Chastisements

Polemicist hereby chastises...

"If, when a man has fallen into habits of idleness, of daydreaming, and of sloth, putting off his most important duties continually til the morrow, another man were to awaken him one fine morning with the heavy blows of a whip, and were to whip him unmercifully, until he who was unable to work for pleasure now worked for fear - would not that man, the chastiser, indeed be his benefactor and truest friend?"

-Charles Baudelaire
 Intimate Journals

 

November 1989; page 2; Volume 1, No. 2
Polemicist

We have judged the following people and institutions - and found them wanting. We hope they are duly chastened.

Mark Weaver
Tight-assed religious nut

After trying to impose - ultimately unsuccessfully - his anti-humane morality on HEB, the religious bigot set his sights on Austin-area headshops. Just as the idea that adults should be able to decide with whom to have sex offends Weaver, the idea that adults should decide what to smoke offends him, too. Perhaps the largest irony is that right-wing zealots like Weaver are always the first to condemn the left for its lack of commitment to "free markets." But whether they're condemning abortion services, headshops or homosexuals, it's the right wing that continually bends the "invisible hand" of free-market commerce to stroke their own blighted moral agenda. We would guess that Weaver's driving need to dictate others' morality stems from externalized self-hatred, likely sexual repression. Whatever the cause, however, we wish he'd spend more time in church and less time harassing law-abiding citizens.

Karen Adams; Texan editor
Robert Wilonsky; managing editor

Karen Adams and Robert Wilonsky have disgraced themselves and their newspaper with their comments at a recent symposium on Texan racism. At the conference, assistant Journalism professor, Mercedes Lynn de Uriarte, told the following lurid tale about Adams:

After numerous incidents of racially insensitive coverage and cartoons last spring, a group of black and Latino students approached Adams with the idea of holding workshops at the beginning of the semester on minority sensitivity. She agreed in principle. Then, these students broached the subject with de Uriarte, who studies media coverage of Latino communities. She agreed too, but contacting Adams proved impossible. De Uriarte phoned Adams six times, leaving a message each time. Then, she sent Adams a letter through campus mail. When that failed, she hand delivered another letter to The Texan offices. Finally, in frustration, de Uriarte sent a certified letter, return receipt requested, so that there'd be proof she'd contacted Adams. Adams never responded. In fact, she never even met de Uriarte until the day of the symposium, five months later.

When Adams was confronted with the story at the conference, she blamed her failure to respond on de Uriarte's "bilingual answering machine," which she claimed she couldn't understand. We don't buy this - "beep" is an international language. Though obviously a slip, Adams' comment reveals a subtle racism she may not even know exists. But it did nothing to soothe the justified anger of the largely black and Latino crowd.

Conveniently, Texan reporter Leslie Wimberly left out this section of the dialogue in her news story the following day. Perhaps her editors deemed it unfit to print. She also must have been out sharpening her pencil when Robert Wilonsky shamed himself. During one of Wilonsky's lengthy apologies for racially insensitive coverage, BSA member Brandon Powell confronted him with his reference to "excessive negro crotch grabbing" in a column he wrote during his three-semester stint as entertainment editor. Wilonsky blamed the incident on an "editing error." We'd like to know who edited this bigoted phrase into the entertainment editor's prose. If Wilonsky will tell us, we'll chastise the culprit in the next issue.

We do, however, applaud the Texan management for emerging from their basement to face the public. They should do it once a week - it could only improve them as people, and it couldn't hurt their paper.

The Young Conservatives of Texas

When you see young men at a gay-rights rally holding signs like "Put 'em in jail, gays are criminals" and "Thank God for the Earthquake" in San Francisco, the obvious response is: they doth protest too much; they're compensating for their own lack of sexual security. What else could drive adults to applaud the death or imprisonment of innocent people? But no personal deficiency can excuse the ignorant, narrow-minded bigotry of those remarks. Nor do the YCT's apologies, which The Texan printed in its Oct. 20 Firing Line. Brian Wordell, YCT chairman, announced that the Bible teaches his group to "hate the sin but love the sinner." (The Bible also says that "It is good for a man not to touch a woman" [1 Corinthians 7:1]. Does Wordell support that statement, too?). Wordell's sort of hateful, stunted, philistine Christianity desecrates the egalitarian New Testament ideas it purports to champion. Geoff Henley, shown laughing in the Oct. 19 Texan as he holds a sign advocating imprisonment for one-tenth of the U.S. population, said in his letter that he didn't mean to advocate imprisonment for homosexuals, but rather to be polemical. We wish he wouldn't use that phrase, which we've grown rather fond of, to justify his prejudice and asininity.

