A paid advertisement that included images of women with rifle crosshairs superimposed on their faces appeared yesterday on a page of The Daily Texan and offended many readers; it offended us, too.
Texas Student Media, which manages the newspaper’s business affairs, has established a policy governing potentially offensive ads. Before the newspaper publishes an advertisement deemed potentially offensive, student editors and managers at the paper vote on whether to go forward with publication. I, as editor-in-chief, voted against publishing the ad, but my vote did not prevail. I understand and hope readers understand that there is a distinction between editorial copy and a paid advertisement. Many ads that run in the Texan are not what I would want my staff to submit for publication, but I don’t object to allowing advertisers to do so. I also agree vigorously with strong protection of free speech rights. But this ad plummeted far below a level of decency that should remain present in a college newspaper’s public policy debates. The advocates sponsoring this ad could have made their point without falling to those depths.
The ad shows six circular photos of women viewed as if through the scope of a sniper rifle and overlaid with the Islamic star and crescent. Next to each photo is a caption that alleges how the individual or individuals pictured were killed, injured or threatened. In all the cases, the advertisement claims that Islam was used to justify the deaths, an attempt to use discrete incidents of violence by Muslims to implicate all Muslims. In bold, capital letters, the ad reads, “Faces of Islamic Apartheid,” a counter reference to claims that Israel’s domestic policies toward Palestinians constitute apartheid. The crosshairs hold potent symbolic venom; the advertisement is an unspoken incitement to violence. Unoriginal, poisonous brands of prejudice and xenophobia have been recycled throughout history to promote racist ideas in this country and in others. The ad, an example of such suggestions of racism, represents only what we need less of. We were disappointed to see it published in our newspaper.
The responses from readers published on today’s Opinion page suggest that many of our peers agree. Letter writers were overwhelmingly confused and upset by the decision to publish the ad. But the true damage caused is to the unsuspecting reader unequipped to recognize the ad for what it was: a convoluted incitement to violence that preys upon existing prejudice.
— Susannah Jacob, editor-in-chief