Pipe Dream’s apology misses the mark

By Daniel Milyavsky, Editor-In-Chief

Updated: Novmeber 13, 2013 12:25 pm
Updated: December 1, 2013 12:25 pm

Actress Julianne Hough’s Halloween Costume
Credit: Jonathan Leibson/Getty; NPG.com

Editors Note: This our first web exclusive article. I hope you enjoy it and find it enlightening! We encourage you to leave an online comment!

In their November 8th issue, Pipe Dream published an opinion article by Julianne Cuba entitled “Dressing as another race isn’t always offensive”. The article defended Julianne Hough, who recently dressed up for Halloween as a black character from a new Netflix show. Hough had the extremely poor judgment to put dark make up on her face, in order to make her skin look more like that of a black woman. In the end, she ended up looking like she put on too much spray tan, but nonetheless I completely understand the angry reaction to this costume; it was almost as stupid as the girl who decided to dress up like a Boston marathon bombing victim. The United States truly has a shameful history when it comes to our treatment of black people, and blackface was a disgustingly racist comedic routine. This past summer, I went to the Civil Rights Museum in Birmingham, and it is truly horrifying how just 50 years ago white people were willing to use extreme violence, even murder in some cases, to prevent black people from gaining equal rights. Thus, some sensitivity is certainly in order.

However, it’s important to point that that Julianne’s article was not racist. It was insensitive, and her comparison of dressing up as a black character to dressing up as an oompa loompa was moronic, but nowhere in the article did she say or imply that black people were inferior in any way. Julianne is guilty of writing an insensitive, and perhaps offensive, article, not one borne of malice. She doesn’t deserve to be harassed, as some people have told me she has been, and certainly Pipe Dream should not fire her, as the protesters who were organized by leftist agitators demanded.

Should Pipe Dream have published her article? I don’t think so. There is a difference between publishing a brave and controversial, but well-argued opinion, like one claiming that affirmative action is racism (which we’ve published before), and publishing a poorly argued and poorly thought out one. But it happens; publications publish stupid opinions all the time. We’ve done it before too, although certainly much less frequently than Pipe Dream, since we have higher standards and have more sensible worldviews. On Pipe Dream’s website, the article has about 70 comments. A far more offensive article they published last semester, in which they referred to townies as “creatures” who could attack at any moment, got 980 comments and prompted significant backlash from the community.

But the reaction to the article was completely inappropriate, and in some ways even went against the spirit of free speech. Far-leftists like Joe Tannenbaum and Tyler Albertario, who would turn America into the authoritarian and destitute communist hellhole my parents fled from over 30 years ago if they had their way, took advantage of this stupid article.  They mobilized students from the various cultural groups on campus, and apparently around 50-70 of them protested outside of Pipe Dream’s office. Although Joe and Tyler are white, the majority of the protesters were students of color.  I’m not really a fan of protesting articles in this way, since it can be intimidating and have a chilling effect on free speech. But the protesters had a First Amendment right to do what they did. They were not violent, and did not physically harass or intimidate Christina Pullano or Paige Nazinitsky, the Editor-in-Chief and Managing Editor of Pipe Dream, respectively, who came out to meet the protesters. First, they read a prepared statement to the effect that the opinions of Julianne were not the opinions of Pipe Dream.

The protesters’ “demands” were ridiculous. The first was to fire Julianne. If Pipe Dream fired all of their opinion columnists after they wrote a stupid article, they wouldn’t have anyone left. This is crazy. The second was to establish an affirmative action position at Pipe Dream to get more students from cultural groups to write for Pipe Dream. This is unnecessary; anyone can apparently apply to write at Pipe Dream, and no students should be given special treatment depending on whether they’re part of a cultural group or not. The last “demand” was to announce these policy changes in the next issue, along with a public apology.

The editor, Christina, chose not to accede to the first two demands (at least not yet), but certainly surrendered under pressure to the last one. The apologies published were truly pathetic and nauseating to read. The editorial they published was vaguely worded and logically deficient. Time for a Review tradition, some good old fashioned Press Watch: “While we do have varied perspectives, with a wide range of races, religions and cultures among us, there are perspectives that we lack. Though it’s something that we’ve noticed, until now, our cultural makeup was not something that we deeply internalized enough.” What the hell does this even mean? You didn’t internalize your cultural make up deeply enough? Unless Pipe Dream is lying about having a racially diverse staff, this makes no sense.

“The column that gave rise to the protest does not reflect the collective opinion of our staff, but we question whether or not we would have published this piece if we had a more diverse staff.” What the hell? You need a diverse staff to realize that an article about how it’s okay to dress up in black face is offensive and silly? What about using your judgment and knowledge?

