When members of a white nationalist organization plastered posters around campus carrying messages that condemned an inclusive society and boosted the regressive idea of a “white America,” the UTD community was taken aback by the exclusionary nature of the rhetoric.
The group responsible for the fliers, known as the American Vanguard, told The Mercury the organization specifically put them up to “get attention.” In a way, our coverage of the incident played into the Vanguard’s goal, but The Mercury is obligated as a news organization to report on it, despite potentially drawing more attention to the subject.
After the fliers were spotted, Facebook and Twitter feeds were immediately filled with angry responses to the racist and narrow-minded ideals expressed in them. There were also calls to action with some encouraging the posters be taken down on sight and others urging people to keep them up for police documentation.
On one hand, it was speculated whether students were responsible for the posters’ appearance, and on the other there were questions about what was being done to deal with the bigoted speech in print all over campus. As The Mercury began its coverage of the incident in a frenzy of scouring social media, making phone calls, writing emails and sending texts, the only thing on the agenda was to inform our readership with accurate, unbiased information about the matter at hand and what was being done to address it.
As coverage progressed and interviews were conducted, we gathered more and more statements of outrage, concern and displeasure, and among those sentiments was also the idea that The Mercury was adding fuel to fire by talking about the posters.
The American Vanguard’s Twitter page was actively documenting and responding to any media attention the group’s actions were garnering. The organization even admitted to living by the motto “There’s no such thing as bad publicity” in an interview with The Mercury, and every reaction was milked to further its agenda.
In a case like this, it’s understandable why some people thought it best to silently take down the posters and opt to not give prominence to the hateful speech. Giving it importance would only feed into the Vanguard’s goal of reaching a wider audience.
But, first and foremost, The Mercury has a duty toward the UTD community to be a reliable and informative source of news. We are responsible for keeping the campus populace in tune with its surroundings with a fair assessment of events.
For this reason, we felt it was important to publish a piece on the posters as soon as we were aware of their existence — even if that meant putting the negativity they propagated in the limelight.
– Nidhi Gotgi