COMMENTARY: Student tabloid’s free-for-all hate speech stuns CSUSM
The Koala, a tabloid launched last week by some California State University San Marcos (CSUSM) students, has achieved its publishers’ apparent goal: to inflame the university community with hate speech.
“Apparent” because, while The Koalahas certainly engendered impassioned responses, the predominantly white males behind the publication have refused to discuss what it is they have wrought — or to identify themselves. At a recent recruitment meeting, they would not give their names and avoided being photographed; they moved the meeting to a private dorm room to exclude critics and news media; and they demanded 30-packs of beer from journalists who requested interviews, which, given their likely ages, smacks of soliciting criminal acts — and challenges their legitimacy as a newspaper, as they describe The Koala.
It is The Koala’s content (downloadable at HERE) that most effectively challenges the newspaper claim. Just about every demographic — except straight, white males — is addressed with violent, prurient and/or grotesque language: gays and lesbians, women, rape and pedophilia victims, pediatric cancer and burn patients, African-Americans, Latinos, Asians and Muslims. The Koalais a miasma of isms.
The Koala recommends used bikini wax as “lip balm for lesbos,” suggests leaving c-section incisions “open for easier future abortions,” and reports one advantage of dating a 10-year-old girl is that “If you knock her teeth out, they grow back.” It includes statements that glorify and encourage pedophilia, rape of a teaching assistant, domestic violence, date rape and physically assaulting campus police.
Anecdotally, the “reasonable person” test of The Koala’s content suggests that many CSUSM students and staff indeed find much of the content obscene — obscene and hateful. But obscenity remains in the eye of the beholder, and in the United States we can speak freely whether our speech is hateful, loving or indifferent.
More interesting are the test results of The Koala’s two advertisers, Cougar Textbook Rentals and Miramar Wellness Center — “interesting” because it takes funding to publish any speech.
The textbook-rental service is, according to Bookrenter.com Vice President of Marketing Michael Geller (at 650-288-3500), an independent bookstore using its open platform, an “entrepreneur” who can “choose to market it any way they want.”
Nonetheless, when read content from The Koala, Geller’s response was, “Oh! Oh god! Okay, that’s enough!” An articulate man — and pragmatic — he disavowed any responsibility for cougarbookrental’s ad and declared that bookrenter.com “would never, ever, ever” advertise in The Koala. He also said, “I’m going to contact the owner of [csusmbookrentals.com] and first make sure he or she is aware of what this is all about.” Then the company will “evaluate whether or not we should attempt to restrict our store partners’ advertising.” Whether or not? Hmmm.
The Miramar Wellness Center (at 858-689-9098), a marijuana dispensary, had a slightly more definitive response. An employee who did not identify herself said the Wellness Center had received “a lot of upset calls, a whole lot” and that the manager would not take any more, but she added, “I heard [the ad] was a mistake and they are trying to get it removed.”
That’s promising, but, in the meantime, what to do about the privileged young men who publish hate with anonymity?
1. Read The Koala so you can make informed comments about it (available at HERE). Although the thing is no joy, condemning something you haven’t read is shallow commentary. And ignorance is not bliss.
2. Contact The Koala’s advertisers to reinforce the message that their ad dollars are supporting content that encourages pedophilia, racism, misogyny, rape and domestic violence. If a second issue comes out, contact any new advertisers. Eventually The Koala publishers will run out of businesses they can dupe into supporting them, if they haven’t already. Any advertisers left deserve to be boycotted.
3. State your opinion of The Koala freely and frequently. The right to free speech goes both ways: They have the right to speak and you have the right to criticize what they say — maybe even the responsibility. Hate that goes unchallenged goes on and on and on.
4. Call or email CSUSM President Karen Haynes’ office (760-750-4040 or [email protected]) to ask what the administration can do about the content that promotes rape and pedophilia; how they can protect students under age 18 from The Koala’s obscene content; and what they can do about students who appear to be below the drinking age soliciting alcohol on campus.
5. Identify, if you can, the fellows involved with The Koala, in the photos below. They are accountable for the speech they publish. No one — white, male student or anyone else — has the privilege of anonymous hate masquerading as “lighthearted humor.” If they can say it, they can own it for all the world to see.
Then, find some peace in this thought: What goes on the Internet stays on the Internet, and one day in the next few years The Koala’s publishers will be looking for jobs in competitive marketplaces where respect for diversity, social maturity and the ability to self-edit will be deciding factors for employment. These young men have already round-filed their job applications by exercising a most wonderful right irresponsibly.
Free speech is a messy, exquisite, ugly, glorious and precious free-for-all; comeuppance is delicious.
Kit-Bacon Gressitt is a writer and host of Fallbrook’s monthly Writers Read open mic. She can be reached at [email protected]. Her commentary and political fiction can be read at this website.