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The Pack Rat

Magazine article Editor & Publisher

The Pack Rat

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ASNE convention skit furor deflects blame from the real villains

There was an "incident" of sorts at the American Society of Newspaper Editors' recent convention that has been portrayed in simplistic terms that do neither the offender nor the offended party any good. Frankly, I believe that the reaction by some ASNE members since then adds to the perception of the media as "elitist" and out of touch with most Americans.

The last night of the conference, a Washington comedy troupe,

The Capitol Steps, performed a skit that swiped at the Chinese government's endless paranoia and its retention of the U.S. espionage plane. I've sat through numerous Capitol Steps skits over the past dozen years -- they're often hilarious, but almost as often boorish and full of high-school humor -- just like Jay Leno, David Letterman, and "Saturday Night Live."

This time, in an effort to "look" Chinese, a couple of members (they are mostly white males) donned black wigs and parodied the Chinese government's routine sloganeering in response to almost anything. Not having done enough homework to learn a short Chinese phrase the troupe could quickly turn into rhyming lyrics, the performers settled for chanting "Ching Ching Chong Chong."

Afterward, an ASNE intern named Amy Leang, from Ball State University, wrote a column about it, and The Washington Post pounced on it. Leang wrote that she was "deeply humiliated" by the skit. Fair enough. Then she added, "The next morning, I woke up crying."

Crying? I can almost hear the outrage from many Americans. What about the tears shed by the families of the captured crew? They knew their loved ones were being held by one of the most brutal, inhumane, and (just to remind those who missed the Tiananmen Square massacre) truth- defying regimes on the face of the Earth. While we're on the subject, what of the tears shed by the little 5-year-old son of a Chinese- American scholar from American University when, two months ago, he was taken by the Chinese guards and held in isolation away from his mother and father for weeks? His mother is still being held on the usual Chinese charge of espionage. (Why can't Chinese autocrats get more creative?) That story has gripped the university communities in the Washington area but apparently hasn't made it to the campus of Ball State. …

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