Ethics Dunce: University of Alabama Student NewsPaper Editor Maizie Bryant

Ala Cartoon

I hate to criticize the ethical instincts of a college student, but Maizie Bryant’s school obviously isn’t doing its job regarding ethics instruction, so it is up to the rest of us.

Last week, following the epic and shocking finish to the Alabama Auburn football game—Auburn’s Chris Davis turned defeat into victory by grabbing an ill-advised Alabama field goal attempt with one second left and running it back 109 yards for a game-winning touchdown—the University of Alabama’s cartoonist drew the cartoon above. The message to anyone familiar with the devices of satire  and sarcasm was obvious: this was intended as mockery for the perceived tendency of the President’s critics to blame all misfortunes and problems on Obama. I think it’s a misguided cartoon, in that the message–the “joke”— follows the persistent defensive spin of the Obama Administration, its protective media and the President himself that critics unfairly hold him responsible for those matters  for which he is accountable and should be. (If the cartoon was going to be accurate, it would have shown the President attributing Alabama’s loss to George W. Bush.) Whatever its virtues and deficits, however, one thing the cartoon was not is racist.

How could it be racist? It is not racist to criticize Obama even for those things he is not responsible for—such criticism goes with the office. And the cartoon does exactly the opposite anyway. There is nothing whatsoever racial about the drawing. Anyone who perceives racism in this cartoon is

1. Unable to comprehend satire.

2. Unable to comprehend cartoons.

3. Race-baiting, and/or

4. Nuts.

But this being a college campus in Obama’s America, where any criticism of the first black President is attacked by Melissa Harris-Perry, Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee,  Chris Matthews, Morgan Freeman and other prominent flacks as motivated by racism, some members of the Alabama campus naturally absorb the toxic lesson and follow along. Thus the cartoon above, which was actually making a point that the President’s unshakable supporters could embrace, was condemned itself as racist by some students, because, well, some college students at Alabama just aren’t very bright, unfortunately.

What the newspaper and its editor Bryant should have done and had an obligation to do was to stand up to these censorious and addled fools, and defend the cartoon while vocally opposing the hyper-sensitivity to anything approaching criticism of the President. Instead, she authored a grovelling, political correctness-endorsing apology, capitulating to ignorance and PC bullying, saying in part…

  • “The cartoon was meant as satire, but unfortunately it has been perceived by many readers as having racist intentions. We sincerely regret this, and apologize to anyone who was offended by it.”

Wrong. The fact that “it was perceived” by the brain-dead as something other than  it obviously was is not a justification for any kind of apology. It calls for a direct confrontation, to wit: “You are wrong. It is not our fault, or that of the artist, if some people are so determined to find racism in everything that they found it here. We regret that these critics have lost the ability to make intelligent decisions, and instead try to baselessly impugn others to enhance their own influence. This is anathema to academic freedom, free expression and democracy.”

  • “This cartoon was, by no means, intended to be racist or insulting. It was the unfortunate product of editorial oversight and a lack of a critical eye in determining possible implications the cartoon could have. This mistake will not be made again.”

There was no “mistake.” The pusillanimous groveling represented by “unfortunate product of editorial oversight and a lack of a critical eye in determining possible implication” accepts blame for a journalistic product not taking special pains to avoid not only irresponsible content, mistaken content or objectively offensive content, but any content that could be regarded as offensive, legitimately or otherwise, which means all content objectively offensive or not. It also assumes the biased and censorious proposition that all criticism, real or imagined, of President Obama is presumptively offensive.

  • “The Crimson White has made huge strides in attempting to correct the racist attitudes on this campus…We are extremely sorry to have overlooked the wider implications of this cartoon, and we are making every effort possible to make sure this does not happen again…”

There were no “wider implications,” and the cartoon had no relevance to race—none. What does Bryant mean by “this”? Free expression? Political thought? Controversial ideas? The publication of simple satire that is beyond the ability of some  politically correct campus mouth-breathers to comprehend?

Later, Bryant announced what WSJ’s James Taranto called “a regime of self-censorship,” involving, she wrote, “the greater implications and perceptions a cartoon might carry.” Translation: the paper will avoid any content that activists or those with a political agenda can possibly complain about, essentially eliminating satire and political commentary above a grade school level.

I hope this is just an extra-curricular activity for Bryant, because she does not comprehend the obligations of journalism, nor does she have the fortitude and courage that ethical and competent journalism requires. Like so many of her generation (and earlier ones), she has adopted the un-American attitude that opinions, political discourse and humor must be acceptable to the lowest common denominator, including the hypersensitive, the ignorant, and those who would restrict debate and advocacy of positions that they do not endorse. She would stand with the censors of the Danish cartoons, those who find “niggardly” and “chink in the armor” taboo, and most of all, those who use accusations of racism to stifle legitimate dissent. We don’t need more such editors and journalists; we need fewer. Indeed, we need none.

I wish I could say Bryant’s handling of this matter was a disgrace to her profession; sadly, it is increasingly typical of it. But it is a disgrace to the profession journalism is supposed to be.

ASIDE: Many have written, in the wake of Auburn’s last second victory, that this was the most exciting finish to any college football game, ever. Nonsense. This was:


Pointer: James Taranto

Facts: The Crimson White




23 thoughts on “Ethics Dunce: University of Alabama Student NewsPaper Editor Maizie Bryant

  1. I would be shocked or something, but this sort of jackasses handling of such things is now the norm.

    When someone says “it was satire, if you dont get it then that us too bad. We won’t be changing anything”, then I will be shocked.

  2. Hello, Jack,

    There are two actions to analyze, the initial response and the future policy.

    Does the future policy actually comply with your second “Niggardly Rule”, as surely as the first reaction violated your first one?