“We have open GIMs every semester, which we advertise all over campus and in B-line, but every semester, disproportionately few students of color apply.” Well, that’s not your fault! Stand up for yourself! Don’t do this pathetic groveling and begging for forgiveness routine under pressure! You guys self-identify as liberals, for Christ’s sake, what do you have to hide?

“We identify this as a turning point in Pipe Dream’s history.” Melodramatic much?

From Christina’s Letter from the Editor, which was a separate article and separate apology tour: “Any writing dealing with a topic of such a sensitive nature should be mature, well thought-out, and delicately handled. This column was none of these things… I should not have given [the article] the legitimacy of being published in the pages of Pipe Dream.”

As one commenter on Pipe Dream’s website said: “So does that mean an end to the sex columnist as well?” Being published in Pipe Dream doesn’t give an article any added legitimacy; Pipe Dream publishes shitty articles all the time. Just check out some of our past Press Watches here.

In addition to these two apologies, Julianne published her own apology. The poor girl has been through enough, so I’ll refrain from critiquing that one.

Anyway, this entire incident is shameful. As another online commenter noted on Julianne’s apology, “I am eternally sorry you were forced to apologize to these raving mad armchair sociologists and social justice warriors. Score this one in the books as another win for unjustifiable offense and manufactured outrage.” I actually wrote Pipe Dream a relatively nice Letter to the Editor (in retrospect, probably too nice, but I guess everyone has their kind moments, even me) a week ago, but Pipe Dream’s almost total capitulation to leftist agitators is really embarrassing. This can set a precedent that if a bunch of people find an article offensive, they can start a mass protest and get public apologies issued, and this will surely deter people from writing about controversial subjects in the future.

The end goal of far-leftists like Joe and Tyler is to silence opposing viewpoints on campus and to go back to the early 1990’s when political correctness ruled the day. Pipe Dream made it easier for them to achieve this goal. In this civil war between moderate liberals and far leftists, the crazy and evil lefties won (I say evil because if their socialist plans were implemented, you’d be seeing bread lines in no time. It’ll make the millions of cancellations of health insurance due to Obamacare look like a joke. If you’re interested in why capitalism is awesome, see my article in the December 2012 issue).

But fear not! Binghamton Review  is here to bring reason, logic, and liberty to the political discourse at Binghamton University. Pipe Dream may have caved, but we never will. If you want to have a reasonable conversation with us, we’ll be happy to oblige you. If you to send us a Letter to the Editor, we’ll publish it. But if you try to intimidate us by starting a mass protest in front of our office, we will slam the door to our office, and no apology will be forthcoming.

You’re welcome, Binghamton. We’ve been helping you out since 1987.

6 thoughts on “Pipe Dream’s apology misses the mark

  1. A lot of people who write for publications on this campus approach their articles with a brash tone; this piece is no exception. By resorting to empty rhetoric like “leftist agitators” – which makes me chuckle- and insults like “moronic,” you denigrate your position. I write for another publication and I often read this one to gain a perspective of what the campus right is thinking. When I put the review down, I always feel as if I have been bashed in the face. I do not consider myself a radical leftist, so I agree with some of your positions, particularly those dealing with civil liberties, but many articles have an over-the-top nature that nullifies their valid points.

    Furthermore, don’t the protesters have the right to demand whatever they want? Freedom of Speech is a two-way street, my friend.

    1. Thank you for your well-thought out comment. Another commenter, on our Facebook page, said that the article reads like a “bar rant.” I know what you guys mean, but this is the writing style of the Review. I may consider writing another piece about this in a more measured tone, but a lot of people find our writing style humorous and very readable. I do think the comparison of dressing up as a black person to dressing up as an oompa loompa was moronic, and obviously so do the protesters.
      Also, I can’t claim to speak for the entire campus Right, although they do seem to share my views on this issue. The protesters absolutely have a right to demand whatever they want. I was in no way saying that their right to protest should be abridged. I just don’t want a culture to develop in which anytime someone is offended by an article, there is a massive protest. That would surely cause people to think twice before writing about controversial things.
      Being over the top is kind of our style. When a former Editor-in-Chief read the way I described Joe and Tyler, he said: “That’s the least offensive thing that has ever been published in the Review.”

  2. I agree with A Fellow Columnist in that the numerous ad hominem attacks the author makes against specific individuals and the Pipe Dream itself is extremely unprofessional and hypocritical. You cannot bash people for expressing their opinion, the First Amendment is indeed a two way street. Your accusations of stupidity and trashiness are discredited by the inappropriate language and arrogant tone of this article. Calling your adversaries names for expressing themselves is neither logic nor reason. If you truly want people to respect the Review, don’t publish articles with the same level of crass and ignorance that you accuse the Pipe Dream of

  3. thanks for speaking up dan. more people need to do this! these people need to realize that they don’t have a right to tell everyone what to say.

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