Attacking The Mass Media is Not Funny

Heather Turner

BY HEATHER TURNERContributing Writer

The April Fools’ issue of The Mass Media did a number of things. It prompted an attack on the paper’s leadership by several administrators and community groups and the resignation of the paper’s news editors. And the consequences of its publication may have demoralized not only the paper’s editors but also the entire staff.

In the end, the attack on the paper and its leadership was only half-warranted.

It was only half-correct because “President Wilson Outlines Suburban Mission” was a masterpiece of political satire. Political figures are often satirically presented as the embodiment of utter stupidity, cunningness, self-importance, immaturity, elitism, or evilness. Politicians and public officials who, like Wilson, represent a threat to the working class, are often compared to Hitler.

For example, Conan O’Brien once “reported” a supposed change then-NYC Mayor Rudy Giuliani was making to a traditional Manhattan parade route. The route, outlined on a street map of the city, was in the shape of a swastika. Political satire’s “exaggeration,” allows masses of us to laugh at the ridiculousness of the leaders of the bourgeois class. This is a temporary but much-needed relief from our conscious or semi-conscious knowledge that our “leaders” are often our enemies.

In case he didn’t get the joke, I’ll furnish an explicit attack on President Wilson’s moves since publication. The moaning of “insensitivity” from the Jewish Community Relations Council of Boston is nauseating. Is an honest, sharp political criticism necessarily insensitive? Or is it the reference to Hitler? No, it appears that the insensitivity was in the placement of Wilson’s head over Hitler’s body, because Wilson himself is a German Jew.

Ah hah! That’s right. No one is allowed to call a Jew a fascist. Jews can’t be fascists or agents of the ruling elite. Jews have been “specially” oppressed for thousands of years, and they were the only group attacked by Nazism. And because of all of this…it is only righteous for Israel to reign terror on Arabs; act as a heavily armed and strategically placed fist for U.S. imperialism! Kids, insert your favorite pro-Israel falsehood here! __________. (Read mainstream media for clues.)

Wilson, consider this your shot of truth serum. Not everyone is fooled by a political climate that gives greater weight to appearance than to essence. Anti-racist struggle is possible and will prevail because actions continue to speak louder than ethnicity.

The picture of Motley-as-pimp is an entirely different story. Pimps are ugly people, as deplorable as Hitler. How or why it became mainstream to call someone a “pimp” is unknown to me, but it is disgusting. Like many popular manifestations of sexism, it’s all fun and games until someone’s daughter/friend/sister is kidnapped/raped/sold.

Motley is a popular figure. Someone should be likened to a pimp only as an insult. Here I disagree with the editorial board, and much of American society, by the way. Ours is a dumb, decadent culture where racist, sexist stereotypes are perceived as “funny,”…even by the ones who are most oppressed! And so I don’t forgive the move, but it was an honest mistake with its roots in the culture at large.

Still, in the end, Derby pandered too much, most likely because she received vicious attacks from many different power-holders. My responses would have been shorter. To Motley, something like “My bad.” To Wilson, something like “Kiss my ass.”

It may be easy to miss the positive role the paper has played since the incident in leading folks to use the paper as a place for broad discussion. In response to various constituencies’ “outrage,” the subsequent issue offered a principled editorial, sophisticated coverage of the situation (see “April Fools’ Not So Funny For some” by Ayesha Kazmi), a thoughtful apology from the editor-in-chief, and several letters to the editor. The discussion continues in this issue.

Ultimately and unfortunately, however, perhaps more administrators than students have chimed in at this point. This, more than the potential discomfort of the administration, is what should really worry the student body.

Do you realize that staff of The Mass Media is paid for their efforts? Even contributing writers receive wages for their stories. This is because the newspaper maintains independence from the administration, partly by receiving its funding from an optional student fee.

On virtually every other college campus, the independence of the student newspaper and the compensation of writers for their work would be highly unusual! Radical! And a very good thing!

Why? First of all, a newspaper is an important place for a community to share their experiences. (Note the obsession most revolutionary leaders have had with the distribution of literature). For a community of students, it is critical to have this conversation independently of the administrators who, despite their or our delusions, exist to spoon-feed us what corporate and state interests dictate.

Then there are the wages. To work for the student newspaper, however pleasurable or even self-promoting one may find it, is still to work. All positive work deserves compensation. And on a commuter campus like ours, it is not clear whether our publication would appear with such consistently were students only writing for “fun.”

This newspaper belongs to all of us. To attack the editors or the publication is to reveal your own elitism and unwillingness to engage in comradely debate with fellow students.

To all administrators glaring with contempt toward the offices of The Mass Media (especially those with the threatening tones): how wonderfully condescending you are, and how brilliantly you reveal your true role-one in opposition to students! And to students with similar contempt passing by on the second floor of the Campus Center: stop in and apply to become a contributing writer. You will be welcomed with open arms.

All that is left is to ask yourself which side you are on.