In Defense of the Fenwick Review
Published: Friday, March 21, 2003
Updated: Tuesday, September 7, 2010 09:09
In the last edition of The Crusader, Ted Gildea attacked The Fenwick Review as being "immature," "offensive," and "unprofessional," in the end concluding that it "should certainly be ignored in the future." In the process he critiqued several of its articles for both content and for being too "shocking." The first question that one must ask is why Mr. Gildea wrote to The Crusader and not to The Fenwick Review? But that point aside, some of his critiques were misleading while others were downright false. Furthermore, his argument is one of someone who takes college publications, and himself, far too seriously. As an Editor-in-Chief of The Fenwick Review I will take a moment to defend our publication.
The first charge that Mr. Gildea brings against The Fenwick Review is that it is "immature," "unprofessional," and downright "offensive." To support this claim, he quotes some of our satire at the beginning of the paper where we claim the ultimate good of war being that it "pisses off Pax Christi" and where we take a jocular look at the poor hygiene habits of the French. To some extent, Mr. Gildea is correct -- such partisan jokes are mildly offensive and may even border on immature. But to such a statement, I must ask, what is wrong with that?
I walk down the halls on this campus every day and see pictures making fun of President Bush. Campus emails advertising movies, sponsored by the college no less, occasionally poke fun at Attorney General Ashcroft and Vice President Cheney. Even though I don't agree with the opinions that they are espousing, I can't help but admit that some of them are humorous. I don't get offended anymore; I have just learned not to take things so seriously, and I suggest Mr. Gildea do the same.
As an example of what a professional college newspaper should be like, Mr. Gildea contrasts the "unprofessional" Fenwick Review with the "far more esteemed" Crusader. No offense to this publication, but how many students actually read it every week? More specifically, how many students actually read the political opinions in The Crusader every week?
I, for one, usually hope that someone leaves a copy on the floor of the bathroom stall sometime during the week so I can find the time to peruse it, but I am willing to bet that many students still wouldn't read it if it were lying in front of them. That established, what should make me think that many students on this campus actually have a desire to read dry political commentary in The Fenwick Review? I am not fooling myself; the answer is "not many."
In order to get students to read The Fenwick Review, we have to make it witty and fun to read. We have to poke fun at those we disagree with and even at ourselves. Some of that humor may be immature, such as laughing about another country's hygienic habits or me calling the editors (of which I am one) cute, but that immaturity is also funny to some college students. We at The Fenwick Review are not "bitter;" we are in fact the exact opposite. In the process of presenting sound political arguments we are trying to have a good time. Our satirical comments are only offensive if one chooses to take them seriously, and to those people I must say "lighten up."
As to the accusation that we at The Fenwick Review are "politically a good deal farther to the right than John Ashcroft" due to our Pax Christi quip and French bashing, I suggest that Mr. Gildea actually take the time to read mainstream and "esteemed" conservative publications such as the National Review and the Weekly Standard before making such a judgment. If Mr. Gildea did so, he would see that we are actually pretty mainstream conservative and may even lean moderate when it comes to substance. In regard to our "In Review" section wisecracks, the National Review's Jonah Goldberg runs an annual French bashing column every Bastille Day, from one of which we got our facts on French hygiene. Recently, John Derbyshire of the National Review wrote a column tracing Britain's "Francophobia" in which he concludes: "All of which goes to prove that Frog-bashing requires no actual excuse, and can be enjoyed at any time, with the support of no less an authority than the Swan of Avon." So while we may be conservative, we are not anywhere near where Mr. Gildea's dramatic accusation puts us to be.
On a more serious note, I must also take issue with some of Mr. Gildea's misleading and false comments. In critiquing Mr. Sheehy's article "The Ultimate Act of Justice; Just War and Catholicism," Mr. Gildea criticizes it, saying that it "fails to provide any indication as to whether or not the war facing the world today is just or not." He then goes on to say that the Pope and many Bishops oppose the war in Iraq.
This would be a good critique if Mr. Sheehy's article were actually trying to use the Just War tradition to support war in Iraq. However, that was not his point. Mr. Sheehy was simply trying to establish the Just War tradition as being more moral than pacifism. Apparently Mr. Gildea neglected to read the very first sentence of Mr. Sheehy's article which states: "I am not here today to discuss and argue the war in Iraq." Mr. Gildea goes on to criticize Mr. Weston's essay "Sorry, We Think Abortion Is Murder" by refuting his argument as being "misguided" and claiming that a "photograph of a dead fetus has no place in a respectable publication." Mr. Gildea supports this argument by saying that a dead fetus (AKA a dead child) is "shocking" and "vile." That, however, is exactly the point in printing the image. It is shocking and disgusting, and it wholly supports Mr. Weston's argument that abortion "is equivalent to killing an innocent human being," and, therefore, a Catholic college should not fund a speaker supporting abortion, like a speaker justifying the Holocaust. Pictures are an effective way of communicating the seriousness of an action. As Stalin said, "a single death is a tragedy, a million deaths are a statistic," and pictures help to change something abstract (like a million deaths) into something tragically real. It is for this reason that many pro-abortion advocates do not want pictures of aborted children printed and oppose legislation requiring women considering an abortion from knowing the horrid details. It is also why the Holocaust Museum in Washington D.C. concentrates on individual stories and shocking pictures rather than statistics, and it is why we printed the picture of the dead child. A publication would not be respectable if it did not do everything it could to successfully support its arguments.