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To Publish and Perish By: Benjamin Kepple
FrontPageMagazine.com | Monday, October 25, 1999


TO WHAT DEGREE is your average collegiate newspaper enslaved to political correctness? Let's put it this way: even an innocuous advertisement for a book can be axed if it has the potential to offend someone. The PC virus is no longer restricted to infecting editors examining copy, but it has also ravaged the business departments of collegiate newspapers.

In this instance, the advertisement was for conservative commentator David Horowitz's new book, Hating Whitey and Other Progressive Causes. It was a typical ad for a book promotion: a favorable endorsement from a well-known personality (Thomas Sowell) prominently displayed, the title in large type, the author's visage staring out at the reader. However, that was too much for the editors and business staffers at the Michigan Daily, the student newspaper at the University of Michigan. As an employee of Horowitz's Center for the Study of Popular Culture, it was my job to help place the ad in various student media nationwide. On October 18, I returned from lunch to find a message from Steve Jones, Display Advertising Manager at the Daily. He informed me in an unsure tone that the business staff and the editors had discussed the ad, and that the Daily would not be running it because it would offend some of Michigan's students.

Finding this odd, and admittedly being still quite annoyed over the matter, I gave Mr. Jones a call the next morning and asked him why exactly the ad had been rejected. His response: The title, Hating Whitey, was a big factor. As he put it, "We feel that (the ad) may offend some students here."

Which students?, I asked him. "Any white females or males in the University," he responded.

I asked him whether he had read Hating Whitey, and he responded that he had not, but that the Daily had checked it out online, and that "we did feel like it was promoting a conflict within races (in) the paper."

Finally, I asked whether he really felt that white students would be offended by the ad. "It has the potential of offending white students," he said.

If one takes the Daily's claims at face value, then its leadership is merely hyper-sensitive about white people's feelings. But it seems unlikely that the paper truly fears legions of enraged white students protesting the ad outside of their offices, writing stern letters to the editor decrying the paper's racial insensitivity, or threatening to park their Grand Jeep Cherokees atop the editor-in-chief.

What is more likely is that the Daily's leaders are simply unwilling to touch anything that might besmirch one of the left's sacred cows, for fear that the radical left on campus would retaliate against them. After all, this is an ad for a controversial book on race, itself a controversial subject, and it is by a conservative author. That should be enough to spark the radicals into action. People in the real world realize that the Hating Whitey ad is not directed at Joe Whitebread and his frat-boy pals, but the screaming, incoherent mobs of student leftists who scream about "institutional racism," "Amerikkka," and "whiteskin privilege."

During my days as a nominal student at the U of M, I was publisher (and later editor) of The Michigan Review, the Daily's chief rival and conservative counterpartand was unfortunate enough to witness this phenomenon in action. In 1996, a group of irate radicals, upset over the Daily's "racism," stole 8,700 copies of the paper. The offensive content was one anti-affirmative action cartoon, one well-reasoned albeit politically incorrect editorial, and the Daily's refusal to print the entire platform of a student political party whose sole condition for membership was non-white skin.

A day after the theft, the Daily quoted an anonymous source who cast suspicion on members of Alianza, a militant campus Latino group. That was more fodder for the radicals, who responded by descending on the Daily's office, holding an emotionally charged rally with 250 protestors out front. Soon, the Daily's editor called the entire incident a "misunderstanding," saying that the paper's story was "not as clear as it should have been."

It can't be enjoyable to see the product of one's hard work stolen and destroyed. But for these liberal editors, it must have come with a sense of disbelief as well. "What? We're racist?" the Daily's editors must have been thinking. And since the administration failed to support the newspaper meaningfully, it is now surely far less willing to push the envelope. Its editors shy away from controversy, and do not deviate from the party line. That, combined with their general liberal disposition, results in copy that is shallow, biased, and chock full of support for racial preferences, ethnic studies, and other leftist dogma certain not to offend anyone of a certain racial or ethnic heritagein fact, no one except College Republicans and sorority girls. So the Daily has published, for example, a painfully sappy puff piece on a propagandistic Martin Luther King Day celebration and an entire supplement on the wonders of pornography. When the Center for Equal Opportunity published a report showing that Michigan blatantly used racial preferences, the Daily whitewashed the topic.

The hypersensitivity has reached paranoiac proportions. The Daily has now rejected an advertisement because it mightnot would, but mighthave the potential to offend some readers. Its editors have the right to do that, but it suggests an intellectual enslavement to the radical party line. That in turn is a disservice to their readers and a sad commentary on the state of collegiate journalisma medium that used to be able to flout convention on style, substance, and everything in between. Editors of mainstream student newspapers now find themselves kowtowing to a small band of student radicalswho care nothing for anyone but themselves.




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