When I was doing my A-levels, I remember one day where there was a classroom discussion about film stars. One of my classmates proudly proclaimed “I like Mel Gibson, because he’s manly – he hates Jews and gay people.” Another classmate argued with him, but in a jokey, it’s-just-him-being-him kind of way. This was a generation that’d grown up on South Park, and thought little of having a real-life Cartman in the room.
South Park started out as an act of rebellion against 1990s political correctness culture, and yet here I was in an environment where that rebellion was the norm. I can remember pondering at the time whether the pendulum would swing in another direction – whether there’d be a rebellion against the rebellion, and what shape it might take. I got my answer with the rise of Tumblr culture.
A culture which, on the one hand, values safe spaces, offers a warning for every potential trigger, and purges problematicness with clinical precision… and yet, on the other hand, practices a confrontational, shock-oriented, semi-ironic discourse not a million miles from the South Park ethos. The difference is that the jibes are directed exclusively at majority groups, and are therefore deemed an acceptable form of up-punching: “kill all men.” “Die cis scum.” Read those slogans in a Cartman voice and you’ll see where I’m coming from. These are the Bizarro Cartmans.
But hey, if we’re going to hail South Park and Frankie Boyle (or, going back a bit, R. Crumb and Bernard Manning) as the healthy signs of free and open discourse, then surely we should embrace the Bizarro Cartmans just as tightly? After all, they’ve borrowed quite a few tricks.
The Bizarro Cartman philosophy emphasises courting controversy with the conservative press. For a recent example, take a peek at the new zine put together by University of Texas students: No Whites Allowed. Open solely to queer persons of colour, the publication has been attacked by a number of outlets.
A report posted on CampusReform (and subsequently reposted by the Washington Times) started the ball rolling. TruthRevolt hailed the zine as part of “the new wave of segregation spreading across campuses nationwide”. GraniteGrok asked “What does it say about the campus culture that produces a mindset where the title alone isn’t a problem for the inclusive equality crowd?” KPRC Radio reported on the zine with the somewhat misleading headline “No whites allowed at University of Texas-San Antonio”. The National Sentinel called it “institutionalized racism”.
It’s the title that is the focal point of this fuss, rather than any of the contents, and this is clearly why the name No Whites Allowed was chosen. It’s not a particularly fitting title, as it doesn’t convey the LGBT aspect of the zine, but it comes with oodles of shock value. And no Cartman can get by without shock value.
The by-the-numbers debate caused by No Whites Allowed is summarised in the CampusReform report, which quotes from a now-deleted Facebook thread. “So you’re saying that because segregation happened, it’s fine to be racist against Whites?” asked one person. “Equality is just more cishet white supremacist patriarchy trying to write the narrative”, replied another. And so forth.
What, exactly, is printed in the zine itself? Well, nobody seems particularly interested in reporting or discussing that.