Tuesday, September 25, 2007
When you think of important issues, you obviously think about controversies over cartoons published in newspapers at Central Connecticut State University. With that in mind, the Daily Cal writes an editorial about a cartoon that made people angry or something. As good journalists tend to do, they don't actually provide the information you need to judge what the hell they're talking about. So I'm going to have to pick up the slack and note that you can find the cartoon here (PDF warning) on the last page.
As an independent student newspaper, we understand that there is a fine line between controversial material and material that is blatantly obscene and offensive.Apparently not. Is there really a line, fine or otherwise, between the two? Can't something be both blatantly obscene and offensive as well as controversial?
However, The Recorder, Central Connecticut State University's student newspaper, clearly overstepped that role when it decided to publish a highly inflammatory cartoon.What "role" is the editorial talking about right now? Nobody knows.
The illustration depicts cartoon figures referring to a 14-year old Hispanic girl locked in a closet who was urinated on by one of the characters.You heard it from the Daily Cal, folks. Controversy and satire must be spurred by events or intents. I hope you don't use satire meaninglessly and pointlessly with your friends.
Controversy and satire can be effective tools, but only when spurred by some event or with some intent in mind. The Recorder's cartoon exhibited no signs for either case. Such an action is irresponsible and reprehensible.
Stephanie Bergeron, an editor at The Recorder, wrote, "If we try and censor art that ... offends us, we will not progress." If this piece were meant to generate discussion, then why refuse to reveal the identity of the artist behind the work? It seems more cowardly than progressive for someone to draw a contentious piece anonymously.Why would the identity of the artist matter at all in terms of whether or not it can generate discussion? And again, is there a line between being cowardly and progressive?
If the artist is going to remain unknown, then editor Mark Rowan will have to be held accountable.Would knowing who the artist was change this?
In addition, this is not the first transgression by the paper under the helm of Rowan. In February, The Recorder ran a satirical article which described the "magical experience" of rape. That the paper would publish another offensive piece only demonstrates that it has not learned from its previous error in judgement. The editors, who reviewed the cartoon before it went to print, failed to stop this impropriety.Did it occur to the Daily Cal that the Recorder may not give a fuck about their concepts of propriety and good judgement? I know hearing a bunch of pissed off people bitching about something I did which was none of their business makes me want to continue doing it. I wouldn't find it surprising that if Recorder took the same approach.
The Recorder's case is an example of how determining whether content is suitable for print or not is a process that is essential to maintaining press freedom and legitimacy. Right now, the paper needs to admit that it made a mistake publishing the cartoon. In order to restore ties with the campus and community, The Recorder must either have a change in leadership or show a more sincere effort to learn from its mistakes.OR ELSE!!! Spare us your righteous indignation, Daily Cal. You don't have any authority to assert what a free, legitimate press should do. When's the last time you broke a meaningful scandal?
Now, with that aside, let's take a look at whether the cartoon itself is "racist and sexist." I have a hard time ascribing such values to it, because it looks pretty meaningless to me. Can such completely gratuitous references really propagate racism and sexism?
The response in the next week's paper includes a well-placed jab:
The comic, which depicts a conversation between a square and a triangle, has provoked responses from organizations on campus such as the Latin American Students Organization.And it's difficult to say if this itself is satire:
Students involved with the rally, such as Frank Vazquez, also touched upon issues dealing with the expansion and promotion of diversity on the campus.Prosecution for what? Those bastards leave us with a teaser, and I want to hear the rest of the story!
"On behalf of the Latin Association, which both encompasses faculty, the Africana Studies, we would like to see what it is that the university is planning to do to diversify this campus after three years," said Serafin Mendez- Mendez, Chair of the communication department.
Mendez-Mendez has previously expressed intentions to take action against the paper.
"Pursuant to the dispositions of the Student Handbook, I request that judicial procedures be started immediately. I also wish to note that I reserve my right to pursue civil and/or criminal prosecution of Mr. Rowan, and his editorial staff," he stated in an email distributed via the faculty listserv.
My favorite angry letter is this one:
If you are 21 or younger, your family is libel too.Well-played, Recorder.
They've had similar problems in the past, including an article called "Rape Only Hurts If You Fight It," on page 7 here (Also PDF, since it appears suspiciously absent from the archives). The editor, Rowan, apologized for that one.
. . .
. . .