Satirist at Michigan Tech University’s “The Daily Bull” under fire for “dangerous piece”

Disclosure: I am a student at Michigan Tech. I tap into my personal experiences to describe the student body’s general attitude toward the parties involved, but I do not otherwise attempt to represent my opinions or attitudes as fact.

***UPDATE #1*** — The Daily Bull has issued an apology statement, viewable here.

 

Students at Michigan Technological University in Houghton, MI were greeted this morning with a strongly worded e-mail from Les Cook, VP of Student Affairs, which is stirring up a great deal of controversy. The email is an “update to Wednesday’s e-mail” which urged students to foster an “inclusive community” and denounced the actions of students observed celebrating Halloween by, among other things, dressing in black face and “parading the Confederate flag.”

Screenshot from 2015-11-06 14:05:22

Les regularly sends messages to the entire student body, ranging from official business to casual “how are you doing?” types of correspondence.

Les is seen as something of an enigma to students at Tech. His personal slogan, #tenacity, has been simultaneously parodied and celebrated by the student body. The Houghton, MI Yik Yak board is evident of this. But, all told, Les is regarded as a fantastic role model by a great number of students. That makes the email from this morning much more jarring. At 10:30, Les sent out what some might see as, at best, an uncharacteristically nasty piece on The Daily Bull, the university’s self-professed “daily-ish” satire publication. Some students, however, saw Les’ message as a hostile attack on the publication. Therein, Les bemoans the Bull’s most recent cover story, calling it “lewd, humorless, insensitive, and … dangerous” and claiming it “[advocates] discrimination and sexual violence.”

Screenshot from 2015-11-06 14:17:01

In his email, Les encourages students to “speak up and contact The Daily Bull and your student governments.”

What is he talking about? The article in question was published that same Wednesday, and was titled “Sexually Harassed Man Pretty Okay With Situation.” You can view the full issue of The Daily Bull here. The article in question is pictured below.

Screenshot from 2015-11-06 14:30:17 Screenshot from 2015-11-06 14:30:41

At first glance, this article is scathing. The (presumably fictional) student at a party over the weekend describes multiple instances of “very attractive” women forcing themselves on him, everywhere from innocuous compliments to butt-grabbing and against-his-will makeout sessions.

The article’s punchline of sorts, however, comes at the end, when the student is suddenly revolted and “violated” by one final advance. “‘There was this one girl giving me this really sexual look … She was kinda ugly though, and it made me feel violated.'”

This appears, to me, to be a satire of the perceived female bias with respect to attractive vs. “ugly” men flirting with or making advances on them. The author seeks to parody the irony of the situation by flipping the genders and cranking the hyperbole up to 11. But it seems, according to Les above, that the humor didn’t ring true. Students reportedly feel threatened or even violated by the blatantly un-PC article.

The controversy, thus, is an outgrowth of a greater debate taking place throughout the Western world; the definition and extent of freedom of speech, and of the press. Movements for social justice, including feminism, cry foul, claiming, in Les’ words, that such speech “advocates violence” and “encourages laws to be broken” and, therefore, should be restricted, or censored entirely. Free speech proponents argue that the censorship of satire, or, indeed, any form of speech, is a dangerous proposal, since it can open the floodgates for censorship of ideas.

Other students argue there’s no reason to be offended. Reddit’s /r/MTU believes the whole situation is an overreaction. User /u/a_leon writes,

It’s standard Bull satire. Somehow people don’t get that ‘bull’ is short for ‘bullshit’ and most not realize it’s satire. Similarly, somehow people don’t get that “The Pile” is shortened “The Steaming Pile”. I understand not knowing it’s shortened for that, but not figuring out that the whole idea of the daily bull is a giant poop joke is…beyond me.

Anonymous users of the local Yik Yak discussion board point out that the article opposite “Sexually Harassed Man” is an anthology of reviews on dinosaur erotica, and that the Bull’s slogan is telling in its own right: “Disclaimer: Just because it’s printed, doesn’t make it true.” Check out these screenshots of the discussion.

