Monday, March 06, 2006

In deep Sheaf: the issues

As this weekend has passed, I have gotten increasingly involved in the Sheaf cartoon debate, and I have little doubt that I will continue to do so during the course of this week. Jeremy at Wayward Reporter has done a great job of stating his case, and there is some great discussion occurring at Dave Hutton's blog, as well as the blogs of Rochelle Knox and Mark Watson (the creator of the Capitalist Pig figure, but not of this comic), who gives a very interesting take on the issue. (As an aside, I have decided to use the title "In deep Sheaf" to identify the issue at Life of Turner. "Sheafgate" just did not cut it for me.) Of course, to call it one issue is simplification at best, and so I am attempting to disseminate the different issues at play in this entire situation for your ease:

1. The use of offensive religious imagery: The comic is primarily offensive to Christians, but is also offensive to Jews. The question is whether this depiction of Christ depicts "hate literature" or violates either or both of the Sheaf's publishing policy and the Saskatchewan Human Rights Code.

2. Journalistic integrity: Not everyone is offended because of the imagery used, but because the publication of this comic directly violates the policy stated by the Sheaf just a week earlier regarding their decision not to publish the Mohammed cartoons. A double-standard has been displayed, and the argument is for the paper to decide either to publish both or neither.

3. Freedom of speech: Though the staff at the Sheaf do not defend the publishing of the comic, some comments have already been defending the paper's right to publish these cartoons because of free speech. This ties in with the issue of religion, as the question is whether the commentary in this cartoon is valid enough to warrant its publication.

4. Christian and Muslim reactions: Much is and will be made in way of comparing the reaction of the two religions, both seriously and jokingly. Some people have questioned whether there would have been this kind of reaction if the Sheaf had published the Mohammed cartoons, and rightfully so. Are Christians just using this as an opportunity to advance their own conservative agenda, or is this an honest reaction?

5. The structure of the Sheaf: What was previously an issue of primarily internal concern will now be opened to a far wider base of people who will (and should) rightfully question whether there are the proper structures in place at the Sheaf to have prevented this from happening, and if those structures do not exist what structures should be instituted now.

6. The state of the student press: This issue will cause campuses across the country to question their student press, and the role of the student press will come under great scrutiny. If it is to be an alternative source of information, can and/or should it bow to pressure from any particular group (such as Christians), or should it stand by its decisions and damn the consequences?

7. The response of external media: In light of the charged climate, how will other local (and likely beyond local) media sources portray the story? There have already been varied responses across the blogosphere, from outright condemnation to defense of the Sheaf, and it will be interesting to see how different media sources (ie. CanWest vs. BellGlobe Media vs. CBC) treat this issue.

8. The public reputation of the U of S: The U of S has been damaged through this, which seems to be the primary reason university president Peter MacKinnon issued his e-mail, and it will be interesting to see how the institution responds over the next week.

9. The response from the Sheaf: The onus is now on the Sheaf to respond in a way that is appropriate and satisfactory, and it will be interesting to see how they choose to respond. How they respond will greatly affect the rest of the treatment of this issue from all sides.

10. The response of advertisers: Some people are promising to contact each advertiser and to communicate their displeasure with the Sheaf, and it will be interesting to monitor which advertisers choose to take action, and what action they will take.

11. The future of the Sheaf: With an Annual General Meeting scheduled soon, hiring for next year about to commence, and changes to the Sheaf's policy certain to be suggested by both insiders and outsiders, the future of the Sheaf is in question. There will be a future, but the quality of that future could be challenged and determined in the next few weeks. It will have to be different, but just what changes will take place remain to be seen.

10 comments:

  1. Another possible angle: the role of bloggers in spreading this issue further than it would have gone otherwise. I was just checking out all of the discussion on different blogs, and Lost Budgie's post was linked to by a bunch of American conservative bloggers, and one in Jerusalem.

    Also, when this is all over I would really like to compare what happens with the whole controversy in Regina in at the end of the 1960s, when the University tried to effectively shut down the Carillon (by making student union fees optional), because it printed a drawing of a woman giving birth to Ho Chi Min on the cover of its Christmas edition. (That got a lot of national attention, as students had a big sit-in and protests and all that.)

