Great media stories can just fall from the sky, or at least from the mail. That’s what happened to the Atlantic Monthly, which last month received a provocative letter from the California State Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. It reads, in part:
This letter is to advise you that your publication entitled The Atlantic, for the month of December 2011, will not be delivered to [NAME REDACTED] of all intended inmate recipient of housed at CCWF [Central California Women’s Facility]. This is based on a violation of the California Code of Regulations , section 3134.1 (d,e), which states in part, “no warefare or weaponary.”
Copy editors, chill out: Those spellings are in the original letter. Strange wording aside, what problem could California correctional bureaucrats possibly have with the Atlantic? This problem:
In the eyes of the state of California, that’s a “male carrying an assault rifle.” Not to be allowed in the CCWF, of course.
The Atlantic, adhering to its high-minded heritage, is appealing the denial on behalf of the periodically deprived inmate. A letter from the publication points out that the photo has “great journalistic merit... The photograph and story do not glorify violence in any way. Quite the opposite: We published the article, and the accompanying images, in order to highlight the dangers of violence of South Asia.”
Yeah, yeah — you think the CCWF cares about your noble and journalistically sound reasons for the photograph? Clearly, Atlantic, you don’t know the CCWF.
Who knows where the Atlantic’s appeal will go. Perhaps the magazine’s grasp of logic and command of the public interest will prevail. If so, I’d advise the state of California to whip out the following four rationales to keep the ban intact. These hold so much more water that the “no warefare and weaponary” clause:
1) “No impenetrary”: Daniel B. Klein’s story on human objectivity featured too much survey data and hard-to-access writing for our inmate population.
2) “No stereotypeary”: Caitlin Flanagan’s story on Oprah includes this line: “There are certain things about women that men will never understand, in part because they have no interest in understanding them.” Not suitable for CCWF resident population.
3) “No run-on-sentenceary”: Orville Schell’s story on Walmart contains this sentence: “Even if Loftex and the Dalian Xingyeyuan Group (to which Walmart had also sent The Washington Post) are Potemkin villages of a sort, what is telling about them is not simply how they have greened their supply chains, and saved a bundle in the process, but how they serve as important models for transforming Lee Scott’s vision from theory into practice.” That’s too long for CCWF.
4) “No expert commentaryary”: Aforementioned cover piece on Pakistan contains this passage:
“There are three threats,” says Graham Allison, an expert on nuclear weapons who directs the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at Harvard. The first is “a terrorist theft of a nuclear weapon, which they take to Mumbai or New York for a nuclear 9/11. The second is a transfer of a nuclear weapon to a state like Iran. The third is a takeover of nuclear weapons by a militant group during a period of instability or splintering of the state.”
CCWF population has grown weary of excessive expert citations in journalism.