionaire Felix Dennis to the magazine world.

A copy of the Oz first issue on its own went for £895 – well above the £650 one sold for back in 2007. Several others issues fetched up to £220.

Another title that attracts collectors is trendy cycling title Rouleur, with a set of the first 43 issues selling for £1000 as a buy-it-now.

Part works aren’t usually big sellers but a James Bond collection with model cars fetched £691. Buying it new would have cost £7.99 x 132, more than £1000.

strand_1904_4aprSherlock Holmes in the Strand is a long-standing attraction for collectors and a set of the first seven volumes of the magazine fetched £545. Mind you, unbound copies fetch far more, and this single issue of the April 1904 Strand with a Holmes story fetched £443.

The first 50 issues of the Face were priced at £500 and the seller took an undisclosed offer.

More on: collecting magazines and eBay prices

More: Strand Magazine and its iconic cover

LOOK OUT FOR: British Magazine Design, a new, highly illustrated book from the Victoria and Albert Museum

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Spectator speaks out on Press control

November 28, 2012
Spectator December 1 2012

Spectator magazine cover

A day before the Leveson inquiry report is published, the Spectator has set itself against any statutory scheme to control the press apart from self-regulation. In an editorial entitled ‘Why we won’t sign’ (1 December 2012), it thunders:

‘If the press agrees a new form of self-regulation, perhaps contractually binding this time, we will happily take part. But we would not sign up to anything enforced by government.’

Magazines have been given little coverage in the controversy, but several were called to give evidence to the Leveson inquiry, including Hello!, Heat and OK!

The Spectator has lived under government control – it was founded in 1828 – with Stamp Duty, which was used to control distribution of newspapers and magazines, not being abolished until 1855.

This change created a free Press, enabled expansion and a way of meeting demand for reading material from the public – it’s easily forgotten that the works of many of the great Victorian writers were first published in magazines, from Dickens to Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes. In the newspaper world, the Guardian went from twice weekly to daily publication.

The fortunes made by two magazine magnates – Alfred Harmsworth and Arthur Cyril Pearson – built on the invention of the New Journalism in magazines such as Tit-Bits to found the popular daily press – the Daily Mail, the Express and the Mirror.

Sam Delaney, a former editor of Heat, has warned that Leveson could end up muzzling the celebrity magazines:

Brace yourselves. By 2013, every title on the newsstand may well feature a gushing profile of Nancy Dell’Olio, lounging on a chaise longue ‘inside her beautiful home’

As the leaders of the political parties pore over the six copies of the Leveson report that were delivered to parliament this afternoon, the whole of the media awaits the next stage of the fallout from the phone-hacking scandal.

UK newspapers: Times readers run the country

Magazine timeline