    Or is it different because journalists have a duty to inform, which didn’t apply to your hypothetical speaker saying “niggardly” in a crowded office?

    What are the ethics of responding to “you offended me” by dismissing the complainant as “brain dead” or an “addled fool”? As a general matter, (though not in this case!), that should be grounds for investigation. Lots of things that white people take for granted can cause real pain to level-headed black people. Today’s casual use of first names for everything without invitation is an example.

    Issues like this are important to me personally because I have an unpaid job which frequently involves breaking up fights like “That was racist!”, “You’re overreacting!”, “You don’t get to choose my reactions!” before they get to “You’re politically correct!” and “You’re privileged!”. Often I know from experience that neither side is a dishonest bully.

    • What are the ethics of responding to “you offended me” by dismissing the complainant as “brain dead” or an “addled fool”?
      If the alleged offense is 100% unjustified and imaginary, a harsh diagnosis is called “truth.” In the interest of kindness, I would not so characterize the complaints thus to the complainants—I might just tell them to grow up and do some reading, and knock off the irresponsible and ignorant race-baiting. Accusations of racism carry stigma and power, and throwing them around recklessly deserves serious, strong and unequivocal condemnation.

      All allegations of racism do not warrant respect. Some, in fact, like this one, demand the opposite.

  3. I read this post nodding my head in agreement until the very end, when I became confused by your using the term “college football”, and then following it with a clip of what appears to be some sort of athletic contest between Harvard and Yale. Both of those institutions may have in fact fielded college football teams in the early part of the last century. However, for the last 50 or 60 years, their “football teams” couldn’t compete with any junior college with an enrollment of 1,000 or more, or for that matter, most Pop Warner teams south of the Mason-Dixon line.(Written from deep in the heart of Pac-12 country.)
    Should anyone take offense at this, I am even now preparing my groveling apology…

  4. “The Crimson White has made huge strides in attempting to correct the racist attitudes on this campus”

    Not to mention how that one little line disdainfully shows the utter contempt she has for her fellow classmates and peers; essentially saying “I think all you rotten rubes are bigoted to the core, but here on my pedestal I burn out all of energies in the hopes of bringing you idiotic sheep to my enlightened beliefs.”

  5. I hope this is just an extra-curricular activity for Bryant, because she does not comprehend the obligations of journalism, nor does she have the fortitude and courage that ethical and competent journalism requires.

    In other words, she will fit right in if she goes into professional journalism.

  6. Bryant keeps using that word, “racist.”
    I do not think it means what she thinks it means.
    And all the good white people said to Bryant: “As you wish.”
    Yes, we know our place.

      • The comments on the paper’s website from students are encouraging, though.
        I think so, too.
        If she’s got to apologize, she can apologize for the cartoon not being that good.

        • Yes, good point. I was confused initially—you have to agree with the dubious thesis of the cartoon—that Obama is being unfairly held responsible for what he is being held responsible for, aka, what his position is always responsible for, and what he voluntarily sought the job TO be held responsible for—in order to get it.

      • I became sarcastic in the middle of my comment. Sorry if I was unclear. I saw the comments following Bryant’s piece and was encouraged also. If only all comments were by students…

        But I really do wish, when people like Bryant publish such gushing and unjustified mea culpas, that they would require the complainants – or, the parties whom Bryant credits with being most influential upon her conclusion that she must apologize – to make themselves known publicly before she publishes. I truly hate being subjected to the tyrannies of the nameless, unaccountable “offended.” That (nameless unaccountability, that is), perhaps more than anything else in cases of “offense taken” like this, drive me to literally hate those nameless, unaccountable people and whatever they stand for – whoever they are, and whatever they stand for.

  7. Frankly, Jack, who cares? College and pro football is no more than this (as we’ve recently learned) — a lab for post-career brain dysfunction from years of head-butting and concussions while people have FUN watching the carnage. Football players are just our modern gladiators — we just love to see people go out of their way to hurt each other to gain a few yards toward some stupid but important “touchdown.” There may be some strategy involved, but really, isn’t is mostly just hulk v. hulk?

    But don’t mind me. I’m a baseball fan. “Baseball is a game of inches, not yards.” These are the real athletes. How many football players can precisely throw any kind of ball at 90 miles an hour and have it hit a two-square foot spot (for the morons here, the “strike zone”)? How many football players can throw a ball hit to the outfield precisely to the first baseman to get an out? How many football players are taken care of when they are clearly hurt in some play? (None: the win is everything.) How many football fans think baseball is “slow” because they don’t get the strategy of it, or the athleticism and intelligence required to play the game well?

    No matter. A few more cases of Parkinson’s and other brain disorders from multiple concussions may put an end to this mindless, stupid game. We call it football. We call baseball “America’s game,” and for good reason.

    Finally, six minutes of a rousing Harvard/Yale game? Methinks your Ivy League prejudices are showing here. Harvard’s ‘heroic’ come from behind win means nothing. Absolutely nothing. And you know it.

    The comic and the comments on it are just as inane. Come on! Write less posts if this is the best you can do…

      • True, but John Kruk is hardly a typical baseball player. Check the stats on how well Michael Jordan did when he applied his suberb athleticism to the game in the minor leagues. Pro football players Jim Thorpe, Dion Sanders and Bo Jackson all found baseball a lot more difficult while they were playing both sports. So did Danny Ainge, a star with the NBA’s Celtics but a light-hitting scrub with the Blue Jays. Herb Washington was an Olympian sprinter, but he couldn’t get to first base in baseball. Ted Williams famously said that hitting a baseball was the single most difficult feat in sports, and he was correct.

        • I just love the Kruk quote because it humorously makes the point that there are ineffable qualities that make a baseball player, beyond athleticism. Being a great athlete does not a Prince Fielder make

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.