The line between editing and censoring is a fine one; the events of the past year on campus have shown how divided the student body is regarding this matter. What transpired not so long ago, however, revealed what happens when the refusal to edit is taken to an extreme, and disturbing, conclusion.
The Associate, the flagship newspaper of the Syms School of Business, ran an op-ed in its inaugural issue complaining about another student-run paper, The Quipster. For those unaware, The Quipster is a satirical newspaper, modelled after the nationally renowned paper, The Onion. The goal of The Quipster is simple: satirise the events and stereotypes around YU, hoping to make people laugh in the process. No money is made by the paper (lamentably), and it has yet to become an official Yeshiva University club. For the most part, the articles are well received by the student body, and some have been able to alleviate some collective despair of the student body, creating laughter in response to events beyond student control.
The Quipster has not been without controversy, however. Many students will recall Ladingate, a situation where one article spurred an abrasive reaction from a YU professor, in turn bringing more offensive comments, leaving many people hurt. Nevertheless, The Quipster learned quickly from its mistakes, tightening down on the editing process even more. It may be a surprise for people to learn how concerned The Quipster is to avoid controversy. On several occasions in the past few months alone, articles have been vetoed due to the feelings amongst the staff that the articles went too far. That is not to say that The Quipster refuses any controversial articles; satire will almost always cause some degree of controversy.
The writer of the Associate op-ed, who wished to remain anonymous, articulated his or her grievances with The Quipster. It is not my place here to discuss the writing style, or the arguments used; but it is my place to express my shock, as a writer for The Quipster, of being compared to Adolf Hitler. The Quipster, according to the op-ed in The Associate, employs similar tactics used by Hitler and his Nazi propaganda machine; just as Hitler repeated falsities until they became believable, so too does The Quipster.
The world is full of different types of people, who have many different opinions, and I have no qualms about that. What horrifies me is the choice by the editor of The Associate to run the piece. The point of an op-ed, I believe, is to allow the writer to express his or her opinions and, in doing so, hopefully spark conversation and discussion among readers. What first sprung to my mind when reading this article was Godwin’s Law, which states that as an online discussion goes on, the probability that an analogy involving Hitler or the Nazis will appear approaches 1. The extension of this law explains that once the Hitler reference is made, the discussion is over, as anyone willing to compare the other members to Nazis is not willing to debate properly.
Thus, any chance of discussion about the Quipster issue with the anonymous author is immediately rendered nonexistent, as nothing productive can be achieved. Nevertheless, I do not feel the blame lies with the author, for he or she did not have the ability to ensure that it went to print.
Yet one person did. Someone had control over what appeared in his or her paper. Someone had control over the material that would be read by students on our Jewish campus, a student body with immense awareness of, and sensitivity to, all references to the Holocaust.
Whether the editor of The Associate allowed the article to be accepted in order to express the writer’s right to free speech, as an objection to censorship, or for some other reason, the student body deserves an explanation and the staff at The Quipster deserves an apology. There is never any justification for a supposedly serious article in a purportedly serious paper to compare students to Hitler. If The Quipster, the not-so-serious paper criticised, demonstrates rigorous editorial discretion, The Associate should learn to do the same.
Mark Glass (YC ’13) is majoring in Philosophy. He works as a Staff Writer for The Quipster.