The Arizona Desert Lamp

Vive la resistance!

Posted in Campus, Media, Politics by Evan Lisull on 12 November 2008

An unlikely allegiance has emerged between the College Republicans and the the Wildcat‘s editorial staff. First, the counterblaste from the Editorial Board:

It is not the responsibility of the Arizona Daily Wildcat to “represent” any community, even the campus community, any more than it would be the New York Times’s responsibility to “represent” the people of New York. A newspaper’s responsibility is to print the facts. It is not an organ of social change or an instrument to promote the values of “change, diversity and unity.”

The third “goal” of the event is, apparently, to inform the Daily Wildcat that members of the community “forgive your mistake, but please do not make it again.” We find it difficult to interpret this statement as anything other than a threat.

. . .

Finally, and most troublingly, the event is meant to make the Daily Wildcat “accountable for the education of their staff members with specific MANDATORY (sic) training in diversity and tolerance so this never happens again.”

This is out of the question. It is the business of the Daily Wildcat, not the community, to police its content. To allow the community to make its editorial decisions would be to abdicate its responsibility as an independent newspaper – something we refuse to do.

We view this declaration of “MANDATORY training” as a threat of a punitive measure – one that many may not realize the UA cannot legally enforce against the Daily Wildcat.

While the comic strip was not intended for publication, its content is still protected under the First Amendment, and retaliatory action against the expression of non-libellous speech strikes at the heart of freedom of the press.

The editorial also provides some insight into why the Wildcat was so flaccid in its defense of the column earlier:

We chose not to defend the comic strip on free speech grounds, as some readers urged us to do, for two reasons. First, the cartoon’s appearance was a managerial mistake; second, we did not think that those who responded to the cartoon were advocating censorship.

Sadly, that is no longer true. We are deeply concerned that ASUA and CSIL have joined together in an effort to call for censorship of the Daily Wildcat and to bully the newspaper into tailoring its editorial decisions to the whims of some members of the community.

Understandable, but in my opinion a bit naive. As the reporter who was at the initial Nov. 5 meeting could have told anyone, the hatred towards the Wildcat was palpable; they were harassing the photographer, simply because he was associated with the paper. As one attendee at the meeting repeated again and again, “We’ve done enough talking; now there needs to be some action.”

The College Republicans also released a press release, which takes a different tack on the issue:

The University of Arizona College Republicans call on ASUA to immediately dissociate itself from the Obama Victory Celebration Rally on Wednesday, November 12th.

. . .

We highly doubt that ASUA would be participating in, much less sponsoring, a McCain Victory Celebration and they certainly did not sponsor a Bush Victory Celebration in 2004.  ASUA should not have any role in partisan politics and their involvement in this event is unacceptable.

The actions of ASUA leaders seriously call into question the fundamental understanding that these individuals have of their roles as student body leaders.  ASUA needs to realize that they have absolutely no authority over the operations of the Daily Wildcat and that their efforts to “mandate specific diversity training” at an organization that they do not oversee is ridiculous and overreaching.

However, instead of responding in a responsible manner, ASUA wants to turn this into a political rally, a rally that in no way accurately represents the views of the student body that they purport to serve. ASUA should instead remember that they serve all students on campus, and should not neglect this responsibility in order to appease special interest groups.

It’s easy to see how ASUA would defend itself (“it’s about him being black, not being a Democrat”), but empirically I’m sure that the CRs are right here. While they cite the election of Bush, I think the better precedent would be the appointment of Alberto Gonzales as the first Hispanic attorney general, or Sandra Day O’Connor as the first female Supreme Court justice. Here, the accomplishment is still great (frankly, I hold SCOTUS justices in higher esteem than the president), but their conservative policies cause “diversity celebrators” to downplay these accomplishments. Were Piyush Jindal to have been elected, I highly doubt that there would be any sort of ASUA-sponsored rally for him.

By attending/sponsoring (it is hard to say exactly what ASUA’s role is in this rally) this event, ASUA is implictly endorsing all of the ‘platforms‘ of the event — which include MANDATORY training. The rally starts in three hours — we’ll see what happens.

Also, the cartoon, reprinted for the record:

"Racist" Cartoon

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