The voluble impresario, by way of assuring viewers of his ghetto provenance, launched into a spoken résumé; he testified to a genuine Compton gangsta lineage, boasting, among other things, that several years back he’d served time in “the pen.” He also added, “There were no black people hung at the event. Nobody was beaten up.… Everybody had a good time. The police weren’t called.… Nobody got robbed, nobody got shot, nobody got stabbed.”
Jones may have had a good time (not to mention a flurry of hits on his website and orders for his DVDs), but the UCSD administration was less than amused. Neatly sidestepping any First Amendment issues — which were given conspicuously short shrift by the media — they promptly announced that they would investigate. Follow-ups by reporters, expected questions about little details like freedom of speech, were sparse.
Putting aside the reporters’ glaring lack of journalistic detachment (i.e., their zeal to join, rather than report on, the braying chorus), it seems they also found a pack of white devils (just as national news organizations did in the Duke lacrosse team) to lash with that blackest of contemporary opprobrium: racism. No one in the local fourth estate has acquitted himself exceptionally well (at least on the record), but of all the offenders, Channel 6 news has possibly been the most egregious, to wit: their February 24 online coverage of the teach-in was titled “Battle Against Hate” and placed next to a handy link, “Join the Battle Against Hate,” which led to the official UCSD website.
Why was a key detail — the fact that an African American comedian was a moving force behind the event — its star, no less — omitted by TV stations? Was the intent to preserve a false black-white dichotomy — the disturbing implication that this teapot tempest, this campus kerfuffle, arose from an act of profound animus rather than a college party lark? Who knows — perhaps it was just slipshod reporting, the sort of coverage that shouldn’t pass muster in a high school newspaper. As one might expect, blog posters have weighed in with their own interpretations of partiers, protesters, and campus politics. Some, such as “Kyle,” posting on the San Diego News Network site, have noted the irony inherent in UCSD’s efforts to muzzle some voices on campus. “Colleges used to champion free speech. Now it seems only pc speech is free.” Still others, citing intrinsic comedic possibilities, have recommended a more lighthearted response to the Cookout brouhaha.
On the Channel 8 message board, someone with the handle of “Student of the Month” suggested, “We students should have a party, dress like chancellor chicks and talk loud and demanding like administrators. We could wear gold chains and expensive Nordstrom clothes and drive up in Mercedes and BMWs [and] eat a bucket o’ caviar.”