Alpine Summit

Friday, September 16, 2005

More On Racial Profiling

LGF has a post about a girl being fired from the school paper, the Daily Tar Heel, at UNC - Chapel Hill for expressing her opinion.

I want all Arabs to be stripped naked and cavity-searched if they get within 100 yards of an airport.

I don’t care if they’re being inconvenienced. I don’t care if it seems as though their rights are being violated.

I care about my life. I care about the lives of my family and friends.

And I care about the lives of the Arabs and Arab Americans I’m privileged to know and study with.

They’re some of the brightest, kindest people I’ve ever met.

Tragically, they’re also members of an ethnicity that is responsible for almost every act of terror committed against the West in the recent past.

That's basically the crux of her argument. She doesn't really do a good job of arguing for racial profiling, but that doesn't mean she isn't right. To say she wants all arabs strip-searched within 100 yards of an airport etc., is emotionally driven and sensational language; however, when you're talking about an opinion column where such things are fair game.

The editors claim they fired her because "she lied to her sources and readers." My favorite quote from the editor's response is this little bit:

Unlike two DTH alumni who resigned from The Reidsville Review this summer, Bandes didn’t inaccurately quote anyone. (I have her notes as proof.)

But you don’t necessarily have to make things up to get them wrong or to mislead the reader.

This is the bottom line: Bandes told the three people quoted in her column — students Sherief Khaki and Muhammad Salameh, as well as professor Nasser Isleem — that she was writing an article about Arab-American relations in a post-9/11 world.

That’s not what happened; that’s a major problem.

Racial profiling was, in fact, part of their conversation. But it wasn’t their entire conversation. At no point did Khaki, Salameh or Nasser ever think the only quotes Bandes would use would be their comments on the subject.

I asked Bandes as I read her column whether the quotes were accurate; whether they were fair; whether they truly represented the feelings of the people quoted.

She said yes.

So, her sources didn't think those quotes would be used, so the fact that they were is a journalistic integrity issue? Give me a break. Anything discussed in the interview, and subsequently said by the interviewee, is fair game on which to report. He continues thus:

Now, I don’t know if Bandes simply misrepresented herself or whether she intentionally fudged things when she talked to her sources. But either way, when I talked to all three of them Wednesday, they told me they felt not only lied to, but betrayed.

None of them support racial profiling. None of them want Arabs to get “sexed up” as they go through the airport. And none of them thought Bandes would use their words the way she did — callously and without regard for their actual meaning.

In other words, their quotes were wrong, even if the words were correct. They were used recklessly and thoughtlessly.

He uses a "veneer of journalistic ideals" as LGF says. Which is not valid in this instance because it was an opinion column. Opinion columns are merely the opinions of their writers on paper. Journalistic integrity is never an issue with opinion writers in any main-stream papers like the New York Times because they recognize it's just an opinion and should not be read as news. Why should it suddenly be an issue with a column by a college student?

The real reason she was fired (and not just reprimanded) was because, while controversial views are usually accepted, Bandes' controversial views weren't liberal in nature. Had they been views on why all gay students should be allowed to walk around campus butt-naked for the sake of "understanding" and "tolerance," she would be given a medal. Why would I say this? Because, unlike others who have been in similar situations, she was not allowed to write an apology column which she says she was working on for the next print.

Jillian Bandes, a junior from Florida, was the author of the column that ran in Tuesday’s edition of the school paper. She says she was just stating her opinion on airport security in the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and was never given an opportunity from The Daily Tar Heel editors to defend herself.


After running a letter to the editor Wednesday from the Muslim Students Association denouncing the column and questioning the validity of some of the comments in the article, Chris Coletta, opinion editor for The Daily Tar Heel, met with Bandes Wednesday afternoon to inform her of her termination. Bandes said she was never given an opportunity to write a column apologizing to offended students, a practice that has precedent with the paper. She said that was going to be the topic of her next column.

Bandes was fired after writing just three columns for The Daily Tar Heel.

“His mind was already made up,” Bandes said of Coletta. “There was really no contest.”

Coletta refused to go into detail about the firing saying only that, “It’s unfortunate. I wish it didn’t have to happen.” He also said that his only public comments on the situation would be made on his Daily Tar Heel blog, The Bullhorn, the editor’s blog and a column published Thursday.

So, he was muscled into firing her because the MSA pressured him. Don't talk to me about journalistic integrity, Coletta. The MSA has been responsible for several anti-Israeli opinions and other rhetoric indistinguishable from what the terrorists are saying. I wouldn't be surprised if they threatened to suicide bomb him in the name of Allah if he didn't fire her.

Bandes was able to respond to Colette's defense through a letter to the editor (her "apology column," I guess).

But what I did was not journalistically out of bounds. My sources agreed with racial profiling, and I simply added my two cents.

I was also fired for apparently misleading my sources on what I was writing about. I thought I had made it clear that my article was about both 9/11 and racial profiling when I spoke to each individual.

As I wrote, I focused more on the latter topic. And I regret misleading them, even if I had no intentions of doing so.

But after asking each source several times what he thought of racial profiling, even if I did not explicitly tell them, I would’ve thought that they would understand what a large focus of my article would be about.

I’m deeply saddened that my sources have been harassed and have received death threats. I’m slightly put off by the profanity and hatred that has been thrown my way, and I’m extremely resentful for being called racist.

But this is the product of ignorant readers, not my writing.


A friend said it best: “The court of public opinion is vaster and stronger than the kangaroo courts of college Orwellianism. If you cannot be attacked on the grounds of truth — then all they have to attack you with are names and slanders and distractions from the truth.”

So the MSA was behind the complaint, and her interviewees received death threats... hmm. One thing I do know about the public discourse on university campuses is that the conservative viewpoint is always the view on trial. It's always the offensive viewpoint, and it's always the viewpoint that needs to be explained. Then, when it's clear the view is the much better one, it's shouted down and denounced anyway. Leadership of school papers play a major role in keeping this farce going.

Part of the problem is also on the side of conservatives for being too apathetic about these things. In fact, I'm going to pay closer attention to the Branding Iron and perhaps complain about the constant political cartoons by Mike Luckovich and "Bushitlerhalliburton" columns they constantly print.