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  2. Anonymous6.3.06

    I was thinking of that exact same thing. Did we learn about it in Jimmy P's class?

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  3. We sure did learn about it in Jimmy P's class. That means that Derek did, too. (Although we then went into way more detail, and looked at the Carillon issue and everything, in the 300-level one.)

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  4. Anonymous6.3.06

    Under "state of the student press", there's also the issue of funding. If the student press strives to be as contraversial as possible, then it can't be funded by mandatory fees. Howard Stern can be a dick, but at least I don't pay for his offensiveness.

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  6. "Are Christians just using this as an opportunity to advance their own conservative agenda, or is this an honest reaction?"

    Why NOT seize the moment? There's no shame in it. Feminists called the Montreal murders a sign of widespread anti-women sentiment. Do you think gays would refuse to seize a moment like that and milk it for all it's worth? Who would?
    If this were a picture of one of our parents doing this, can you imagine our outrage and bewilderment? Take it up 10 times for our God.
    I heard Gormley this morning (Mar 7), and thought what he had to say, not to mention his interview subject, was relevant. Then again, I always thought Rush Limbaugh was pretty funny too.

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  7. Lee, I disagree. There is shame in milking a divisive issue to gain money or power over those with things to say that you don't like. Gormley is doing this, and some bloggers are taking advantage of his zeal to become more famous.

    They end up exploiting Jesus just like the cartoon is trying to satirize.

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  8. There's some big assumptions there, that everyone who could seize this moment would actually be trying to "gain money or power over people who have things to say that you don't like."

    Really it depends on how it is seized. But seizing a moment in itself isn't inappropriate at all! How do you rate the feminists and homosexuals by your standards? I have no doubt that gays have been more savvy at using human rights legislation whenever possible. In some circumstances, they have created victims of conscience, resulting in fines for everyone from Knights of Columbus to marriage commissioners, bed-and-breakfast owners who won't let gays sleep together under their roof, hospitals that won't invitro-fertilize lesbians, and on and on. They silence and fine anyone who stands in their way by all means available.
    Recently the head of National Campus for Life Network told me that some campuses can't even have pro-life clubs because of CFS rules. He said they had considered making a human rights complaint, adding, "Christians aren't good at playing the victim, but I think we should do it more often." (Not exact quote--my memory is not THAT good!)
    When I look at what's coming against the Church from everyone else doing it, I think we should start using all legal and moral means we can. That's not to say we do everything our opponents do, but certainly we could do more than we do, and I wish we would.

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  9. Ahem. Okay, Lee there are several statements that you've made that make me highly uncomfortable. I entirely disagree that Christians ought to be taking advantage of this situation, in such a way as to be pushing forward any conservative agenda. I've been disappointed by some of the Christian responses to this situation, especially those which compare the Christian and Muslim reactions to defamatory cartoons.

    I wholeheartedly disagree with the claim that Christians ought to be "playing the victim" or "using all legal...means we can." The Jesus that I learned from told us not to be taking each other to court, and to forgive over and over. Jesus did not take advantage of human systems, nor did he "play the victim." He loved, and he asked God to forgive those who abused Him and slandered His name.

    Normally, I try to stay out of taking sides on issues, but I couldn't stay silent on this one.

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  10. What ever happened to "The meek shall inherit the Earth?"

    "I have no doubt that gays have been more savvy at using human rights legislation whenever possible. In some circumstances, they have created victims of conscience, resulting in fines for everyone from Knights of Columbus to marriage commissioners, bed-and-breakfast owners who won't let gays sleep together under their roof, hospitals that won't invitro-fertilize lesbians, and on and on. They silence and fine anyone who stands in their way by all means available."

    And I completely support homosexuals using the legal system to find remedies to social injustice preventing them equal access to services that they would obtain from government and citizens were they not of a particular sexual orientation that some churches preach against.

    "some campuses can't even have pro-life clubs because of CFS rules"
    I would wonder what that rule is, because that doesn't sound fair or legal. I don't agree with most pro-life organizations since they often overlook womens' rights in favour of a fetus, or even embryo, but they should be allowed to exist as an official organization and get funding if they are willing to meet the funding criteria [if the criteria is fair].

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