No credit, please

Journalism is a public practice: it requires serving the public interest and in turn earning public trust. But what happens when a story that is of public interest requires a level of privacy that seems to undermine credibility and public trust? That is the ethical dilemma of anonymity that journalists face.

As student journalists, it is no less important for us to reflect on the decision-making procedures that go into the use of anonymity. Despite all the costs and risks, anonymity is sometimes worth it.

The straight story

Aversion to anonymity in a public practice like journalism is understandable, but arguably ahistorical. The most famously cited example of such reporting is that of Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward. In 1972, the Washington Post reporters covered the Watergate scandal, which led to the downfall of the Nixon presidency. The catch is that they relied on anonymous sources to break the story.

It is important to clarify that anonymous sources mean confidential, unnamed, or background sources. Their identities are known by the reporter, but the information they provide is not ultimately attributed to them.

Revealing a given source’s identity can lead to retribution for both source and reporter, whether in their physical safety or employment prospects. Without source anonymity, some stories may otherwise never be told.

But public trust is always at stake. Readers have reason to be skeptical: if a claim is not attributed to any named person, it is difficult to know if they are telling the truth and how to hold them accountable. The public may especially scrutinize organizations that do not have a long-established reputation or record that justifies trust in anonymous sources, which may be particularly true for campus newspapers. It is therefore incumbent on journalists to use anonymous sources cautiously and sparingly, and to follow strict guidelines when doing so.

Double obligation

Organizations like the Canadian Association of Journalists (CAJ) or the Society of Professional Journalists elaborate on when journalists should decide to use anonymous sources. According to the CAJ’s Ethics Guidelines, if there is a high public interest in what the source has to say and there is no alternative access to that information, then the journalist has reason to use such sources.

But journalists can nonetheless take steps to increase credibility and ensure that what they are gathering is indeed true. For example, they might gain the permission of a senior editor and ensure that they are aware of the identity and material of the source.

The source should be carefully vetted for their reliability and reasons for coming forward. There should be no malicious motive underlying the information they provide. For instance, as the CAJ notes, they should not “take cheap shots at individuals or organizations.” Given the lack of accountability, anonymity could perhaps give the source licence to make exaggerated, opinionated, or speculative assessments.

When describing the source in their reporting, the journalist should ensure that they contextualize the person in question as transparently as possible without exposing their identity altogether. If the journalist fails to protect their source, they risk damaging the reputation of the entire publication and any future prospects of anonymous sources coming forward. As The Varsity’s Code of Journalistic Ethics clearly states, “Journalists must protect the anonymity of sources to whom they have given such assurances.” Ultimately, journalists are obligated to the trust of both the readership and their source.

Due diligence

The Varsity’s News Editor Josie Kao explained the customary process that the News team undergoes in such scenarios.

According to Kao, anonymous sources are used as little as possible and anonymity is granted “on a case-by-case basis.” Editor-in-Chief Jack Denton elaborated that fear for safety, security, and reputation are good reasons for granting it. Other student-run campus papers also cite justifications like the prospect of mental, physical, sexual, or financial harm.

Kao gives the example of her September story on Test and Exam Services invigilators who spoke out against training sessions that included discriminatory content about students with disabilities.

Although an initial invigilator had already been public about the issue on social media and spoke on the record for Kao’s story, she connected Kao to co-workers who were willing to corroborate. However, they only agreed to proceed if guaranteed anonymity, given their fear of losing their jobs.

“For any anonymous source, the section editor and the editor-in-chief have to know about their entire background,” Kao stressed. “We don’t publish without doing our due diligence.”

This introduces particular challenges to the writing process. “For anonymous sources, we usually confirm with them about how they want to be described. For the invigilators’ story, this was already very difficult because they are a small group of people and any information can be easily identifiable,” she explained. “We definitely spent a lot of time working with them, getting their consent about their description… it took much longer than the regular one-week cycle.”   

Kao admitted that “maybe there’s a better way to be transparent about the editing process” to ensure readers are aware of the intense process behind the decision. At the University of Ottawa, Features Editor of student paper The Fulcrum Matt Gergyek is currently using anonymous sources to cover a story on student involvement in sugar dating for income. Gergyek suggested attaching the paper’s policy on anonymity alongside an explanation about how sources were vetted and why identities are being concealed to the article in question to preemptively address issues of public trust.

Procedures at other campus newspapers vary. At the University of Calgary, student paper The Gauntlet follows a similar process to The Varsity in that the editor-in-chief, news editor, and reporter in question must be fully aware of the background of the source.

At The McGill Daily, one of McGill University’s student papers, Coordinating Editor Lydia Bhattacharya indicated that an editor using anonymous sources has to consult with management to verify credibility — contact is made with the source — and ensure anonymity is maintained. The Fulcrum’s Editor-in-Chief, Anchal Sharma, doesn’t believe that using anonymous sources undermines the credibility of an article, especially when multiple sources corroborate the claims.

At The Ubyssey, the University of British Columbia’s main student paper, the process is somewhat more rigorous. Coordinating Editor Sam McCabe explained that if a reporter wishes to use an anonymous source, it must be approved by the section editor, followed by the coordinating editor, and ultimately two-thirds of the entire editorial team.

Given that anonymity undermines credibility, McCabe explained, this lengthy process “forces writers and editors to really consider why they may or may not grant certain requests.” Furthermore, The Ubyssey always seeks on-the-record and background sources to verify claims made by anonymous sources for due diligence.

For some smaller papers here at U of T, anonymous sources are not allowed. The Mike’s Editor-in-Chief Aaron Panciera explained that this is due to a lack of experience with anonymous sourcing, resources required to vet anonymous sources, and reputation to legitimize their use.

SHANNA HUNTER/THE VARSITY

Telling a story that doesn’t point fingers

While the credibility of anonymous sources is particularly important for hard news, there is a distinction to be drawn for other forms of writing. The respective Editors-in-Chief for Ryerson University’s Eyeopener and Western University’s Western Gazette, Jacob Dubé and Michael Conley both agree that a source’s personal experience or feelings about an issue do not pose as much of a liability as, for instance, allegations against an individual or organization.

In this regard, narrative-style feature reporting is usually more flexible than hard news: it tells a story that does not point fingers, but provides voice to vulnerability.

For instance, with the backdrop of the #MeToo movement, former Varsity Comment Editor Teodora Pasca has written a series of pieces on ordinary people’s experiences of online sexual harassment.

