the editors' soapbox: Collectives' self-imposed exile from campus media inane

The Che Cafe is a restaurant/garden/communist stronghold that serves vegan burritos once a week, under constant threat of destruction by the venerable vice chancellor of Student Affairs, Joe Watson. After a decade of combat with Watson, the cafe still stands.

Its sheer defiance of the university administrators on this campus of apathetic, half-comatose commuters is reason enough to celebrate its continued existence.

The New Indicator is one of UCSD’s little-known, student-funded and student-operated publications. Like the Nightcap, California Review and The Koala, the New Indicator is funded through the mandatory $21 fee that all students pay to the A.S. Council every quarter. The paper, run as a Borg-like “”collective,”” reports on topics ranging from how the “”Patriot Act Violates the Bill of Rights”” to “”Dealing with the Capitalist Media.”” The viewpoints in the New Indicator are those possessed by the radical left, an admittedly large portion of any college campus, and that alone justifies its publication.

However, as part of being the campus’ dominant socialist journal of thought and opinion, the New Indicator tends to shoot itself in its collective foot when dealing with the rest of the civilized world. Its most recent blunder was made when the administration again attempted to squash the Che Cafe (this time employing the “”U.S.A Patriot Act”” to censor a Web site hosted by the Che) and the collective refused to make its case through conventional media.

The New Indicator “”collective”” is one of the half dozen experiments in communism populating UCSD’s southwest quadrant. As such, it is one of the few organizations privy to the emotional outbursts of the other collectives that pass for interviews and press releases. In its latest issue, the New Indicator urges UCSD radicals not to grant interviews with the “”capitalist media,”” while simultaneously condemning the capitalists for omitting from their articles any quotes from the collectives.

The collectives can’t have it both ways. Either they talk to reporters or their side isn’t well-represented in the stories printed by the capitalist media. Since the capitalist newspapers are the only ones with any significant readership, ignoring them means that no one will hear the collectives’ views.

Frankly, the only people likely to read the New Indicator’s report on the Che Cafe Web site fiasco — and take it seriously — are either dyed-in-the-wool, bleeding red communists or people who have already researched the controversy. In either case, the readers already know about it, and the New Indicator’s article wouldn’t tell them anything new.

The Che Cafe collective refused to grant interviews to the Guardian, the most widely-read campus publication, because the Che Cafe only speaks with independent media. Ironically, its definition of “”independent”” includes the New Indicator, a quarterly publication entirely dependent on funding from the school, and not the Guardian, which draws its funding from entirely non-UCSD sources. Which is more independent: the self-sufficient paper funded solely by advertisements primarily from taco joints and tanning salons, or the one begging for funds from the UCSD administration and student government?

The collectives refuse to take personal responsibility for their actions or words, both in their own publications and in their dealings with the outside world. The rare statements they do release to the press are usually signed “”The Collective,”” offering no human spokesperson to whom further questions may be directed. Their justification of a collective signature is that it implies unanimity among the collectivists, protecting the individuals from direct attack by the administration; “”strength in numbers”” and all that.

But their lack of personal responsibility also contributes to the widespread perception of them as quaint throwbacks to the 1960s, and not as the populist revolutionaries they wish they were.

At the very least, listing a media contact or spokesperson would help them communicate their message to interested parties. If a budding communist is looking for some comrades, the best he can do is send letters to the New Indicator’s “”libertad”” e-mail account.

The New Indicator used to publish its staff members’ first names in every issue. They stopped that practice soon after last spring’s A.S. Council elections, in which some members of the New Indicator collective ran for office. The New Indicator candidates were inconvenienced by charges filed against them for debatably libelous material printed by the collective — material for which all members must take responsibility. With their new policy of complete writer anonymity, there’s no chance of individual members ever again having to answer for anything they print.

There’s a reason why the media portrayed last year’s Koala trials in a way that was friendly toward The Koala: The Koala’s George Lee Liddle III actively sought out the media, granting interviews to anyone who asked, and turned the coverage of the case into a heaping mass of pro-Koala propaganda. Liddle’s opponents, former Students Affirmative Action Committee Chairman Ernesto Martinez and the UCSD administration, largely refused to comment on the case, and even went as far as banning the media from the hearing room.

If the Che Cafe collective had followed The Koala’s good example, it could have turned the media outlets against the administration more than they already were. But instead, it spoke only to the New Indicator, which published an article about the controversy nearly a month after it had been resolved.

The Koala’s victory was cheered, and the partial vindication of the Che Cafe was quietly swept under the table.

The accused ignore the media at their own peril.

The collectives are idealists, unwilling to compromise. Their refusal to wheel and deal with the administration gives them the respect of the students, but their refusal to associate with any other non-communist organization forever marginalizes them.