ink-stained wretches

The New York Times Dropped a Rare F-Bomb

The New York Times has a long and storied history of protecting its readers from profanity. While some other obscenity-averse publications are willing to just publish curse words with the middle letters replaced by asterisks or dashes, Times writers are generally required to come up with more family-friendly descriptions of offensive language used by people they are quoting. When covering art that includes swears in its title, the Times does sometimes resort to more straightforward censorship: A review of a concert by the punk band Fucked Up referred to the group as “********”; a piece on Nick Flynn’s Another Bullshit Night in Suck City went with “Another Bull**** Night … ” In other cases, the paper simply won’t directly reference the thing being written about, as was the case with an article about anti-baby blogs that declined to mention or link to the popular, well-known STFU Parents. But it seems that the editors decided to go a little wild on Sunday. A supplement to a piece in the Times style magazine, T, about five writers’ working spaces featured this unaltered line from Jonathan Lethem’s upcoming Dissident Gardens: “Quit fucking black cops or get booted from the Communist party.” =

The Times has printed fuck at least once before, when it ran an excerpt of the 1998 Starr report:

The paper has also very, very occasionally exposed people to particularly important uses of shit. Meanwhile, the Lethem quote is not exactly breaking news, though it seems to have succeeded in backing the Times’ editors into a corner, since they couldn’t ask the author to change the opening of his book. Notably, the profane section of the article is not available online. It seems that they’re hoping to put the whole sordid affair behind them.