Roger Pao, The Record’s Editor-in-Chief: Oriental or Orientalist?

BY KARL CHANG

Television programming executives have a saying, “In times of sweeps, the lesbian romance blooms.” This refers not to the famed lesbian broom-mating ritual, but to the practice of interjecting a lesbian romance into a show with sagging ratings. In the words of one slightly mesmerized executive, “You …just… can’t turn away.” It’s a cheap trick to grab and hold one’s attention. (And it just worked on you. Don’t you feel dirrty?)

News editors have their own lesbian romance. It’s called the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. As they say, “If it involves the Israel-Palestine, it probably bleeds and definitely leads.” This is how I first interpreted the recent brouhaha in The Record’s pages over one “Norman Finkelstein.” When The Record came out with its editorial attacking Finkelstein for crazy Jew-hating, I thought it was your classic move to generate a little news cycle.

Then, last week, a little birdy gave me an astonishing tip:

“(I shall, in this letter, leave largely unstated my criticism of The Record for allowing its editorial page to be hijacked a few weeks ago by one particular editor with a narrow agenda…)” – Record letter to the editor by Kaveh Shahrooz, 11/17/2005

Apparently, that editorial wasn’t your standard Middle East-wonk rouse. Something more was afoot. Who is this “one particular editor” and what could be his “narrow agenda”? Could this be some sort nefarious conspiracy? I started sleuthing. Here is what I have uncovered.

Fact: The Record printed an editorial attacking Norman Finkelstein because he claims that the Jews whine about the “Holocaust” too much (that is, when they’re not plagiarizing and laughing maniacally).

Fact: “Roger Pao” is the “Editor-in-Chief” of The Record.

Fact: “Roger Pao” won the Sears Prize last year.

Fact: “Roger Pao” writes poetry for The Record and he writes about poetry for a “blog,” entitled “Asian American Poetry.”

Fact: Palestinian activist and scholar Edward Said developed a theory of “Orientalism” which purported to explain how the West justified colonialism by constructing the “Orient” as “the other,” in opposition to Western culture.

Does anyone else see the Zionist-Orientalist plot? Or is it just me?

Let me spell it out for you. Check out this stanza from Roger Pao’s little ditty “Langdell South,” published in The Record on 10/14/2004.

“You say that part of you wondershow rooms survive their people, how cathedrals may witness Holocausts yet endure another century, how walls tinged with hues of upper class mahogany or 24-karat walnut-gold seem to recognize their own deformities through the reflective pupils of students with silver laptops on their desks.”

Holocaust, Holocaust, Holocaust. Roger, will you give it a rest? Can’t you write 17 poems without some sort reference to the Holocaust? Apparently not. Maybe the reason for your relentless focus on the Holocaust is to separate the “chosen people” from the “goyim.” It’s a classic tactic to define non-Jews as “the other.”

I understand that some of you might be skeptical. You might wonder, “How could Roger Pao be part of a Zionist media conspiracy? Roger isn’t Jewish, he’s Oriental!”

First, don’t use the word Oriental; we chinks find it offensive. Yes, I get to use the word Oriental. No, you still don’t. It’s like the n-word with black people. Well, if you think it’s unfair, you should have thought about that before making us build your railroads and then passing the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 and its sequel the Act to Prohibit the Coming of Chinese Persons into the United States of 1892. Don’t even get me started on Korematsu and “affirmative action,” or as I like to call it, “the bamboo ceiling.” You know, if it weren’t for the bamboo ceiling, I might have gotten into a first-tier educational institution like Yale Law School.

Where was I? Oh, right, Roger.

Second, Roger Pao isn’t Asian-American. To the careless observer, he might look like an Asian. He has the all the obvious signs-spectacular academic achievement, straight black locks which flow like satin midnight, writings about the Asian-American experience, an inscrutable, zen-like facial expression, complete with a quiet, lethal gait derived from years of intense martial arts training in a remote Tibetan monastery. What betrays him? His Muse. Roger Pao writes poetry.

Asians don’t write poemsExcept haiku, then it’s forThe counting practice

True Asian-American fine arts are limited to the violin and the piano. So-called “maverick” Asians have been known to flaunt social conventions by playing the viola or the oboe. But poetry? I think not.

Third, consider this: Why is Roger Pao so eager to convince the world he’s an Oriental? Maybe the answer is that he doesn’t want everyone to find out that he’s an Orientalist?

Still not convinced? Try spelling Neo-imperial colonizer without a P, A, or O, and see how far you get. And just for fun, “Roger Pao” is an anagram for “rear pogo.”

Now that this has all been cleared up, a good number of you undoubtedly fear for my legal liability. “Sir, haven’t you just exposed a major Orientalist posing as an Oriental? Won’t the Zionist-imperialist conspiracy try to sue you into silence?” I doubt it. For one, we already went over this, stop using “Oriental,” it’s offensive. Second of all, relax concerned reader. Truth is a complete defense to libel. Plus as a Sears Prize winner and the editor of the school newspaper, he’s a public figure, so the scienter requirement changes. Lastly, I think I have a good consent argument. After all, Roger let me print this.

Karl Chang, 3L, is from Houston, TX.

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