Miller: A Tribute to Fribble

by Jon Miller | 5/13/15 7:12pm

There has recently been a plethora of columns regarding respectful discussion, yet all have an underlying theme — a complete disregard of true openness for multiple views. A friend of mine, fellow senior and columnist Aylin Woodward ’15, wrote a column last week about the commenter “fribble.” She wrote that readers of The Dartmouth’s comments section might encounter “the bombastic, belligerent and often incoherent commentary penned under the moniker ‘fribble.’” Fribble, far from “bombastic, belligerent and often incoherent,” usually expresses opinions in the defense of personal liberty, transparency, accountability and the pursuit of truth.

Those of you who read columns on The Dartmouth’s website might not know that members of The Dartmouth senior staff take the authoritarian step of screening and censoring comments on all articles. The moral justification for this censorship appears to be that “offensive” comments on The Dartmouth’s website cannot possibly be tolerated. The Dartmouth’s website states that comments that are “off-topic” or contain “vulgarity, inappropriate language or ad hominem attacks” will not be allowed, but what exactly qualifies as unacceptable under this policy is at the sole discretion of those in upper management at The Dartmouth. If The Dartmouth wanted real discussion, they would give individuals viewing the site the ability to up and down vote comments, with a certain number of down votes resulting in comment removal. Many large websites, such as YouTube, use this method and are successfully regulated by their online communities. By unilaterally deciding which comments are appropriate, The Dartmouth risks prioritizing political correctness and personal agendas over free expression.

In her May 7 column “On Honoring Culture,” Jessica Lu ’18 wrote about cultural appropriation in regard to the Chicago Blackhawks logo. The argument that borrowing elements of another group’s culture — in a way that clearly does not intend to mock — is offensive simply because those using the symbol are not part of the original culture is ridiculous. This is a good example of how political correctness can go over the top and stifle conversation. Should I be offended that Western-style clothing, originally from Western Europe, is worn in eastern Asia? To use antiquated historical social dynamics as the qualifier for why one form of “appropriation” is more acceptable than another is hypocritical. Soon we will live in a world where philanthropic fundraisers that respectfully celebrate a culture can be shut down by a single student’s complaint to the Office of Pluralism and Leadership. Oh, wait — we reached that point with last year’s “Phiesta” incident. Perhaps the World View station in the Class of 1953 Commons should be shut down as well because some may find the appropriation of burritos offensive.

In its May 8 Verbum Ultimum, “Reacting with Respect,” The Dartmouth editorial board wrote that although some students may find slogans used in the Pigstick-Derby protests offensive, “this does not warrant ad hominem attacks” or “a dismissal of the demonstrators.” Interesting that the editorial does not deny that the slogans of some protesters, such as “F--k your white tears,” are offensive, yet this same group censors user comments so relentlessly in the name of political correctness. Interesting that we do not hear about the racial slur that many have alleged Student Assembly president-elect Frank Cunningham ’16 was called and instead get a euphemistic comment, which hides just how heinous the insult is. All the editorial states is that they “must acknowledge” that Cunningham referenced “his being called a ‘derogatory name’” in a campus-wide email. “Must” is an appropriate verb, since it is telling of what I perceive to be their resistance to present a full story of the incident.

In her May 11 column, “Language and Power,” Nicole Simineri ’17 defended political correctness, arguing that political correctness entails openness to critiques of and corrections to language “to reflect the needs of those around you.” On the contrary, political correctness is about not being open to ideas you find offensive. I am often offended by the anti-libertarian ideas presented in The Dartmouth’s opinion pages, but I do not want to “correct the language” of my peers with censorship — I prefer to leave that sort of thing to individuals like Kim Jong-un. I try to engage with peers who have different ideas, not stifle and censor them. I hope this can be a two-way road — that The Dartmouth will end its policy of allowing its editor-in-chief and executive editors to censor online comments and demonstrate a commitment to unbiased journalistic integrity.