April 10, 2014

Who, Whom, Humor

When I was a kid back in the late 1960s and 1970s, the Sixties People, citing martyrs like Lenny Bruce, undermined The Establishment using jokes and satire. Today, the Sixties People are The Establishment and they don't much like young people using jokes and satire because it could get out of control and undermine them.

From the NYT, an article about some humor newspaper at lowly San Diego St. It was started at UC San Diego, before being run off campus, but now clings to life across town at the commuter school, which doesn't attract the more ambitious sort of activist-censor.
Free to Be Mean: Does This Student Satire Cross the Line? 
By KYLE SPENCER   APRIL 10, 2014

On a recent cloudless afternoon, a group of young comedy writers — one in Ray-Bans and a floppy wizard hat, another in skateboard sneakers and funky jeans — descended upon San Diego State University’s palm-tree-dotted campus, brandishing copies of their latest creation: a 12-page broadsheet of lewd humor. 
It was distribution day, or Distro, and staff members of The Koala, California’s most reviled student publication, had 8,000 copies to hand out. 
“Come and get it, you know you want it,” thundered Erik Luchsinger, a 21-year-old management major, in Hawaiian swim trunks, tank top and bow tie. 
“All the cool kids are reading it!” bellowed Taylor Etchart, a senior foods and nutrition major. 
“Guaranteed to be funnier than your textbook!” another staff writer shouted as students whizzed by on skateboards and bicycles. 
The cover featured an orgy of naked women with koala heads, clutching beer bottles, injecting illicit substances and vomiting. Inside was a list of “Top 5 Ways to Pick Up a Girl in a Burka,” a four-step instruction guide entitled “How Thou Shalt Use Thine Bible Pages to Roll One Holy Joint,” and in lieu of horoscopes, there were “Whore-o-Scopes.” 
... A professor snatched a pile “to give away to the trash can.”  
The Koala traffics in the kind of off-color banter even the writers recognize as offensive, though they also characterize its content as “witty” and “artistic.” Issues are peppered with jokes about homosexuals, Jews, Latinos, African-Americans, cancer patients and injured orphans. “Zimmermanslaughter” mocked the killing of the black teenager Trayvon Martin at the hands of a neighborhood watch coordinator. A particularly controversial issue featured a piece with the headline “RAPE!” It advised student rapists on what to do “when you drunkenly realize she’s conscious enough to call the cops”: “Wipe off the blood and hide in the bushes NOW!” “Koala Call Outs” are anonymous reader letters filled with slurs about students and professors, who are often named or described. 
The student-run tabloid has had a controversial presence across the region — at the University of California, San Diego, where it originated in 1982 and now only occasionally publishes, and at California State’s San Marcos campus, where it was shuttered more than a year ago. Here at the state university system’s San Diego campus, students routinely criticize the paper for promoting “rape culture.” Periodic editorials and campaigns denounce The Koala, including one in 2010 to persuade local businesses to discontinue advertising. Last fall, a group of students sent a letter to the university senate’s Freedom of Expression Committee demanding an end to distribution on campus. 
Despite all this, The Koala seems to be flourishing. It has recouped its lost advertising dollars, and revenues are up by more than 100 percent from fall 2012 (the editorial staff is not paid). For the first time, staff members are trying to sell subscriptions to graduating seniors, to foster an alumni base, and there is a beefed-up online presence. ... 
Mr. Luchsinger, who says he culls inspiration from satirists like Benjamin Franklin, views the tabloid as rebellious and boundary pushing. “This is not highbrow journalism,” he acknowledged. “But we are still trying to do something substantial.” The Koala’s mission, he says, is to tease and tweak the campus melting pot. 
Juliana Bloom, who was recently promoted to editor after Mr. Luchsinger, puts it simply: “We’re a comedy publication. It’s O.K. for us to joke about serious stuff.”

... Not surprisingly, detractors don’t find anything funny here. “I dread it when it comes out,” said Susan E. Cayleff, a professor in the women’s studies department, who spends class time during Distro Days discussing The Koala. “It makes students terrified and uncomfortable and not proud to be here.”

