People (the editors of this section and, well, yeah really only them) are always telling me “Andrew, Viewpoints articles can’t just be rambling. You need a thesis. Oh, and stop trying to write them using predictive text generators.” This time, I’m listening. No AI here, just good old-fashioned plagiarism, and not only do I have a thesis, I’ve got two: 1. The Shady Dealer is not funny, but I am. 2. The editors of The Maroon should chill out.
At the end of February, right before The Maroon was due to publish their COVID-19 special issue, The Chicago Shady Dealer obtained this issue and published a series of articles on their website that took, shall we say, heavy inspiration from The Maroon’s upcoming issue. Let’s clarify all that a little: The Maroon is what you are reading now, The Chicago Shady Dealer is the University’s version of The Onion, COVID-19 is a virus, and “obtained” means that someone who writes for The Shady Dealer also happens to be a member of The Maroon and just sent a ton of Word docs over. In most cases, The Shady Dealer took the title of an article due to be published in The Maroon and then changed the text. For example, here is The Maroon’s $100 Million and a Million Tests: How the NFL Played Through a Pandemic?, and here is the Dealer’s $100 Million and a Million Tests: How The NFL Played Throughout a Pandemic. I appreciate that Shady got rid of that weird question mark, but you might notice that the article itself is totally blank. How convenient that I picked this article to illustrate my point that Shady isn’t funny!
Credit where credit is due, the idea has potential—but you need to execute it well. Unfortunately, when you plagiarise, all it tends to do is reveal that the only idea you have is that you have no ideas and should probably use someone else’s. I stole that from a website that had some weird ads, so take it with a grain of salt (hey, dweebs who graduated in 2005 who comment on these articles, that was a joke—take your fingers off the keyboard). So, Shady’s idea to take some Maroon articles really just showed that they should have put a little more effort into writing their own. You’ve got the “author argues with editor” schtick that was tired in the 80s, the “old people are boring” gag lifted from some 50s sitcom, and so on. Honestly, there is no need for me to dunk on these guys anymore. You get the point: Shady needs some fresh blood.
Now that I’ve got thesis one out of the way, let’s resume the story. In response to The Chicago Shady Dealer, The Maroon’s editors published the following piece: Shady Dealer Plagiarizes COVID-19 Issue; Maroon Dismisses Two Staffers for Leaking Internal Documents. Go read it right now, it’s short. In it, various members of The Chicago Shady Dealer are given the chance to prove me wrong about their comedic chops by giving often hilarious quotes in response to The Maroon's questions.
While reading it, you were probably wondering whether the article was a joke, satire playing along with The Shady Dealer. Referring to people who work on The Maroon as “staffers,” the reference to “internal documents,” the weird asides to explain what the Panama Papers and RSOs are, and the earnestness in reporting the joking quotes of The Shady Dealer’s staff. Perhaps the funniest part of the article is the accompanying picture: a shot of a staircase in Ida Noyes with the caption “Ida Noyes Hall houses the Office of Career Advancement.” The thing is, it’s not a joke. Using my unemployable close-reading skills (read as: making tenuous connections), I get the sense that the writers of this article are trying to appear as even-handed and journalistic as possible. As if, in response to a perceived attack on something they put a lot of time into, they are seeking both to get back at The Shady Dealer (“Maroon leadership has notified the Center for Leadership and Involvement about the incident”), and to maintain what they see as the standards of The Maroon.
I’m sure that the editors of The Maroon spent many hours refining the issue on COVID-19 and that, to them, The Shady Dealer’s actions felt like a mockery that disregarded that effort and the time that went into the issue. But everyone needs perspective, and one of the most valuable features of satire is that it deflates egos and recasts the world. The Maroon is a student paper. No one’s careers are at stake here. The Maroon’s “staffers” are college kids freely using their spare time. There are too many things in the world that are worth getting worked up about and there’s no reason at all to make yourself feel worse by getting angry about someone playing a poor joke. The whole situation is ridiculous, but it reveals how easy it is to lose perspective, to think that your lazy joke articles are funnier than they are, to think that someone playing a mean-spirited and ethically dubious prank is a heinous breach of moral decency. If there is a lesson to take away from all of this, it’s that somethings aren’t worth getting angry about. It’s too easy to get wrapped up in yourself and lose perspective (or, worse, your sense of humor); everyone needs a bit of deflating now and then, even The Maroon and The Shady Dealer.
Andrew Farry is a third-year in the College.