I’ve reached out to parties on both sides for comment. Check back here for updates as the story develops.

The death of intelligent discourse

Ever been afraid to speak your mind?

You might not expect a guy with his own self-flattering, ego-stroking blog, plastered with his face and attitudes to shy away from a debate. But I guarantee you’d be surprised with at least some facet of the opinions I don’t share. I’ve written on anonymity, and how it empowers those who fear retribution for their views to share them, and I make an art of debate anonymously online, as well as in person, where my inevitable slips of the tongue and nuances of speech can’t be twisted and turned as a means to attack me long after the fact. Yet I find myself constantly in fear of the consequences of saying what I really believe on so many issues. And I’m not alone. In recent years, the West seems to have collectively made a grand assault on the notion that two people can disagree on something without hating one another.

Consider these two Twitter feeds. I follow both of these people, despite the fact that I disagree rather vehemently with one of them. Now, I tend to rattle off blurbs from my Twitter or Facebook feeds when my housemates and I shoot the breeze — I pick quotes from articles or cast videos to the TV, and we delve into discussion or debate on [subject] for a bit. (I feel it’s a very “college” thing to do, what with the exchange of ideas and all.) One of my housemates asked me once why I keep “all this crap” in my feeds if it’s so dumb, if I don’t agree with it?

That’s a simple question, and it was entirely innocent, but I feel it raises a more significant point. Why do people seek to shield themselves from everything (and everyone) they don’t agree with? Facebook pages like “Being Liberal” and “The Comical Conservative” do a great job of spewing baseless claims and (pardon) shit-flinging with no real substance.

(M) Conservatives love denying or misrepresenting science.

Posted by Being Liberal on Monday, October 26, 2015

Some of the most delusional people on the planet. But this is how they operate folks. They set up plans and policies on the garbled muck that flows in their liberal brains.

Posted by The Comical Conservative on Monday, October 26, 2015

These aren’t cherry-picked; take a look for yourself. I guess some combination of clickbait-y headlines and antagonistic rhetoric gets these pages the millions of likes they boast and the resultant ad revenue for the sites to which they link. But the end effect, intentional or no, is grim; by subscribing to, “like and share”-ing, and responding to these outlandish, radical statements, people are voluntarily ostracising themselves, allowing their complex, developed worldviews to be reduced to stupid, spelling-error and artifact-ridden JPGs plastered with inane comments.

I’m a college student. I was told for years growing up that the American university was the greatest and last bastion of free thought on the planet. And, indeed, I’ve had great debates and discussions with my housemates and friends, and in my humanities courses. I thoroughly enjoyed attending screenings of both the Republican and Democratic presidential debates put on by the respective R and D clubs on campus. (Funny enough, both events invariably turned into roasts of the presenting candidates. It’d been a while since I’d laughed so hard, honestly.) But then I turn around to find troubling statistics out of other universities:

The ability for us, as intelligent beings, to form opinions and worldviews, is critical. But even more important is our ability to gain more information, as well as an understanding of other viewpoints, and deepen or (God forbid) change our opinions accordingly. A poster hanging in my room put this point rather aptly. “Humans are funny creatures, and have a foolish aversion to being wrong. Rather than appreciate the benefits of being able to change one’s mind through greater understanding, many will [find] ways to cling to old beliefs.” By using the Internet, social media et. al. to draw lines in the sand, and to raise mighty, ham-fisted flags under which to stand, and, in doing so, simultaneously painting everyone who disagrees as a Boogeyman, racist, sexist, bleeding-heart, backward, whatever-you-may, we have effectively begun to put nails in the coffin of civil discourse and intelligent debate.

I’ll close with an unrelated, amusing GIF. And, by the way, it’s pronounced “jiff.” If you disagree, you are stupid, dumb, an idiot, and also literally Hitler, and should set yourself on fire.

1444957220889

[Cross-post] Blind Scout Earns Archery Merit Badge

This is a cross-post from a story I read on Facebook, with my ramblings attached.