... The battles over The Koala provide a glimpse of how challenging it can be for a university to uphold its free speech mores yet still remain a civil, welcoming place for its increasingly diverse student body. San Diego State’s code “defends the expression we abhor as well as the expression we support,” meaning The Koala can mouth off about different races and still be untouchable. 
Jung Min Choi, an associate professor in the sociology department, has been one of The Koala’s most vocal critics, frequently using the paper in his classes as living exhibits of racial intolerance. In 2008, an African-American professor in his department was attacked in an anonymous reader letter: “Your dissatisfaction with being a fat, ugly and childless black woman is evident,” read part of the letter. It accused the professor of “preaching” instead of “teaching.” Dr. Choi, who specializes in race and identity, and his colleagues approached the university’s Center for Student Rights and Responsibilities about what they considered a case of faculty harassment. 
“I must say I was not actually greeted very warmly,” he recalled. 
Officials told him they had no intention of censuring the paper. “They have a right to be here,” Greg Block, the chief communications officer, told me. “We don’t necessarily agree with everything they publish, but that’s neither here nor there.” And when students pleaded last fall with Mark Freeman, chairman of the Freedom of Expression Committee, to help shut it down, he wrote back that “freedom of the press is very broadly protected.”
Jimmy Talamantes, a graduate student who is Mexican-American, was one of the letter signers. He called the response disappointing. “Students should not feel threatened by any person or organization while attending an institution of higher learning,” he said.

... The meeting built to a crescendo as the students tossed out ideas for one of the trademark features: “Top 5’s.” They jotted down possibilities for “Top 5 Things to Wear to a Gay Pride Parade” and “Top 5 Reasons to Marry an Illegal Immigrant,” including, as one student shouted out, “You get a free housekeeper.” Or “Cheap labor is now free.” Or “She expects the abuse.” 
Responses elicited peals of laughter. “Can someone just say we are all going to hell?” one student said. 
... Mr. Liddle swears his protégés are not filled with misogyny or racial animus — about half of the 25 or so staff members are women, and a handful are Asian- or Mexican-American. Their motives are pragmatic, he said: They want experience with a media outlet. Many of the staff members told me they aspire to work for television, an online magazine or media start-up. 
... They said that when they first read The Koala, they were relieved to find others with a similar sensibility. “I found people who share my sick sense of humor,” Mr. Etchart said. He calls it “dark satire.” The no-holds-barred approach also appealed to Emmilly Nguyen, a freshman journalism major. Around Koala staff members, she said, “I could be myself.” 
The Koala is not the only publication to mine edgy terrain. A subgroup of campus publications — The Quinnipiac Barnacle, The Medium at Rutgers and The Texas Travesty at the University of Texas, Austin — delight in routinely touching humor’s third rail. 
... Staff members at The Brown Noser, founded in 2006 at Brown University, set their own limits. “We don’t write anything that feels classist or racist,” said Louisa Kellogg, an editor.

Aptly named.
... But what of publications that don’t monitor themselves? Dr. Choi believes that’s when universities ought to step in. Administrators have a responsibility, he said, to “uphold not just legal behavior but ethical behavior as well, and some common sense about what is and isn’t funny.” He added: “When administrators don’t take a stand, it is almost as if they are supporting what these people are saying.” 
Mr. Freeman interprets the university’s silence differently. “If we were able to ban any speech we didn’t like, we’d have very little debate,” he said. “For me, this is a teachable moment about the consequences and burdens of living in a democracy.”
 

47 comments:

Hunsdon said...

What’s lost in Dr. Choi's comments is the thrill obscenity can create. It’s the sharp dangerous edge of anarchy and when used effectively, it can BLEEP up the most carefully planned cocktail party, smashing all propriety to BLEEP.

(I knew saving that quote would come in handy.)

Bert said...

Thanks to YouTube, people like these guys can spread their humor to many thousands all over the world. So I'm not sure why they're bothering with some student newspaper.

Steve Sailer said...

http://forward.com/articles/191724/a-short-history-of-jews-and-obscenity/

Auntie Analogue said...

"Last fall, a group of students sent a letter to the university senate’s Freedom of Expression Committee demanding an end to [Koala] distribution on campus."

Where's that Mario Savio Free Speech Movement when you need it?!



"'I dread it when it comes out,' said Susan E. Cayleff, a professor in the women’s studies department, who spends class time during Distro Days discussing The Koala. 'It makes students terrified and uncomfortable and not proud to be here.'"

To which I can only say: "Come over, baby, Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On!"



Boy, oh, boy. How the Left Establishment hates - and tries to demonize - what is nothing more than a dose of its own 1960's anti-Establishment medicine.

Big Bill said...

My goodness, they have come full circle, haven't they?

Blue-nosed Mrs. Grundys.

What ever happened to "transgressive art"?

Anonymous said...

The Koala provide a glimpse of how challenging it can be for a university to uphold its free speech mores yet still remain a civil, welcoming place for its increasingly diverse student body.

