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Poster's Claims About The Tech Are Silly

Column by Stacey E. Blau
Opinion Editor

A pillar poster in Lobby 7 this week reads, "Is MIT's Oldest and Largest Newspaper' Promoting Anti-Asian Stereotypes?" It points to a story The Tech printed in the World and Nation section about the gunman who shot several people on the roof of the Empire State Building ["Empire State Gunman Acted Out of Rage," Feb. 25] and a new comic strip called "Rhino Man" that The Tech started running this term. The poster claims that the article on the Empire State Building promotes the stereotype of the Arab terrorist. The comic, it says, perpetuates Asian stereotypes. Those claims are patently ridiculous.

Anyone reading the news a few weeks ago heard about the Empire State Building shooting. A man shot seven people on the observation deck of the building, killing one, and then killed himself. It's clearly a newsworthy event, one that got front-page coverage in The New York Times the following day, and one that it makes perfect sense for us to run a story about. The gunman was Arab; that's a fact. It does not seem clear to me why pointing out that fact is a racist or stereotypical act.

The pillar poster quotes a paragraph in the Washington Post story The Tech printed in the World and Nation section of the paper. The paragraph talks about initial speculation that the gunman's act stemmed from religious zealotry. So what's the problem? It's true that there was a lot of that sort of initial speculation. I personally think drawing such conclusions is in fact racist for pretty obvious reasons. But as it turns out, quite a lot of people did make such comments; all it would have taken was a quick listen to any of number of conservative radio talk shows to find that out. Reporting on the fact that people drew such conclusions is not racist; when so many people do it, it's part of the story.

Either way, I find it amazing that people don't see or don't attach any importance to the fact that article is clearly identified as a product of a reporter from The Washington Post. Yes, The Tech printed it. Yes, The Tech read it before it was printed. But World and Nation is a place for us to reprint national and international news from the Los Angeles TimesWashington Post wire service. The section exists so that our readers can get a smattering of outside news if they don't want to buy other papers. It does not exist for The Tech to chop out parts of stories it doesn't like.

If the people responsible for the pillar poster believe we should switch our news service to The Workers' Vanguard, they are welcome to make the suggestion, but we probably won't listen. If they think we should not have run a story about a shooting that took place at the Empire State Building, I think they are wrong. If they are suggesting that we do a careful comparative analysis of two or three available stories on the shooting to find one that tries not to talk about the shooter's nationality, I would say we have far worthier things to do with our time.

The pillar poster also complains about "Rhino Man," a new comic strip we started running this term. I'm not quite sure if the people who put up the poster think we are promoting anti-rhinoceros stereotypes, but I presume they are referring to the Dr. Sasori character.

I imagine the character really strikes a powerful racial chord, recalling Asian terrorists all the way back to Dr. No from James Bond films. Perhaps the Anime Club should be singled out. Every other Friday night, the club holds showings of Japanese animation films, and one could easily argue that those films play on any number of conceivable Asian stereotypes. And so what? Are those showings racist? Should the members of the Anime Club censor their showings because some of the content might be perceived as promoting anti-Asian stereotypes? I don't think so, and neither does any other reasonable person.

Complaining on a pillar poster about such inane things is a waste of time. There is no doubt that there are stereotypes to fight, including anti-Arab and anti-Asian stereotypes. There are a number of fights worth fighting, but they all center around issues that are real and meaningful, not dreamt up out of thin air.