The guarantee of anonymity — in the form of a pseudonym — was crucial to bringing forward respondents when she sent out requests, especially in big U of T Facebook groups. “When you’re dealing with moments of vulnerability and uncomfortable sexual experiences, a lot of people won’t want to share them, especially if you’re printing them. A Google search can be uncomfortable since the narrative gets associated with their name,” said Pasca.

Pasca’s interviews asked open-ended questions that enabled respondents to speak openly and “tell their story from start to finish.”

“They rarely get an opportunity to explain everything that has happened,” said Pasca, “and then have that narrative be incorporated with other [people’s].” Pasca also made sure to share transcripts with respondents to ensure that they were pleased with the product, even though anonymity was already guaranteed. Transcripts  were also made available for readers to “hear” the full story.

As a journalist, Pasca had to approach with care, because “people were sharing things with me that they didn’t share with a lot of people in their lives — there’s an element of trust.” Given that the material was “heavy, disappointing, and infuriating… you don’t want to have people share something with you and then not relay it properly or do anything at all.”

Clearly, the responsibility of the journalist goes beyond just sharing something of public interest — like harassment — while also respecting the privacy of the source. In some cases, public interest is secondary, and the goal is instead to have the story and the person who lived the story be recognized. When asked if her intent was to spark a conversation about sexual violence, Pasca explained that, instead, “it’s about listening. I want people to listen to other people’s experiences, and acknowledge that it happened.”

While a news reporting perspective  on sexual harassment often involves an accusation, which requires  getting comment from the accused, corroboration, and using words like “alleged,” the feature format allowed Pasca to focus on one side of the story that was “cathartic and meaningful for people to read.” In this sense, anonymity didn’t undermine credibility, since it’s not primarily about whether or not you believe a source experienced an incident. It’s simply about ensuring that their story is heard.

A similarly sensitive issue is youth homelessness in Toronto, which former Photo Editor Steven Lee and and current Deputy News Editor Ilya Bañares wrote about in last year’s winter magazine. They wrote this story to address education systems that don’t adequately support their students. They are “ignored if unsuccessful, revered if successful,” noted Lee.

Lee found that it was imperative to protect the identity of the youth who were interviewed, given the stigma of “uselessness, laziness, [and] desperation” associated with homelessness that could further expose them to bullying and discrimination. According to Lee, many of them “have worked really hard to distance themselves from said stigma in certain company,” including friends and teachers, “to retain a semblance of normalcy in their life.” Hence, they were asked how they wanted to be described in the piece and given untraceable monikers.

Whether in the cases of Pasca or Lee, the style for feature writing did not require a rigorous vetting process for the sources because they were not making accusations that heightened liability. They were just telling their stories. Given the sensitivity of these subjects, the position of the journalist and the personal stake they have in the subject also matters.

For instance, Pasca is a woman, and as such acknowledged that this likely had something to do with sources — mostly also women — being willing to speak to her. She was also invested in the subject given her own experiences of harassment. Likewise, Lee’s own experience of homelessness informed his interest in and ability to access homeless youth sources.

Authorless

But anonymous sourcing isn’t the only form of anonymity in journalism. An overlooked but equally important discussion is of anonymous bylines.

Last fall, The New York Times published an anonymous op-ed entitled, “I Am Part of the Resistance Inside the Trump Administration.” A note prefaces the article to explain the byline. “We have done so at the request of the author, a senior official in the Trump administration whose identity is known to us and whose job would be jeopardized by its disclosure. We believe publishing this essay anonymously is the only way to deliver an important perspective to our readers.”

Among other matters, the op-ed drew controversy and criticism for its anonymity. Readers argued that an author should not just stand by but defend their own words, especially where accusations are concerned.

Other campus papers are also ambivalent toward anonymous bylines, although exceptions are made in the case of personal opinion pieces that could lead to significant retribution for authors. For example, Bhattacharya noted that The McGill Daily is willing to give anonymous bylines to protect an author’s personal safety, referring to instances when authors feared being doxxed by Canary Mission after criticizing Israel’s occupation of Palestine in their articles.

In 2017, The Varsity did grant authorial anonymity — for a photo-essay. The series was of Honest Ed’s prior to its complete demolition. To take the photos, the photographer, referred to as Cameron*, had to trespass. They described how it was “an impulsive decision for what I consider historically vital photos.” In recognizing the risks, Cameron “wanted to retain anonymity to avoid any potential legal ramifications.”

Collective voice

Editorials, which are opinion pieces written by the masthead, offer another avenue to examine anonymous bylines. Some campus papers use unsigned editorials, in which the article is accredited to the editorial board of the paper, as is the case with major publications like The New York Times or Toronto Star. In these cases, the individual authors of the editorial remain anonymous.

The Varsity’s operating policy mandates the practice of unsigned editorials to “represent the opinion of the newspaper as a whole.” Every semester, the masthead elects a group of individuals to serve on the editorial board, of which the Comment Editor is always chair. The identities of the other members are not made public, to ensure a confidential process in which members are free from external influence and scrutiny.

The benefit of unsigned editorials is that readers are focused on the argument and analysis at hand rather than the authors and their potential biases. This unity as the collective voice of a journalistic institution projects authority and power in advocacy.

The importance of the editorial board is further accentuated by the fact that, while conflict may exist privately, Varsity masthead members cannot publicly write individual opinion pieces to ensure that they don’t potentially conflict with the editorial position.

The Gazette also uses unsigned editorials, but always finds a way to incorporate the opinions of minority voices. It’s important that the public cannot identify any one individual author because, as Conley noted, “our organization is, like any organization, an organism in of itself.”

Papers with coordinating editors, like The McGill Daily and The Ubyssey, also use unsigned editorials, but claim to be less hierarchical and more democratic in that consensus from the entire editorial team is necessary.

However, some, like The Eyeopener, prefer signed editorials. These are accredited to individual writers because, as Dubé put it, “knowing the previous work, opinions, and interests of an editorial writer allows the reader to place their opinion within the greater context of the issue and consider its impact accordingly.”

Whether a paper uses an unsigned, signed, or hybrid system for editorials, considering the power and limitations of anonymity is essential as the writers grapple with public trust and transparency.

Who said, or what is said?

When it comes to anonymity, we are often focused on credibility. Readers want to know who is behind the stories they read. Without an answer, there is less accountability and trust. Nevertheless, a story or perspective should not be discounted simply because the identity of the source or author is concealed.

