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 past four months, and the next chapter

… and we’re back!

Blogging is hard. Digital responsibility dictates that tackling the tough issues is social and career suicide, no matter which side is taken, and I, for one, don’t believe I’m self-centered enough to drone on about my life for hours on end.

Okay, maybe I am, but I’d never leave traces of it on the Internet.

*ahem*

I made myself the most divine ham and cheese sandwich today, complete with crinkle-cut kosher dill pickle chips and French’s classic yellow mustard. I can’t wait to drive to the store and pick up a gallon of milk — last time, I saw a classic car on the way. God, I’m so important.

Anyhow, I’ve been really busy for the past few months. I’ve been doing IT consulting for RT Software Systems full time, as well as a retail job at a Spirit Halloween in Troy. However, none of that captured my free time and my passion more than the Data Behind Bars project — earlier this year, my father acquired the Detroit Police Department’s 6th Precinct building in southwest Detroit — from the minute my feet hit the ground here in August, we’ve spent just about every shred of free time we’ve had shoveling debris, knocking down ceilings, and building doors and gates.

Along the way, I’ve had the unique opportunity to unearth history within the walls of the 1930s original building — we’ve found police records, memos, newsletters, and even shell casings from the indoor gun range. It’s been pretty awesome, actually — I have this kind of love affair with the city and its history, and I’ve discovered things that will eventually end up in the building’s mini-museum.

Next Friday, I leave for my first semester of college at MTU — and while I’m happy to be moving forward with my education, I feel like I’ll miss the 24/7, nose-to-the-grindstone kind of lifestyle I’ve been leading. (I’m sure my friends and family won’t miss me complaining about my perpetual exhaustion.)

Some new additions

Quick news update, no frills.

  • Divided Bio section into “personal” and “tech
  • Fleshed out External Links section
  • Added a Minecraft server running vanilla 1.7.9 to the Web Services
  • Started working on SEO on the backend (y’know, so I can get more site traffic and further inflate my ego)

I’m disturbed at how quickly I racked up 9 NoScript entries — I’m gonna look into replacing my social buttons plugin and Disqus to remedy the issue.

A Question of Time (and news!)

By this time on Thursday, I’ll be innawoods. It seems I swam through an endless ocean of 0s and 1s to call forth a blog from the netherworld (well, more accurately, it was something like this), just in time to let it die over the next two months.

The reality of the situation is that, although I will be largely cut off from everything that isn’t trees and Boy Scouts, I will still have sporadic Internet access. As a result, everything you hear from me (here or otherwise) will, by and large, be sent between the hours of midnight and 6a.m. — but, for that matter, did you expect anything else?

So, for practical purposes, I won’t exist again until early August — get your fill of me while you can. I’ll have Saturdays and Wednesday evenings, but I’ll invariably be too busy to review email, social media, etc.

Don’t get any ideas, though: I still have two solid days to rot your brains.

News: Check out my Mumble VoIP server here. It’s one of a few miscellaneous services I plan to offer through the site — it’s free to use.

((The primary reason for this otherwise meaningless spot of banter was to test Twitter syndication: did it work?))