Printer refuses humor magazine because "Christian owners" want to protect "the kids"

Oh shut up with your common sense, kmccrory. Don’t you know this is our two minute hate?


You can get all your brown shirts for the kiddies at Walmart! For X-mas!

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Back when the company I worked for was part of the print division of Staples, they would get jobs submitted from retail stores that we got print ready. We had someone submit one of those calendars with cars and topless girls. Poor Christie was like, “WTF?” We ended up declining to print it.


You are correct. Cory’s headline was correct, but in my fever to get the next issue in my hot little hands I had misread the blog post, thus my summary was whack. Cue: indignant but shamed.

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FTFY. tee hee…

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Bystander Mike here: I’m a bit off-balance, because I intended my comments solely for our subscribers – the issue’s been waiting to be printed for 6+ weeks now, and I wanted everybody to know that I hadn’t skipped town with their dough. But I’m fine with it being public, since it really happened and I’m not likely to get anybody fired by it. Honestly, I felt bad for the salesperson. It seemed like he was being held hostage by his bosses’ weirdness and – we’ve all been there.

Printers can’t – and shouldn’t – be forced to print anything they find objectionable, and as many commenters have said, there are other printers to be engaged; I’ll find one, even if I have to go to Canada or Belgium. In the US, printers are generally in rural areas, and so it’s not uncommon for printers to have conservative political beliefs. But I’ve been doing projects like Bystander since around 1990, and I’ve NEVER had a promptly paid printer grow cold, or turn down a project for editorial reasons. And, just as tellingly, I’ve never had to use a dodgy outfit; normal, mainstream printers have always handled my parodies and magazines with no comment (and sometimes positive comment; it’s a good sign when pressmen take a few “overs”). You’d often hear of underground newspapers or comics being printed at the same place as Tijuana Bibles; but by the time I came around, that wasn’t necessary.

With this particular press, maybe it was just bad luck – and better to tell me now, then after we’re on press – but I had a strong sense that the current political climate was in play. I’m quite concerned that, in addition to all the other things Trump has wrought, American culture/the arts is going to start to feel a chill. If this happens, it may well start with comedy.

Anyway, thanks again for the interest in my little mag. As crusades go, it’s a pleasant one. :slight_smile:


They’re turning cats away? They deserve to fail.


Freedom goes both ways you know? And although a government should’t control your free speech no third party is obliged to print, broadcast, or host you either.


Chill has arrived, and is in full flower.

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This is good news all around:

  • A prudish publishing house is closer to going out of business.
  • A worthy magazine gets hundreds of thousands in free publicity and becomes much more profitable.

I don’t know whether to be impressed or concerned that the guy on the phone apparently knows the owners’ likes and dislikes well enough to say that they wouldn’t allow the job to be printed.

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The Short Fingered Vulgarian has a very thin skin. I fear you are correct.


Although public shame only really works if you let the public know who the printer is.

I haven’t read the article yet – I’m way behind on everything – but this bit from the synopsis stood out to me:

“No, our presses can do it, it’s just — well, this is a family-owned business, and the family, they’re really Christian, and… I don’t think they’d approve.

So, what we seem to have here is him making an assumption of what the owners would or wouldn’t approve of, instead of taking it to them and finding out their actual stance on it.

He knows them better than I do, obviously, but if he’s wrong he not only cost them the revenue of that print run, but any future revenue of any future runs with this client. And if they had decided to name the printer, who knows what further fallout their may have been.

I get it. I work for some people with strong Christian values, and it’s easy to assume how they might react to something that falls outside of those values. But they have surprised me on a few occasions.

Maybe he was trying to cover for them, shifting it to his shoulders so they could be distanced from the decision. Maybe it is their stance. But if not, that’s not a call I think he should have made.

I might be wrong.


Maybe he didn’t want to take a chance on losing his job. Maybe his owner is hard to get hold of. Multiple possibilities.

No, right. I got that from what was said later on:

“… I would print it. I thought it was great. It’s just that the owners — if they found out, it would be my job.

Does that mean he would also lose his job for verifying with them whether the magazine fell outside of what they wanted to print? If that’s the environment in which he’s expected to work, I hope he has his eyes on an exit. It sounds unbearable to me.

Or would he be at a greater chance of losing his job for making an assumption that would cost them current and possibly future business and income with both this company and others who don’t want to do business with a puritan printing company?

As long as we are discussing possibilities, it’s also possible that it was his values that were being offended, and not the owners, in spite of him saying he would print it if it were up to him; he found it funny, but you know. Kids, and what’cha gonna do?

I imagine it’s also possible the owners are actually hands off, and just want money in the bank, and leave those decisions to him.

But yeah, no telling. He didn’t say they were hard to get in touch with, though, or that he even tried to run it past them. Just that he thought they wouldn’t like it.


Sure, lots of things are possible. Some owners/bosses are crazy. Some are not clear about what they want. It’s impossible to know, and it probably isn’t the guy’s duty to spell it out. All we really can say is that the guy made a call for whatever reason, and the possibility of losing his job figured strongly. Sometimes it’s better to play it safe. I like people who take chances, myself, but it’s not MY job on the line. I can’t fault someone for wanting to keep his job.


Fair point.

“Chill” happens primarily through advertiser pressure – so the bigger and more corporate the outfit, and the more it’s advertiser supported, the more susceptible they are. So hard satire will first retreat to a niche – from SNL to Oliver/Bee/Colbert – and then the corporate parents of that niche program will be pressured however possible. Big outfits – TV networks, Univision/The Onion – are going to be more susceptible to pressure.

For publications, there’s also distributor/newsstand pressure. I was always trying to think of ways around this back in the 90s, when SPY and NatLamp were asking me for solutions on how to stay alive. The internet has given us a way around that, for now, but I am concerned that things like SESTA/FOSTA will usher in an era of internet Comstock Laws used to control speech.

Bystander has been designed to make it difficult to suppress; we’re very small, very lean, and we make money via subscriptions and crowdfunding. So if enough people want the mag, we are pretty unkillable under the rules in place since 1960 or so. But if those are changing, all bets are off, not just for us, but a lot of folks doing much more important things than publishing a humor magazine. Which is in part why I sent up the Batsignal to my subscribers.

As long as readers want us, Bystander will be fine. I’ll print it on purple mimeo if necessary. :slight_smile:


I got the impression that this was an important part of his job. I’ve had bosses like that.


That’d be totally retro and the hipster market would dig it!