Waymon Hudson

Notre Dame Newspaper Issues Weak "Apology" Over Gay Bashing Cartoon

Filed By Waymon Hudson | January 16, 2010 1:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Fundie Watch, Media, The Movement
Tags: gay cartoons and comics, hate crimes against LGBT people, newspapers, Notre Dame, The Observer

Update: Apologies from the cartoonist & the University President in the Comment section. Also in the comments: more fallout- Assistant Managing Editor resigns & cartoonists fired.

In what has to be one of the most weak, pseudo apologies I've seen in a long time, the Notre Dame student Newspaper, The Observer, issued an "apology" from the Editorial Staff on Friday for the sickening cartoon it ran that advocated bashing "fruity" gays with a baseball bat.

The piece, called "Responsibility for offensive comic", starts off okay:

Notre Dame Logo 1964.gif

The editors of The Observer would like to publicly apologize for the publication of "The Mobile Party" in the Jan. 13 edition. The burden of responsibility ultimately lies on us for allowing it to go to print.

There is no excuse that can be given and nothing that can be said to reverse the damage that has already been done by this egregious error in judgment.

A good start for publishing a comic that says you should turn "fruits" into "vegetables" by bashing them with a baseball bat.

Then the editorial team chooses to leap off the cliff using distractions to deflect blame and not offering any hint of consequences for those involved in the publication of the "bash the fruits" comic.

Much more, including the cartoon, after the jump...

Just in case you forgot the comic we are talking about:

The-Observer-Jan-13-20102.jpg

Character 1: "What's the easiest way to turn a fruit into a vegetable?"
Character 2: "No idea."
Character 1: "A baseball bat."

It still makes me shake with anger every time I see it.

Pay No Attention to the Bigots Behind the Curtain

Instead of just taking the responsibility for the horrendous editorial decision, the staff decides to try deflecting attention on their violence-condoning call to action cartoon by bringing up... Wait for it... Senator Harry Reid's stupid, racist comments about Obama:

Unfortunately, the language of hate is an everyday reality in our society. Earlier this week, surprising comments made by Sen. Harry Reid about President Barack Obama's accent and skin color were made public and caused uproar. Now, at Notre Dame, a comic strip including hurtful language was printed in this publication, also causing -- and rightly so -- serious concern.

It becomes clear that hurtful language is still present among some circles, and, too often, it's not until comments like these become public that their true hatred is acknowledged.

Deflecting much? "Pay no attention to the hateful cartoon in our paper... Remember that big Harry Reid uproar?"

Riiight. This is totally the same issue- Reid using racially volatile, offensive language and condoning extreme violence on LGBT people. Sorry, Observer, the deflection didn't work.

And then the ever useful argument "this is really a good thing" and "we really did the LGBT community a service" by showing that these feelings exists.

Really, Observer Editors? I think we have plenty of evidence of that everyday- ask Gwen Araujo, Lawrence King, Angie Zapata, Matthew Shepard, Simmie Williams, Ryan Skipper, Duanna Johnson, or any of the hundred of LGBT people beaten or murdered ever year in violent hate crimes.

We don't need your stupid comic as a reminder that hate exists. We see it every day.

A Direct Reflection of the School, Paper, and Staff

The paper also doesn't really seem to admit to the huge editorial mistakes that led up to the cartoon being published or offer consequences to those that made the decisions:

On our part, we must practice more responsible journalism and editing. That this comic was published reveals holes in our editing practices, which are currently being addressed.

...

The content of "The Mobile Party" is in no way representative of the views and opinions of The Observer or the Editorial Board.

"Holes in the editing process"?? Funny- because the person that created the comic said that the newspaper asked him to tone down the original version of the cartoon that was on his blog:

The cartoonist had posted on his blog - though it's since been removed - his original version of the cartoon. In the original version, it shows that the punchline read, "AIDS" instead of "A baseball bat." The paper, he reported, preferred "not to make light of fatal diseases."

