Bill and Hillary are upset about a cover story on their daughter, Chelsea, in the new People magazine. They say they'd give up on the press altogether if it wasn't for the good, decent people at Hustler magazine."

—Colin Quinn on Saturday Night Live

Okay, it's a joke. But it resonates with a truth that modern-day media will not at all like: Hustler publisher Larry Flynt is now uncomfortably close to the mainstream, and it's not because he moved, either.

The Old Guard, of course, is up in arms. The Washington Post derided Flynt as an "investigative pornographer", and other Establishment media outlets were no kinder. Not that it stopped the Post from selling Flynt the space to advertise the rewards he would pay for information on Congressional adulterers. Is it horrible to buy this kind of information? Does anyone really believe that no member of the mainstream press, print or electronic, has ever cut a check to an informant? Is the real question "If Larry Flynt doesn't do it, who will?"

And the real answer is "Somebody certainly will." Whatever Flynt's reputation as a sleazemonger, his actions to expose the hypocrites among the ostensible vast right-wing conspirators are very much in line with the stuff you see from allegedly more "respectable" journalists. Establishment media desperate for market share, all the while decrying Flynt's approach, are doing basically the same thing he does, and justifying it by saying that the audience demands to know these things.

Of course, the real losers here are the New Puritans, who complain bitterly about everything even remotely prurient, real or imagined — Jerry Falwell's goofy assertion about the homosexuality of one of the Teletubbies being merely the most recent, not the most absurd — unless it's being used against one of their declared enemies. You'd think by now they'd have figured out the meaning of "As ye sow, so shall ye reap." Then again, in the Battle of the Pornographers, the Starr Report continues to outsell Hustler by a wide margin, so maybe they're on to something after all.

The Vent

#137
15 February 1999

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 Copyright © 1999 by Charles G. Hill