Blind Scout Earns Archery Merit Badge

scout-shoots-arrow-e1430507254153

Truly touching story. One of the many goals of camp staff at Cole Canoe Base​ and all Scout camps across the country is to make achievements like this possible for all Scouts, regardless of disabilities, age, income, or any other factors.

Every Scout deserves the equal opportunity to succeed and excel at camp. If you take a moment and read the full text of the story, you’ll see the amazing lengths to which his counselor went to enable him to succeed. The most fulfilling part of my job is seeing the light bulbs above these kids’ heads light up, to see them overcome the challenges set before them and achieve their goals. Continue reading

What happened to patriotism?

us_flagLet’s talk about patriotism.

Patriotism is, generally speaking, cultural attachment to one’s homeland or devotion to one’s country, although interpretations of the term vary with context, geography and political ideology. It is a set of concepts closely related to those of nationalism.

That’s Wikipedia’s current (30 Sep 2014) definition of the word. Like just about any other subject nowadays, it carries a tone of caution, and almost politically tiptoes around the idea. In recent years, national pride, whether cultural or political, has become a controversial subject. Images like American bald eagles and the stars and stripes pictured above have become the subject of satire and mockery by the general public, with their image tied to fringe conservatives. (and, apparently, Nazis. Godwin’s Law, I guess.) Look at the recent reboots of Captain America — ever notice how drab the red, white, and blue has become? For that matter, even my involvement with the Boy Scouts has drawn questions, to the tune of “But you’re not Republican enough for that!”

Why must I be a “backwoods, fat, snaggletoothed drunk Republican from Texas” to care about my country?

Clearly, there is concern for what blind patriotism has done in recent history. Great atrocities have been done throughout mankind’s history “for the glory of <country>!” Propaganda, fear-mongering, and global big-sticking (and the suffering it has created) have tainted the image of the US, in particular. On the other hand, though, mass media sensationalism, radical individuals, and corruption of power can be held equally to blame.

Despite this, Old Glory seems to have taken the fall for just about everything bad we, the people have done. Contemporary cowardice has driven us away from our nation and the great things it has done (rather, what we have done), simply because, as a society, we are unable to own up and admit our mistakes, and have become very quick to shift the blame onto the country that we, on some level, don’t want to be associated with.

So, when I say I’m proud to be an American, that doesn’t mean I support everything my country’s people have supported, nor does it make me fat and bigoted.

All it means is that I’ve come to love the slice of the world I was born in, and the people that live around me. I don’t love any other people less for it, and by no means do I support my government in all cases.

In short, I’m nothing more than a man who loves his country. Label me how you will.

NPR misses the point on #gamergate

NPR recently did a bit on GamerGate, a movement calling for greater accountability and integrity among video game journalists and “gamer news” sites.

In a nutshell, GamerGate has its origins in a controversy surrounding Zoe Quinn, indie developer of Depression Quest, a game-let centering on living with depression. In 2013, when DQ was placed on Steam Greenlight, a user-driven game submission service, the response from Steam users was unsavory at best; rape jokes, death threats, and the rest of the spectrum of e-harassment the Internet is infamous for followed.

Fast forward eight months, and a disgruntled ex-boyfriend of Zoe’s airs their dirty laundry on a WordPress blog. “The Zoe Post” details, among other things, allegations that Zoe cheated on her boyfriend on several occasions. The rant was published to little effect — that is, until the names of several men listed on The Zoe Post are matched to journalists, bloggers, and devs in the gaming industry. (The Five Guys name and logo quickly became a humorous moniker for the controversy.) The Internet at large cried foul at the implication that Zoe traded sexual favors for favorable publicity for her game.

