Stripping and Osama bin Laden

Spec’s descriptions in their news paper served no educational purpose.

Newspapers can do some really exceptional things to grab their students’ attention. They can start the front page with a funny speech , which they’ve probably been drafting for the past few days. They can amuse their readers by allowing crazy opinions as articles in the paper (like imagine an op-ed about how you didn’t like a piece of performance art). Or maybe they can have events where they provide staff with complimentary Coffee. I’ve been fortunate enough to experience all of these. But today’s front page article in spec was something else.

In the first Spectator paper of the week, a few fortunate spec readers manage to notice an article about professor Emlyn Hughes dancing to a strange version of Lil Wayne’s “Drop It Like It’s Hot,” as he stripped (yes, he got down to his boxers) and then dressed back in black while footage—of the Twin Towers’ falling, Osama Bin Laden, and Nazi troops hailing Hitler—played behind him. Oh, and don’t forget part of the article about the random ski-masked people stabbing a cat piñata onstage.

I read the article on the spec website that day through tears of pain. I can accept that they wrote about stripping. In fact, I think that if they’d done only that, and then dropped a punch line about “stripping in front of a classroom full of students is unacceptable,” the spec would have probably caused me to choke with laughter. I can see that many people of more conservative beliefs might have been offended by this move on The Columbia Spectator’s part, but at least the humiliation is solely the teacher’s. It is much easier simply to close your eyes or turn around and ignore this newspaper which is writing about professors stripping onstage.

But why did they describe the rest of the footage? Now spec is treading upon dangerous territory. Why play with events of genocide, death, massacre, and tragedy? Why trample upon people’s past suffering and fears? According to two people who read the the article, the spec didn’t even give an explanation as to why they gave graphic descriptions of what happened.

How could spec have known whether someone among the 100-200 people people who read spec hadn’t lost family, friends, or loved ones in one of those atrocities? We are in New York—the city that witnessed, firsthand, the collapse of the towers that buried the lives of parents, siblings, lovers, friends, and dreams under their ashes and debris. No matter how many times I’d read about it before, as I read today of the plane impacting the tower, the smoke rising and concrete crumbling, a flash of cold petrified my body again. I can only ever imagine the pain felt by people whose family and loved ones were inside that chaos–people who smelled the smoke, who heard the crash and screams, who felt the cuts and bruises, who saw death staring at their faces.

To write ebulliently about that tragedy’s perpetrator, Osama bin Laden, together with graphic descriptions of Adolf Hitler’s troops bearing their banner, without even a speck (lol) of an explanation is only an invitation to offense. Perhaps many people who read spec were gratefully distracted by the description of professor’s little undressing performance. But it still does not justify the spec’s idea of describing horrifying images without proper justification.

Yes, I’ve been exposed to other kinds of shocking descriptions: new articles about children starving after a tsunami in my Wall Street Journal international section;propaganda posters posted by spec around campus; testimonials of torturers in times of dictatorship in Chile, where I was raised (Editors note: I am offended by you making me think about the fact that this occurred.  Could we have this removed in the final version?). But the news sources always had clear, explicit motives as to why they reopened scars of the past—to make us look forward and around us helping us to acknowledge the world we live in, if only to become more sensitive and respectful people.

But what could 9/11 possibly have to do with Columbia campus news, the ostensible topic of the Columbia Spectator? A few readers have tried to find a connection: “Well, Columbia University is related to warfare. I mean, many of our military technologies were created at Columbia,” one classmate told me. But regardless, that wasn’t the ambience or tone a news paper should have when addressing such a topic. Instead the spec should have used exceedingly vague language like “possibly upsetting images”. Today’s act was simply a demonstration of complete lack of empathy and common sense on the spec’s part.

Why touch upon events that scarred not only those directly involved, but also the entire world, without reason—and in such a degrading way? If being incapable of empathy and tact is the way the spec is trying to be “cool,” I would much rather they kept quiet and simply gave me another gruesome paper.

The author is a first-year in Columbia College.

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3 Responses to “Stripping and Osama bin Laden”

  1. The Dark Hand Says:

    terror is a frequently used tactic of oppressors in order to sykologically dominate the opressed

  2. Leroy Jenkins Says:

    Spec wants us to live in fear, so we stop fighting for the truth. We will not fear you spec!

  3. >The author is a first-year in Columbia College.

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