Commentary | Public Editor: Geeks wasn’t up to special issue standards

I had been looking forward to The Daily’s special issue on geeks for weeks. I was really excited, but I didn’t tell any of my friends about it in case they dismissed my enthusiasm as some geeky quality of mine. I had some hope that The Daily would show the different shades and colours of geekiness, but when the issue came out I was confused and utterly disappointed.

Taken together, the articles pigeon-holed geeks as bridge-playing, computer-hacking Battlestar Galactica-watchers. Look, don’t get me wrong: I use Ubuntu, love Star Trek, and play French Tarot (which is a trick-taking card game, like bridge, but geekier because it uses a special deck). But does that make me a geek? Well, according to The Daily it does. But there has to be more complexity to being a geek than can be summarized by a handful of geek-like activities.

For example, I don’t read cool or obscure comic books. I read Archie comics that I pick up in line at the Provigo. That’s not geeky, that’s just dorky. But what’s a dork? A geek gone bad? Well, at least I know I’m a nerd because I’m in grad school, which pretty much automatically qualifies me. Come to think of it, what is the difference between a geek and a nerd anyway? Golly I wish The Daily had picked up on that.

Sure the editorial note stated, “the moniker of geekiness is far from set in stone.” However, a disconnect arises here since most of the articles reinforced every imaginable and damaging stereotype on geeks. The Daily is supposed to expose and challenge socially constructed barriers and norms, not create and rigidify them.

If you are going to have a special issue on geeks that you advertise weeks in advance, then give it an honest coverage. For comparison, take a look at the special issue on seniors, which made a deliberate effort to break down stereotypes. For example, one article was about senior same-sex casual relationships. Clearly, The Daily did its homework there. The only breaking down of stereotypes geeks got was a history of the microbrewery Benelux with a dubious link to geekiness. 

Sure, the computer geeks were portrayed as regular folk, and the reptile aficionado seemed kind of cool. But where was the discussion regarding the negative connotation of the label “geek?” And more importantly, where was the self-identification from any of the geeks in the entire issue? My experience reading the bridge club article or the central feature on computer geeks was akin to the one modern-day anthropologists have when they pick up a 19th-century British ethnography of some exotic tribe in far-off Africa, which reads something like, “Hey! They’re people too!” Ironically, the Mind & Body section featured a piece in the geek issue about a student’s struggle not to exoticize the culture of the Hadzabe tribe in Kenya, as well as understand the current place for white people in Africa given the continent’s colonial past.

To be honest, the geek in me feels used. Geeks are alternative, they’re not mainstream, and, yeah, some can even be a little hip. I get it: geeks fit into what The Daily should be covering. If the only reason The Daily is covering geeks is because they fit into its mandate, then it shouldn’t bother, because it ends up doing more harm than good.

Marc’s next critique will appear in two weeks. Send him your gripes to publiceditor@mcgilldaily.com.


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