There is no question that due diligence is essential and papers should be transparent about their editorial decisions. But sometimes, to best serve the public interest, readers should read carefully for a moment before asking questions and making accusations. Otherwise, some stories might never be told.

*Name changed, for reasons explained above.

My name is ________ and I’m a recovering addict in grad school

Hi,

My name is Sophie*. I mean, it’s not my real name, but I’ll get to that in a bit.

I’m a grad student. I’m also an addict in recovery. These two things can’t comfortably co-exist in a public or professional conversation. But I want to talk about it anyway, so for all intents and purposes you can just call me Sophie.

A lot of this is coming from firsthand experience, speculations, and opinions. Don’t take my word as gospel.

I got clean in 2013, when I was 21 and still an undergrad. When I tell people that story now, they file it under “acts of bravery” or “really knowing and being in control of one’s self.” When I tell people that story, it’s usually by the time we’ve hung out three times — after the first date, after a long and multi-layered discussion that we might be having in the corner at a party. And sure, some of my colleagues in academia know. Just some of them, when it eventually comes up. With almost six years of sobriety under my belt, it is in many ways ‘safer’ to break my anonymity and tell people about the fact that I am in recovery. We inhabit — for better or for worse — a world of neoliberal, meritocratic thought. People like results; they want concrete deliverables.

Even so, I keep that information close to the vest in my professional life. It’s not simply because of the potential repercussions born from misinformed, caricature-ish stereotypes of the delinquent and irresponsible addict. That’s certainly a part of it. There is a culture of using and drinking in North American graduate academia, as a social lubricant, a tool for networking, and a means to blow off steam. “I don’t drink” is what I usually say, and thankfully, since we’re all adults, people just nod and say, “That’s cool,” and we carry on the conversation. I am content to attend department mixers and post-mixer afterparties with a club soda in hand, but there is always this lingering feeling that I am on a different astral plane. I know I’m not networking in the same networks. I may be there and I may be talking about my work, but there is an impenetrability to the borders of those networks. And it is simply because I am not drinking, and they are, and however little or much their mental state is altered, my colleagues and I are having different conversations. My resolve not to drink also sends a subtle message, whether or not it’s intentional: I’m not capable or willing to take this interaction into the social world; I always take myself seriously.

For people who might not know, being social is a huge part of grad school. It’s so huge, and yet for whatever reason — at least in my experience — I never really got the memo beforehand. Don’t get me wrong, I had some understanding that I needed to sharpen my networking skills. Make the odd appearance at a talk or department event. Become a part-time extrovert. But I really didn’t clue into how important it was to be social. Over and above the professional reasons and the network building and all that, being social meant the opposite of being isolated. Isolation is what makes grad students miserable. I did not take classes last semester because I was recovering from a traumatic event, and therefore felt too disconnected and not enough a part of anything to participate in as many social events as I would have liked. The isolation felt like an anvil on my chest. I needed to be social for the sake of my mental and emotional survival. The overwhelming work of grad school is so preoccupying on so many levels that, if you’re not seen, people might — and often do — forget those who are never around.

All of which is to circuitously say that almost all social events that I attend as a grad student — on or off site — involve drinking. Being social is a big and important part of being a grad student.

Are you still with me? Ok, good. Let’s move along.

“But Sophie,” you might ask, “why don’t you just tell your colleagues that you’re in recovery? Surely they would get it.” Well, I could do that. But remember the little excursion I took through the awkward discrepancy in people’s levels of inebriation — which can range from stone-cold sober to being really, very out of it — during conversations that I often find myself in? Paradoxically, breaking my anonymity adds another layer of separation. I’ve grown close enough to some of my colleagues to disclose my recovery, among others. But even though they were always receptive and accepting, they still say weird stuff sometimes. Below, I’ve compiled a list of some conversation snippets to illustrate my point.

“I’m sure one day you’ll be able to drink again.”

In response to a coy suggestion I made to a friend that they don’t need to actually get drunk when they go out: “Oh yeah, I could, but it’s different with you. You’re very controlled.” (something to that effect)

“What were you addicted to?” or variations thereof.

“Your addiction doesn’t define you.”

Apart from the first statement, which I think we can all agree is a very messed-up thing to say to a recovering addict, you might be wondering what could be so bothersome about the others. I do want to stress that I don’t actually feel offended, or necessarily that bothered, but those statements highlight the more subtle ways that otherwise open-minded colleagues still misunderstand or caricaturize addiction.

Let’s start with the second statement and move down the list. “You’re very controlled” implies a couple of things. One, that I’m a control freak who is very mindful of what goes in and out of her body (the first part is true, but I am far from a ‘my body is a temple’ kind of person), and more importantly, that addiction is something I have control over. What’s lost here is the fact that the very reason I don’t drink or get high is because I am literally incapable of controlling myself. My choice not to partake is not born out of health consciousness, a desire to project an image of wellbeing, or to make people feel bad about their choice to indulge. My choice is a non-choice; it’s either stone cold sobriety or active addiction. My sobriety is a result of not being able to participate in something that others get to do. It’s survival, literally.

Let’s look at the next statement: “What were you addicted to?” Admittedly, depending on the person asking, it can be really tempting to tell the asker to fuck off. The question sometimes makes me feel like I’m being treated like a curiosity at the zoo. Once again, it misses the point, although this time it’s something I really can’t blame people for. There are still a lot of misconceptions about addiction, namely that it is almost always substance-specific. It can be that, but in my case and as is the case for my friends in recovery, it’s not like that at all. For us, being an addict preludes substance abuse. Addiction can be born of many circumstances. In my case, it evolved out of unhealthy coping mechanisms to deal with depression, trauma, and poor self-worth. It’s also a very intimate question; really not the sort of thing that I feel comfortable talking about while I’m sitting on the floor of a friend’s apartment at a house party.

Onto the last one: “your addiction doesn’t define you.” Now, I completely understand that this one is coming from a good place and a desire to make me feel like I am not being judged. But it’s patently wrong. It’s a big part of my life that, for better or worse, I often need to keep hidden. It defines the friendships I make, the relationships I form, the activities I do (or don’t do). All of my close relationships formed outside of recovery circles start with establishing boundaries around drugs and alcohol (more the former). Don’t bring drugs to my house. Don’t show up to my house or to a one-on-one hangout high or drunk. Don’t ask me if I want any. Check in with me first before recounting a drug-related escapade from your undergraduate days. Saying that my addiction doesn’t define me is also unwittingly dismissive. Besides the fact that it elides something that, if otherwise not there, would make me a totally different person, it also signals an unwillingness or disinterest in trying to understand me.

