If the Oracle makes you angry, you’re not alone. And neither is this newspaper in offending you.
Students all over the nation – and people all over the world – are offended by media. It can be a seemingly racist opinion column or cartoon, a news story that does not – in the eyes of the reader – objectively portray the facts, or anything else one can think of. There’s no end to what readers or viewers might find offensive, but sometimes that offensiveness can turn into a serious issue. Even at what one would assume is an enlightened institution such as Princeton University.
The Daily Princetonian, Princeton’s college newspaper, ran an opinion column in its “joke” issue titled “Princeton University is racist against me, I mean, non-whites,” in which “Lian Ji,” – an alteration of the name Jian Li, a Yale student who filed a civil rights complaint when he was denied admission to Princeton – states, “I so good at math and science … I the super smart Asian. Princeton the super dumb college, not accept me.”
It’s not an issue The Daily Princetonian has been able to fix by running letters to the editor that disagree, though – and the paper’s gotten plenty. The Daily Princetonian has run several letters regarding the issue, and the argument is generally the same. Andre Liu, self-identified as a member of the class of 1991, wrote, “… this article doesn’t even try to use humor to hide the underlying hate.”
The editor in chief of The Daily Princetonian, Chanakya Sethi, told the Associated Press, “There are honest differences about what is humorous and what is not, and it was a regrettable mistake to think everyone would see the column as we do.”
However, Sethi did not say – and one hopes he does not contend – that it was a mistake to run the column in the first place.Firstly, the entire newspaper was clearly labeled as a “joke” issue, so not only do the laws of free speech regarding satire apply, one can deduce the intelligent students who attend Princeton and work for its newspaper intended the column as a joke, regardless of whether some students found the joke too scathing. Secondly, The Daily Princetonian has made it clear in a response that it not only was a joke, but also was written by an Asian-American.
Thirdly, the other material in the issue was no less offensive. In the news section, for instance, there was an article titled “Frist: Schiavo is ‘mostly dead,'” which pokes fun at Sen. Bill Frist and intimates he still believes she will make “a full and complete recovery,” despite the fact that she is deceased.
Frankly, jokes aren’t always funny. Sometimes they’re offensive. But there is a guarantee of freedom of speech in America – there’s no guarantee against being offended.