Saumya Narechania: Who’s reading what?

I know I wrote my previous piece on the media but I have a new complaint. Don’t worry just yet, though; I’m not Al Gore – I do more than one issue. And I’m not John Madden – I can talk about different aspects of the same issue. My latest complaint with the modern media stems from the controversial, satirical posters that took GW by storm a week ago.

Somebody, perhaps from reading too many fashion magazines and not enough books (even John Grisham counts), saw these now-notorious posters, glanced over them and deduced with terrible reading skills that they were hate posters and decidedly anti-Muslim. Of course laser eyes and peg legs don’t signal sarcasm; my first reaction was “Whoa, I didn’t know Superman was a pirate.” That was sarcasm, in case the person who first read the posters is now reading my column.

The Hatchet picked the story up and published an online article entitled “Anti-Muslim posters cause stir, administrative response.” Local news outlets started coming to campus and a few newspapers reported on the subject as well. Eventually, Indians were hearing about our campus’ controversy halfway around the world. Most reported on the “anti-Muslim” posters, none on the controversial satire. Either these organizations weren’t fact-checking and didn’t actually read the poster for themselves, or the journalists that reacted to this story have the literacy skills of an average student subjected to an education at a Texas elementary school.

Granted, they weren’t encouraged to go look for themselves, considering most everybody did not understand the posters; the Muslim Students’ Association condemned them as acts of hate and the administration did the same. Nevertheless, it is the responsibility of each and every reporter to do his or her own research. Laziness isn’t new. We see it in Peter Griffin, we saw it in Louis XIV, but we shouldn’t be seeing it in the media.

When the sardonic nature of the posters finally became widely known, the stories were slow to change, moving at a pace reminiscent of Melville’s “Moby Dick.” Then, when new stories came out, they mainly appeared on the blogosphere. Michelle Malkin and her friends at HotAir chastised the people responsible for hanging the posters for “slamming” Young America’s Foundation. Of course, the group only meant to point out Islamo-Fascism Awareness Week and did not attack the group itself. HotAir then turned to the GW Administration pinning it as “leftist” while other bloggers complained, with language fitting of an extremely annoyed Archie Bunker, if not worse, about assistant director of the Student Activities Center, Bridgette Behling, for requesting that the leadership of Young America’s Foundation condemn hate speech. All of this despite the fact that the University hasn’t yet issued a punishment for Adam Kokesh and his cohorts, and that Behling was simply trying to do her job and asked for a noncontroversial signature.

The blogoshere should serve as an alternate to the old media. Yet, just as the old media seems to be lazy, bloggers seem dedicated, but dedicated to spinning. I realize there are many conservatives who believe (or don’t believe and just find it prudent to perpetuate a stereotype for political reasons) that universities are elite, uber-liberal places where students learn how to hate America. It’s just really sad to see this happen to our university, where the College Republicans are one of the most successful groups on campus. There was no real reason to come after Behling or the administration except that they were politically “smart.” Any chance to paint university administrators, professors and students as crazy leftists is going to get pounced on by many bloggers but any correction of this poor stereotype by an established news organization is going to be lackluster.

All I can really do is ask of all groups to start being active journalists and start being fair journalists. Because without the media as a good source to disseminate information, we leave student groups limited options, including social networking sites, word of mouth, e-mails and yes, ill-advised, poorly conceived posters.

The writer is a senior majoring in conflict and security and international politics.

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