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Monday, April 2, 2012

April Fool's Joke Gone Wrong. The Freep.

Boston University's The Daily Free Press publishes a funny spoof newspaper every April first as their April Fool's joke. It is generally light hearted and humorous.

This year, they fucked up. Big time.

Their issue this year was Disney themed and their cover story was a satirical Disney-esque fairy-tale about bros and gang rape. Yes gang rape.

Given the recent events at BU, you know the allegations against the hockey team for sexual assault, this seems rather... uncouth.

Here is a take on it from Jezebel and one from Liz Pelly at the Phoenix. (I prefer Liz Pelly's as I'm not a huge fan of Jezebel at all) You can read about it from the angle of the fighting against rape culture at either of those. I endorse both of these articles. More so Liz's, hers is much more thoughtful.

As someone who writes for the FREEP, and enjoys jokes about Bros, I'd like to beg the question, What the fuck were you thinking in the first place? For a moment let's forget about the sexual assault allegations against our Hockey Team, the recent up-swing in a call to destroy rape culture, Barstool, Occupy, feminism and all the side story.

Writing a parodied news story about gang rape would never be in good taste ever. It really isn't funny. The story was bizarre at best, and at worst quite a disgusting gaffe from what is generally a decent school newspaper.

The backlash has been great. The funniest thing I heard was someone calling to cut funding for The Daily Free Press. Calling to cut funding to our school's only newspaper is a dangerous thing to ask for to start, and secondly impossible as the paper is completely independent from the school. While the fuck up is immense, you can not possibly in good conscience ask for our only and independent news source at BU to be shut down. While they obviously have overseers and advertisers to please, you can't ask for your voice to be taken away. While not directly your first amendment speech, The Daily Free Press stand for independence and news. Something our society has seen greatly diminished. News in our world has far too many overseers to be very independent.

So while I watch the girl next to me post to Facebook the Jezebel article, think for a second. Before regurgitating, contemplate. What the Freep did is inexcusable, and in bad taste, but the editors can't get fired or receive school sanctions. A. Because the paper is independent. and B. because that would go against the very nature of you posting that Jezebel article to Facebook. It is everyone's right to speak freely. We are lucky to have an independent newspaper that fucked up so bad it's not even funny.

In summation, what they published was wrong and you have every right to be upset and perturbed. It was disgusting and humorless and an awful awful execution of satire. And no the apology (found here) was not good or fast enough for such an awful misjudgment. But also be careful about wishing the end of an independent news source.

Also to put things in perspective, this was supposed to be a joke and the real sexual assaults didn't get as much fanfare.

P.S. (This was pointed out by a friend. BU did buy a huge chunk of future advertising from the paper to save them from debt, a no-strings-attached donation of sorts, in order for the paper to retain their independence, and not shut down)


  1. I understand that you have full comment power, and I wrote it for you, more than for public viewing, but I'd hoped you'd display this for the sake of discussion. Thanks.

    "While they obviously have overseers and advertisers to please, you can't ask for your voice to be taken away. While not directly your first amendment speech, The Daily Free Press stand for independence and news. Something our society has seen greatly diminished. News in our world has far too many overseers to be very independent."

    First, I've never felt like the FREEP less represented my voice than finding out when they published this piece. Given the "immense" backlash, can you really suggest that the FREEP was anything other than grossly out of touch with the student body? And worse, out of touch with the sensitivity of rape issues as they *already* reflected on the BU Student Body? One of the reasons that people might call for the FREEP to be taken down is to avoid having "their voice" associated with a paper that might make light of rape culture. Please don't tell me that as an alumnus or current student, my voice is supposed to tacitly agree that the april fools' day piece was supposed to be okay. The distance between this publication and "our voice" is why "our voice" is being used to shout down the piece.

    Second, "independence" is not a substitute for editorial standards - in fact, independence demands more strict standards. The exact reason that most school newspapers aren't independent is so that the school itself has a degree of control over the content that the paper puts out. Y'know, the kind of control that might stop someone from making light of rape culture. Oops.

    And honestly, to include a line of "this was supposed to be a joke" and complain that the original sexual assaults didn't get as much fanfare makes me wonder if you don't continue to miss the point: it wasn't a funny joke. Not from the day the piece was conceived, nor to the day it was published. The piece gets more backlash because when it comes to the sexual assault, everyone is unanimous: it's bad, people who do it are bad, and they need to be held to the letter of the law. When it's a published article making light of rape culture, it needs to be held up as an example of a failure, because there is a group of people standing behind this piece as "appropriate" from the second it's published. That's not okay.

    This longer-than-I'd-intended rant aside, it shouldn't be the end of the FREEP by any means. It shouldn't even end anyone's career (if everyone's career was killed by a college mistake, I don't think anyone would be left standing). That said, it should elicit some pretty serious and very public apologies and/or reforms from the FREEP, as the piece *deserves* to be shouted down.

    1. It wasn't a funny joke, that's mainly what my comments were, I started by disregarding the idea of rape
      culture for a second to point out that this isn't funny ever, but that isn't the point.

      The Freep made an egregious error, but the real story is that this is a manifestation of how our society makes light of rape culture. Please read Liz Pelly's article, it is much more articulate than I.

      A Hockey player was accused of sexual assault and it didn't light up facebook/twitter as much as this did. I honestly feel bad for the editor of the Freep. She busts her ass for no pay to pull off a decent paper. The hockey player is an entitled jerk, who thinks he is above the rules.

    2. I would like to point out that the assault charges were dropped on the hockey player you are referring to. So, either the girl recanted or they found out she was lying.

    3. For Corey Trivino via

      "A spokesman for the Suffolk District Attorney says a charge of assault with intent to rape was dropped Thursday against Corey Trivino because there wasn't evidence of a specific intent to rape. Trivino, of Toronto, Canada, still faces felony counts of indecent assault and battery and breaking and entering. He has pleaded not guilty and returns to court April 27."

    4. above was Published March 24, 2012,