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February 01, 1981 - Image 4

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Publication:
The Michigan Daily, 1981-02-01

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OPINION

Page 4

Sunday, February 1, 1981

The Michigan Daily

Did you hear the one about the

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Just a few years ago, it seemed that the only
jokes one would hear at parties or during study
breaks were of the ethnic variety. Many of
them began, "How many Polacks . . ." or "How
does an Italian . ." It was not the first upsurge
of the phenomenon within memory-I remem-

Obliquity
By Joshua Peck

was in vogue: Two jokes, one at the expense oft
the pope, the other savaging blacks (told just a'
foot away from the irrepressible John Dean)
cost him his job and his reputation, such as it
was.
SHORT OF psychoanalysis (a considerably
longer and more expensive process), a study of
humor seems to be about the best known in-
dicator of secret desires and frustrations. Un-
der a cloak of laughter, people are much more
prone to reveal the skeletons in their psychic
closets. Freud discovered this without very
much trouble at all, and wrote his findings into
one of his more interesting publications.
The average Joe tacitly recognizes this, even
without benefit of a Ph.D. in psychology. I
imagine most people have had the discomfiting
experience of trying to pass off 'a cutting
remark about a friend as "just a joke," when
both the teller and the tellee know perfectly
well that the crack really did reflect some un-
derlying hostility. Extremists might argue
that, other than children's riddles, there simply
is no such animal as "just a joke," since every
humorous comment is more an expression of
internal feeling or emotion than it is a vehicle
of amusement.

That is why liberals and other social refor-
mers always get so worked up when racial and
ethnic derision is enjoying an upsurge. They
claim their main concern is that jocular ethnic
slurs will reach the fertile minds of the ill-
educated, and perhaps breed more prejudice
and racial disharmony than already exists. I
suspect, though, that the liberal reaction is not
quite so abstractly motivated; they experience
each and every Polish joke as an indication of
racism in the teller. Their outrage stems not
from the potential damage racial humor might
do, but from the damage they see it as already
having done.
PSYCHOLOGY HAS another useful con-
tribution to make in the argument between
those who enjoy ethnic humor and those
determined to quash it. Practitioners of the
mental science have observed that people are
most critical about faults of their own; thus, it
is bound to be a chubby seven-year-old who will
come up with the most imaginative epithet for
the fattest kid in the class; similarly, the
nastiest gay-baiter on the block is certain to be
the bruiser with a painful memory of falling for
his football coach in high school.

In the case of the anti-joke lobby, the
phenomenon takes the form of liberal guilt. A
typical dialogue goes something like this:
CAD: How can you tell a Polack is at a cock-
fight?
REFORMER: (To himself: Oh, brother, here
we go again.) I give up.
CAD: He's the one with'the duck. How can you
tell an Italian's there?
REFORMER: (What a pig.) I give up.
CAD: He bets on the duck. How can you tell the
Mafia's there?
REFORMER: (How obnoxious.) Got me.
CAD: The duck wins.
REFORMER: You know, it's people like you
who are keeping racial hatred and mistrust
alive. Why don't you get off it, pal?
NOW, I'VE HEARD quite a few exchanges
like that, and I've always noticed a few in-
teresting details. For one thing, the crusader
always lets the "oppressor" finish his story
before letting into him. Must be interested in
the punchline, I guess.
Furthermore, it often appears that the tone
the reformer uses in admonishing his adver-
sary is at least as offensive as the joke. That
overreaction always makes me wonder if the

reformer, just like the fat seven-year-old,
hears something of himself reflected in the
point of the jest; maybe the so-called liberal
believes way down deep that Poles (blacks,
Jews, Chicanos, Slavs) really are numbskulls
as a rule, and that Italians (Germans,
Protestants, Jews) really are corrupt and craf-
ty. What other explanation stands for all that
dull moralistic finger-waving?
The terrifying truth is that all of us carry
around a little nugget, at least, of racist belief.
Burying it by trying to smother humorous ex-
pression is no antidote-it can only boost
frustrations, anxieties;and fears.
Ethnic jokes provide an opportunity for us to
air our little idiocies, to determine that we are
not alone, and to sort out the stupid from the
factual. Ethnic humor, in short, is cut-rate
therapy. I ought to know; I'm a reformed
reformer myself.
Joshua Peck is the outgoing co-editor
of the Daily's Opinion page.
I

