Sep 25, 2007

On College Newspapers and 'F**k Bush' Headlines

By now most of you have heard about J. David McSwane, the editor-in-chief of The Rocky Mountain Collegian, the daily student newspaper at Colorado State University, whose four-word diatribe against President Bush set off a debate about free speech.

The text of the "op-ed" read as follows: "Taser this…F**K BUSH".

As far as I am concerned, David McSwane can print anything he wants at The Rocky Mountain Collegian about President Bush, at least short of advocating assassination. And the College GOP at Colorado State just happens to be right about calling for McSwane's resignation, albeit for the wrong reasons.

David McSwane issued a statement in which he bravely declared the following:
Our intention was to make a statement in support of the First Amendment by exercising the rights therein. This issue, we think, has snowballed into a national controversy because our use of profanity, which can't be stopped or punished by the university.
I remain underwhelmed, though.

To call this exercise in pointless profanity "sophomoric" is to insult immature, pimply-faced high schoolers across the land. McSwane's stunt was asinine, childish, and borderline retarded, and only serves to underscore the decline in American culture. When the F-bomb becomes the standard for cutting edge political debate, we will have descended to the cultural gutter.

Perhaps Mr. McSwane would be better served trading in his journalistic spurs for a stint as a host on MTV or BET, where mindless profanity and stupidity-for-stupidity's sake is a job requirement. After McSwane's inevitable departure - either through resignation, forced removal, or his eventual graduation - the staff at The Rocky Mountain Collegian will have the unfortunate task of cleaning up after his rhetorical defecation, and the world will soon forget J. David McSwane.

But civil discourse in American politics will sink a notch lower, and the degradation of American civilization continues on its slow descent.


mud_rake said...

Help me with this one: seems I heard of some high ranking Bush official who used the F word on some senator...

Anonymous said...

That and many other similar words have been used by neocons in more occasions that anyone could name. There is even the famous incident when Dubya gave the finger in front of a camera and called it "a one finger victory sing."

And, no, I won't spend my time looking for links. Want you really want is for me to waste my time doing that so that you can laugh at my stupidity for doing so.

So I say to you:"You know I am telling the truth, so,.........."

historymike said...

So because some Bush people used the F-bomb at some point in the past (and GWB flipped off a cameraman), that makes everything OK?

Sorry - I don't see this as a GOP vs. Dems debate. I see it as a debate between civil political discourse and abject stupidity.

Rick Tracy said...

Christian groups are teaching thier children and anyone else stupid enough to listen, to hate gay Americans. Some even in this modern world still preach that African-American people were decendants of Eve's sons, who mated with monkeys because God only created one woman.Then there are Those on the conservative right, who want to end any and all Government support for schools and the arts as well as the poor and disabled. So they can spend trillions of taxpayer dollars on a war to supposedly bring democracy to a country that hates Americans, just for Oil and the right to erect a slew of American fast food restaurants and retail outlets in thier country. Now do you really think the use of the F- word is the reason behind the decline of American Culture.

historymike said...

Agreed that gay-bashing in its wide vaiety of forms is deplorable, but you are setting up a straw man argument, Rick.

And, no: use of the F-bomb is not the cause of the decline in American culture.

It's merely a reflection of it.

Barb said...

About the F word --many good movies --like Good Will Hunting --were ruined for us and our kids when they were teens (not that that movie coincided with their teens) --but as parents we didn't want to take our kids to movies making light of what we taught them was "bad language." --though we saw Goonies and objected to the extremely repetitive use of "O my God!" which to us is profane. We also didn't appreciate Spielburg for the phrase "P---- Breath" in E.T. He did both of those movies and while we admired him for his story-telling and movie-making generally, my husband called him "the corrupter" --because he delighted in putting things in his movies that he knew would raise the hackles of some people --just like the young editor. Sophomoric indeed --and self-indulgent --and delighting in offending people who have some scruples about the use of language, wanting their kids to be people of "clean lips," for religious and other reasons--just for polite society.

Along with the vulgar and crass rhetoric comes the vitriol --the negative and emotionally intense dislike of people with whom we disagree.

By the way, Anonymous, whom are you addressing in refusing to look for links because someone will laugh at you for doing so???

Barb said...

Are all these posts Muck-raker's?

I've been around conservative Christendom all my life and never EVER heard Rick Tracey's charge that some fundamentalists believe that the sons of Adam and Eve mated with monkeys and thus created the black race.

