The editors of Notre Dame’s “Observer” are monsters

Unbelievable:

The University of Notre Dame is being rocked by a controversy over an anti-gay cartoon printed in the student-run newspaper, The Observer. The cartoon depicts a conversation between two figures that reads: 

“What’s the easiest way to turn a fruit into a vegetable?”

“No idea.” 

“A baseball bat.” 

Earlier, the cartoonist, who has not yet been named, posted the original version of the cartoon on his blog. In this version, it shows  the punch line as  “AIDS” instead of  “a baseball bat.” The paper, he claimed, preferred “not to make light of fatal diseases.”

GLAAD contacted The Observer’s editor, Jenn Metz, who relayed a tearful apology by phone. She explained that she was not present when the decision to run the cartoon was made, and that she was incredibly upset that others on staff had made that decision. 

An apology printed in the paper this morning included the following: 

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. 
 

Allowing this cruel and hateful comic a place on our pages disgraced those values and severely hurt members of our Notre Dame family — our classmates, our friends. For this, we sincerely apologize. Unfortunately, the language of hate is an everyday reality in our society.” 

So beating someone into a coma is less offensive than HIV/AIDS? Unbelievable. Just unbelievable. The editorial staff should have fired the cartoonist on the spot. But no. They just ask him to tone it down–and their idea of toning it down is a baseball bat to the head. They, in their position of little power, could not have done anything more evil. Metz herself is obviously innocent of any charge of monstrosity if what she’s telling the truth; but she did surround herself with the people who made the final choice, which still calls her character into question.

Notre Dame refuses to recognize it’s gay-straight alliance (though hopefully this incident will illustrate to the administration why an enfranchised LGBT group is neccessary on campus, especially conservative Catholic campuses, where people probably feel more comfortable making this sort of joke). But their sister-school St. Mary’s (also in South Bend) does have a GSA. One of their members, Laurel Javers published a response:

I am writing on behalf of the Saint Mary’s Straight and Gay Alliance and all students standing for human dignity. Your comic strip from Wednesday, January 13 was offensive for two very serious reasons. It encourages violence against fellow Notre Dame and Saint Mary’s family members and it shows a complete lack of knowledge or understanding of Catholic teaching on the issue of homosexuality.
Whether or not you realize it, when you write such a comic, or in the case of the editor, allow it to be printed, you are responsible for the message it carries and what it implies. On October 7, 1998, a young man outside of Laramie, Wyoming was found bloodied, tortured and beaten into a coma. The two young men who committed this crime did so because Matthew Shepherd was a gay man. A few days later, he died from the injuries he sustained to his head from being beaten with the butt of a pistol. You may not like it but Notre Dame and Saint Mary’s is a home to lesbian, gay and bisexual students. Your call as both a Christian and as a human being is to respect them. Making light of the very real threat of homophobic motivated hate crimes is a poor excuse for humor and a despicable action.

The cartoonists issued an apology. They think “something positive” can come out of this, and claim to be lampooning homophobia. Textbook excuse. “Nonono, dude, it wasn’t racist, I was just makin’ fun of racism! It’s a joke, ’cause no one would say something like that unless they were a racist! And I’ve got lots of black friends! Scads of ’em!”  

The Observer’s editorial board’s apology in full below the link. No word about whether any heads will roll over the decision. Update: As commentor Mary Michaels points out, The Observer disabled reader comments on the note, and the cartoonists’.

Via, though it is loathesome to me to link and support their ad revenues:

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.
The Observer, though an independent newspaper, is representative of the community of the University of Notre Dame and the values it so cherishes: family, understanding, service, respect and love.
Allowing this cruel and hateful comic a place on our pages disgraced those values and severely hurt members of our Notre Dame family — our classmates, our friends. For this, we sincerely apologize.
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.
The truth is, these comments should not be made at all, and we will not allow our pages to be a forum for such hatred. Publishing commentary that seems to encourage or support hate against fellow human beings is inexcusable.
We must, however more forward, and look to promote instead a culture of acceptance and support for all.
The Office of Student Affairs and the Gender Relations Center, as well as student groups like the Core Council for Gay and Lesbian Students, have worked tirelessly to foster an educated community and an environment of acceptance and love. We would ask that those currently working toward ending discourses of hate on campus continue to do so. We greatly thank you for your tireless effort.
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.
In reevaluating our policies, we hope to ensure The Observer will be able to recover from this low point in its almost 50-year history and once again be able to serve the Notre Dame and Saint Mary’s community with the dignity it deserves.
We would like to thank all of those who have called, e-mailed, written and visited our offices this week in outrage.
The content of “The Mobile Party” is in no way representative of the views and opinions of The Observer or the Editorial Board. We hope that as we work together to address this serious issue, we will be able to regain your trust.
We vow to continue to represent the University of Notre Dame and Saint Mary’s College in a way that is respectful and accepting of each member of our community.

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2 Responses

  1. What a ridiculous non-apology. Have you noticed they took the comments down from their site too? Deflecting to Senator Reid? No statement of action. I would expect better from people who really “get” why what they did was a problem.

  2. you stay classy notre dame.

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