That doesn't sound like a "hole". It sounds like a conscious and thought-out decision to run the new "bash with a baseball bat" version of the cartoon because it was somehow more palatable than using AIDS as a punchline. It seems like it "represents the views and opinions of The Observer and the Editorial Board" pretty damn well.

And where is the firing or resignation of the responsible parties? No where to be found.

Way Too Little, Way Too Late

This cartoon never should have seen the light of day. This wasn't a slip-up. It was a clear decision to mock and condone violence against LGBT people, made after deliberation and consideration by both the artist and The Observer's Editors.

As one of our commenters pointed out, Notre Dame's mission statement is (emphasis mine):

The University seeks to cultivate in its students not only an appreciation for the great achievements of human beings, but also a disciplined sensibility to the poverty, injustice, and oppression that burden the lives of so many. The aim is to create a sense of human solidarity and concern for the common good that will bear fruit as learning becomes service to justice.

Obviously this mission in failing.

This was just a warning glimpse of what is bubbling on the campus at Notre Dame and in the Observer. The only "lesson" from this is that the Newspaper and University need to start cleaning house and stop the atmosphere of hate that would allow something like this cartoon to be published.

Author's Note: There is also a "Letter to the Editor" from the St. Mary's Straight and Gay Alliance that was published in The Observer.


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Update:

Statement from Notre Dame’s president, the Reverend John I. Jenkins:

“The University denounces the implication that violence or expressions of hate toward any person or group of people is acceptable or a matter that should be taken lightly.

“In accordance with Notre Dame’s Spirit of Inclusion, a formal statement adopted by the officers of the University in 1997, at Notre Dame 'we prize the uniqueness of all persons as God’s creatures' and welcome 'all people, regardless of color, gender, religion, ethnicity, sexual orientation, social or economic class, and nationality.'

“Further, 'we value gay and lesbian members of this community as we value all members of this community. We condemn harassment of any kind' and 'we consciously create an environment of mutual respect, hospitality and warmth in which none are strangers and all may flourish.'

“The University respects The Observer’s status as an independent, student-run newspaper and appreciates that the editorial staff has issued an apology in its January 15th issue and that the cartoon’s authors also have expressed their regret. Notre Dame administrators will work with the Observer staff, as they say in their editorial, to 'move forward, and ... to promote ... a culture of acceptance and support for all.'”

These ARE undergrads, right? As a college instructor, I'm unsurprised by the inadequate apology. In some undergrad minds, the connection to Harry Reid makes perfect sense.

I'm not saying this is a good enough excuse, I'm just saying I wouldn't expect much better from kids their age, unfortunately.

The supposed "connection" to Harry Reid is ridiculous! Harry Reid was not expressing his own racism against Obama, he was expressing a political reality, the racism with which some (too many) American voters would react to Obama.

Not so with the cartoon --- the cartoon itself was a suggestion supporting hate violence, pure and simple.

I'm with Loaf. As a college professor, most of my kids have been sheltered from reality, and have no understanding of what happens out in the real world. To them, it's all a TV show in the postmodern zeitgeist. They are shocked and upset when I tell them how bad it really is in the world they're about to inhabit. They've been fed a Disneyfied culture, and they don't understand why adults lied to them. I don't imagine many professors at Notre Dame are making much effort to explain the real world effects of homophobia. Some BS from the administration about how they value all people is the best they've got. No wonder the editors of their student newspaper are publishing this garbage to the student population and no one blinks and eye. Imagine what happens when their student population grows up and gets into real positions of power.

Update 2

From Commenter Lisandro C:

The authors of the comic strip issued their apology here:

http://www.ndsmcobserver.com/viewpoint/the-mobile-party-apology-1.1011634

Apparently, the cartoon was supposed to ridicule gay intolerance. They
went a bit too far with it though...