Another ugly facet of the YCT incident was The Daily Apologist's editorial indifference to the issue. The campus gay community and their advocates deserved support from the editorial board in the face of this hatred. Yet Apologist editor Karen Adams chose instead to chide President Bush for failing to assassinate Noriega. We're sure that Bush will do better next time, chastened as he is by Adams' disapproval. But she should have used the space to lash out at the YCT. A former card-carrying member of the group, perhaps Adams thought that speaking out would compromise her "objectivity." Or maybe she simply agreed with her reactionary pals. Either way, such silence does nothing to improve The Daily Apologist's well-deserved reputation for insensitivity to minority issues.

The Daily Texan Budget Committee

The Dally Apologist budget committee - controlled primarily by the editor, the managing editor and the news editor - decides which stories the paper will print, us well as where in the paper they will run. On the Monday following the Texas-OU game, these vulgarians devoted fully two-thirds of the front page to the two-day old story of Texas' victory. Buried under the football hype was a five-inch story about Hurricane Jerry, which devastated Galveston island and killed two Texans. On the same page was a short piece on how the University is loaning $3.5 million to the Navy to expand the Applied Research Laboratory at Balcones. On page three the stock market was crashing.

When will these people learn? Promoting football jingoism isn't the job of the student newspaper - it's the job of the UT administration, which benefits when the problems of understaffing, racism and homophobia are obscured by such trivialities.

Texan staffers spend so much of their time trying to emulate professional newspapers. In this case they succeeded. Just like the national press, The Daily Apologist let sensationalism and the lure of the spectacle overshadow the important issues of' the day. By embracing sensationalism, The Texan might gain a few readers, but it guarantees that substantive issues will continue to be ignored. The student newspaper should be more than a mouthpiece for the UT administration - unfortunately, that's the role Texan leadership chooses for it to play. Maybe if The Texan considered the regents' misappropriation of funds to the Navy more important than a football game, UT would hire economics professors instead of spending $1 million for a new scoreboard at Memorial stadium.

Randall Tate, a.k.a. "Captain Apology"
Advisor, Texas Union Distinguished Speakers Committee

We fear that Randall Tate fancies himself a young James Watt. The Polemicist editors invaded a recent Distinguished Speakers Committee meeting to ask why only conservative, white, straight (or closeted) male speakers had been on the committee's agenda. (To date, the speakers had consisted of Ross Perot, Clayton Williams, Jack Rains, Mark White and Kent Hance.) Tate proceeded to whisk us out of the meeting room, take us in the hall and barrage us with apologies and equivocations. When the meeting ended and the committee members were leaving, Tate grabbed the editor's arm and begun thrusting his fingers at minority members, saying, "See? We have minorities. Look, there's blacks, Hispanics and there's some Asians." Pulling ourselves from the clutches of this addled white man, we wished he would just go away and let us talk to the people we came to talk to. Freed from the presence of their "advisor" the remaining committee members actually talked to us with concern and intelligence. Given the "advice" of a PR hack like Tate, it's a wonder the committee has done as well as it has. Union committees would do well to dump their advisors if they all practice the blatant sort of tokenism displayed by Tate.

University Residence Halls

They may think they're being funny, but the Residence Hall members' recent choice of Alcohol Awareness week T-shirts show scarcely more enlightenment than the YCT's disgraceful attacks on gay people. "We're looking for a few good virgins," the shirts declare, invoking the old chauvinistic fantasy of "breaking in" virgins. What they should be looking for is a way to stop objectifying women. With all the recent flack over "Why beer is better than women" shirts, plus complaints over the fraternities' never-ending insistence on insulting African-Americans in their shirts, you'd think the residence halls would want to avoid alienating half their patrons. When you see them peddling their offensive wares on the West Mall, don't just walk by: Chastise them, and anyone you see wearing one.