That sounds a whole lot more like Darwinism to me --because some Darwinists DID reason that blacks were closer to the ape-men transitional forms than were white people.

Fundamentalists did speculate that the Mark of Cain was the black race
or that one of Noah's sons who was cursed fathered the black race. Because serving others was part of the curse --and Europe and america were enslaving the blacks purchased from other blacks. They, of course, have not been the only slaves in history.

Contemporary fundamentalists think adam and Even had the DNA for all the races --and parented all of them --and that sisters had to marry brothers --which was not a problem because they were genetically perfect. It is later that the prohibition against sex with close relatives was given in the Jewish laws--perhaps after the Fall of man produced genetic deterioration, making us mortal, and they saw that sex with close relatives produced abnormal children.

Mad Jack said...

I hadn't heard the one about the monkeys and sons, but I suppose I'm not too surprised. Contrary to what 'Dick' Tracy spews, Christians are not proliferating hate speech of any kind, not even about gay people. What Christianity refuses to do is support the gay lifestyle or refer to homosexuals as being normal, which infuriates the gay/lesbian community. Oh, well, they'll get over it. Or not. Either way, I'm not losing much sleep over their problems, one way or another.

Now we have J. David McSwane, who chooses not to use his first name. I'm betting it's John, as in John-David, which is probably what his mother called him when he was little. How humiliating.

I wonder what J. David's mother thinks about this display of hubris and deplorable misuse of the press. I speculate that J.'s father is a Republican and will react accordingly, while his mother spends her nights worrying what she'll tell the other relatives, neighbors and close friends. If J. has any brothers and sisters, they'll have to think up a good response as well.

If J. thought about any of this before he went to press, he must have dismissed it as someone else's problem. I suppose that's accurate, but it certainly displays a lack of respect for others.

jr said...

On Tuesday, I saw a posting at Romenesko titled Student paper loses $30K in ads over "F--- Bush" editorial. To me, that seems like a lot of lost money for a student paper. At a newspaper, I think free speech takes a back seat to losing advertising revenue. Most newspapers don't make enough money to stand on principles.

The link in that Romenesko posting pointed to a story in the Coloradoan paper, but the link doesn't work. The Romenesko posting, however, contained the following:

The editor of Colorado State University's newspaper says "we plan to be proactive and have conversations with concerned advertisers and clarify what we were doing" ...

That probably means that in order for the paper to win back advertisers, McSwane may have to get the boot.

jr said...

Here's an August 2005 Toledo Talk comment about a young columnist who supposedly got fired at a Michigan newspaper because he criticized American-made cars. The story was from Editor and Publisher.

James Briggs, a former columnist and news editor at The Daily Telegram of Adrian, Mich., says the publisher canned him for writing the column that upset auto dealers and others so close to Detroit's auto manufacturing power houses. The publisher told E&P that auto advertisers did complain, but says there's more to it than that.

What he wrote was a column in Saturday's paper that described his decision to switch from driving an American car to a foreign model. Briggs, 24, said he received no feedback from the newspaper until Tuesday morning when Publisher Paul Heidbreder approached him during his meeting with Lenz. "He said it was insensitive for me to write such a column given our proximity to the Big Three [automakers]," Briggs said. [Lenz] said no advertising had been lost so far, although some auto dealers had threatened to pull ads.

Insensitive? Proximity? I would say that columnist's free speech and that paper's principles were trumped by the possible loss of advertising revenue. I wonder if the paper made an agreement with the advertisers where the paper would can the columnist in order to continue to receive ad money?

That Michigan dude got fired when advertisers only threatened to pull ads. At that Colorado paper, advertisers have already pulled their ads, so I don't see how McSwane keeps his gig.

Mad Jack said...

Insensitive? Proximity? I would say that columnist's free speech and that paper's principles were trumped by the possible loss of advertising revenue. I wonder if the paper made an agreement with the advertisers where the paper would can the columnist in order to continue to receive ad money?

That's the way things work, JR. If you're an entrepreneur, spending your advertising budget with a local paper, how would you like to see that paper run a column advocating a rival business? Or, if you have a particular cause or belief you strongly support, the paper runs an article opposing your belief?

Personally, I'd take my advertising business elsewhere, and I'd do it until the publisher and editor agreed to shape up.

Barb said...

Unfortunately, advertisers usually just want to reach their target audience, and to do that they think they have to support media news they find repugnant--especially if there is one main news outlet in a city.

