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Politics

Volume 86 (Fall 2014 - Spring 2015)

‘Make Fun of Me, Will You?’ Satire in Politics

Colbert ComicWhen the question of freedom of speech arose worldwide after the Charlie Hedbo incident, the use of satire was scrutinized as well. Does satire still serve the same purpose it has in the past, and what are the limits of using satirical humor and being offensive? 

Implied in the US Constitution’s First Amendment are the freedoms to exaggerate, manipulate and to grandstand, which is the definition of satire. Satire is often used to mock political or social figures, movements or organizations through sarcasm, ridicule or irony. It has been used to generate political or social change, and bring awareness to an issue. It most commonly takes the form of mocking politicians. 

One of the first political cartoons was created by Benjamin Franklin, a founding father, and was later transformed into the famous colonial battle flag with the legendary saying “Don’t Tread on Me.” 

Throughout the years, satire has been a transformative medium, such as through cartoon depictions and television. However, according to Tim Parks of The New York Review, the expansion of technology throughout households and communities worldwide, the mixing of cultures and globalization has made satire more problematic. 

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Cuba’s First Catholic Church Since Communist Reform

Sandion CUbaThe village of Sandino in Western Cuba has plans to make history, as the municipality is scheduled to build the first Roman Catholic Church within the state since 1959.

Following the expulsion of the Batista regime by rebels led by Fidel Castro, Cuba assumed a role as a socialist state, which later transitioned into the Communist Party in 1965, according to BBC.

With the approval of the Government to build this church, many are considering whether this signals a change for the island nation. Dr. Kenneth Mitchell, an associate professor of political science, is skeptical of what the Sandino church’s construction means for Cuba.

“Catholicism post-Cuban Revolution (1959) has always been a case in which the Marxist government permits some space to the Cuban people. Cuba is a highly Catholic nation, both before and after the Revolution,” said Mitchell. 

According to the Christian Post, Pedro Rodriguez, Executive Director for the Foundation for Human Rights in Cuba, echoed these sentiments, believing this is “a public relations scam directed to project Raul Castro as a true reformer.”

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Obama Administration a “No-Show” at Paris Peace Rally

USA Today Paris Peace RallyEver since the attacks on the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001, the US has been a global leader in the worldwide fight against terrorism. That is why it is surprising to many that the Obama Administration did not send any high ranking officials to the anti-terrorism rallies in Paris this past January that were in response to the Charlie Hebdo attack that left 12 people dead. 

According to CNN, at least 3.7 million people, including multiple world leaders, marched in anti-terrorism rallies in Paris and other parts of France on Sunday Jan. 11. Some of the notable world leaders that attended the rallies included French President Francois Hollande, British Prime Minister David Cameron, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy and various other world and religious leaders from many different faiths and backgrounds. Even the unlikely duo of the Palestinian Authority President, Mahmood Abbas, and Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu were in attendance. 

Despite the fact that Attorney General Eric Holder was in Paris that day, he nor President Barack Obama, Vice President Joe Biden, or Secretary of State John Kerry were in attendance.  The White House only sent a low level ambassador to France, Jane Hartley, to represent the US. 

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Al-Qaeda Attack Ignites Freedom of Speech Debates

Terrorists chanted “God is great,” and “The profit is avenged,” when they stormed the headquarters of French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo on Jan. 7. 

On Jan. 8, the attack was claimed by Al-Qaeda. The attack was based on Charlie Hebdo’s depiction of the prophet Muhammed, which has been a constant debate through Islam, for the fear of encouraging idolatry.  

After the attack, the question of freedom of speech and of the press have been questioned not only in France, but in the western world as a whole.

Freedom of speech has been considered a very important aspect in democratic states, and an essential human right is to speak a person’s mind without censorship or punishment. The United Nations adopted the Declaration of Human Rights in 1948, stating, “Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.”  

However, every country has its own set of rules on freedom of speech. France in their Declaration of Rights of Man and of the citizen, much like America’s Declaration of Independence, states that freedom of speech is “one of the most precious rights of man.” In 1972, France added the Pleven Act, which prohibits the press from libel, slander, defamation and writing against a group of people. It also outlawed racist speech against individuals and banned provocations of hatred, racism, violence and discrimination. 

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#WakeUpMU: Dozens Protest For Justice

Approximately 80 University students, faculty, and staff demonstrated for social justice and equality in response to the recent deaths of Eric Garner, Michael Brown, and others in front of Wilson Hall on Friday, Dec. 5 at 4 pm.