“Your addiction doesn’t define you” reads as “I don’t care about the fact that you’re an addict; I like the other stuff about you. Your addiction doesn’t define you, because how could it? You’re so great otherwise.” It means you’re choosing not to acknowledge that part of me. The part of me that has caused me and the people I love grief. The part of me that would have derailed my academic career. The part of me that could not deal with the world of pain that I endured and that I also created. The part of me that brought me so much shame and desperation. That was really me. That still is me, because that is also the part of my life that made me stop in my tracks and want to change.

But if we’re not close friends, probable lovers, or fellow recovering addicts, I won’t be telling you any of this. Despite being a grad student in a progressive department with progressive peers, the term ‘addict in recovery’ is still an identity marker. It’s something that might perplex you. It might inspire admiration for my ability to be in control of myself. It might make you feel uneasy as you smoke a joint in front of me, wondering if you’re causing me harm or if I am judging you. It might be a part of myself that you don’t want me to feel defined by, because people don’t want to define themselves by bad stuff. Being an addict is still ‘bad.’ ‘Bad’ just holds different meanings now. ‘Bad’ is still contradictory; it doesn’t reflect the otherwise ‘successful’ person who is standing in front of you. ‘Bad’ is dysfunctional, lacking in tenacity, hopeless. It’s honestly just too much to explain. There is already enough separation between myself and the social world of grad school. In a sea of colleagues, faculty, and people I should probably know but for the life of me cannot remember, and many of whom are holding a drink, I often stand alone with my glass of club soda.

Written by Sophie*

*Not my real name

Stuck in the middle of myself

“In a way,” I thought to myself as I gazed at the plastic Totoro, “my whole life has been building up to this moment.” Plastic Totoro was unmoved. It was late June in Tokyo, mercifully overcast, but suffocatingly humid nonetheless. I was queuing to enter the Ghibli Museum, a monument to Japan’s foremost animation studio. Next to the entryway, behind a pane of glass, a large likeness of Ghibli’s de facto mascot was seated, as if to charge you admission.

Even if the names “Ghibli” and “Totoro” don’t ring any bells, you would likely recognize the studio’s most famous film, Spirited Away. It’s a coming-of-age movie, but at its core, it explores the idea of liminality and in-betweenness. The protagonist, Chihiro, is not quite a young child, but not yet an adolescent. Her life has been uprooted by her father’s work; she’s left her old home behind but has yet to see her new one. The mysterious world of the bathhouse, where Chihiro becomes trapped for most of the film, simultaneously embodies a traditional, ‘authentic’ Japan, and one corrupted by excess and consumption.

Betwixt and between. Neither here nor there. It was how I was feeling as well.

When I started out as an undergrad, I was operating under the assumption that if I just went through the motions, things would fall into place. That in the course of diligently hitting the books, I would also just happen to stumble upon a new and improved version of myself. I would be more headstrong, more purposeful, and somebody with a better purchase on the rules of human conversation. But life, annoyingly, hadn’t delivered. I was nearing graduation and all I had to show for it was an expensive latte habit. I was as awkward, anxious, and listless as I’d ever been.

I had to figure myself out — remake myself, new and improved. The trouble is, I am terribly averse to new things. Day after day, for literal years, I have eaten the same foods, listened to largely the same music, and repeatedly rewatched Friends in its entirety. I take refuge in the familiar and I fear the unknown — even if the unknown is as benign as a Netflix Original.

The only solution, then, was to leave the familiar behind.

KATIE MACINTOSH/THE VARSITY

It’s a cliché that travel presents an opportunity to reinvent oneself, but I think there’s something to it. When you’re abroad, there’s nothing tying you to the self that you routinely inhabit. At home, you have a role to play, but when you travel, ‘you’ becomes a blank slate. It was according to this logic that I ultimately elected to spend my summer studying in Tokyo.

At the same time, I was cheating a little; Japan did not constitute a wholly unfamiliar place. I am, you see, a wee bit of an anime nerd. Through elementary and middle school, I was obsessed with all things Japanese. I spent my lunch hours with my nose buried in manga and my free time watching anime. During a period of my life when I was lonely more often than not, those stories, populated by misfits like me, were my constant companions. The weird world of anime — the place I imagined Japan to be — felt more like home than anywhere, and I pinned my dreams for the future on living there.

Long before I finally touched down in Tokyo, though, I recognized that my imaginary Japan was just that — fiction. Nonetheless, I still felt like a part of me was waiting there. I wanted to go someplace new to find a new me — but I wanted to go to Japan to get in touch with an older one.

As it turns out, Tokyo is the perfect place to work out such contradictory desires, because Tokyo itself is many different things at once. Moreover, it has a habit of juxtaposing the completely different sides of itself. In Ginza, towering office buildings stand across the street from the Imperial Palace. Inside Meiji Jingu, a shrine to the Meiji Emperor, you’ll find a wall of traditional sake containers — as well as one of Burgundy wine casks. Not a minute from this tranquil, forested memorial, you’ll find the kawaii chaos that is Harajuku. One is constantly moving between opposing poles — ideal conditions for an identity crisis.

I followed through on forcing myself outside of my comfort zone. I studied new subjects. I performed the awful task of talking to people. I ventured out in the sweltering heat to explore without a roadmap. But in the moments when this identity building began to feel like too much, I sought out familiar spaces that brought me back to a bygone era and a distant version of myself.

As I waited to enter the Ghibli Museum, I was standing in Chihiro’s shoes; I was not quite a new me, but not the old one, either. By the end of Spirited Away, Chihiro has moved from point A to point B; she’s grown up a bit, she’s fended for herself, and she’s made it out of the bathhouse.

Leaving the starting point behind is never easy. The thing that I learned, meandering along Tokyo’s hidden side streets and neon-tinged main roads, is that it’s okay to find yourself stuck in the middle.

Where do we go from here?

“Ugh.

That is the sound that emerges from my mouth, my bones, and my brain every time I turn on my radio to hear the news in the morning. Kavanaugh. Separation of refugee families at the US-Mexico border. A Trump tax bill transferring wealth from the poor to the rich. Hate crimes. Climate change. Racial inequality. Income inequality. Missing and murdered Indigenous women.

Where does it end? The world is so unfair, and now I need to take my privileged white ass to class.

