Fontcrime Was Not A Thing That Could be Concealed Forever


I don't tend to rail against political correctness too much any more. I did when I was living in two of the bellies of the beast in college and law school. But now, I tend to see PC as a self-defeating, feckless thing to be mocked, best addressed with the more-speech remedy. When political correctness is at the root of some actual official act of censorship, I firmly support calling it out — the results are often gratifying. But too often I think that (1) "political correctness" is just another way to say "boo hoo, I can't act like an ass without being called an ass, and it's chilling my speech," and (2) too few people call out politically correct idiocy on both sides.

But now and then, a story of insipid political correctness comes along and grabs my attention. Today's sample comes from the FIRE's Peter Bonilla, who pointed out an embarrassing incident at Cornell. In short, in response to a poster announcing a performance by Margaret Cho, a shadowy student group calling itself "Scorpions X" defaced posters across campus. They didn't do so because Margaret Cho is profoundly annoying. They didn't do so because, as a group with a name culled from the B-plot of a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles episode, they felt incapable of resisting their destiny to engage in minor and ineffectual villainy. No, they did so because the poster had the wrong font.

The font used was Chop Suey, which, according to Scorpions X, has a history of Asian-American stereotyping. In their email, Scorpions X demanded that ALANA “discontinue use of these posters [and] quarter cards immediately and also remove current postings.”

The African Latino Asian Native American Students Programming Board — which, despite encompassing more traditionally disfavored interest groups than Scorpions X, still apparently felt intimidated by them — issued an excruciating apology in which they pointed out that Margaret Cho's people had approved the poster. Oh, THAT'S a denouncing.

But one day later, Scorpions X responded to ALANA’s email, saying that their apology letter was not acceptable and did not adequately address the situation at hand. They said that ALANA was not justified in bringing Cho to campus if her management accepted a poster using a font that, according to Scorpions X, reveals a “one-size-fits-all Asian stereotype.”

And, in a sort of preschool-level version of "death to anyone who says we are violent!", they added:

They added that members of Cornell community have unfairly accused Scorpions X of being “militant, confrontational and angry” for speaking out on racial issues.

Oh, dear.

Look, there's genuine racism against Asian-Americans in this country. It pisses me off, and not just because I'm trying to raise three Asian-American kids. I'm all for naming and shaming racist douches.

But defacing posters that make you mad is a tactic for censorious dipshits, a tactic that resembles its stupid, ugly cousin, stealing or destroying newspapers with articles you don't like. Combining censorious thuggery with adolescent levels of self-seriousness and entitlement, as Scorpions X has done, is hideously counter-productive. Believing that there is only one way to view expression that you don't like, and lashing out at splitters, is embarrassing. I don't think there's a stereotype that Asians are self-parodying, easily butthurt, hostile to dissent, and more than slightly unbalanced, but if there were such stereotypes, Scorpions X would have just dramatically reinforced them. Over a font, a font approved by the artist it depicted.

That's an example of the sort of political correctness that might move me to comment, because it's censorious and regrettable.

Last 5 posts by Ken White



  1. Jason!  •  Mar 26, 2012 @1:36 pm

    "Over a font, a font approved by the artist it depicted."

    Uhh… Not exactly. Maybe by her agent, but not by her (in which case, new agent time, amirite?).

  2. Caleb  •  Mar 26, 2012 @2:09 pm

    *Thinking* "I don't know who Margaret Cho is." *Googles* "Oh. I don't want to know who Margaret Cho is."

  3. Jess  •  Mar 26, 2012 @2:11 pm

    Alas I am so privileged that any font may be used while publicizing my endeavors without eliciting butthurt.

  4. Andrew  •  Mar 26, 2012 @2:17 pm

    I can't get over the name "Scorpions X". I'm pretty sure they weren't aiming for the "Xbox gamertag" vibe, but that's where they landed.

  5. Jay  •  Mar 26, 2012 @3:07 pm

    Caleb, the same exact thing happened for me on the previous blog entry about Nadia Naffe. Sometimes Google can destroy my happiness/OMG-I-don't-want-to-know-this ratio. Sometimes, it's all Ken's fault. :)

  6. VPJ  •  Mar 26, 2012 @3:34 pm

    They said that ALANA was not justified in bringing Cho to campus if her management accepted a poster using a font that, according to Scorpions X, reveals a “one-size-fits-all Asian stereotype.”

    Please tell me this is the lead-in for an April Fool's joke. Or perhaps some taking-PC-to-its-logical-conclusion-to-make-a-point.

