Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Liberal Except When It Comes To Other People

A few years back, I remember picking up a copy of Opus, the student magazine for Newcastle University, and glancing at the back cover. The editors had Photoshopped an image of the family from the US soap Seventh Heaven, an Aaron Spelling production targeted, I guess, at socially conservative American audiences.
A dartboard had been drawn over the top of this family image, with the central ring around the face of the father. Below the dartboard, the caption read (from memory): 'The show Seventh Heaven stands charged with perpetuating disgustingly wholesome American family values. Go for your life.'

Consider that statement for a few seconds. What, exactly, is disgusting about the words 'wholesome', 'American', 'family', and 'values'? Why should they cause so much contempt?
It was probably the first time I had seen such a clear example of this kind of criticism, where the enemy was, specifically, the conservative life: in particular the American conservative life. This back-cover illustration was satire, but it was a curiously baseless satire; it didn't seem to have any reason for attacking other people's conservative lifestyles - but it went ahead and did it anyway.

Maybe I was missing something, but it seems to me that that was a good example of bad editorial judgement in action: the editors for Opus that year were standard Newcastle socialists, who had been involved for years in the Newcastle far-left political scene.
It might have been the same issue of Opus, or it might have been the next issue: but the front cover of the magazine bore some illustrations of world religious figures: there was Jesus, Buddha, Shiva, and Mohammed. Interestingly, this cover provoked a letter of criticism from a Muslim student of Newcastle University, which was immediately followed up by a fulsome apology from the editors, acknowledging their lack of sensitivity to people of other cultures.

So, am I missing something here? Or were the editors simply hypocrites - attacking conservative American culture, which they perceived to be political enemies, and falling over themselves to be sensitive to Muslim culture, which they perceived to be their political allies?


ras said...

I remember that issue,

If you remember they did have a disclaimer saying the opinions aired in opus were not those of the editors or the university and they didnt really take responsibility for the opinions of those published.

They however take responsibility for the images published in the magazine.

You've got a point though...they could have excersised editorial constraint and left the piece out...maybe they didnt have enough submissions? I know the dilemma..i'm helping out Urchin on the last issue to be published and i have a pile of submissions, some of which are really really bad. One actually makes me sick.

That was when dieter was one of the editors of opus wasnt it? God that guy was hot, i had such a big thing for him and his sexy canadian accent.

TimT said...

I think Vanessa whatsername - Bowden, was it? - was the editor.

Maybe I'm just being humourless about it, but the joke was crap anyway, it was unoriginal, and they don't even seem to have thought about it too hard.

Anyway, this carries on from the conversation I was having here.

Email: timhtrain - at -

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