Whether gov't or advertisement controls the media, we do believe in a "free press" within parameters of decency and honesty --but we'd like to see balance in political perspective if the gov't is paying for it --and we do have choice in where we put our ad dollars -- radio stations, TV, billboards --and smaller neighborhood papers, direct mail. We don't have to support a paper that is always offending our sensitivities/sensibilities, etc. nor editors who lack wisdom.

Pierce said...

who the f cares??

if you're kid is walking over to campus, picking up a newspaper, and reading the editorials, he/she is mature enough to handle a profanity. Hell, the kid probably heard it 15 times on the walk over.

Funny, no one is upset about headlines that proclaim the bodies piling up in the middle east and the blood on the hands of the American government, but everyone's panties are in a bunch about a bad word on page 7 of some rag they'll never come into contact with. What kind of screwed up priority is that?

Barb said...

Maybe if the world didn't have "f.u." sentiments toward each other, there wouldn't be such war headlines.

It's people who feel hateful and scornful, who express it,who disrespect, who also cause the headlines YOU describe, Pierce

The self-indulgent, say-whatever- we-want F.U.'ers of the world don't care about other people's sensitivies/sensibilities --and that insensitivity is consistent with war-mongering.

Billy Pilgrim said...

As a journalist myself, I'm a bit baffled by the tone and direction of these posts, so humor me while I offer my own two cents: The word 'fuck' is over 500 years old, with its earliest origins in Renaissance Britain. It is proletarian slang for sexual intercourse, but is lexically unique in the English language since it can serve as almost any part of speech (noun, verb, adjective, etc.)

With all this in mind, I must certainly disagree with the comments of Barb et. al, because from a linguistic perspective, there's no objective gauge for 'foul language.' Simply, there are some words that are socially taboo in formal settings. That's all. I don't think 'fuck' ruined Good Willing Hunting, and I don't think it makes me offensive or crass when I say it during a traffic jam. It's a word like any other word, and to prudishly assert that it is a sign of our culture's decadence is to simply deny the the truth of all language: a word doesn't exist unless it is useful and necessary.

With all this mind, I think McSwane's gesture was a hollow one. If he wanted to criticize Bush, a well-reasoned argument with credible evidence would have been the most intelligent route; like this thread, the discussion has strayed from the sad reality that our president has utterly lost the trust of the American people ( and instead has become another exchange of predictable volleys in the 'culture wars.'

And as my grandmother would often say, that's fucking bullshit.

Rob R said...

With all this in mind, I must certainly disagree with the comments of Barb et. al, because from a linguistic perspective, there's no objective gauge for 'foul language.'

Well therein lies your problem. The means of civil discourse isn't one that is totally located in the realm of the objective. Offense is by nature a subjective. That makes it no less an object that is worthy of avoidance in most contexts.

It's a word like any other word, and to prudishly assert that it is a sign of our culture's decadence is to simply deny the the truth of all language: a word doesn't exist unless it is useful and necessary.

If this were true, then all languages would have the same number of words.

like this thread, the discussion has strayed from the sad reality that our president has utterly lost the trust of the American people

This discussion perfectly coexists with discussions that criticize the loss of trust in bush with most Americans and in fact co-exists with such discussions on this very blog as Historymike is no fan of Bush and has had plenty of criticism to that end.

The Screaming Nutcase said...

Why stop at "f**k?" If you want to shock, everybody knows that "c**t" is the new "f**k..."

Barb said...

Good Will Hunting was LOADED with the F word --every sentence practically. It was ridiculous. It was a good movie for youngsters to see --except for the word. They would have made more money, I bet, if they hadn't alienated so many parents who don't want their kids to cuss like sailors.

Billy, you see nothing wrong with that because your granny used the word --but many of us grandparents and parents are trying to raise children who don't use such language. And we don't really appreciate having it "role-modeled" for our kids by self-indulgent offenders of most nearly everybody. (Not to say everybody is offended by the same things --but self-indulgent people who enjoy shocking and offending in general don't care whom they offend--so they probably offend many.) It just isn't necessary--and I do think the word engenders/foments hostility --expresses hostility --and CAUSES hostility when it is used toward someone. Doesn't matter what its history is. what it means today is the problem.

It's ironical that we use sexual intercourse term as an offense, as in angrily saying, "Sexual Intercourse with YOU!" or "Make love to YOU!" Loses something, doesn't it? --and yet, that's what we're saying in anger with F.U.

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