NOTE: There is no humor in the following rant. Move along.
This blog’s annoying need (on my part, and probably yours) to call The Hoya on their endless bullshit and lapse of duty as our “newspaper of record” can perhaps finally come to an end. They fucked up big time.
On Wednesday I first tried to write this post, but it’s really hard for us to respond to The Hoya’s April Fools’ issue. First, one of our writers was asked to write most of the thing for them in 2006, and The Hoya couldn’t manage to find a place between making in-jokes about themselves on their masthead to at all acknowledge him. Second, their crude “jokes” have been hypocritically allowed to be printed once a year despite us being denied the permission to become an official student organization in part because we wouldn’t be allowed to write any strong satire. Third, the issue is a clear embarrassment to The Hoya and is demeaning to Georgetown and the art of humor in general.
This issue has for years been a reflection of The Hoya’s bizarre but previously concealed views about what they have covered for the past year and their contempt for certain groups and people on campus, but somehow the issue has always come and passed without widespread outrage (especially easy last year, as they released the issue weeks late when people were starting to study for finals).
The Hoya generally defends the April Fools’ issue, as many have this year, as a “joke” that everyone should “chill out” about. Satire, however, is more than just a joke. Whether The Hoya realizes it or not, it has a point, and if you’re going to write it, you have to be ready to defend that point, because it’s yours. I think they put together what they thought were jokes without realizing, in these articles, the latent racist and insensitive assumptions and ideas that made them funny to them.
We shouldn’t be surprised that these notions exist in the writers of The Hoya. I’ve seen it a lot in certain members of the Long Island-New Jersey triangle, the great mass of the student body that to a high degree defines what Georgetown is at the present. I would hazard a guess that some of it comes from of their parents and a lot of it from a general isolation from people who are different from them. This is not to say that all students from that area are like this, or that all students with such racial notions are from that area, but I think that these notions are out there in the student culture, and that culture is largely defined by them.
It doesn’t surprise me at all that The Hoya wrote these articles because we’ve received so many submissions to the Heckler that I’ve found to be not only unfunny, but also racist. One particularly baffling article that we like to pass around amongst ourselves was about Tiger Woods being arrested for rape. The reason he won so many trophies, the article alleged, was not golf skills, but raping people. On at least two occasions, I’ve had to rewrite an article I thought had a good premise but seemed racist or homophobic in how it was carried out.
Another striking thing about this April Fools’ issue, one that relates to charges of racism, is The Hoya’s obsession with vigilante justice. It’s something I’ve also noticed in the culture here. I don’t know if it’s fueled by superhero movies, Catholic ideas about justice and punishment for straying from a code of acceptable practices, or a suburban fear of outsiders and the need to purge them. But it is a rampant belief, displayed in the comments here and here and elsewhere over my three years on campus.
And in this same vein, it has surfaced that some in GUSA are trying to find a way to get The Hoya punished for what they did.
As much as I detest what The Hoya did, that may be even more distressing than latent racism bursting onto its pages. The Hoya’s freedom of speech may have been used hatefully, but we cannot let our selves or the powers that be get in the habit of punishing people for this type or any type of speech, save the extreme cases of slander and libel.
And hopefully, journalists will learn to stay out of humor. It’s a bad idea.
NOTE: We’re lazy, but we are planning a new issue of the Heckler in the next few weeks. One that, as always, we can stand by, and one that hopefully has real jokes.