Letters: Responses to I Hate Pam

By The Daily Illini

It’s impossible for me to sit still and not write a letter after reading Kiyoshi Martinez’s opinion “In defense of Vroom” published on Nov. 16. As a Jewish individual, I wasn’t even that offended by Vroom’s comic, but Martinez’s writings were a slap in the face. I have a great sense of humor and won’t be attacked by an ignorant writer because he doesn’t understand the difference between right and wrong. There are a myriad of topics that Vroom could’ve drawn that would’ve been funny, and he chose to stereotype and mock a prevalent minority on this campus. He should take the punishment he deserves, and his co-writers should learn from his error, instead of defending and praising it like Kiyoshi did. Telling offended individuals to “grow thicker skin” is telling them to turn their back on a problem. The fact that Vroom is a comedian gives him no right to insult people based on their race, ethnicity or gender, and if Martinez wanted to help Vroom’s cause, he should’ve just shut his mouth. And who gave Martinez the right to praise the joke so much anyways? I’ve heard plenty of Jewish comments, and Vroom took the most overused one in the book. Perhaps the deadline was running up on him and he just decided ‘I guess I’ll use the Jew nose one.’ If you want to call him a comedian, at least wait until he writes something funny or original, his work is not earth-shattering. If Vroom and Martinez want to sit in a room and throw around their best anti-Semitic jokes, there’s nothing I can do; but how dare they publish a comic that makes a mockery of their peers and then have the audacity to tell them to deal with it. It makes me sick.

Michael Arbus

sophomore in LAS

Regarding Kiyoshi Martinez’s piece “In defense of Vroom” (Nov. 16), I’d like to thank the columnist for explaining why Matt Vroom’s disputed comic was nothing more than a “joke.” In doing so, Mr. Martinez has provided the readership with yet another example of why it has become journalistically acceptable to be anti-Semitic at the Daily Illini. His defense for such “jokes” is that they appear “under the presumption that the audience knows [they are] not to be taken seriously.” Specifically, Martinez suggests that “Being a comedian, Vroom takes the risk and puts himself out there anyway. Just as he predicted, his fears about the society we live in materialized last week.” That type of justification is as irrational as dialing 911 to see if it works. Imagine the irritated dispatcher’s response to the prankster who proclaims, “Just as I suspected, you are upset with me over a mere joke … where’s your sense of humor?”

Martinez further asserts that “People looking to put an end to the problem of racism, sexism, etc. should not look to blame artists of our society. Instead they should be concentrating their efforts on people and institutions who have the power to determine how society functions. If you’re looking for true villains and grave injustices, I suggest moving outside of the funnies page.” Okay, Mr. Martinez, let’s play ball on your home field, the Op-Ed page. It’s absurd to imply that our society solely functions due to the influence of a select group of people and institutions, especially in a free country that boasts a free press. It is accurate, however, to assume that some people and institutions are more influential than others. That said, anyone who has the privilege of publishing a weekly newspaper column or comic strip viewed by some 20,000 people in print and countless others online is thereby in a position of significantly greater influence than most people. To trivialize the legitimate discomfort experienced by many within a religious/cultural body is not only journalistically irresponsible, but also a declaration of solidarity with the instigating rhetoric.

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What’s become more disheartening to digest this past week than Mr. Vroom’s anti-Semitic comic is the outpouring of support from those who weren’t directly offended. Mr. Martinez writes that “Vroom is just a guy telling a joke that offended people who don’t have a sense of humor.” Since when does not laughing at an anti-Semitic joke disqualify one from possessing a sense of humor? Thanks for the diagnosis doctor, but I’ll laugh when it’s appropriate.

Jeff Kamen

University alumnus

So the Daily Illini finally decided where to draw the line of what they will and will not endorse. I am assuming that by letting a comic be published, you endorse its contents or, at the very least, approve of them, and by not publishing it you don’t endorse it.

Here is a short list of what the DI does and doesn’t stand for, according to past comics. The DI stands for: Anal sex, rape, underage drinking, destruction of University property, child molestation by priests, murder, kicking babies and drunk driving. The DI doesn’t endorse: Making fun of Jews’ noses. Does anyone else find it odd these other topics are fine to be in a newspaper, but a joke about someone’s nose is out of line? Why now do you suddenly find standards?

You do realize where this comment was placed, don’t you? If not, I’ll tell you. It was in the comic section of the DI … where jokes are made. It wasn’t something to be taken seriously. Matt Vroom wasn’t attacking the Jewish religion, and he wasn’t being racist; he was making a joke in the comic section of the DI. This wasn’t the front page of the paper, it wasn’t even in the main section that you find news; you had to go back to the sports section to find the comic. His comic was somewhere after football scores and right above horoscopes. No one takes horoscopes seriously, why do you need to take a comic so seriously? This isn’t third grade anymore – just because someone made a mean joke doesn’t mean you should run to tell on them. I’d suggest everyone who is complaining grow up and worry about something worth worrying about. There are bigger problems in this world than a stupid comic.

Ryan Kennedy

junior in engineering

It’s remarkable how The Daily Illini saturates its newspaper with writers and “artists” that are so out of tune with right and wrong. It’s even more astonishing that the editors of this newspaper allow what these authors write to be put into print. In his Nov. 16 column, Mr. Kiyoshi Martinez composes a diatribe explaining his views of the ever-controversial comic strip. Bad idea.

Martinez writes with a bitter and hostile view toward those who are oppressed and offended. He says the “comic strip does not have the power to invoke a movement of anti-Semitism to oppress the Jewish people.” And he is right, simply because this movement already exists. Not a movement that is just oppressing Jews, but a movement where oppression runs rampant throughout society. He says that people should not blame the artist, but “should be concentrating their efforts on people and institutions who have the power to determine how society functions.” And he is right again. It is not the artist’s fault for being a perpetuator of stereotypes, but the editor’s fault for allowing that strip to run. It is up to the specific media outlet, in this case, and in many others, the DI, to uphold an image of integrity if they seek to be recognized as a laudable source of information.

Finally, Martinez offers some advice for those offended; “grow thicker skin,” he says. Now I did not want to go there, but I believe my grandmother’s, who survived the horrors of the Holocaust, skin is thick enough. And now some advice for you: One, when defending a colleague, defend him. Do not just attack your readers. Secondly, learn to smile when taking a picture that will be published in a University-wide newspaper every week. Who knows, you might live a little longer.

Jonathan Spitz

senior in LAS

In light of everything that has happened (and is still happening) with Matt Vroom, I couldn’t even begin to fathom why The Daily Illini would publish Dave King’s comic on Nov. 16. If the staff is so gung-ho about eradicating stereotypes, how can they allow that comic, which obviously stereotypes white males, making assumptions that “life sure is easy – for a white man,” to appear in the comic section? I’m not saying I was offended by the comic. Rather, I’m saying I was disappointed by the clear lack of judgment by The Daily Illini editing staff. If the staff won’t allow the publication of comics not particularly favorable to those of Jewish descent, then how can a comic not particularly favorable to white males be published? With this in mind, it would appear that The Daily Illini staff is at a crossroads: will they follow their precedent and suspend King for 4 weeks, or will they drive down the road of hypocrisy and do nothing? I’m not claiming to know a lot about newspaper publishing, but I think there needs to be some changes made. But then again, in the column following the Vroom incident (Nov. 8), Evan McLaughlin, editor in chief, and Lauren Traut, managing editor, stated that they “will exercise measures to ensure that similar mistakes are not made in the future.” We are a week and a day removed from that apology. So have those measures been implemented yet?

Mike Dankler

sophomore in LAS