I’m liking Roger Ebert the blogger way more than I ever liked Roger Ebert the TV movie reviewer. Apparently after last week’s blog about Playboy (which I mentioned here), he got a lot of flak because he (horrors!) included a Playmate photo in the blog post and didn’t include a NSFW warning for timorous puritans.

Well, his most recent blog post begins as a spirited defense of his posting the photo without an NSFW warning:

As a writer, it would have offended me to preface my article with a NSFW warning. It was unsightly — a typographical offense. It would contradict the point I was making. But others wrote me about strict rules at their companies. They faced discipline or dismissal. Co-workers seeing an offensive picture on their monitor might complain of sexual harassment, and so on. But what about the context of the photo? I wondered. Context didn’t matter. A nude was a nude. The assumption was that some people might be offended by all nudes.

I heard what they were saying. I went in and resized the photo, reducing it by 2/3, so that it was postage-stamp 100 pixel size (above) and no passer-by was likely to notice it. This created a stylistic abomination on the page, but no matter. I had acted prudently. Then I realized: I’d still left it possible for the photo to be enlarged by clicking! An unsuspecting reader might suddenly find Miss June 1975 regarding him from his entire monitor! I jumped in again and disabled that command.

This left me feeling more responsible, but less idealistic. I knew there might be people offended by the sight of a Playmate. I disagreed with them. I understood that there were places where a nude photo was inappropriate, and indeed agree that porn has no place in the workplace. But I didn’t consider the photograph pornographic.

He goes on to contrast our puritanical American attitudes about nudity with more relaxed standards prevailing in Europe, and to make a favorable comparison of the artistic merits of the photo with various bits of classical fine art that would have raised no eyebrows. The only weirdness about the piece is, after essentially defending the photo and his publication of it without a warning tag, and gently ridiculing at length the poke-noses who complained, he wraps the whole article up with two unexplained sentences in which he apologizes and says he won’t do it again:

In the future I will avoid NSFW content in general, and label it when appropriate. What a long way around I’ve taken to say I apologize.

What a long way indeed, Roger — and nothing in your blog post prepared us for that jarring and inconsistent conclusion to an otherwise fine if somewhat rambling blog. Is that something the Chicago Sun-Times told you they wanted to hear you say?

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