On August 15, The Gargoyle made a Facebook post in response to the conflict in Charlottesville, Virginia a few days earlier, denouncing Nazism and white supremacy and calling on campus publications The Varsity, Toike Oike, The Mike, Salterrae, and The Strand to do the same.
All of the campus publications mentioned, with the exception of the Toike Oike, posted similar denouncements on their Facebook pages shortly thereafter.
“I realized that in the wake of the events in Charlottesville, we’d yet to say anything, and I wanted to immediately rectify that,” wrote Penelope Evans, the Opinions Editor of The Gargoyle, in an email to The Varsity. Evans wrote the Facebook post along with the help of other staff.
Protestors — including white supremacists and neo-Nazis — participated in the “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville supposedly to object the planned removal of a statue honouring Confederate general Robert E. Lee. The protest escalated rapidly, though, and the groups clashed with counter-protestors including members of the Antifa movement, Black Lives Matter, and clergy members. The violence led to the death of Heather Heyer who was killed when James Alex Fields Jr., a white supremacist, drove a car into a group of counter-protestors.
Evans wrote that The Gargoyle has always been “anti-fascist,” but cannot recall if it has ever posted a public denouncement before.
“In the case of Nazism and the rise of the Alt-right’s presence on campus and in our communities, we have an obligation to be direct, forceful, and firm,” wrote Evans. “Saying nothing in the face of violence is saying something.”
A call to action
Evans was “really happy” to see most of the campus publications that The Gargoyle named follow suit.
“We really have this opportunity to shout out, as student papers, especially those of us not answerable to some oversight committee,” wrote Evans.
“I knew my staff [were] already making personal statements. I’m sure the other papers’ staff were too,” wrote Evans. “But a message from the paper itself is stronger, clearer, and reaches more people who need to hear the message, people who might not have otherwise heard or listened.”
In an email to The Varsity, Elena Senechal-Becker, co-Editor-in-Chief of The Strand, wrote, “When The UC Gargoyle posted their denouncement… we were reminded that, just as current events do not take a summer break, neither should the media.”
“The Strand’s decision to post its denouncement came simply from the fact that we believe it is our responsibility to voice our disagreement for the bigoted and hateful actions of Charlottesville, and to condemn all other similar acts and point of views.”
According to Senechal-Becker, The Strand has not posted a denouncement in recent years, but has always been vocal through its editorials.
According to Josh Scott, acting Editor-in-Chief of The Mike, the paper was initially considering posting a denouncement because it does not publish content during the summer.
“In the best possible way, The Gargoyle’s call to action forced a decision on our front, and for that, I thank them,” said Scott. “In certain situations, silence marks complicity. We believe that this was one.”
Neutrality in journalism
Debates over the merits of news outlets as being ‘neutral’ entities when providing coverage, and the moral implications of doing so, have become increasingly prominent over the past year.
“Everyone is out catching flak for not being ‘neutral’ or hearing both sides. But people are dying. They’ve been dying,” wrote Evans. “So there’s no neutral. You either speak out against hatred, or you give it a voice. A platform. A quiet place to grow. I want to speak out. I want everyone on campus to tell their cousin, their sibling, their friend, that Nazism is not tolerable, that we will not tolerate it.”
“When it comes to the rights, livelihood, freedom, and safety of other human beings, especially marginalized communities, we will absolutely take sides,” wrote Senechal-Becker. “Standing up and speaking out against racism, nazism, and fascism must be a daily practice—as the media we must take accountability for this.”
Scott believes equating the views and behaviours of white supremacists and Neo-Nazis with those of their counter-protestors would be disingenuous. “We owe it to our readers and our obligation as student journalists to the truth not to pretend otherwise,” wrote Scott. According to Scott, The Mike “fairly and accurately” shows all sides of an issue in its coverage so that readers can “reach their own informed conclusions.”
“This is why we do our best to promote rational discussion and diversity of opinion,” wrote Scott, adding that if The Mike is biased, it is “biased towards equality.” Scott says The Mike refuses to tolerate white supremacy and Nazism because “they run counter to this bias towards equality.”
“There are no two sides to this fact. Likewise, there are no two sides to white supremacy or Nazism. If you ask me, these positions enable truthful, just, and logically consistent journalism,” wrote Scott.
Furthermore, Evans told The Varsity that The Gargoyle did not condemn the violence from counter-protestors at the “Unite the Right” rally because they sympathize with the counter-protestors’ decision to respond to Nazism with violence.
“Unfortunately, tolerance and peaceful debate doesn’t work in the case of people actively advocating genocide. The avocation [sic] of genocide is already a threat of violence,” wrote Evans. “If someone advocates the death of innocent people (as in, is a Nazi), I hope they get punched in the face. I hope they get maced until they stop believing in a white-only nation.”
Neither the Salterrae nor the Toike Oike responded to The Varsity’s requests for interviews.