Thursday, March 09, 2006

Why all of this matters

Alright, so this is our baby blog which will hopefully help shed light on the other side of this issue, which is being adequately but erratically covered through comments in other blogs, Wayward Reporter, Empty Calorie and others.

I've struggled a lot with why this is so important to me. With apologies to Will, Jeremy and other past and present Sheaf staff, I'm not actually a huge fan of the Sheaf as it currently is - I frequently find the commentaries in it either blatently offensive or smug and self-congratulatory (I want to further clarify this by saying that Jeremy's and Will's pieces were what made me pick up the Sheaf every week). I still remember when I first moved to Saskatoon, I picked up a copy of the Sheaf and there was an article on why overweight women shouldn't wear low-rise jeans. Through the Sheaf, I've had the privilege of corresponding with a gentleman who wrote an article detailing why women entering the medical profession will eventually lead to the downfall of society as we know it (as a woman in veterinary medicine, this was interesting for me to learn). I've had some angsty navel-gazing sessions where I've pondered why this means so much to me and why the threat of the Sheaf going under or even being annexed by an angry vocal minority worries me so much.

And I think what it comes down to is love - the fierce love I have for this university and this city. I grew up in a fairly sheltered existence on Vancouver Island, and moving to Saskatoon and the U of S was quite a shock. I am still enraptured with the unique environment that the U of S is with students coming from a mix of highly urban areas like Saskatoon and Regina to rural communities that don't have their own post-office, from fourth generation Saskatchewan residents to international students. The spectrum of ideas and beliefs here is so much greater than anything I experienced back home, and the Sheaf is one of the mediums connecting all of these ideas and beliefs. I believe in the spirit of independent media, and even if I'm reluctant to read 80% of what they publish, I support the Sheaf for keeping our student government, faculty and administration accountable, for discussing issues that mainstream media won't touch, and for connecting students like nothing else on our campus can. This is one of the reason I was so grieved to hear that Will Robbins was forced to resign. Most of the anti-Sheaf communications have come from individuals outside the university sphere. The Sheaf's legitimacy as an independent source is severely compromised by their acquiesence to the voices it is meant to stand out against.

Support the Sheaf. Come out to the AGM on Thursday, March 23 (time and location to be announced soon) and stand up for independent media. Write to the Sheaf at and let them know that you support independent media.


Blogger Spearin said...

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11:03 PM  
Blogger tomax7 said... your move from the Wet Coast, did you pick up anything on accountability?

Just because you are "free" to say anything, does it mean you exercise it?

If this was about freedom of speech, why then is it under the COMIC section of the paper rather than the EDITORIAL.

Conventional wisdom would dictate that.

But what do I know, I see a forest.

12:10 AM  
Blogger Mark Watson said...

That's a fascinating train-wreck of an argument. Are you suggesting that since the funny pages are not editorials they must be 100% factually correct? Or have no opinion? Or are they not protected by freedom of speech?

10:11 AM  
Blogger tomax7 said...


The "point" being, in light of the uproar, riots and DEATHS caused by misunderstandings over the Muslim cartoons, the timing of this is just a bit too much to say it was a "comic".

Of course funny pages are free to post what they wish, but the basic premise here is accountability, with responsibility towards protecting and not abusing the freedom we enjoy in this country.

The reasoning behind a funny page is just that - to humour people. The reason of a political cartoon is to make a point. Seeing the cartoonist did say he wanted to make a point, tells me this should have been taken more seriously and possibly in another section of the paper. Then again I'm not the editor.

Choo choo.

11:11 AM  
Blogger Mark Watson said...

Hmm, what cartoons have made political points.

Calvin and Hobbes, Peanuts (read the 60s cartoons for long ruminations on nuclear war), B.C. (lots of religion), Nonsequitor, Bloom County, Doonesbury, etc. etc.

As Berk. Breathed (creator of bloom county) said regarding his opposition to being moved to the editorials: "Same reason it was for Garry Trudeau. Here, let me put it vulgarly and in caps: NOBODY THE FUCK READS THE OPINION PAGES. Well, except for all those intellectuals sitting around the fire on Survivor, of course."

11:34 AM  
Blogger tomax7 said...

True those cartoons you mentioned made political statements like Calvin and Hobbes, Peanuts, B.C.. Nonsequitor, Bloom County, Doonesbury, so I will say I stand corrected, but to a point.

At which time did they incite porno or humiliation of Jesus?

I'm sure you can rattle off a hundred cartoons that do that, but what is their stomping grounds and life span?

The issue here is accountability with the freedom one has. This means to be sensitive to issues of the day and sensitive to the readers it was directed towards who would read/look at the cartoon.

The Danish cartoon was not geared towards Muslim readers, and in fact was vague to a point one wouldn't know it was Mohammad from Moses to a local Inman.

