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Given the amount of ink — virtual and otherwise — flying around San Diego media-land these days, one might think that World War III had broken out at UCSD. The online NBC San Diego headline of February 19 blared, “Racial Tensions Boil at UCSD.” Similar headlines could be seen on the news websites of San Diego’s various other channels — 6, 8, and 10 — as well as on SignOnSanDiego, the Union-Tribune, and other local fonts of info. They showed the heat — but did they shed any light?

According to the dispatches coming from the usually sleepy campus, this exacerbation of tension (such as it existed) came about when a handful of black students learned of a black-themed, off-campus bash — dubbed the “Compton Cookout” by its hosts — which took place on February 13. Outraged by a ghetto-style costume party that they felt “mocked” Black History Month, a contingent of students launched into loud protests. When the Koala aired a show defending the party on the student-run campus television station, the protesters — ranks augmented by black “activists” from San Diego City College and other places — grew even more strident. Responding to pressure, the administration shut down the station, conducted a campus teach-in, and acceded to a laundry list of demands (including free tutoring) from the Black Student Union.

Before long, photos of angry black students, predictable condemnation from chancellor Marye Anne Fox and politicians, as well as tales of outrage and cries of insensitivity, racism, and stereotypes were all there, and then some. And after a noose was found hanging from a bookcase on the seventh floor of the Geisel Library, hundreds of black radicals and supporters were in no mood to celebrate Dr. Seuss’s birthday, preferring instead to stage a ’60s-style takeover of the chancellor’s office. (The ever-deferential Fox was forced out of her office for several hours but declined to call the police.) But despite — perhaps because of — the extensive local (not to mention national) coverage, neither the hard facts nor their implications have become clear. To that end, J.W. August, managing editor of Channel 10 news, says, “Tread carefully. Perhaps people are being played here.”

Whether or not local news organizations have been manipulated (willingly or otherwise), they seem to be playing fast and loose with the facts, at times “shading” their accounts to the cusp of distortion. To cite one example, several online articles gave the distinct impression that the Compton Cookout — characterized by a fulminating few as archly insensitive — was organized by, and attended solely by, UCSD Greeks. Pi Kappa Alpha, the frat singled out for withering charges of racism, while admitting that some of its members may have been involved in the off-campus event, stated that the Cookout was simply a theme party attended by some fraternity brothers, along with many others. That version was seconded by Perette Godwin, a reporter for KSWB Fox 5, who says that it remains murky just how many people attended the urban dress-up, where the much-maligned soiree was held, or even whether most of the partiers were actually UCSD students. (Godwin says that, from her journalistic perspective, it has been the furor over the party — and not the party itself — that has made this a compelling story.) Judging by their dispatches from the front, other local reporters have been much less circumspect.

Arguably, the missing details — omitted intentionally, it appears — constitute an even more egregious journalistic failure than the (somewhat) subtler shading. Those who dig a little deeper (or happen to read CityBeat or the Union-Tribune or listen to Roger Hedgecock’s show) may have discovered that the impresario of the Compton Cookout — the man who, arguably, has sullied the reputation of this seaside mecca for hard-core scientists, this nice, liberal University of California campus where hateful thoughts are banished to the most remote synapses — is BLACK! Yes, it’s true; even a cursory visit to his website — barring the most sinister of Photoshop alterations — reveals that the chap behind the party is certifiably African American, an internet comedian who calls himself “Jiggaboo Jones” and claims the title of “The Number One Nigger in America.” Yet neither R. Stickney nor Michelle Wayland — who posted stories online for NBC San Diego — deemed Jones’s name or race important enough to merit mention. Indeed, the duo reacted defensively when questioned about the omissions, as well as the (media-wide) use of the term “mock.” One might argue that “mock” implies something different from “lampoon,” “parody,” or “satirize,” more neutral terms that might have been used — but weren’t — to describe the February 13 party of newly minted lore. Perhaps it all comes down to the proverbial goring of oxen, but for his part, Jiggaboo is laughing all the way to the check-cashing store.

Jones and his website are nothing if not self-parody — an over-the-top celebration (some would say exploitation) of black, inner-city customs. Still, when he issued a YouTube response to the university and its fellow PC travelers, he seemed earnest enough; with tongue only partly in cheek, the otherwise affable Jones savaged the news media and the hypersensitive protesters. Defending the party-goers — the much-maligned fraternity, in particular — he said that the Cookout was, in essence, an innocent frolic whose primary purpose was to hype his latest DVD release.

Accusing local media of wielding the “race card” and making “something out of nothing,” Jones characterized the Cookout as a costume party for those seeking a small taste of life in the ’hood. “If you wasn’t black, you could be black…put some shoe polish on…be an honorary ‘N-word’ for the event.… It was not racist; there was nothing racist about it.… It was like Halloween but it wasn’t October.” Seemingly eager to fall on his sword, Jones also declared, “You want to blame somebody, blame me.… Don’t be gettin’ mad at these people that just had a good time.… Pi Kappa Alpha didn’t have nothin’ to do with that.… Get your facts straight.… To the news people, you know, you guys need to do a lot more fact-checking.… You trying to start a race riot.”