While the rumors about Zoe eventually turned out to be just that, the controversy sparked questions about the integrity of games journalism. Over the next few weeks, several discoveries were made:

  • Journalists from Kotaku, RPS, and several other sites were contributing to game developers through a donation service called Patreon, creating a conflict of interest in their reporting — in theory, journalists could give positive reviews to games they have financial interest in. Polygon and Kotaku have since revised their policies regarding Patreon.
  • On August 28th, nearly a dozen gaming news sites published very similar articles surrounding the controversy, with many proclaiming that “Gamers are dead.” A few weeks later, a leaker published information about a private mailing list used “to mold and manipulate game industry attitudes towards pertinent events,” which has been tied to the aforementioned articles.
  • #NotYourShield, a banner under which women and minorities in support of GamerGate rallied, was systemically attacked by journalists and game devs, including Quinn herself. (No concise or unbiased source on this, check out this article on GamerGate as a whole for more info — keep in mind that this article has a very clear bias, and doesn’t always cite good sources. Read at your own risk.)

As time goes on, GamerGate garners more attention from bigger names in the entertainment industry. So when I heard GamerGate ring over the radio on ATC, my ears perked up. To my dismay, however, the focus isn’t on the controversy itself, but is instead on the vocal few that have displaced Zoe Quinn and Anita Sarkeesian, a YouTuber behind FeministFrequency, a channel which has garnered controversy of its own in the past. (Here’s a link dump from various viewpoints, read for yourself.)

In my opinion, the fact that NPR (or any major news outlet, for that matter) has yet to address the concerns on journalistic integrity surrounding GamerGate is of great concern — across the board, the focus of reports on GamerGate has been on every subject except the breaches in integrity themselves. Yes, the doxxing, harassment, and threats toward Quinn, Sarkeesian, and the others is newsworthy, but that doesn’t marginalize the significance of the outright corruption in the gaming news industry. If this trend continues — that is, if our journalists continue to ignore what GamerGate seeks to expose, then the only legacy of the movement will be the unsavory minority that has threatened to rape, kill, and harass these men and women — exactly what that NPR report laments.

 

I encourage you to read more on the subject, as there’s much that I haven’t covered (or don’t care to cover) here. As always, understand that no source is unbiased.

A million miles an hour

… *exhale*

Ladies and gentlemen, it’s been a turbulent month or so. I returned from camp on the 16th of August, after an amazing trip to Michigan’s UP. (Facebook friends, there are some excellent photos to be seen.) Since then, a few things have occurred.

  • I moved – I’m shelving up in Berkley, MI for the next few months, leading up to a move into college.
  • I got a job – I’ve begun subcontracting IT services through RT Software Systems, Inc., my father’s company.
  • I got another job – a close friend of mine brought me in to work at a Halloween store for the next few months.

It all sounds pretty tame on paper – a little packing and unpacking here, a few appointments there, some part-time work spaced in between, etc etc etc. But, for lack of a better description, my pants have been on fire since the minute I came downstate. A lot of all-nighters and odd hours, some car trouble, and a lack of sleep have left me unable to update my humble little blog here (which, I’ll have you know, just surpassed two hundred and seventy-five page views) – so, for that, I apologize.

However, there may be some interesting stuff in the works over the next few days.

Stay tuned.

Polishing an image

The other day, I stumbled across a deviantArt account I made six years ago.

Let that sink in for a second. Done?

In the wake of that discovery, I embarked on a noble quest to erase every trace of my 12 and 13 year old identity from the face of the Internet. While most of what I found was mundane and utterly ordinary, I can safely say that, at this point, no trace of the embarrassing and terrifyingly awful fanfiction I wrote in middle school remains, and that no soul shall ever again see YouTube comment wars and Internet fights with my name plastered all over them.

In case you’re ever motivated to do the same, a combination of deleting accounts, updating email addresses and changing passwords did the trick for me rather well.

And to answer the two burning questions:

  • There was no content on that deviantArt account.
  • No, you can’t read that fanfiction. The only digital copy remaining (I hope) is being analyzed by top men.

Top men

So, that happened…

Yeah, that happened.

As fate had it, a cable got loose on the server for the humble timsteele.com about a week after I left.

So, in short, I haven’t existed for three months. Sorry about that.

 

Expect a big update on life, the universe, and everything sometime in the next few days.