City Desk

The Heckler Responds to KKK Satire Fallout: Laugh At Racists, Not With Them

Just heard back from Jack Stuef, editor of the Georgetown Heckler, an Onion-style magazine written by Georgetown students that has stirred up charges of racial insensitivity with an article about a campus "cross lighting" that invoked a cross burning, white-hooded KKK members, and lynchings in a satire of the student newspaper the Hoya. The Hoya was itself accused of the same thing last spring because of some of the content it ran in its April Fools' issue.

One thing straight away: Stuef stands by the article.

He says he was very much surprised by some students' reaction, which he described as "extremely" ironic in that the piece was intended to draw attention to what he described as a widespread campus problem of oblivion to racism. It's not that the KKK and cross burnings and lynchings are funny, he said; it's the fact that these Hoya staffers are going about all this offensive stuff without any self-awareness of it.

"You're supposed to laugh at the total ignorance and the ignorance of the blatant racism these people have," said Stuef, who also writes for the Onion. He speculated that some of the offended just don't get satire: "I don't know if it's a misunderstanding or a lack of experience reading satire."

Or maybe, he said, they're being oversensitive.

I also reached Ankit Goyal, a sophomore and a Heckler staff writer, who provided another defense of the story on a Facebook site set up to promote an on-campus forum tonight on "Racism and Satire" in response to the article. He writes:

As a writer for The Heckler, I think the basic problem is people are throwing around the word satire without understanding what it actually means. The point of satire is to critique a position by adopting it, and pointing out its ridiculousness.. Think of stephen colbert, he makes fun of right wing pundits by acting like them.

So what is it that we are laughing at, whats the argument of the piece. The whole "gag" is to laugh at how the blatant racism goes completely unnoticed by the hoya staff, that they are so ignorant that they dont realize the offensive nature of their own actions,and they defend them on the basis of "tradition." The whole point is not to laugh with racism, but at it and laugh at the people who commit racist acts. The real irony of the situation is that the whole point of the heckler was to denounce racial ignorance.

Goyal echoed those sentiments in our conversation. "It's mocking the Hoya, not mocking African-Americans," he said of the article. "The point is to make fun of racism, why it's so stupid, why it's so ignorant."

I asked if racism, as represented in the form of cross burnings and the like, was something to laugh about.

"I think you should be laughing at racists," Goyal said. "Satire plays an important role in terms of helping us think."

Said Stuef: "If it's done right, it's funny."

One additional note: Though it carries the Georgetown name, the Heckler is not affiliated with the university; its writers are current (and former) students. In an "Official Stuff" note on its Web site, the Heckler says that "none of what appears in this publication is intended to be harmful, and we apologize in advance for hurt feelings and/or bruised egos."

Both Stuef and Goyal were planning to attend the discussion tonight.

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Comments

  1. #1

    The problem is the collateral damage caused when those who are not familiar with the previous Hoya piece, or the purported underlying controversy, stumble upon this article which, on the face of it, is racist.
    Socially responsible satire wouldn't require readers to be so steeped in local inside-baseball history to recognize it for what the authors say it is intended to be.
    Putting such a burden on the general readership (which in today's media environment is obviously exceedingly broad) smacks of provincialism/solipsism and self-indulgence.

  2. Comrade Al Gonzales
    #2

    Tax these racist punks (i.e., their rich daddies). Pittsburgh is going to tax tuition - other cities will follow suit.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2009/12/16/education/16college.html?hp

    There's no reason these rich punks should use DC services while paying no taxes here. Yeah, daddy pays some tax on the bar tabs, but that's about it. Slap a 100% tax on private school tuition.

    Use that money to give bonuses to Pete Nickles & the tough motherfuckers who kicked the shit out of the punk protesters - twice. On the streets, & in court, Nickles & the cops kicked their wimpy liberal retarded kindergarten asses.

  3. #3

    I am black and I am not offended by this. We are becoming to sensitive or being too dam politically correct. Let people say what's on their minds. I rather for someone to tell me how they feel about me to my face than to be an undercover racist.

  4. #4

    All racist will die!

  5. #5

    Really! It seems that these black kids at gtown are either soft or too ill-prepared to distinguish racism from satire.

    If they could not see what that article was saying, then that paper should do their next issue about this.

    To those black students, I offer advice. Get a clue. Read carefully and think before having another Al Sharpton-inspired fit. When something worth reacting to
    occurs, people will be hard-pressed to believe you now.

    [quick fyi - i am black]

  6. #6

    I had only a basic familiarity with the background story here prior to reading, and I still understood that the Heckler article was satire intended to lampoon the Hoya, racists and racism in general. I'd expect the brainy students over at Georgetown to understand.

    And everything in the world has the potential to be funny, as long as the joke is artfully crafted. This certainly wasn't Onion-caliber, but it wasn't entirely bereft of taste, either.

  7. #7

    One need not be familiar with G'town U to realize that the Heckler piece was basically saying "this is how strong the racist undercurrent at G'town is." It's not racist in the least. To the contrary, the Heckler is saying "stop pretending there is prejudice on campus. It runs deep here." In doing so, it's clear the Heckler editors were hoping to start a conversation.

    And I think they are dead on. I'm white and my visits to local hangouts of G'town's preppier crowds certainly pointed toward some deeply prejudiced opinions there -- comments along the lines of how a group of spoiled brats "deserved" special privileges, while every non-Polo wearing kid must be an affirmative action admit who was "lucky" to be at that school (or that s/he "must play sports").

    Kudos to the Heckler, and a lump of coal to anyone at that "elite" school for not understanding the rather obvious point that was being made. The paper was trying to make a statement in support of the non-white, non-blue blood students at Georgetown. How did folks miss this?

  8. #8

    TYPO CORRECTION: In my last post I intended to write:

    THE HECKLER ARTICLE IS not racist in the least. To the contrary, the Heckler is saying "stop pretending there is NOT prejudice on campus. It runs deep here."

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