We want to apologize for the offensive, distasteful and completely humorless joke that was made and acknowledge the grave error in its production. We cannot begin to express how apologetic we are for everyone who has been hurt by our comic and its implied message.
We do, however, believe that something positive can come from this ugly mistake and hope that we, as members of the Notre Dame community, can take this as an opportunity to readdress the complex issues surrounding homosexuality and its treatment on our campus. Intolerance of homosexuality is a major problem on Notre Dame's campus. We tried to address it in our comics — using the tool characters to emphasize a mindset that we simply find ridiculous. In our last comic, we had the human character, our voice of reason, not understand the joke because of its absurd nature. Reasons, however, are not excuses. We consistently try to write comics that rely on shock value and now that we have gone too far, we realize that we have abused the privilege and responsibility of contributing to the Observer, and therefore, the Notre Dame community as a whole. This is not a joke that should have been made either in private or public. Poking fun at someone's identity in such a discriminatory manner is not funny. We wholeheartedly apologize for our comic and are aware of and truly sorry for the hurt that it has caused.

Colin Hofman, Lauren Rosemeyer and Jay Wade
seniors
“The Mobile Party”

I also read somewhere that the reason it got published was because the editor wasn't around that day/week/whatever and the subordinates were running the show. There's someone who's not getting a promotion next semester.

"I'm just saying I wouldn't expect much better from kids their age, unfortunately."

Sorry Waymon I have to disagree: If you are old enough to attend college, you are old enough to know the difference of right and wrong.

I never said that- that was from commenter Loaf.

I agree with you completely- their age is no excuse for this.

Wait, this is the kind of joke it takes to get a comic strip at Notre Dame? That's joke's like 30 years old.

Jeez. Glad I didn't go to Notre Dame.

Oh, and put me in the "I'd rather know this hatred exists" category. Kids going to Notre Dame should know why it's ranked as one of the most homophobic schools in the country.

Well, at least the Notre Dame paper didn't go so far in its fauxpology as to suggest that the cartoon was published with the best of intentions for the purposes of stimulate dialogue, and that all responses should be made in that same spirit...

Update 3

From Commenter CPT_Doom:

Editor responsible for letting the cartoon run has resigned - just posted this morning.

Editor's Note: The Observer Editorial Board has accepted the resignation of Assistant Managing Editor Kara King. We greatly respect King's courage in writing a letter to our community and appreciate her service to The Observer.

And from King's Letter(http://www.ndsmcobserver.com/viewpoint/letter-from-the-assistant-managing-editor-1.1027337):

To The Observer community,

I am writing to apologize for my actions, which led to the inexcusable publication of a “Mobile Party” comic strip on Jan. 13. This strip was offensive and inappropriate beyond measure, and printing it perpetuated a message of intolerance, discrimination and hate.

A miscommunication between another editor and myself led to the comic running without me first reading and approving the material. Regardless, no excuse can justify the comic even being considered for publication, and the duty to censor it fell to me. I failed to do so, and am solely responsible for providing a forum for this message of hate. I was the final one to check the paper that night, and am accountable for all of its content. I regret nothing more than the oversight that led to it and apologize for disgracing the paper with its printing. The comic does not reflect my views or those of The Observer in any way, and I cannot begin to quantify the humiliation in knowing that it is, ultimately, my fault.

To those whom my actions have offended, I’m sorry. I failed as both an editor and member of the Notre Dame community by allowing this strip to print. I cannot take my inaction back, but I can hope that some good will come from this. More than ever, we as a University need to fight against stereotypes and for the equal rights of all who consider our campus and community home. If nothing else, the administration needs to use this instance to acknowledge that discrimination against the LGBT community is a very real problem, and one that should not be tolerated. Adding sexuality to the non-discrimination clause and recognizing student groups who fight for these equal rights is overdue, and excuses for not doing so have been used for too long. This is not a problem that can be solved overnight, but the University can join The Observer in taking the first steps towards remedying it.

I have worked for The Observer for my entire undergraduate career and nothing embarrasses me more than to be the cause of such a negative spotlight for a product that I take great pride in helping produce. A daily paper requires the dedication of its staff and the competency of its editors. Everyone who works there understands the pressures, and has sacrificed schoolwork, sleep and sanity to ensure a paper is delivered every day.