To top it all off, just when we were feeling all high-and-mighty up here in Canada after the election of Donald Trump — ‘That could never happen here!’ — Ontario went and elected a right-wing populist. The state of our world can be completely and totally paralyzing. In fact, I think most of us choose not to mobilize on election day for this reason. What is my one vote going to do to change any of these far-reaching, deep, systemic problems? And, if the same powerful rich people continue to be the only ones with access to public office, what will change by voting?

In June, 40 per cent of Ontarians who voted elected a Progressive Conservative government led by Doug Ford. But don’t let the word ‘progressive’ fool you: this party is the leftovers of a past conservative party, an artifact of Ontario politics that laughs in our faces each and every time someone is forced to put ‘progressive’ and ‘Doug Ford’ in the same sentence.

Let me be crystal clear: there is nothing progressive about Ford.

Who is he, anyway? Most of us just know him as some round, sweaty man who entered Ontario politics relatively recently and started shouting about hydro prices and balancing the budget. Through all the garbage of Ontario politics, you may have heard his campaign rallying cry: “For the people.” I feel very strongly that this phrase should be changed to ‘for my people’ as a result of the Ford government’s record since being elected.

Why? Well, let’s check his catalogue of offerings. A pledge to do away with the labour reform bill, which, among many other things, was going to raise the minimum wage to $15 in January. Pausing the creation of new overdose prevention sites, an initiative that’s proven to help reduce the tragic effects of the opioid crisis. Cancelling the basic income pilot, which helped thousands of low-income Ontarian families make ends meet. And, as the last of only a handful of examples, cancelling Ontario’s world-renowned cap-and-trade system, which brought in millions in annual government revenue and effectively reduced the province’s carbon emissions. Many of these policies, like the labour reform bill cancellation, will mean less money “for the people” and more money for the CEOs of large corporations. Did I mention that Ford owns a multimillion-dollar business, Deco Labels & Tags?

Despite that long list of negativity, there is a light at the end of the tunnel: millennials will become the largest voting bloc in North America. We have the power to affect change. And, despite all the bad in the world, there is good happening, too.

In Britain, Jeremy Corbyn’s brand of democratic socialism gained more popular support in the last federal UK election than anyone thought possible. Corbyn has advocated and continues to advocate for the nationalization of public utilities and railways, as well as the expansion of welfare and public services to support the most vulnerable of the British population.

In the US, the momentum that Bernie Sanders created in the 2016 election is continued by candidates seeking Senate and Congress seats. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a 29-year-old American woman of Puerto Rican descent and a member of the Democratic Socialists of America, won the primary this summer against an incumbent Democrat who has held office for 19 years and is twice her age. As we speak, she is campaigning across the country for other candidates who, like her, were told that the odds were not in their favour. Something big is happening.

In Canada, 2015 federal election data tells us that young people handed Justin Trudeau and the Liberal Party a majority by turning out in larger numbers. As Ocasio-Cortez said a couple of weeks ago, “Our swing voter is not red-to-blue. Our swing voter is the voter to the non-voter, the non-voter to the voter.” It is our responsibility to ourselves and to our children to engage in our democracy.

Progressivism is the rallying cry of young people in 2018. Young people overwhelmingly disapprove of Trump in the United States. They favour a path to citizenship for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals recipients, equal rights for the LGBTQ+ community, gender equality, gun control, action on climate change, racial justice, and income equality. Therefore, larger voter turnout and millennial values should equal more progressive governments. Math!

In October 2019, young Canadians will have the opportunity to make a difference — they will have a say in whom they want to lead the country. Show your city, your province, and your country that you are not an apathetic millennial. Let the Doug Fords and the Donald Trumps of the world light a fire under your butt. Take that same butt, and perhaps the butt of a friend, to the polls. Even if you are doing the simple work of engaging your friends in a conversation about politics, you are contributing to the engagement of other young people in this process.

Have courage — it’s not too late to build a better world.

The dark web: drugs, hitmen, and the future of online privacy

In the same way that a shower curtain protects you from a killer with a kitchen knife, the internet protects you and your personal data from the prying eyes of surveillance. 

Government agencies, tech giants, advertisers, and others want to use your data to further their interests. These interests range from the annoying, like targeting you with personalized ads, to the dangerous, like monitoring your communications and interactions. As data-driven computing continues to grow and reshape how we use digital technology, data is slowly becoming the most valuable commodity in the world. 

Throughout its short and extremely active life, the internet has grown from a rudimentary communication space to the foundation of the contemporary world. Due to this ubiquity, it has become nearly impossible to protect or anonymize yourself online. At any moment, you can safely assume that your location, communications, and interactions are being used by companies however they choose. 

A desire for online privacy spurred the creation of the first dark web browser, known as Tor. Developed by the US Navy starting in 2001 and spun off in 2006, Tor uses sophisticated encryption and multiple intermediate relays to make user data impossible to trace and collect. In a world where data is power, protecting user identities was a huge leap forward. Finally, those who feared persecution, monitoring, or government surveillance had an outlet to express their ideas and communicate with others. 

Duality in the dark web 

With the power of anonymity on a worldwide scale, Tor quickly became the host of the world’s largest markets for illegal narcotics, illegal pornography (often including child pornography), firearm sales, hitmen, hacking for hire services, and much worse. This was enabled by the advent of Bitcoin in 2009, the world’s first cryptocurrency — decentralized and anonymous. 

Prior to the advent of cryptocurrency, the dark web primarily served as a way to share illegal files without being caught. But following the first wave of Bitcoin-enabled markets, business took off. Some estimate that cybercrime generates 1.5 trillion USD annually in illicit sales. The magnitude of this problem shouldn’t be overlooked; Tor has given refuge to those wanting to abuse children, distribute laced drugs, and extort money or information from innocent people. Anonymity allows this to happen.

On the other hand, anonymity also provides safety. In some capacity, the dark web is like an online escape hatch — journalists, activists, whistleblowers, and oppressed citizens often turn to it to avoid censorship. In the wake of mass human rights violations following the re-election of Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro in 2018, Venezuelan Tor usage exploded. Jumping from less than 5,000 users in January to over 40,000 by June 25, it was such a powerful circumvention of government censorship that Maduro’s government blocked access nationwide. 

For applications like these, anonymity provides a safeguard against broken systems.

In countries under strict government control, people can be freed from censorship and fear of arrest for online dissent. Anonymous tip websites for news publications, forums for civil discussion, and protection for citizens of oppressive states are all enabled by online privacy.