  7. TimP  •  Mar 26, 2012 @3:56 pm

    To make it worse Cho apparently often includes jokes about Asian stereotypes as part of her performance.

    So basically it's advertising material for a comedian making visual reference to one of the comedian's preferred themes to joke about.

    I'm really hoping that this is an April's Fools joke, or an attempt at viral marketing.

  8. Jack B.  •  Mar 26, 2012 @5:41 pm

    If ALANA had any sense at all, they would have made new posters with Comic Sans font.

  9. Dan Weber  •  Mar 26, 2012 @5:59 pm
  10. VPJ  •  Mar 26, 2012 @6:01 pm

    Maybe ALANA can use this handy reference.

  11. Shylock Holmes  •  Mar 26, 2012 @6:23 pm

    Man, talk about an example of the evolution towards the ever-thinner-skinned.

  12. delurking  •  Mar 26, 2012 @7:16 pm

    I call BS!

    No, wait…

    I call satire!

  13. Hal_10000  •  Mar 26, 2012 @7:33 pm

    Only in Academia would someone take themselves this seriously. I especially like how they describe it as "the situation at hand." as if it were a hostage situation or something. It's a fricking font!

  14. C. S. P. Schofield  •  Mar 26, 2012 @9:12 pm

    Somebody once said that the fights in academia are so bitter because the stakes are so low.

  15. G Thompson  •  Mar 26, 2012 @11:34 pm

    Can we please have a list of these offensive Fonts?

    Otherwise how else shall I know what to use to offend idiots!

  16. Caleb  •  Mar 27, 2012 @12:02 am

    Jay, that one got me too. Popehat is one of my favorite blogs, but it has the unfortunate downside of introducing me to the existence of some very repulsive characters. Part of the territory, I guess.

  17. SPQR  •  Mar 27, 2012 @7:07 am

    If it had been Comic Sans, I'd protest too …

  18. Bob  •  Mar 27, 2012 @11:35 am

    "To make it worse Cho apparently often includes jokes about Asian stereotypes as part of her performance."

    This! This is what I don't get. How can you be butthurt over a font but laugh at a comedian whose routine is all about stereotypes. As a lily white as can be honkey cracker I will NEVER understand the intricacies of racial politics.

  19. mojo  •  Mar 27, 2012 @1:47 pm

    "Fontcrime does not entail death, Fontcrime IS death."

  20. Nate Whilk  •  Mar 27, 2012 @4:41 pm

    Bob • Mar 27, 2012 @11:35 am wrote, "How can you be butthurt over a font but laugh at a comedian whose routine is all about stereotypes."

    I stopped watching her years ago because I realized her supposed hatred of stereotypes was really her hatred of people who were actually examples of stereotypes, i.e., her parents and other adults of that (immigrant, I presume) generation. In other words, she really hates being Korean/Chinese/Asian/whatever.

  21. Mercury  •  Mar 27, 2012 @8:11 pm

    Too bad ‘Fucktard’ isn’t a widely recognized font – just think of all the Ivy League, hyphenated student groups you could piss of with a poster advertising a non-existent free lunch.
    I’ll just have to content myself with an angry letter to the Cornell Daily Sun….in Ebonics, dactylic hexameter and ‘Wingdings’ font.

  22. Narad  •  Mar 29, 2012 @11:44 pm

    But defacing posters that make you mad is a tactic for censorious dipshits

    Oh, and here I still had a fond memory of the time the music grad students banded together to scrawl "nonentity" on the sententious forehead in posters advertising the imminent coming of Philip Glass. Rats.

  23. Christopher  •  Mar 30, 2012 @10:44 am

    Sorry, I'm an art student and this is really bothering me:

    Cursory googling seems to indicate that "Chop Suey" isn't the name of a font, but the informal name for any kind of vaguely Asian-y English alphabet font. You know, the kind of font you'd use to write the word "Ninja" on the headband of a crappy movie ninja.

    If there is such a font I'd like to know, because it's hard to judge something visually based on a second hand written description.

    Honestly, were I designing a poster for an Asian comedian, I'd try to stay away from Chinese restaurant placemat fonts. I can see why people would find that offensive.

    Mainly, though, I just find this story hilarious. I enjoy the fact that a group that sends angry demands to other student groups, a group that defaces the property of people it doesn't like, a group that named itself "Scorpions X" for crying out loud, is completely offended that people would characterize them as "confrontational".

  24. Christoph  •  Mar 30, 2012 @10:28 pm

    If that font is the same one I think it is, I used to have a red-lettered black T-shirt as a kid that said:

    F   t   s
    u   h   h
    c   i   i
    k   s   t

    Loved it.