Mascots, News, and Representation: Quick Image Analysis

A friend and fellow blogger shared this latest “news” story on the UND mascot saga with me on Facebook a few weeks ago. For his take on this, go here. It’s not the news but an example of the news becoming news as at this point the “Mascot Controversy” is simply not about logos or mascots. The controversy is about representation, who represents things and how things get represented. This “news” “story” from a local media outlet linked to above is a cynical, self-serving example.

Let’s start with the obvious: August 27 was the first day of class. Instead of delving into what is new at the U or interviewing incoming Freshmen, the local news outlet decides to activate what we might call the “Mascot Schema” as a way to hold on to viewership and gin up emotion. In other words, they create a narrative no one else is actively talking about in much the same way that ESPN “ditched journalism” when spinning yarn after yarn about Tim Tebow. The U president has had an task force on the issue since…2010! What this task force has done/accomplished may be another matter, but the fact is that none of this qualifies as news.

Of course, what would a story like this be without pitching an alternative mascot/nickname, the presentation of which has at its heart a pathetically implausible deniability of what the reporter is actually doing. “Ladies and gentlemen, in the name of honestly exploring possible solutions to this ongoing fiasco, I give you the UND Cavalry.”

Picture taken from here: http://kfgo.com/blogs/nodak-jack-sunday/955/the-und-cavalry1-of-course/

Picture taken from here: http://kfgo.com/blogs/nodak-jack-sunday/955/the-und-cavalry1-of-course/

“I mean, if you are offended you must clearly be one of the overly-PC types. How do you make it through your everyday life?” #sarcasm

Notice that the reporter is so smug about the whole thing he’s having a hard time keeping it together. I’d love to see the outtakes. It’s a non-serious, tongue-in-cheek approach to the issue really no better than the “creative” and “insightful” angle adopted by the students who made the offensive Springfest shirts who, according to their own Twitter feeds, actually joked about “making the news.” Here, however, we’ve essentially got life imitating art as this “news” outlet and this “reporter” go about trying to engineer a bit of news out of nothing. Given the context it’s a quite intentional thumb in the eye that perpetuates the kind of hostile learning environment Native American students at the institution have been talking about for YEARS.

And let’s not forget to ask what isn’t being covered here? The good folks over at Last Real Indians pushed out an image on Facebook that may speak to an issue or two:

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For more on mascots and Native American representation, head on over to Native Appropriations, a site run by Adrienne K.

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