Morgan Spann, a junior communication student who organized the protest, addressed the gathering, “This is a time for you speak up and simply say, ‘I refuse.’ I refuse to let black men be reduced to nothing. I refuse to see women get torn down. I refuse to see my people exterminated before my eyes and sit back and do nothing. I refuse to be a statistic.” Spann said she wanted to channel her anger over the recent tragedies and transform it into a positive movement. “This is the time for unity,” she continued.

Racial tension in America has been exacerbated by the parallel coverage of Garner, an African American male from New York who was placed in an apparent choke hold during his apprehension, and Brown, an 18-year-old Ferguson resident who allegedly shoplifted some cigarillos before being shot by a police officer. People across the nation have called into question the use of excessive force by police officers when taking individuals into custody, particularly African American males.

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Monmouth Students Head to Europe for the International Service Seminar

West Long Branch, NJ - Furthering the global education vision of the university, thirteen Monmouth University students will be traveling to prominent capitals of international law and politics over winter break in conjunction with Professor Bordelon’s section of International Service Seminar (PS 371) in the spring.  Some of the students began their engagement with a new course during the fall 2014 semester in the Department of Political Science and Sociology, Public International Law (PS 431), which builds off of the international relations curricular strand in political science.

Senior Harmony Bailey said, “I think visiting The Hague or European Union will probably demonstrate the best correlation to what I learned in this class and how to tie it to the trip. Plus it is always beneficial to have knowledge beforehand of how everything works, especially when it comes to a trip of this caliber.”  The learning objective of the experience is to present the theoretical foundations of international law (PS 431 – Fall 2014) and transition students from experiencing the institutions (winter break study tour) of it to realizing its fundamental relationships to social justice through local legal aid organizations (PS 371 – Spring 2015).

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Let’s Talk Politics: Is The Government a Difficult Discussion Topic?

Americans are more likely to identify as conservative, according to a Gallup poll published Jan. 10, 2014. This ideological classification of liberal vs. conservative permeates American politics and is often the basis by which individuals frame their political beliefs and spark everyday conversation with others.

Thomas Jefferson, a founding member of the US Constitution and 3rd President said, “I never considered a difference of opinion in politics, in religion, in philosophy, as cause for withdrawing from a friend.” This begs the question to be asked, is politics difficult to talk about?

Before one can debate whether politics is a difficult subject to talk about, he or she must first consider what is meant by politics.

Dr. Walter Greason, instructor of history and anthropology said, “Politics is the notion of distributed authority.” The US is a representative democracy, meaning voters elect individuals who then act for them in the public forum. According to Greason,  the authority in politics is shared between these levels of membership in the political spectrum.

Some of the difficulty in discussing politics beyond the educational setting stems from the distribution of authority, and the feeling of powerlessness created by it. “People (constituents) don’t like to acknowledge their relative powerlessness.  People in authority (elected officials) often feel uncomfortable with explaining their decision-making,” said Greason. He found this disconnect to be a contributing factor to the problems with the ease of conversing about politics.

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Back from the Brink: A Presentation on the Middle East

The University’s Institute for Global Understanding hosted an informative lecture by Dr. Hussein Ibish, a Senior Fellow at the American Task Force on Palestine (ATFP), columnist for The National (UAE), and author of multiple well-known publications, on Tuesday Nov. 18. Ibish is also a contributing writer for Foreign Affairs and frequently speaks on PBS’s NewsHour.

Ibish began by presenting an overarching theme: the Middle East is not one single entity, nor has it ever been, and the problems that plague it are not necessarily shared from one end of the region to the other. Effectively, he viewed the categorization of uniformity in the Middle East as a central problem that goes unrecognized by many Americans post-Cold War era.

Conversely, Ibish noted the interconnectedness of Middle Eastern states as kaleidoscopic and multi-faceted wherein “one small pattern shifts and the entire picture re-arranges itself.”

According to Ibish, one could spend an entire academic career examining one street battle in Kobani in Northern Syria and not exhaust the subject – analytically, philosophically, etc… “We need to widen the aperture, step back for a second and look at very big picture,” he said, “specifying that changes in the Middle East are often very closely linked together.”

Ibish dove into the subject by portraying the beginnings of the Arab Spring in 2011 and addressing the downfall of Hosni Mubarak in Egypt, a move that angered some of the Gulf States. He addressed the Syrian Conflict, citing it to have claimed between 200,000 and 400,000 lives, producing up to as many as 7,000,000 displaced refugees since the inception of civil unrest.