Whereas the three cartoons on the Sheaf were clearly directed towards Christians, and the readership included a lot of Christians and mocked the central figure of Christianity, Jesus, so there was no mistake who the cartoonist in one set was mocking, even spelling His name out, albeit in a swear word double meaning statement.

Then to hide behind the guise of "freedom of speech" was even more appauling. If anything freedom of speech thrives in a Christian theocracy, which the cartoonist seemed to forget.

So to what purpose did the cartoon accomplish in either the Cartoon or Editorial section?

And please don't banter about freedom of speech, we've been through that false pretense.

12:58 PM  
Blogger Jess said...

Tomax, I think maybe you're missing the main point here which is not to argue about whether or not the cartoon had a place in any section of the Sheaf, but that the Sheaf is a vital institution to the U of S students. As for accountability - the Sheaf is ultimately accountable to the students who can volunteer for the Sheaf and create the content they want to see. I think that students working towards making the Sheaf a strong, intelligent, independent voice is a better solution to questionable material than boycotting the Sheaf or trying to shut it down.

1:17 PM  
Blogger dave said...

Thanks for starting this blog. It's about time someone injected a little sanity into this whole debacle.

As for the "purpose" of the cartoon, Tomax, I actually think that, crude and juvenile as it was, the cartoon was an incredibly effective act of provocation that served to expose the hypocricy of all the right-wing free speech crusaders who had rallied to the defence of the Danish cartoonists.

Free speech, it seems, is well and good when it's used to justify racist provocations against a vulnerable and much-misunderstood minority. But as soon as the pen was turned against the sacred cows of *our own* culture, all talk of free speech suddenly went out the window, and all of a sudden the right-wing defenders of freedom were calling -- not for an apology or a retraction (those were rapidly given) -- but for an entire newspaper to be shut down.

So if nothing else, this whole mess has at least exposed the hypocricy of folks who cling to freedom of speech when it comes to vilifying minorities, but abandon the notion the moment the crude cartoons are aimed at our own culture's deities.

2:15 PM  
Blogger tomax7 said...

Jess. I'm not for shutting down the Sheaf but for more accountability over what happened.

Seems "everyone" at the Sheaf hung your editor out to dry, doesn't give me the warm and fuzzies over a stable organization.

As for a posting on another stream - the Sheaf exists to balance to AM radio - I'm game for long as you generate your own revenue and not partially off the backs of students.

Dave, as for the effectiveness of the BJ cartoon, let's step back and look at the forest.

The point of the cartoonist was apparently about hypocrisy, but in reality a veiled attack on Christians to make a point.

Insult with the purest form of a person (Jesus) who loved us so much He died, having Him do the a vulgar sex act (of course that can be debated), but it intent was to mock two faiths - Christian and Jewish.

Then the guise of saying a bomb clad turban is the same to Jesus giving a BJ is a bit extreme don't you think. Come on, even you can see through that reasoning.

For starters it is called porno, and there are certian laws about publically displaying porno, let alone publications.

But the reason why this also bothers me is the abuse of the very freedom others seem to think is being censored.

Freedom does not entail lack of responsibility. If anything it entails a great responsibility, or what's that other word...accountability.

I've been behind the Iron Curtin and seen "freedom of speech" oppression, so believe me this isn't even close.

I've also know personally of fellow Christians who got jailed because they believe in JESUS and carried a Bible in public.

That my friend is censorship.

Satire? Ha, I'm the greatest supporter of it. Heck "Far Side", Non Sequire(?)" are two of my favorite comic strips, along with the TAB cartoonist in the Calgary Sun.

But the I’m sorry but not really I see coming out doesn't cut it.

Akin to a guy who raped a girl saying "I'm sorry".

2:51 PM  
Blogger Hairy said...

I believe than negative feedback to a controvercial article is healthy and productive. In this case it was certainly warranted, but not necessarily productive. I think proposing to shut the sheaf down is not only disgraceful, but a microcosm of how our Canadian culture has adoped 'sweep it under the carpet' strategies to conflicts.

I think this big kuffuffle over the "Capitalist Piglet" brings up a few important issues. Although I believe the inclusion of this cartoon was distasteful, it did make some interesting comments on society, but more important are the reactions of the people.

Obviously, most Christians were offended and rightfully so. The cartoon, however damaging brings up reactions in people stemmed in important issues: namely taboos. The tendency in our culture to let major issues such as racism, religion, sex go undiscussed is remarkable. Yet they tend to be major forces guiding people's beliefs and decisions.

I think independent media sources are essential for an intelligent society that doesn't want to be advertised to all the time. Shutting down the sheaf will only result in more dirt for Canadians under the carpet.

2:53 PM  

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