This article is a contribution to The Gazelle’s weekly satire column.
Hundreds of bloodthirsty NYU Abu Dhabi students awoke Friday morning to discover that their second favorite site for controversial discourse had gotten a facelift. NYUAD Forum, the closed Facebook group built for students to engage with serious questions about the university, was no more. While the page still existed, it bore a name befitting of the vicious combat and raucous spectatorship it houses. NYUAD Forum was rebranded as NYUAD Colosseum.
“We came to realize we chose the wrong element of Roman architecture,” explained page administrator Lockt Ounn. “The Forum was a multi-use space. While it hosted political speeches, it was a marketplace where people would conduct business whilst discussing politics on the side. But given the excitement and catharsis NYUAD students find in the rhetorical evisceration of their opinionated opponents, the Colosseum seems like a more appropriate analogue.”
The parallels are quite striking.
A well-practiced group of fighters, armed with the sharpest wits the university has to offer, viciously commit murder-by-words in their passionate virtual combat. Meanwhile, cheering throngs of students gather round to watch. Some are horrified by the dangerous and hypocritical language, others are thrilled to see their identity and worldview heroically defended, while the rest simply revel in the controversy’s grotesque glory. And how do people vote on whether someone lives or dies? The thumbs up. Or at least the “Like” react. With the similarities too salient to ignore, the page administrators finally edited the title.
“To be clear, we still think NYUAD Colosseum poses a useful community role,” Ounn continued. “A venue where people advocate for their points of view without the shield of anonymity forces students to publicly own their words. Unfortunately, that requirement means we’re falling behind in the drama game. We thought a rebrand might help us better compete with NYUAD Confessions.”
The tactical motivations may not be baseless. There appears to be quite a wide market for online drama in the NYUAD student body.
“You just get such a sweet thrill when you see a rhetorically savage takedown!” explained Cora N Tean, Class of 2020. “Like yeah, productive discourse has its place, but if I wanted that I’d private-message the person I take issue with and reason with them in a setting where they feel less threatened. I go online to see people get wrecked!”
Tean is not alone. Tumet Irsawey, Class of 2021, told The Gazelle, “It’s very important that I validate my own views by watching people I disagree with make fools of themselves. I think embracing the conflict is the right move.”
Certain members of the community, however, seem to desire a tamer response to provocative language online.
“Like, what are we even doing here?” wondered Khan D’washeer, Class of 2020. “Nothing substantive will come from engaging with bad faith arguments. We’ll grow more certain that the person we’re fighting with is evil and/or stupid, but that seems unnecessary if we’re already secure in our own beliefs.”
Others reach the same conclusion but with starkly different reasoning:
“I’m a simple guy,” explained Mazks Onowtsyde, Class of 2022. “All I want in life is for my personal attacks and bigotry to be accepted by those around me. Seriously, is the permissive endorsement of my hurtful rhetoric too much to ask? For a community claiming to value inclusivity, you all seem set on labeling my prejudice as illegitimate.”
Indeed, while debates about university operations continue to draw virtual crowds, the most spectacular gladiatorial matches are fought over who is being un-inclusive of whom. Whether your opponents label you a troll or a ‘Social Justice Warrior’, claiming they violate NYUAD’s inclusive principles will not only infuriate your opponent, but quickly promote the fight to popcorn-worthy status.
While everyone at some point feels that they are the ones under attack, this fact comes with a silver lining. It means each of us experiences the satisfaction of watching those who threaten our identities squirm. We get to watch them when a view that they reject pierces through, what must surely be, their thin, thin skin. All of us can revel in that schadenfreude. It’s one of NYUAD’s great unifiers — truly, a model of community inclusion.
Ian Hoyt is Satire Writer. Email him at email@example.com