He noted these changes to be potentially destructive and therefore alarming. Ibish mentions unorganized street protests in Syria that have begun as peaceful that have catastrophically morphed into violent displays of rebellion – rebellion that became revolution. “Libya clearly had a revolution. I don’t believe there was one in Tunisia or Egypt or anywhere else,” says Ibish.

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Let’s Talk Politics: The Government’s Influence on Daily Life

Politics is arguably a difficult topic to discuss. While referring to the overarching topic of "governance," politics has become a catch-all term, applicable to any subject matter. The politicization of daily institutions beyond the realm of government is a reality for the individual, who has to determine how he or she will allow organizational politics to impact him.

Is there a political structure to our daily lives? Consider a club or sport on campus. Group members have responsibilities that are directly linked to the roles they take. There are leadership roles, subgroups and external actors much like a political institution.

To better understand this perspective, let's look at educational departments. There are distinct levels of service within the group: department chairs, courses and professors, and students, each of which hold a distinct, but integral role to the entirety of the organization. These roles are comparable to that of various positions in America's political system, whether intentionally or not.

The department chairs can be viewed like executives (organizational leaders): governors, police chiefs, anyone who is tasked with being the leader of a larger organization.

Then there are subgroups, the individual course sections and their respective professors each of which can have the same final goal (being offered on the semester schedule), but have varying levels of interest in the way in which that goal is reached. In other words, each course will have different requirements for the students taking them, but all aspire for a place on the University schedule. Such positions resemble that of federal agencies, which constantly jockey for their own causes under the scope of the larger, unified government.

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Two Monmouth Debate Teams Make it to Playoff Round at West Virginia University Mountaineer

Debate-WVUWest Long Branch, NJ -

Two Monmouth University Debate Teams made it into the playoff round at the West Virginia University (WVU) tournament from Nov. 14 - 16. Dan Roman and Victoria Borges competed in the experienced division, earning victories against teams from James Madison University, New York University and Liberty University and made their way into the playoff round before losing on a 2-1 vote to another team from New York University.

The experienced division includes debaters on debate scholarships. Victoria Borges won an 8th place individual speaking award in the experienced division at the tournament. Sana Rashid and Ryan Kelly also made it into the playoff round in the novice division after going 4-2 before losing in the playoff round to a team from Liberty University.

The tournament included approximately 100 teams of two debaters from 17 universities including Vanderbilt University, University of Washington, James Madison University, New York University, Boston College University of Miami and West Point Military Academy. Each year, a topic is picked to be debated throughout the season.

The topic for this year is "Resolved: The United States should legalize all or nearly all of one or more of the following: marihuana, online gambling, physician-assisted suicide, prostitution, the sale of human organs." The Monmouth team created one case centering around human organ sales and another case focusing on prostitution.

Monmouth entered ten two person teams in the tournament, including: Dan Roman and Victoria Borges; Michelle Grushko and Saliha Younas; Sana Rashid and Ryan Kelly; Mike Kulik and Angela Ryan; Michael Hamilton and Samah Khalifa; Danielle Doud and Monica Santos; and Matt Toto and Mike Butkocy.

Six Monmouth debaters made their debating debut at this tournament including Ryan Henry and Victoria Garbutt, Nick Simonelli and Justin Okun, and Chris Summers and Katharine Dix. Monmouth alumni and former debaters Kelly Craig, Sam Maynard, Jessica Roberts and Dylan Maynard helped coach the teams and served as judges at the tournament.

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Midterm Elections in Review: Looking Towards 2016

PBS-TurnoutThe midterm elections took place on Nov. 4, and resulted in an overwhelmingly low voter turnout rate at 36.4 percent of eligible voters, according to Time, marking the lowest turnout rate in 72 years for this type of election.

The party affiliation of participating voters is important to note. In this year's midterm elections, the majority of voters identified with the Republican Party.

Patrick Murray, Director of the Monmouth University Polling Institute, was not surprised by the voter turnout this year due to "a lack of trust in the government today." He also acknowledged Obama's extremely low approval rating of 40 percent according to a November 2014 poll by Gallup. This lack of trust in the government today could signal citizens losing interest in voting in elections.

Dr. Kenneth Mitchell, associate professor of political science, said, "This is the second term, so the current president will not be running in 2016." He added that despite having won two presidential terms, the Democratic Party lacks the support and resources one would expect after eight years of presidency.

Additionally, the Democratic Party is aware the second term for Obama will be over in just two years and as such is not as motivated to vote during the midterm elections. The Republican Party, on the other hand, is in full speed to get the presidency back under Republican power.

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Contact Information

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Phone: (732) 571-3481 | Fax: (732) 263-5151
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