Some readers are quick to claim that my relish in anticipating PC Buffoonery in the context of Stand With Us is unseemly. Perhaps! But PC Buffoonery there will certainly be. Consider Anna Weber’s story:

So there’s this cartoon/letter-sized printout that’s posted in the computer lab of Clark Hall, along with a bunch of other geology jokes. The cartoon features a nerdy-looking guy flanked by some swankily dressed women, and they’re walking down the sidewalk. A policeman/bodyguard type is pushing a passerby off the sidewalk and saying “Get out of the way, you swine! A geologist is coming!” In the background, a nicely dressed lady with big hair is looking at the geologist and little hearts are all around her.

Not the funniest or even the most tasteful cartoon in the world, but, hey, we kinda like it. It’s been in Clarklab practically since the Mesozoic. But sometime between Saturday afternoon and Monday morning someone took a marker and wrote in big letters on the cartoon: “exploitative! Are women with boobs status symbols? Accessories? EFF THIS!” They circled said boobs and also wrote “BUTT” on a second, totally unrelated poster.

No way is this an extreme case of vandalism, by any stretch of the imagination. But, still. Come on, people. First of all, if you don’t like our jokes, don’t come to our lab. There are plenty of other places to hang out on a Saturday night. And Clarklab may be a public space, but I would argue that the bulletin boards belong to the department. (So does the food–for example, the loaf of sandwich bread that was stolen from my shelf a few weeks ago–but that’s a different story!) Second of all, this isn’t one of those Danish cartoons. I mean, the department is full of high-achieving female students and professors (and I’m pretty sure we’ve all got boobs) and we’re not accessories and no one has ever said anything about it before.

Anyway. Of course this isn’t really about our geology cartoon.

The student body is apparently making big strides against “discrimination of every kind”–so bully for us. But I feel like there is no reason to go into someone else’s space and seek out “discrimination.” Even if you do, there’s really no reason to deface something that belongs to someone else and that could maybe, out of context, be construed as inflammatory. Or is that [insert sarcasm here] just a couple of really un-PC assumptions on my part?

1) Why the sarcasm? This is how PC works. Someone — perhaps a prankster, more likely a supporter of Stand With Us — finds your cartoon offensive. For starters, they deface it. They expect you to understand their displeasure. They expect you to respect their feelings. They want you to remove it and, better yet, apologize. Don’t believe me? Ask professors like Wendy Raymond and Dorothy Wang. Professor Wang says:

“The rally was great, but we need to move beyond the symbolic to concrete institutional changes to make a permanently better situation for minorities at Williams,” she said. “Students graduate after four years, but these things have been happening for Williams for decades.”

Think that Professor Wang believes that individual students and professors in Geology should be able to hang up whatever sorts of cartoons they like? Even cartoons that someone else finds offensive? Ask her. After all, cartoons that some people find offensive (and others find funny) have been hung up around Williams “for decades.”


2) See Wikipedia for an explanation of Weber’s reference to “Danish cartoons.” One of those cartoons is pictured to the right. The artist responsible has been in the news recently.

On February 12, 2008, Danish police arrested three men (two Tunisians and one Danish national originally from Morocco) suspected of planning to assassinate Kurt Westergaard, the cartoonist who drew the Bomb in the Turban cartoon. Westergaard has since been under police protection. He said he is angry that a “perfectly normal everyday activity [drawing political cartoons] which I used to do by the thousand was abused to set off such madness.”

It is not clear why Weber thinks that Westergaard’s cartoon is more offensive than the one she describes. Isn’t offensiveness in the eye of the beholder? Recall what William Bennett ’65 wrote two years ago about the US media’s refusal to reprint the cartoons.

But for the past month, the Islamist street has been on an intifada over cartoons depicting Muhammad that were first published months ago in a Danish newspaper. Protests in London — never mind Jordan, the Gaza Strip, the West Bank, Iran and other countries not noted for their commitment to democratic principles — included signs that read, “Behead those who insult Islam.” The mainstream U.S. media have covered this worldwide uprising; it is, after all, a glimpse into the sentiments of our enemy and its allies. And yet it has refused, with but a few exceptions, to show the cartoons that purportedly caused all the outrage.

What has happened? To put it simply, radical Islamists have won a war of intimidation. They have cowed the major news media from showing these cartoons. The mainstream press has capitulated to the Islamists — their threats more than their sensibilities.

The SATs no longer have an analogy section, but perhaps our older readers will recognize:

Danish Cartoons:Radical Islamists as Geology Cartoons: ?

My mocking is more in disrespectful fun than actual sadness, much less fear, but censors come in all shapes and sizes. Yet they always start out small and harmless. Does Stand With Us believe that student/professors have the right to put whatever cartoons they like on their walls/doors? Someone ought to ask.

3) Think that an analogy between these two situations is crazy? Consider the behavior of some Stand With Us members during last week’s march.

Katie Stack ’08 was studying in Schow on Wednesday night, and, among other things, had a student aggressively call, “Stand with us,” in her face. “The way it was carried out, I wasn’t given an option,” Stack said. “If I didn’t stand up, to them it said I didn’t care about decreasing discrimination, which I thought it was unfair and polarizing.” She added that it was the most uncomfortable peer pressure she had felt at the College.

Nice. Think Stack is nuts? Consider:

Three first-years from Sage Hall were doing homework in their common room when the Stand With Us march passed through the Frosh Quad. They joined the march briefly, then attempted to return to their entry but were stopped by other marchers. “A few people were yelling at us – not in a malicious way, but making us feel guilty for going back in, like we were disrespecting them,” said Jack Killea ’11.

Well, as long as the yelling wasn’t “malicious,” no worries right? “Disrespecting” any member of Stand With Us will, one hopes, be against the forthcoming Social Honor Code.

The Record editorial board reports that:

In several instances those in the library that didn’t join in were yelled at and made to feel uncomfortable. Some who did not immediately stand with the rest of the group were intimidated into doing so.

The whole point about a “Pact Against Indifference” is that you are either with Stand With Us — yelling at students quietly studying, forcing first years to keep marching, defacing Geology Department cartoons — or you are not.

First they came for the geologists who love cartoons, but I was not a geologist, so I said nothing.

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