I've been hearing a variation on this line for quite some time now. As the nation become more diverse, we have to (fill in the blank) on some basic (fill in the blank) of American culture. Yet it never occurred to anyone that maybe we should go easy on increasing said diversification so as not to lose the (fill in the blank) of American culture.

Hunsdon said...

Auntie Analogue said: Boy, oh, boy. How the Left Establishment hates - and tries to demonize - what is nothing more than a dose of its own 1960's anti-Establishment medicine.

Hunsdon said: They can dish it, but they can't take it.

XXXXXXXXXXXXX said...

Auntie Analogue said...
Where's that Mario Savio Free Speech Movement when you need it?!

Probably in the same place they were when protesters were demanding Arthur Jensen be fired.

B.B.

Anonymous said...

Any way to subscribe to this paper? From across the country?

Anonymous said...

It's only when the jokes are funny that the established authority has anything to worry about. If the jokes aren't funny, the jokers fail.

Since everyone knows this, the game for authority becomes; Should I protest? If the jokes aren't funny, then I'm stupid for not recognizing the obvious.

If the jokes are funny, then I must protest, for the laughter will undermine my authority.

But if the jokes are funny, and I protest, then I reveal myself to others to be exactly what I am.

Neil Templeton

Anonymous said...

Why is it that America's rainbow coalition of losers, weirdoes, and freaks always act like they're not the Man now? They control the entire federal government, most state and local governments, the entire education system from pre-pre-pre-K to university, 98% of all media, 100% of large company HR departments. Yet the revolution apparently never ends.

Mr. Anon said...

"Today, the Sixties People are The Establishment and they don't much like young people using jokes and satire because it could get out of control and undermine them."

Today we have controlled satire - John Stewart and Steven Colbert, for example - satire that is socially acceptable to society's elites and only pokes fun at the things they want it to.

"Choi believes that’s when universities ought to step in. Administrators have a responsibility, he said, to “uphold not just legal behavior but ethical behavior as well, and some common sense about what is and isn’t funny.”"

The fact that Mr. Choi is a university professor I find to be funny.......and simultaneously, not funny.

Anonymous said...

obscenity used to be banned, and localities used to not have incorporation shoved down their gullet. the perennial problem with fouling ones own nest.

Themus Don said...

"Where's that Mario Savio Free Speech Movement when you need it?!"

That whole free speech movement depended on the fact that American Universities have large campuses which US Liberals consider a "special zone" of rights and partying. In Europe, there are no large campuses like that. The Universities reside in cities, and if the kids wanted to protest, they would have to negotiate with the town officials.

Anonymous said...

http://thekoala.org/archives/2013-FA-1.pdf

Alfa158 said...

The Revolution won't end until all the wounded have been shot.

Anonymous said...

I remember reading this paper when it was in its infancy. mostly it was just vulgar-targeted to appeal to the post pubescent dorky male. San Diego State's equivalent 'Montezuma's Revenge' was much more engaging

Hacienda said...

Dr. Choi:

http://stmarksproject.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/01/IMG_20140119_204111.jpg

You have to be careful about people like this. They will slowly kill you by suffocation.

Anonymous said...

Opposing gay marriage = Jim Crow

Opposing shamnesty = ....

http://dailycaller.com/2014/04/10/pelosi-immigration-law-like-internment-of-japanese/

Anonymous said...

http://mindweaponsinragnarok.com/2014/04/10/ann-coulter-goes-full-wn-points-out-jewish-hypocrisy-on-immigration-policy-of-us-versus-israel/

Yikes

jon said...

Apparently, just being mentioned in the NYT alongside the Koala was enough to do in the Medium at Rutgers.

Black Sea said...

"To learn who rules over you, simply find out whom you are not allowed to criticize."
--Voltaire

Anonymous said...

France recently banned their only comedian Dieudonne (A chubby Afro-French neo Nazi).

Seeing Nazies everywhere:

Is 'Quenelle' Backwards Version of Nazi Salute?
Popular French Reverse Slang Offers Clues to Odious Gesture

http://forward.com/articles/190967/is-quenelle-backwards-version-of-nazi-salute/#ixzz2yYwVo4OC

Dieudosphere - Le site officiel de Dieudonné
www.dieudosphere.com/‎

John Craig said...

On the subject of who whom humor (from 2010 but still timely since it concerns our current leader):

http://justnotsaid.blogspot.com/2010/02/pity-poor-comedians_18.html

IHTG said...

http://mindweaponsinragnarok.com/2014/04/10/ann-coulter-goes-full-wn-points-out-jewish-hypocrisy-on-immigration-policy-of-us-versus-israel/

That's a pretty low bar for being "full WN".

