The Arizona Desert Lamp

‘No accounting for irony’

Posted in Campus, Media, Politics by Connor Mendenhall on 7 November 2008

Not from President Shelton, whose cowardly words in today’s Wildcat sanction silencing truth in the name of comfort

Not from Wildcat editor-in-chief Lauren LePage, who insists that her paper “is not approaching this controversy as a free speech issue,” but as a “management problem.”

Not from the ASUA Senate, who dedicated their meeting to masturbatory pronouncements of outrage and patriotism.

Not from the mob of students who packed the MLK center and the Tucson room demanding a sacrifice, who stormed into the Wildcat newsroom like a lynch mob, who even harassed the photographer attempting to publicize their misplaced fury.

The last time the Wildcat published an offensive cartoon, I spent anguished hours trying to craft a principled response. That controversy was about free speech, but it was also about good sense and common courtesy. In the face of constant outrage, I tried to consider the feelings of the offended—that maybe there was something I just didn’t get.

This time around, I see how wrong I was. The response to this cartoon—yes! it’s a goddamned cartoon!—is deeply horrifying. It is mass rejection of truth, of fact. It is collective cowardice of the highest order, groupunthink. It is “the worst kind of identity politics,” as Evan put it, writ large on the empty minds of my generation, who feel and hope but fail to think.

In other news, it looks like tuition is going up.

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3 Responses

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  1. Paul Metcalf said, on 7 November 2008 at 8:11 pm

    I admit, I love the phrase “masturbatory pronouncements”, but I’m a little less enthusiastic about your idea that “groupunthink” is the only explanation for taking offense to Wednesday’s cartoon.

    It seems to me that the term is inextricably bound to racial denigration. It manages to at once refer to a member of a particular race and characterize him/her as inferior solely based on that race, and can be rightly characterized as offensive in itself. At the very least, a word so powerful should be employed with a great deal of care.

    The relevant question is whether or not the message was valuable enough to justify the term’s use in the cartoons page of a student newspaper. I don’t think anybody is unreasonable to answer, “No”; even if they got the joke.

  2. Connor Mendenhall said, on 7 November 2008 at 11:29 pm

    Paul,

    I agree — it is inextricably bound, and that’s how I’ve wound up in the awkward position of defending others who use The N Word, while being unable to bring myself to write it. I don’t believe in “word magic,” but it just feels wrong.

    “Groupunthink” certainly isn’t the proximal cause of the hubbub — seeing an offensive word the day after the first black president was elected is. If I was the cartoonist, I’d be annoyed if a few people didn’t get offended. But the problem is when those people don’t bother to stop and think.

    I’m in Turkey, so my perceptions of this controversy are coming secondhand — from friends, from the Wildcat, from the Daily Star, all of which could be biased sources. But I doubt that more folks discussed this rationally, as you did, rather than calling for punishment. From the quotes and articles I’ve read, I just don’t see a lot of thinking going on.

  3. […] remain steadfast in its support of a person’s freedom of speech and expression” (see here and here), but it was good to see the Senate . . . err, return to that tradition. The conspicuous […]


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