Those with final say on what is printed need to be held accountable for their actions. As Assistant Managing Editor, I have failed in my duties to protect the quality and uphold the standards of The Observer, and because of this I am resigning the position, effective immediately. I understand the severity of my actions, and need to take responsibility for them. I would like to thank Shirley Grauel, our office manager, for preventing the paper from imploding and wish her the best of luck in her retirement, and the entire Editorial Board for allowing me the experience thus far. It has been an honor working with you and you have all taught me more in my four years than I ever could have learned in a classroom. I wish everyone on staff the best of luck in regaining the readers’ trust that I have violated.

Kara King
Jan. 17

Also- The Observer fired the Cartoonists (http://www.ndsmcobserver.com/news/observer-discontinues-mobile-party-comic-1.1026072):

The Observer Editorial Board has discontinued the publication of the cartoon “The Mobile Party” following the submission and subsequent printing of the offensive Jan. 13 comic strip.

While accepting the apology of the primary authors, Notre Dame seniors Colin Hofman, Jay Wade and Lauren Rosemeyer, The Observer Editorial Board does not feel the comic strip aligns with community standards in terms of content and taste.

Per Observer Viewpoint policies, commentaries, including cartoons, submitted to The Observer for publication become property of The Observer unless otherwise discussed with the Editor-in-Chief. The Observer has been made aware of an outside blog authored by the writers of “The Mobile Party” that republished copies of their cartoons as well as cartoons deemed inappropriate for print and correspondence between Observer staff and the writers. This blog is in clear violation of Observer policy.

The Observer staff has been told the blog has since been removed from the Internet.

Writers of comic strips are typically paid for their submissions to The Observer. “The Mobile Party” authors will not be paid for the offensive submission.

Also check out the letter today from the Core Council. The Core Council is not enough.. and cannot be enough because it is run through student affairs and under intense scrutiny from ND administration. There will need to be systemic change before the Core Council is truly effective.

It's a start, however.. in many ways it's the public gateway that allows GLBTQ students to find all the unofficial, unapproved resources/groups on campus.

I am comforted by the reaction from the community- this whole event has left me profoundly shaken.. the reaction from the community is helping my heart to heal. Notre Dame has so far to go--- but there are at least some students and some faculty members willing to work for change. For that, I am grateful.

I also appreciated this, written by a Notre Dame freshman:

"Make no mistake, this incident of blatant and violent hatred towards the LGBT community is no freak accident. It is not just the fault of the “Mobile Party” creators, nor the editors of The Observer. It is each and every student’s fault. We, as a student body, have supported a culture at Notre Dame in which hateful, homophobic jokes like the one in the “Mobile Party” are acceptable. We are supposed to be a family, a tight-knit community. Each and every one of us has failed miserably.


We might not all be homophobic, and we might not all use derogatory epithets, but we have failed to put an end to homophobia and the use of hurtful, disparaging words. I don’t think that the majority of students here are bigots, but I do think that most of us, including myself on many occasions, are pushovers. We hear “fag” and silently think, “Tisk, tisk. What a shame.” We owe it to our LGBT brothers and sisters at Notre Dame to take a stand. Call people out when they do use derogatory slurs, no matter how benign they may seem. If we let slurs get thrown around nonchalantly, we will only propagate the idea that it is acceptable to treat members of the LGBT with disrespect."


http://www.ndsmcobserver.com/viewpoint/call-to-action-1.1027347

GraciesDaddy | January 29, 2010 7:50 PM

"Oftentimes, it's not what you say, but what you don't say that's the most harmful.

First of all, I would like to thank Waymon and whoever else is responsible for bring this to the attention of folks who visit Bilerico. People have to learn that all too often when words of hatred are allowed to go unchallenged, it leads to violence. I attended most of the trial of Allen Ray Andrade, the convicted murderer of Angie Zapata. He thought that smashing her head with a fire extinguisher was perfectly okay. Words do hurt, and at some point they must be challenged.

Second, if you have access to Reverend Jenkins, I would be curious to know how many transgender students Notre Dame has on campus? If any.