Author Archive

On Facebook, Privacy is not a Guarantee

13 April 2009

By Luis Mazariegos

Recently, the Washington Post printed an article asking students what they thought of police browsing Facebook profiles for evidence of crimes, such as illicit drugs, or for preventive measures, such as breaking up a fight.

Most students, at least according to the article, weren’t happy about it in the least.

“I think it’s an invasion of the student’s privacy,” said Sarah Steinberg, 18, a senior at Robinson Secondary.

“It’s not really [their] business to be looking at students’ profiles,” said Eleni Gibson, 15, a freshman at Robinson. “Because they might see something that students didn’t want them to see.”

Though privacy is an important right to have, the issue of how far we should limit privacy in the name of security has been an essential American debate for a very long time.

The Facebook issue is similar: police say they can use it to prevent crimes and help at-risk kids who are in gangs, while some students object on the grounds that it invades their privacy.

However, the Facebook case is a bit different. People should understand that if they post something on the Internet with little or no protection, it’s just as good as leaving it on the street.

If incriminating photos or text can be accessed without the use of hacking or other illicit methods, it’s functionally the same as leaving that same picture or note on the street outside your house.

If it helps police prevent a crime from happening, all the better.

Is using the word “retard” offensive?

13 April 2009

By Luis Mazariegos

The recent comments by President Barack Obama about his bowling ability has earned him reprimands from just about everyone and has sparked a national debate: is it ok to use the word retard?

But of course, this isn’t the first time we’ve had a referenduum on the appropiateness of a word: we’ve had similar debates about using “gay” to mean “lame” or “stupid” and because of Don Imus, we had a discussion about whether it’s ok to use the word “ho.”

So is the word “retard” offensive? Well, in a word, yes. Words that are meant as insults are just inherently offensive – even socially acceptable words like stupid or moron are offensive.

But other than being nice, is there a special reason why the word “retard” should be completely removed?

The answer, according to the people who support this, is that “retard” isn’t just insulting, it’s also discriminatory, targeting handicapped people.

But very rarely do we see people hurling insults at the handicapped at all. Even if someone did, we would be outraged regardless of whether this person was calling the handicapped person a “retard” or a “big poopy head.” It’s not acceptable regardless.

Banning the word “retard” is just going to make us go for a sillier, more complex word that’s “acceptable.” And then that word will become insulting. It’s happened before – the words “cretin”, “idiot”, “imbecile”, and “moron” were once considered legitimate ways of describing people with disabilities, but no more, of course.

The same is happening to “retard” and will likely happen to whatever word we have to use now – even “special” is becoming pejorative. It’s what we call the euphemism treadmill, and it points to the fact that we can’t really just replace words and make them not insulting.

So instead of focusing on using the right words, people should focus on changing people’s attitudes – showing people why disabled people shouldn’t be considered equivalent to a person making a mistake. Restricting speech is not an efficient way of going about this, and not a very honorable means to begin with.

Hip-GOP

4 March 2009

by Luis Mazariegos

Can RNC Chairman Michael Steele turn the Republican Party’s image around with a hip-hop makeover?

Recently, Steele promised an “off the hook” marketing blitz that would apply core conservative principles to “urban-suburban hip-hop settings” (whatever that may mean).

He cemented his path by calling the stimulus plan “bling bling” for Democrats the other day. I kid you not.

Though on the surface this may all seem a tad ridiculous, there might be something worthwhile here.

It’s no secret that the Republican Party is trying to distance itself from the George W. Bush era – and with good reason. Bush’s spending choices and war in Iraq have made him unpopular among certain blocs of conservatives, such as those who value fiscal responsibility over everything else. 

Not only that, but the Republican’s loss last election showed that unless they can appeal to younger voters and minorities, the future won’t hold better results.

And though culturally the Republican Party and hip-hop may seem miles apart, the similarities in ideology are striking.

Yes, rappers are against gun legislation and distrusting of big government’s ability to help people, hallmarks of conservatism. But most importantly, rappers are, above all, capitalists. There just aren’t very many socialist rappers. “Share the wealth” will never become a hip-hop catchphrase like “get that dough” is. It seems that hip-hop is, in reality, permeated by conservative or maybe more precisely liberterian ideals.

So yes, Michael Steele has not handled it quite gracefully. His comments mostly drew ridicule and sharp criticism. Comedian Stephen Colbert mockingly challenged Steele to a rap battle. Democratic strategist Brad Woodhouse said that  “with gaffes and an attitude like this [Steele will] just lead the [GOP] into another drubbing at the polls

In truth, calling the stimulus package “bling bling” is an oversimplification if not a bit sophomoric. But it does, to an extent, get the right idea across to a certain few people.

And it’s this kind of language, if done correctly and by the right person, that could end up attracting just the right demographics to win an election.