ber seeing a little paperback in 1970 called The
Polish Jokebook that hardly even pretended to
be going abdut its business good-naturedly. The
book had cartooned depictions of human ex-
crement every few pages, just in case the
reader missed the point of the written material.
Richard Nixon's secretary of agriculture,
Earl Butz, was at once a victim and per-
petrator-of another period when ethnic humor

Edited and managed by students at The University of Michigan

Vol. XCI, No. 105

420 Maynard St.
Ann Arbor, MI 48109

Editorials represent a majority opinion of the Daily's Editorial Board

Weasel
,U L YOUE
PARTY ! 5AY, YOU MvST
gE A SORORIT' GIRT. .

I COULU TELL BY THE
WAY YOQI NMO 15 STICK1140OF!
MY NAM15 l1 fAROLP, BOUT T Ti-
W'y5 8XK AT TIE PVORM CALL ME
FIESUMNr! jSN r THIAT A RIOT!
( -

W(THOtJT THRgOWING &UP!
P117YOUKNOW THAT IF 'Y0O
LOK IN TH4E C FWUk4 FLooP-.
WIPOWv~ AT' THE NAT 50i
&UILPIN& YOU CAN SEE A
TANK WITH4 SM ALLIGATORs
IN IT? NO KIIWING !
'f Y

by Robert Lence
QUICK! 5omESOPY
GET ME MY VALIUM
I'M GOING To HAVE
A BREAKDOWN!
I (~f

0

A library nightmare

E TO POOR undergraduates at
this university who seek a quiet
place to study. Shunned at every
studious sanctuary, we are poor men
and women without a country.
Suppose you are a typical sophomore
on a typical night before a typical
exam. You need a quipt space of your
pwn to work--your housemates are
snore concerned1 . with their partying
than .your exhausting pursuit of that
elusive "A." So off you trudge to the
Undergraduate Library, a place you
can call, uh, home.
But the UGLI is filled to the
magnetic book detectors with other
undergraduates studying for tests.
There is no place to sit; even the
bathroom stalls are full.
Bundling up against the winter's
chill, you sprint to the nearby
,Graduate Library, puffing up your
chest and tying your shoes, trying to
look older-like a graduate student.
But you are foiled; the desk attendant
spots you for the undergraduate you
are and turns you back to face the
elements.
You start to panic. You try the
Public Health Library, but no
good-they ask you at the door to

name three social diseases and you can
think of only two.
Into the medical school Furstenberg
library you bound, but you don't look
like a Flexie, so they. throw you out.
Art history, natural science,
philosophy-you try them all. But
you're a general studies student;
there's no place for you at any depar-
tmental library. The exam is only
hours away. Where will you study?
Ah ha-the Law Library. Yes, that's
it-that beautiful gothic building that
is so conducive to studying. You march
confidently through the ornate doors,
past a small sign near the entrance,
and unpack your books for an evening
of study.
Little do you know that the sign you
failed to read warned undergraduates
to stay out of the sacred confines of the
Law Library; that undergraduates are
to use their own libraries for study. Lit-
tle did you suspect that right behind
you, ready to lunge, was an officer of
the Law Library Police about to ap-
prehend you.
No, it's not a dream. The Law School
Student Senate wants to ban un-
dergraduates and non-law students
from the Law Library.
Is there no justice in the world?

:!

