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Suspension of Doonesbury Strips

April 26, 1986

It's bad enough when the government tries to protect us from ourselves. Laws say you have to wear seat belts. Building codes tell us where we can put light switches, and smoke alarms, even though we have enough common sense to be doing it right in the first place.

Now, however, we're getting it from The Times. You didn't run Garry Trudeau's Doonesbury strip, because you didn't like it. That's what it comes down to, in spite of all the "due to content" lingo you crank out, isn't it? You say you have the responsibility to "guard against publishing damaging material we know to be damaging and unfair" (italics mine).

Well, you don't get to make those judgments for me. I pay my money for your newspaper, and Garry Trudeau's work is a part of the reason. You don't get to decide for me if his work is suitable for my eyes or not. That's beyond the scope of your mandate, guys.

Garry Trudeau's strip is not just another funny-pages joke strip, with political content. It's a widely recognized art form, with a following and corresponding impact. Sounds like somebody hit the panic button in the Possible Damage Suits Department, when he saw the rough cut.

OK, so run it on the Editorial Pages. But run it. By not running it, you insult me. The reader feels like a child who is told that this book or that play wouldn't be good for him, he's not old enough to get the joke. What happened to the First Amendment, fellas? Shouldn't The Times be the first to defend Trudeau's right to free speech? What's next, are we going to burn some books you don't like?

Let me know when it's bedtime.

STEPHEN JOHNSON

Studio City

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