In Defense of Satire at A&M:
Or a Perspective on Propaganda
“The Mugdown exists to challenge the thinking of the Texas A&M community by delivering relevant satirical news.” —The Mugdown Mission Statement
We are both immensely proud and humbled by what we have created. We believe we have faithfully carried out our mission statement: exposing a reality at A&M which no one has been brave enough (or perhaps stupid enough) to release into the public sphere of dialogue.
Late Wednesday night, we carried out a project that has been in development for months—a collection of posters portraying propaganda for the Corps of Cadets which were arranged throughout campus. Hours went into crafting the images, deciding which pieces were fit to print and would best advance the intended message, and which order would maximize the message value.
This is not an apology.
We absolutely stand by what we have unleashed, and we fully believe that any subsequent offense has resulted from either a misunderstanding of the heart of the message or a willful ignorance to the unpleasant reality it presents.
Every article we write and every stunt we orchestrate is for the singular purpose of satire, which we have made clear in our mission statement above. The essence of satire is truth, or what we like to call, the heart of the message. This heart reflects reality and is found deeper than the instinctive reaction. There is strong correlation between the truth of the message and the response that the message garners. This idea has been indisputably witnessed with Thursday’s stunt and subsequent reaction.
The heart of this collection is in exposing a tension at the core of Texas A&M culture, namely, the implicit rivalry between the Corps of Cadets and the non-reg student body. We have witnessed firsthand this conflict during our time here at A&M, with such occurrences as the flag event at the Greek Bid Day a few years ago and the recent scandal involving the yell leader elections.
The purpose of this message was to present this reality to the public sphere of discussion. We hoped this would encourage open and free dialogue, and ultimately put this division to rest and bring the Aggie family closer together.
We believe we presented this reality in its most extreme form through the use of propaganda—which by its very nature is extreme. Our hope was that its satirical nature would be immediately obvious by those of the Texas A&M community. Unfortunately, this message has been mostly lost by those who have misinterpreted the intent and attributed malice to The Mugdown staff or others. Some have even gone as far as to say that we are not deserving of membership in the Aggie family.
Are we not Aggies for bringing to light a truth that others are unable or unwilling to admit? Are we not Aggies for promoting discussion on what we believe to be a very real and very troubling aspect of Texas A&M culture? Are we not Aggies because we desire a truly unified campus and not simply its illusion?
The posters were all designed to communicate various aspects of the same message, and were intended to be taken as a whole—which is why we placed them in close proximity to one another. Unfortunately, much of the substance of the message is lost when the pieces are taken individually, and this undoubtedly led to the misconceptions which have arisen in their wake.
Specifically, the poster that received the most backlash is the piece depicting Steven Lanz in opposition with the other yell leaders. This is intentionally the least subtle of the collection and is reasonably unsettling when taken out of context.
This past election was one of the most controversial events to hit our campus in a long time, and it hit a huge nerve in corps and non-reg communities alike. The mentality expressed in the poster, that Lanz is representative of an enemy that has infiltrated the sacred ranks of Yell Leader, is one that we truly believe exists in some circles—and is in direct opposition with the Aggie spirit. We believe that this poster hits so hard because of the truth it exposes, and bringing that truth out of the shadows is paramount to healing and growth in the Aggie community.
Is the reality depicted in the poster “bad bull?” Absolutely. Is the subtle tension between the corps and non-reg students a real and tangible part of the Texas A&M community? Without question. Does that make this piece of satire or its creators responsible for the truth it exposes, as uncomfortable as it may be? Absolutely not. If you were offended, if you were outraged, if you were appalled, upset, called for our expulsion, or went to your keyboards to demand justice, then it was because of the reality that these posters addressed—not the posters themselves.
This week, we held a mirror to the face of Aggieland and reflected a problem that we have shown to exist. The Corps is not the enemy. Greek life is not the enemy. Steven Lanz is not the enemy. And we at The Mugdown are certainly not the enemy. However, the enemy is indeed among us—among us and within us—and as long as we suppress public discourse and allow anti-Aggie sentiments to perpetuate, the enemy will continue to tear our family apart.
Thanks and Gig ‘Em,