The dark web also breeds creative technological innovation which may shape the future of mainstream internet use. Despite operating in the shadows, ducking law enforcement and lacking resources, the next generation of cryptographers still manage to stay one step ahead of most governments. Many of their innovations are related to abstract methods of encryption and could have significant applications if adapted into mainstream technology.

Trust

The illegal marketplaces on the dark web have ingenious ways of ensuring that anonymity doesn’t get in the way of business. Vendors, which have no inherent reliability, rely on positive feedback from buyers to maintain sales. This review system encourages competition and user-friendly practices. Prices and quality expectations rise and fall with supply and demand; sellers offer coupons and return policies. This leads to a surprisingly consumer-friendly experience. While making a Schedule I narcotic easy to buy is absolutely detrimental to society, these markets, which conduct billions in online sales, demonstrate the capabilities of anonymous purchasing. Competitive, consumer safe, anonymous economies are viable online — and that’s very powerful. 

When a user buys a product, the payment is held by the marketplace until the sender can provide proof that the product has been sent, and the buyer can confirm they received the product. Then at least two of the parties involved — buyer, seller, and site administrator — must sign off on the sale using an encrypted digital signature to release the payment. This, of course, requires trust in the marketplace itself from both seller and buyer; other than getting shut down by law enforcement, exit scams by marketplaces stopping orders and vanishing have occurred. Nevertheless, in the face of possible fraud at every turn, illegal markets maintain viability through a series of checks and balances, just like our current systems.

Privacy

The quest to evade law enforcement and regulation is an arms race. Bitcoin, despite having anonymous user credentials, stores all transactions made on a public ledger, which records who sent and who received the money. Law enforcement are able to identify users by the volume of network communications, ultimately matching payment history with other personal details to make arrests.

But newer methods of strengthening user privacy are continually being developed. One example of this is zk-SNARK (zero-knowledge succinct non-interactive argument of knowledge), which allows cryptocurrency transactions to be verified without revealing or knowing either the sender or the reciever. These cryptographic breakthroughs, advanced forms of user-side encryption, and more have enabled the growth of untraceable interaction across the world. While these developments currently prop up the highest concentration of illegal trade ever, they are the only existing structures in place that can genuinely protect users’ privacy. The creativity of those seeking to protect Tor’s sanctity is one of the foremost drivers of cryptographic innovation.

There is no doubt that the dark web has failed in its goal of enabling mainstream privacy. Despite Tor’s sheltering of whistleblowers and those seeking to do good, it is also responsible for spawning an unprecedented distribution network of illegal goods and services. Thanks in part to the cryptocurrency revolution over the last decade, the dark web shows no signs of slowing down.

That said, everyday internet users will never switch to Tor. The danger that lies behind every link is too ominous for mainstream adoption. But its scale, innovation, and longevity proves one thing: online privacy is possible. 

As the internet reaches further into our lives, there is a growing discomfort with the idea that large corporations and agencies will always have access to us. For people who want to go about their online lives without being spied on, the framework is here. The dark web, despite its ugliness, offers an alternative. Tor will be the backbone of the fight against destructive legislation, corrupt governments, and systemic oppression.

The real test will come at the adaptation of these technologies into the mainstream. Over the last decade, blockchain, the technology behind cryptocurrency, has seen widespread implementation across every corner of the tech industry to decentralize data. The encryption techniques and protection practices of dark web users could be retrofitted to existing technologies to give users more control over what they want to share. 

In the end, is anonymity worth it? The internet without legal ramifications has spawned the most sophisticated, deadly, and disgusting markets in the modern world. It also created an environment for Edward Snowden to alert the world of gross mass surveillance from his government. One could not have happened without the other.

Maybe one day, we can reconcile the victories and failures of both faces of the internet to develop a platform that could be anonymous and free, while retaining the data-driven, highly intelligent developments of the surface web. I hope that one day, we realize the serious consequences behind digital interaction and start treating users as humans, not just as ones and zeros.

Letters from the Editors

One afternoon, I went to the Museum on the Seam, which sits between Damascus Gate and Mea Shearim, an ultra-orthodox Jewish neighborhood. I sat in a basement, watching a video installation run over itself, and cried in the dark.

That’s where SEAM came from. After that afternoon, I spent a lot of time thinking about how things bump up against one another, come apart, stretch, and bind. Really, we’re all bound in a variety of ways. Some bindings publicly edge our lives, while we’re unaware of others. Those fascinate and frighten me the most. With them in mind, I kept asking — how do I understand anything about myself? How do I negotiate my place? Can anything I do be honest?

The magazine contributors also confronted these kinds of questions. This informed some really great pieces, like Stephanie’s work on yellow fever, Adam’s writing on psychedelics, and Hanna’s photos. Reading pieces like theirs and producing this magazine ultimately reminded me of the value of grasping: feeling your own fallibility, but reaching anyway.

– Kate

“I never knew that I would need to write as the Creative Director, but life is full of surprises, just like this magazine production was. Spearheading the creative director of a magazine is not easy. It requires an immense amount of effort, forethought, and collaboration. However, the struggles we faced made this an even more amazing experience to share this creative feat with my talented team. Our team really enjoyed the spontaneous process of designing the magazine, and we hope the reads feel that enthusiasm.”

– Kate, voicing Pearl while she’s designing away

 

If you’re reading this I’m surprised! Maybe you’re one of those readers who reads everything on the page so kudos to you! I must say you are holding our most exciting work of the year — The Magazine, much better than our newspapers. We spent exciting hours making collages of course, and we did not sacrifice our health by substituting chips and cookies for our meals *winky face*. Welp, I’ve written enough, and you should start reading our bee-a-u-ti-ful SEAM(less) magazine! Yas! And listen to some Dolce Vita!

– Pearl

CBC didn’t make a mistake

On October 28, Jair Bolsonaro was elected president of Brazil. Bolsonaro’s flamboyant fascism has compelled most global media outlets to denounce him. After all, he uses brutal language toward the country’s vulnerable populations, promises to license the murder of criminals and people who are poor, and wants to resuscitate the country’s previous military dictatorship. Uniquely, immediately after Bolsonaro won the election, a CBC article by Chris Arsenault was not concerned with denouncing him. Instead, Arsenault explicitly accounted the opportunities that Bolsonaro’s presidency will afford Canadian businesses.

