Lots of folks associate Playboy Magazine with possible 12 year old boys stashing them under their beds and deep in closet shelves. But the magazine was so much more than an homage to nude models: it was a place where the powerful felt comfortable reflecting, a landmark alternative to a conservative media and a fist through a glass window of censorship.
Hefner, and Playboy as a whole, thrived on challenging the cowardice of the status quo. James Baldwin was published in Playboy, as was Alex Haley. Playboy paved the way for modern day outlets to do important work in the field of journalism, such as Vice.
While the perspective of Playboy, Hunter S. Thompson and other gonzo pioneers may seem much more mainstream now, it is what we need more of in this day and age. It can reveal ugly truths about our public figures, and ourselves, truths that need to see the light of day. To quote Thompson, who wrote an absolutely amazing obituary for Richard Nixon:
“Some people will say that words like scum and rotten are wrong for Objective Journalism — which is true, but they miss the point. It was the built-in blind spots of the Objective rules and dogma that allowed Nixon to slither into the White House in the first place. He looked so good on paper that you could almost vote for him sight unseen. He seemed so all-American, so much like Horatio Alger, that he was able to slip through the cracks of Objective Journalism. You had to get Subjective to see Nixon clearly, and the shock of recognition was often painful.”
May we all have the courage to ask hard questions, speak the truth repeatedly and not shut up when told to do so repeatedly by authorities.