On Cynic ads and politics

Dear Editor,

I write in response to Mr. Joseph Brown’s editorial response to a letter of concern sent in by the student group Voices for Planned Parenthood that appeared in the Jan. 25, 2015 publication.

I am not a member of VOX and this letter does not represent the views of that group in any official capacity.

I am disheartened that a member of the editorial board of a publication as well-regarded as the Cynic would present such a narrow view of ethics, journalism and politics.

I am not, however, surprised: it is by the same belief in a passive, apolitical journalism that Brown justifies offhandedly dismissing the members of VOX as “people who do not understand the function of a newspaper” that he claims with an air of supreme authority that the discussion ends at “Cynic ads don’t represent Cynic staff views.”

To borrow one of the many condescending phrases littering his piece, “newsflash”: just because something that appears in a newspaper isn’t a signed piece in the Opinion section doesn’t mean it is not political.

With issues as contested as women’s reproductive health, everything becomes an object of political concern for the exercise and contest of power.

Although journalistic bodies and college campuses market themselves to us as a separate space, exempted from the messy negotiations of political winners and losers by their higher calling to truth-seeking, that impression is fiction at best.

To imply that the inclusion of advertisements in the pages of a newspaper is a passive act is to seriously shortchange the power of the Cynic staff.

Journalists are not reeds to be helplessly pulled wherever the tides of funding may drag them. VOX’s letter, rather than conflating acceptance with endorsement, sought to remind the Cynic’s staff of their leverage to reject ad money from an organization that may be putting women’s health at risk.

Perhaps instead of dismissing the nuanced ethical question posed by VOX as beyond the realm of “real argument,” Mr. Brown and his colleagues might take this as an opportunity to reflect on their powerful role in the production and distribution of knowledge.


Jack N. Braunstein

Class of 2016