Shouting Thomas said...

Took a look at the Koala.

In substance and style, it looks surprisingly like the early "underground comix" of the 60s. Joyously juvenile and offensive.

No wonder the lefties hate the Koala.

Anonymous said...

Boomers into whomers.

Cail Corishev said...

What ever happened to "transgressive art"?

You can't have transgressive art if there are no transgressions. Although, by today's standards, I guess an example could be the Sistine Chapel ceiling.

Cail Corishev said...

Why is it that America's rainbow coalition of losers, weirdoes, and freaks always act like they're not the Man now?

Because the One who is their ultimate enemy is still there.

Average Joe said...

"Cross the line", of course, means to say something that the Left disagrees with.

Anonymous said...

humor rights

Oswald Spengler said...

"Free speech for me but not for thee."

Anonymous said...

I thought we brought in Asian guys to be engineering and CS profs because white people are too stupid. How did one get into the Department of the Humanities?

nice cake said...

At Trader Joe's recently, an obvious Sixties Person was talking to the cashier about bags. I said to him, "remember when you believed in freedom?" He responded, "that was a long time ago."

Anonymous said...

@Shouting thomas - did you leave a link that I didn't see?

Joseph Dooley said...

Could The Koala be a meta joke about multiculturalism?

Whiskey said...

The people who really like Hitler, tend to be African or Muslims. Not White people. As long as we are noticing.

SFG said...

"The people who really like Hitler, tend to be African or Muslims. Not White people. As long as we are noticing."

Naah, there are plenty of white Nazis. No Africans like him, plenty of Muslims do--after all, he went after several of their enemies (Jews, Brits, and Americans).

Question for you--anyone think of a time the Jews and the Brits were on opposite sides? There was the bit over the Mandate of Palestine, but that seems to have sorted out relatively quickly.

Steve Sailer said...

SFG asks:

"Question for you--anyone think of a time the Jews and the Brits were on opposite sides? There was the bit over the Mandate of Palestine, but that seems to have sorted out relatively quickly."

From Cromwell onward, Britain had a tiny number of rich, conservative Jews who augmented the reigning power structure -- the Rothschilds, Disraeli, etc.

Anonymous said...

And when students pleaded last fall with Mark Freeman, chairman of the Freedom of Expression Committee, to help shut it down, he wrote back that “freedom of the press is very broadly protected.”

I am outraged that the Freedom of Expression Committee is not taking immediate action to censor the offending publication. What purpose does the Freedom of Expression Committee serve if it won't even censor something that someone dislikes? Is Mr. Freeman unaware of the victims' right to not have to tolerate the existence of anything they find distasteful?

David said...

>“When administrators don’t take a stand, it is almost as if they are supporting what these people are saying.”<

Because the purpose of administrators is to control everything that happens on campus, down to the last secret thought of the lowest freshman. Totalitarianism is the default assumption of the left. For details, re-read Orwell's 1984.

stari_momak said...

Tangential, but...

SDSU is a pretty good school--by far the best of the state schools, except for the two Cal Poly schools. If I were a kid planning to stay in the San Diego area, I'd probably choose it over UCSD. They've also ramped up their dorm capacity over the last 15 years or so, and a lot of kids live nearby, so it isn't a commuter school in the sense of, say, Cal State Fullerton.

And yes, one of my degrees is from there.

Silver said...

"That's a pretty low bar for being "full WN"."

Exactly. That's what we've been trying to tell the Jewish establishment for years: pointing out Jewish hypocrisy on race and immigration doesn't make you a "WN."

Anonymous said...

http://www.nationalreview.com/article/375537/grand-detroit-hotel-armond-white

http://www.jamesbowman.net/reviewDetail.asp?pubID=2331

Anonymous said...

San Diego State is a commuter school? Now, it's not exactly Harvard academically, but it's a hell of a party school. Not something you exactly associate with commuter schools ordinarily.

Maxwell Power said...

There was a modern attempt, would have been pre-2000, to revive The Brown Jug, in tribute to the short-lived 1920s student mag S.J. Perelman had written for. Like its obvious inspiration The Onion the new pub was relatively funny but IIRC didn't go San Diego on satirizing familiar targets. That would not be copacetic at a pretentious U.S. News campus, with students who are just as invested in the school's image/PR as the administrators are, if not more so (see: "The Brown Noser")

Maxwell Power said...

That whole free speech movement depended on the fact that American Universities have large campuses which US Liberals consider a "special zone" of rights and partying. In Europe, there are no large campuses like that

The whole U.S. higher-ed archipelago is one big property tax scam