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Comments

Jay_S March 11, 2010 @ 1:04 p.m.

It seems you have been had. I've been following this story pretty closely and have been communicating with Jones via email.

Jones aka Nipsey is claiming responsibility for the party when he was not responsible for organizing it, his name was not on the invite, and according to people who were there, he wasn't even in attendance at the "party." In fact, there is no recent DVD release. This is all a chance for him to get his 15 minutes of fame at any cost, including his dignity.

It's pretty obvious that this guy is willing to do a StepnFetchit act for anyone who will give him a little attention. In fact, when he was recently compared to the infamous buffoon he seemed proud and said "well, that muthaf*cka was a millionaire and he was famous."

The depths of this guys ignorance is unfathomable. He is not only willing to clown himself for a little face time but he is willing to drag other people through the mud with him. If this guy had a brain he'd be dangerous. Take a look at a few of his Youtube videos (if you dare). You can hear his type of idiocy on any prison yard in America. In fact, he just got out of prison a few years ago.

He played right into the hands of Roger Hedgecock (a fellow felon) the biggest racist on the airwaves in San Diego by telling him that he endorses this kind of mocking of an entire people.

I wonder if Roger would be okay with a "Wetback party" (immigration is his pet issue after all) or a "Chink/Go*k" party, if a Latino or Asian attended the party and simply claimed to have organized it.

On second thought, I'm afraid to actually know what his answer would be...

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staybrown1 March 12, 2010 @ 2:36 a.m.

“Arguably, the missing details — omitted intentionally, it appears — constitute an even more egregious journalistic failure than the (somewhat) subtler shading” –Moss Gropen

Gropen, you should “turn on the heat” and do some fact checking yourself in order to “shed some [real] light” of your neoliberal cognitive response to mainstream media. First, you forgot to mention that when the KKKoala went on air that morning—a rogue broadcast that was unsanctioned by SRTV—besides defending their racist rhetoric and actions, they also stated that the black population at UCSD where a bunch of “Ungrateful N-----s.” Also, on the floor of the SRTV set after the building was inspected, a note was found that said “Compton Lynching.” Now, these omissions might avail a simple defense; however, it sounds like the kkkoala people are creating an environment of fear and violence on the UCSD campus, and for the students of color that do feel “Real Pain”, WWWIII is an understatement. Furthermore, the “laundry” list of demands that were conceded by Chancellor Fox, i.e. the “free tutoring” is part UCSD’s commitment to diversity. Simply stated, what the Black Student Union call for is to have the same access to educational programs that other students have, like the “free tutoring” that student athletes receive for being good at something that has nothing to do with academia. To be more precise, “free tutoring” is part of many higher institutions commitment to student success and they are funded mostly through student fees, fees that I pay as a student at UCSD, like that of athletic departments across most public institutions. In other words, since UCSD is a public institution, then it needs to be responsible for maintaining an equitable and just educational system. Finally, in your view, because “Jiggaboo Jones” is black, then the “Compton Cook-out” cannot be held as what it truly was, a racist minstrel party. The rhetoric of a post-Obama/ post-racial society is simply far from the truth. A simple look at Tea Baggers would suffice. However, like black performers during the height of minstrel shows, minstrelsy was the only avenue for black performers to enter “Hollywood” life. However, the fact that blacks also entertained white audiences in double black face does not erase, minimize or legitimize the material and discursive structures of black oppression. In its historical legacy, “Jiggaboo Jones” is no exception to this rule.

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CuddleFish March 12, 2010 @ 7:29 a.m.

Um, you're a student at UCSD? Not an English major, I take it?

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BigDawg March 15, 2010 @ 12:52 p.m.

Moss, 3 things in your article: The cookout was done by a Negro man, the noose incident was done by a Negro woman (student) and the sheet was done by a Negro male (non-student). Get your facts straight. I am rather glad you did this article as ALL of the media has left out the most important parts!!! All for the sake of less than 2% Negroes at UCSD. And the school conceeded to their demands. What this all comes to bear is this: At some point in the future, the entire UC system will become private. That will mean no protests from students about higher tuition, fees, etc. The Regents are pretty fed up with this whole thing and all hell is going to come down on these sissy wimps at these UC's.

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Media123 March 25, 2010 @ 8:10 a.m.

“Compton Cookout Media hoax" done by a African American comedian should be the HEADLINE!

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Media123 March 25, 2010 @ 8:27 a.m.

media reports it wrong people respond one media outlet corrects it people interpret the correction wrong stupid is as stupid does....

you did not need an investigative media for this one.. just common sense.. be skeptical of what you see on main stream media . read between the lines.. 90% of media just read press releases sent out by people who want there one sided story out..the other 10% is reporting on what others have reported on…

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