Three of CBC’s tweets that night pushed Arsenault’s article. 

The first: “Brazil’s new president elect, Jair Bolsonaro, is a right-winger who leans towards more open markets. This could mean fresh opportunities for Canadian companies looking to invest in the resource-rich country.” 

The second: “Critics have lambasted the former paratrooper for his homophobic, racist and misogynist statements, but his government could open new investment opportunities.” 

The third: “Updated: Brazil’s new president elect, Jair Bolsonaro, is set to put his country on a new course. The right winger promised big changes, including curtailing crime and getting tough on leftists. So where does that leave Canadian investments in Brazil?” 

All three tweets drew outrage.

On Twitter, Arsenault lamented that his article was misunderstood, claiming that his intention was to implicate the amoral motivations of businesses as their gains will deny others of their human rights. It is not difficult to see why his article was misunderstood, since his few criticisms of Bolsonaro are attributed neutrally to “critics.” His apparent optimism for Canadian businesses is the real substance of the article. Judging from Arsenault’s other articles, his professed motivations are probably genuine. What’s interesting is how this article reads after it has been filtered through CBC. 

It is unclear whether or not CBC explicitly told Arsenault to strip his article of any substantial criticism in order to not offend Canadian businesses. Regardless, an article of any other nature probably would not have been published. It is CBC’s financial imperative — though CBC is far from unique — to appeal to powerful business leaders and government officials while presenting palatable narratives to the public. Sometimes, the attempt at doublespeak fails, as it did in CBC’s tweets immediately following Bolsonaro’s election. Usually, it is inoffensive and banal. 

The day after Bolsonaro’s election, John Paul Tasker wrote a CBC article titled, “Canada issues terse statement after far-right candidate elected president of Brazil,” with the subheading, “Trump, meanwhile, welcomes Bolsonaro with enthusiastic tweet.” The article implies that Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland was moved by moral imperatives to extend an unfriendly, though professional, hand to Bolsonaro. Of course, Tasker may not really believe that Freeland’s policies are motivated by a concern for human rights in Brazil. In fact, Tasker might believe that Freeland’s policies have not been motivated by a concern for human rights under the regimes of Israel, Saudi Arabia, or under the United States and NATO’s involvement in the Middle East. But after CBC’s minor public relations foibles the previous night, CBC needed to return the focus to its narratives of  Canadians with real power, in a moral language that its average reader would readily receive. 

Canada’s exploitative mining projects in Brazil have been horrendous, but not nearly as costly as its projects in other parts of the world. This is due in part to Canadian mining company Belo Sun’s inability to pursue its project after the Brazilian federal court moved to protect Brazil’s Indigenous people — which, Arsenault noted in his article, will probably change under Bolsonaro’s presidency. 

To predict how the Brazilian case may play out in Canadian media, we should look to the projects of  U of T alum, the late Peter Munk. In his article in Jacobin two years ago, titled “Canada’s Dirty Secret,” Gerard Di Trolio described the human rights abuses committed by Canada’s mining and oil companies worldwide. At the time of Trolio’s article, Munk’s Barrick Gold was globally the largest gold mining company. Barrick Gold’s abuses traversed the Dominican Republic, Papua New Guinea, Peru, Tanzania, Eritrea, and Guatemala. Trolio referenced Munk’s response to gang rape committed by Barrick Gold’s security in Papua New Guinea: “Gang rape is a cultural habit. Of course, you can’t say that because it’s politically incorrect. It’s outrageous. We have to pretend that everyone’s the same and cultures don’t matter. Unfortunately, it’s not that way.”

In 2014, Tracy McVeigh published an article in The Guardian International on deaths at the hands of Barrick Gold’s security and funded police. In 2015, Renee Lewis of Al Jazeera published an article on activism in the Dominican Republic against Barrick Gold’s water pollution, environmental destruction, and disregard for local opposition. In 2016, Telesur published an article on Barrick Gold’s chemical spills in five rivers in Argentina. The list of reported abuses is long, but the coverage by large Canadian news organizations is frequently nonexistent. CBC has not published critical articles on Munk’s company’s human rights abuses nor his subsequent contempt for the people affected by his colonial project. Following its own internal logic, it only makes sense that CBC’s video shortly after Munk’s death earlier this year presents a truly cartoonish hagiography praising his “philanthropy,” while ignoring the unflattering details that are the substance, not the footnotes, of his career.

The point of this is not to discredit CBC. What I am trying to present, though, is the amount of outrage that is produced when mainstream media institutions fail to speak convincingly in high and low moral registers at the same time. The average reader is not only morally outraged, but they are also  deeply offended that the presentation of Canada does not mesh with their conception of Canada. To be angry at CBC, to demand that CBC polish its public relations capacities, is to miss the fact that if institutions like CBC were to comment exclusively on the most powerful business leaders and political officials of the country, our picture of Canada would be very different. 

To paraphrase a witticism of Oscar Wilde, our rage at institutions that project the voices of the powerful is comparable to “the rage of Caliban seeing his own face in a glass.”

“Are you, like, for Brexit?”

On the first day of orientation, I was chatting to a new friend in line for the barbeque on the St. Mike’s quad. After the short introductions, our conversation gently turned to the question: “So are you, like, for Brexit?” This is a question I had heard countless times since my arrival in Canada from the United Kingdom. Before answering, the first thought that ran through my head was: what will my answer reveal about me as a person?

I remember the day of the vote quite clearly. I was 16 years old and it was the day of my last General Certificate of Secondary Education exam. Quite frankly, nothing was more important to me than the Further Maths paper I was due to sit in less than two hours — not even the future of a country I’ve called home for as long as I can remember. I was in the car when the final votes had been counted and Prime Minister David Cameron was due to make his speech regarding the results. This is the one thing I remembered before walking into the exam hall that day: “The British people have made a choice. That not only needs to be respected — but those on the losing side of the argument, myself included, should help to make it work.”

Fast forward two years later. This October, over 700,000 people had taken to the streets of Central London to call for a second referendum with a “people’s vote.” To give context to this figure, this was the biggest peaceful demonstration regarding government policy since the protests against the Iraq War in 2003. In response, Nigel Farage held a pro-Brexit counterprotest in Harrogate, attended by about 1,200 people. 