Everyone calls the Daily a
"student newspaper," but the
definition and the implications of
that seemingly simple term have
<caused more misunderstandings
and unfortunate feelings of resen-
tment among readers than any
other dispute in my year as the
Daily's editor-in-chief.
So just what is a "student
newspaper?" It depends on
whom you ask. Some think that
the Daily is a campus newspaper
that is written and edited by
young journalists who happen to
be University students as well.
BUT OTHERS carry, that
definition much further. They see
the Daily as an instrument of
students to be used to further the
interests of thestudent body - or
at least a particular group of
students.
These people who see the Daily
as a tool of students in general
think it is obvious that the Daily
has a solemn responsibility to:
h promote "student interests"
whenever possible in all sections
of the Daily, including the news
pages;
" echo so-called "student
opinion" in editorials; and,
" publish promotional - as op-
posed to balanced - features on
student enterprises and
organizations.
This image unfortunately per-
sists not only among students
who think it should be so, but also
among other members of the
community who assume the
Daily follows the student ad-
vocacy principle.
BUT THE DAILY cannot be a
"student advocate" and still be a
newspaper.
Editorials can - and often do
- promote a position that could
be considered "pro-student."

'SW den t
newspapers'
may be amsoe
misnomer
By Mark Parrent

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News coverage, however, cannot
be determined with advocacy of a
particular cause as a factor in the
decision.
Editors try to make news
decisions in as objective a man-
ner as possible. Basically, we are
looking for stories that are of in-
terest to our readers. It is dif-
ficult to gauge this interest, of
course, but it is part of an editor's
job to assess newsworthiness.
And our readers are not ex-
clusively students. Among the
most faithful Daily readers, in
fact, are faculty members and
administrators. They deserve an,
objective campus newspaper as
much as students do.
AS THE ONLY daily source of
comprehensive campus news, the
Daily. must strive to meet the
needs of this diverse readership.
We encourage reader input to
help up insure that our attempt to
serve our readership is fair and
as complete as possible. But all
too often, complaints are not

suggestions for improved
coverage, but rather requests
and even demands for
promotional coverage of special
interests.
Theserequests and demands
can be expected, but I find it
especially disturbing when the
petitioning group feels it has
some special privilege because it
is made up of students.
For example, a group of
students unhappy with Daily
coverage of an event recently,
"demanded" that the Daily take
several steps to remedy the
situation.
If Harold Shapiro were to
storm into the Daily offices with
such a list of demands, however,
I'll bet that ,this same group of
students would rally against what ,.
they'would see as an improper at-
tempt by the administration to in-
fluence or even censor news
coverage decisions.
BUT THE DAILY views Harold

Shapiro as a reader who is just as
important as any other reader -
including students.
A newspaper, if it is to avoid
turning into an organ for special
interests, mdust be free to pursue
objective coverage of issues and
events. The Daily must feel
obligated to nothing except the
fair coverage of the interests of
its readers.
This is not to imply that editors
sit on high pedestals and
flawlessly direct objective news
coverage of the most important
issues and events. Of course the
editors' interpretation of fairness
and newsworthiness is open to
debate. So are positions stated in
editorial'. That is why we print
letters and more lengthy essays
from readers on the Opinion
page.
BUT READERS must under-
stand that the Daily is an
organization that seeks to publish
campus, national,, and inter-
national news without bias and
without a feeling of obligation to
any special group.
And, just for the record, the
Daily is a self-sufficient
operation. It does not receive one
penny of University (unds or
student fees. Both operating and
capital costs are covered by ad-
vertising and circulation
revenues.
This financial independence
helps guarantee against the im-
proper influence that could make
the Daily a promotional handout
instead of an independent
newspaper.
Mark Parrent has been
editor-in-chief of the Daily
since last February. His terrn
expires today.

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,,
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LETTERS TO THE DAILY:
Is the review committee biased?

S

al

/

To the Daily:
The special review committee
which is conducting discon-
tinuance proceedings against the
Geography Department includes
two members who were mem-
bers of a 1975 college Priority
Committee. The 1975 committee
suggested that it was not
necessary that The University of

recommend the continuance of a
visible and strong Geography
Department."
Now we have the current
special review committee. It has
moved back toward the 1975
position. The current committee
includes two faculty members
from outside geography who
were members of the 1975 com-

about the life and termination of
departments. The issue is
whether the review committee
was formed in an impartial man-
ner. This is a general policy
question that is relevant to the in-

tegrity of every department that
belongs to LSa.
-Anita Caplan
Ph.D. candidate
Dept. of Geography
January 29

A Rec Sports user fee

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