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Taking Aim at the Media Press’s Negative Coverage Unjustified; Strong Response Needed by Administration, Students

Guest Column
James J. Kang

It is clear that the media is no longer MIT’s friend. (You might ask if it ever was our friend, but let’s not get nitpicky here). It has brought little more than misery and frustration to anyone reading the headlines who cares for this place and knows its true nature at all.

After doling out a healthy portion of blame to the evil manipulative MIT administrators, the corrupt and unctuous politicians, the clueless and archaic faculty, and the whiny, unreasonable, uncommunicative students for the myriad problems that have been surfacing of late, it’s high time those bastard journalists got their fair share.

Now, the events of last Tuesday should be common knowledge, but perhaps you’ve been using the national media to keep up and thus have no idea what actually happened. (Apparently, one Internet news service reported that three people were killed in a terrorist bombing.)

The first hint I had that something wasn’t quite right was the closing of Lobby 10 to through traffic, and the subsequent eviction of my Japanese class from our classroom in Building 13. There were rumors of some sort of lab explosion, but I was too busy straining to hear my instructor over the lawn mower near Building 26 to think much about it. I figured another grad student had just dropped some more cyclohexane, and I continued as normal, merrily oblivious and criminally irresponsible, until I happened upon the news truck caravan at 77 Mass. Ave. A friend I’d just met there told me all the channels were having emergency coverage of the ‘bombing’ at MIT and the SAE hearing, so naturally I got a little worried, enough to ask one of the news-leeches what they were feeding off of today. “Well, we heard the police were investigating some sort of bombing here, and we thought it might be a terrorist attack, or hell, this being MIT, some kids had built a nuclear device and tried to shoot it at the moon.” (It’s a rough paraphrase, but the bits about a nuclear device and the moon are definitely true.) I gleaned from him that nothing very serious had happened, but even so, it still added to a growing perception of irresponsibility and danger at MIT.

Thus the news-hounds were ordered to rip some chunks off the scattered rotting carcasses left by previous packs, throw on some ketchup, roll around in the mess a bit, and attack when people reacted to the smell. The SAE hearing story was months old at that point but it was re-broadcast because the producers think this stuff is more important to the country than the impending disintegration of nuclear disarmament or any sort of good news. The news trucks were all the way over here anyway, let’s make the most of it, right?

In direct response to goading by the press, Boston officials re-inspecting SAE for violations also asked them to confirm a list containing the addresses of other MIT FSILGs. They then cited every MIT frat along Beacon Street for having their letters carved into the sidewalk, along the way to evicting PKS for violations likely to be found in most Boston apartments. It’s too bad UMOC didn’t somehow get misreported as some suspiciously large charity event funded by undergrads known to be very poor and stressed out. Perhaps then the police would instead be hustling to hand out rewards for exceptional community service.

I say this is enough. The line must be drawn here. Our campus and the administrators have been far too welcoming of this tabloid journalism, and courtesy has produced nothing in the way of a more accurate representation of MIT to the general public. Here’s where we tell these self-serving parasites where they can shove their microscopes and spotlights, because what is there to lose? Are they going to make us look bad? A concerted effort to protest the media’s atrocious behavior has unfortunately become appropriate. The strategy must be twofold executed by the administration and the students.

MIT should hire a public-relations firm to start defending itself effectively in the face of baseless and stupid propaganda (we’ve all seen how useless press releases and management-speak are for this purpose). In addition, it should take every opportunity to take legal action against what amounts to slander. Since the administration seems so fond of running this place as a corporation, it should not be afraid to aggressively uphold MIT’s image.

The students are the key, of course. Let’s show our foes how inconsequential a little theatrical device accident really is, compared to what a few students can do on purpose. Harass and heckle the reporters the next time they show up for no good reason; hack the news vans and override their signal with Jerry Springer. Perhaps make up some imitation nuclear devices to show them what they really look like. But remember, don’t do anything more illegal than what they’re already doing to us.

James J. Kang is a member of the Class of 2000.