With consistent unrest, a hung parliament, and a great deal of indecisiveness, life in Brexit Britain for my generation is stormy. In the aftermath of the 2016 referendum, a study by PathMotion, a recruitment platform, found that 49 per cent of employers indicated that they would  likely to lower their graduate intake should Britain leave the European Union. Furthermore, justified by the depreciation of the pound after the vote, the British economy stands on stilts waiting to collapse. The pound’s fall in 2016 following the referendum apparently became comparable to its fall in the global financial crisis of 2008. In the face of all this, it is safe to say that I did not feel equipped to handle the political climate, let alone ‘make it work’ for the other side.

Although I understand the attention Brexit has gained globally, it was still surprising to me that my views on the matter had enough merit to be discussed in conversation with my peers here. My accent has suddenly become my ‘I just left England because of Brexit!’ sticker. But here is what stands out about my generation: there is a growing passion among us all to participate, at the very least, in what’s going on. 

A shadow of uncertainty has been cast globally by Brexit, but it also provoked a new wave of political enthusiasts eager to have a say in their future. For me, this political uncertainty reflects in my personal life as well, ingrained in my search for an identity and concern for the shape of my future. 

I find that it influences me in even the smallest decisions, such as the friends I choose or the classes I pick. I strongly feel the presence of Brexit branded on my sleeve as I walk through campus ­— an identity I never created for myself, but one that everyone seems to know me by. This is similar to the way that the political party one supports expresses more about one’s personality than you might expect.

Living through Brexit Britain has cultivated an increasingly anti-apathetic strain in me. I’m  determined to have a say and, even after having taken a step away from it all, this burning desire has only grown stronger. Through this, the intersection of activism and identity is much more important to me than it otherwise would have been.

With the pending Brexit deal looming ahead of us in the coming year, I yearn for a continued fight against apathy. In the words of Charles Dickens, it truly is the best of times and the worst of times; we have nothing before us and we have everything before us.

Kanye’s problem politics

If there’s one person who’s consistently dominated headlines, it’s Kanye West. Few artists of his generation have been able to draw as much ire and controversy from such a wide variety of demographics as Kanye. Recently, he’s gained attention for his political stances, including his outspoken support of Donald Trump, his claim that slavery “sounds like a choice,” his apparent support for accused rapists and domestic abusers such as A$AP Bari and XXXTENTACION, and his associations with reactionary, conservative pundits such as Candace Owens. 

The hip hop community, where Kanye was almost universally respected, has also begun to lose patience. He lied about the release of his forthcoming album Yandi, released a single with completely nonsensical lyrics, and potentially revealed the identity of Drake’s child to rapper Pusha T, who then made it public. 

I grew up listening to Kanye’s music, as did many of my friends and peers. My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy was one of the first albums I’d ever owned, and it still stands as one of the best albums of the decade. Earlier hits like “Stronger” and “Gold Digger” were anthems of my elementary school years. Yeezus
helped me get through my angsty teenage years. The Life of Pablo contained some of the most beautiful production I’d ever heard on a hip hop record in my 18 years of life. Even his newest albums, his solo record Ye and his collaboration with Kid Cudi, Kids
See Ghosts
, explored mental health issues in a way that I’ve never heard in hip hop, all accompanied by the quality production that fans have come to expect from Kanye. 

Despite Kanye’s reputation as a controversial figure throughout his career, his reactionary political positions are relatively new developments. In 2005, he spoke out against LGBTQ+ discrimination and toxic masculinity in the hip hop community. “Looking at my rappers out there, hip hop is discriminating against gay people,” he said in an interview on MTV. “I wanted to just come on TV and just tell my rappers, just tell my friends, ‘Yo, stop it fam.’ Like, really, that’s just discrimination. To me that’s exactly what they used to do to Black people. I’m trying to tell people, just stop all that.” 

This may seem like a bland statement now, but remember, this was 2005. The social environment was very different. Canada had only just legalized same-sex marriage, and both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama’s official stances were that marriage should be between a man and a woman. That same year, Kanye also spoke out against the media coverage of Hurricane Katrina in his now famous “George Bush doesn’t care about Black people” speech. 

“I hate the way they portray us in the media. If you see a Black family, it says they’re looting. If you see a white family, it says they’re looking for food,” Kanye said during a nationally televised telethon benefit. This sentiment translated into his music as well. “Crack Music” spoke about the crack epidemic in the US, and as recently as 2013, “New Slaves” touched on topics such as anti-Black racism and consumerism. 

It’s difficult to pinpoint what exactly has happened since then. There are a seemingly infinite number of theories out there to explain away his new behaviour — his bipolar disorder, marrying into the Kardashians, or growing tired of the empty rhetoric of establishment Democrats are just a few. One thing that we know for sure, however, is that this isn’t the same Kanye. While I’d like to think that I can simply enjoy the music without worrying about the artist’s personal life, it isn’t that simple.

TROY LAWRENCE/THE VARSITY

His first three albums were so positive and they made me feel good — My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy introduced me to the scrutiny and myopia of celebrity life, for instance. But how can I sympathize with someone who simply doesn’t share my basic values? Even when Kanye talks about his mental health struggles — which are a very real and personal issue — it’s hard to personally connect with someone who appears to be so disconnected from reality.  

Clearly, mainstream listeners have less of an issue with this than I do — and not just about Kanye. The late XXXTENTACION allegedly abused his pregnant girlfriend. His song “SAD!” reached number one on the Billboard charts. Tekashi69, who pled guilty to one count of use of a child in sexual performance, saw his song “FEFE” peak at number three. When a video was released of A$AP Bari attempting to sexually assault a nude woman, fellow A$AP Mob member A$AP Rocky jokingly dismissed it in his song “TonyTone,” suggesting that he “would say ‘suck my dick’ — but that’s sexual harassment.”  

Despite how unsettling this may be, I understand why people don’t change their listening habits based on which artists they think are good people, which itself can be subjective. I imagine most people don’t want to come home after a long day, only to be told that one of their forms of escape is problematic. 

At the same time though, it’s disappointing to realize that artists who have affected me on a personal level have ended up completely different from how I’d hoped. As a society, we shouldn’t expect all of our artists to be amazing people. 

But it’s difficult to listen to someone who raps that he sees “women as something to nurture, not 

something to conquer” while supporting a president who has routinely treated women as objects.

Frankly, I almost envy people who can fully separate the art from the artist. It certainly makes music more enjoyable.  

If it ever releases, I’ll probably still listen to Yandi, and it’ll probably still sound amazing. But it won’t ever be the same, even if Kanye renounces his past statements. 

The Varsity Magazine (Archived)