The Spike Victoria University College Review 1944
'Even here among the dead,
We can't escape the raging red! "
One Can Have various reasons as to the nature and function of official organs of students' associations. I for my part, always liked to think of them as nothing more nor less than papers that give an opportunity to students to write on all sorts of subjects—without editorial policy and without purpose. As such, and only as such, they seem to fulfill a useful function among student bodies. But it would be entirely useless and extremely unfair to criticise a paper the editors of which hold different views, from my own point of view. In what I am going to say, I shall endeavour to adopt the standpoint of the editors of Salient—and my judgment will be purely functional: do the editors achieve the desired result? The answer must be, after a protracted perusal of the pages of Volume 7, a plain and decided No! And unfortunately I cannot concur with the editor's view that Salient compares very favourably with Critic and Canta.
The editors apparently have decided to use the pages of Salient in order to rouse the social and political consciousness of students, to make them alive to the problems of the world in which we live and to force them to take an active interest in daily issues. This is certainly a very worth-while purpose especially if one realizes how utterly apathetic students in general are. The series of articles on Poland, Finland, China, etc., dealing with burning questions on the modern world is highly to be commended. The preference given to reviews of films dealing with topical facts is another desirable feature. But for one reason or another, they are not aware of the fact that one has to be subtle in these things; and that propaganda is an art.
In the first place we must complain about the solid seriousness that pervades the articles in Salient. If seriousness is just a sign of the sense of responsibility, it is alright; but if it is based on nothing but a lack of a sense of humour, it is a fault that will render the reading of the paper tedious; that will make students weary of glancing at the pages, and in the end will prejudice them against the subject matter. In fact only twice this year was a glimmer of brightness to be seen in the' Ugliest man competition' and the advertisement for the pram.
As to the subject matter of the often well written and in themselves interesting articles on political problems, I find they always deal invariably with the one problem: the attempt of Fascism to lay its hands on countries like Poland and China under the disguise of Democracy. In the first place this is an over-simplification of the problem; and the mere fact that a country's relations with the Soviet Union are not excellent does not necessarily mean that there are Fascists at work.
Secondly the writers have an unfortunate habit of passing with few comments over the serious political problems involved and of stressing with all the glee and enthusiasm of a reporter writing for Truth, the brutality of the invader, the sound and fury of the battle, the heroism of the soldier and similar topics. This is all very well, but takes too much space in a paper that appears only fortnightly A more fundamental discussion of the real issues would be more desirable. But that is not all. The readers' attention is thus inadvertently drawn away from politics and directed to nothing but the war and the fighting for its own sake. Problems that do not lend themselves to such a treatment are avoided and it thus happens that the political problems of New Zealand, which are surely important enough, are not given due consideration.
This then boils simply down to very, very bad journalism. In fact it is no journalism at all. Imagine for instance what one could have made of such a story as 'Rex v. Barr'! Instead we find a lengthy and weary narrative that hardly differs from the official law reports. In one place there was an attempt at journalism; and in this case it amounted to nothing but a ridiculous imitation of the Style of Time:' Salient met affable, fair-moustached Signalmen . . .'page break page 37
The trouble is that our would-be journalists take themselves too seriously. They make an at-tempt to be utterly respectable, and only succeed in being utterly uncritical. They do not wish to embarrass the country's war effort; but, may one ask—would the letting off of steam on part of a handful of students interfere with the war effort? Unfortunately the Government have themselves attributed in the past rather too much attention to student publications; and to-day the editors apparently believe that the censor's concern with their paper was justified. The way in which they want to 'expose wavering elements'; the number of times the word 'Progressive' appears on the pages of Salient give the paper an air of solemnity which, by its very nature it hardly deserves.
Exactly the same spirit shows itself in the film and book reviews. No attempt is made at serious criticism. If the picture or the book describes heroism in the physical fight against Fascists it is good; otherwise useless. How a person can dismiss 'The Seed Beneath the Snow' as a picture of Fascist middle-class life, etc. is hard to understand. An intelligent reading of the book must reveal that the author is no longer concerned with politics as such, that he has moved away from the spirit of 'Fontamara,' and that he is interested in religion. A similar unintelligent, pseudo-political-consciousness, is revealed in the reviewer's statement that in the village of 'The Moon is Down' there must surely be also some party politics. I am surprised he did not inquire for the local Communist party!
But there is no point in adding more examples. On the whole, the editors tried to do their best and made a serious effort to run Salient well. The lay-out is not always successful (too much black print, uninspiring headings, poor photographs, etc.). But in general there was a successful attempt to do good and faithful reporting of College news. There were only two unfortunate slips: the one about the I.R.C. meeting, for which the editor apologises; and the other about the rudeness of the Tennis Club, for which the editor does not apologise. And finally I wish to apologise myself for my rudeness—but I thought, when I was asked to write a review of Salient, that there is more point in drawing people's attention to its faults, than in writing a panegyric of something which we all know is not perfect.