Us v. Them

Us v. Them

Matthew and Mac do to some measured analysis of the blog fracas stemming from the Mike Daisey incident. Mike receives a perceptive take on the incident itself from old friend and the discussion at Scott’s blog examines the event in a similar vein. Gut reactions are natural, but this is where the conversation belonged from the beginning.

Meanwhile, there’s now also a copycat stalker, Floyd, for Mike Daisey to track down and give a talking to.

What Mike Daisey tapped into when labeling those who walked-out a “Christian group” and the watering of his outline an “anti-baptism” was a willing prejudice active in many of us working in theatre and art. Onslaughts of censorship and campaigns of decency against art have so often been orchestrated from within the Christian Right that artists are quick-to-the-draw when they sense another one. And once our gun is pulled from the holster, we feel almost obliged to shoot at something.

Mike responded to a real attack. So the fact that he initially gave an inaccurate description of the perpetrator is understandable. He experienced the attack as if it were from a gang, not an individual. Yet this initial perception branded the bus tour of teenagers as virtually the Hitler Youth of the Christian Right. The ensuing scandal would have never developed if not for this inaccurate representation.

Even though the Christian Right is nowhere in sight, the scandal is allowed to percolate under the pretense of some Great Debate. Mike Daisey and American Repertory Theatre each have links from their web sites to the video of the incident on YouTube. Little doubt that they are using this at least partially now as self-promotion. Meanwhile the falsely branded Norco High students are left to fend for themselves on each of two YouTube comments pages. Viewing totals today are 7,000 and 118,000.

Collateral damage in the war with the Boogieman gang that attacked Mike that night goes beyond just the branding of the Norco kids as the Christian Crazies. We are also instructing other teenagers, including the 22 kids who remained in the audience that night (referred by ART as the other high school group), that theatre is a battle between Us and Them. “Us” signified as elite high school kids from a private school “studying” theatre as part of their senior seminar. “Them” are public school kids on a bus tour from Anytown, USA looking for a night of suitable entertainment.

From backstage at Back Stage Leonard Jacobs seems to be preparing for a further assault on the Boogeyman in this incident. I asked the journalist about his upcoming editorial. Will he differentiate between the two groups of high school kids in audience that night?

7 thoughts on “Us v. Them

  1. I have already posted my follow up, where I make clear my feelings on the matter of their identity as a Christian group–namely that they used this identity consistently the entire evening at the theater until the light of public scrutiny caused them to retract it and they remembered they were from a public high school.

    For my part, I don’t consider this terribly useful self-promotion–my work has been flattened and aseessed in light of an off-color Paris Hilton reference, which I stand behind as part of this piece, but it doesn’t reflect the full scope of what I do. Tickets for the shows in Cambridge are not selling appreciably better since the kerfuffle–sales are flat, and we can’t see any spike from any of this. Others will pooh-pooh and insist that it is wonderful for me, but I’m not convinced that’s true at all. I *am* convinced that if I had done nothing I would have received no contact or resolution from the person responsible–they had every intention of walking away and never looking back.

    I think the issue of public high school versus private is a troubling one–I’ve been thinking about that a lot, and anyone who knows my work knows where my sympathies lie. I’m opening MONOPOLY! tomorrow, but later I might write about this more, maybe after more of it has died down.

  2. As Mac points out in his post:

    “The ‘Christian group’ described in the original post were students, chaperones, and teachers from Norco High School in California, a public high school with an Amnesty International Club and a Gay And Straight Alliance alongside the Alpha Omega Bible Club.”

    It’s very possible someone in their own group misrepresented them that night at the theatre. But the principal of the school speaks for them now. He is not part of some Christian conspiracy. It’s disingenuous of you to say they represent themselves as a public school only under the scrutiny of the press. You have been reading the comments at YouTube. You have even placed your own comment there. So you have seen the many Norco high school students and parents attempting to correct the misrepresentation of their school, such as this comment:

    Evecaura (5 days ago)
    “I didn’t read all the comments, so I am sorry if this has already been said. The school in question is NOT a Christian school. In fact, it’s a public school from Southern California, not Northern. I graduated from there a few years ago and read about this incident in the local paper. Yes, the teacher is Christian and that has always been well known. However, the Choir is NOT a Christian group and has had many different religions in it.”

    Your obstinacy here is more than just puzzling.

    Likewise the notion that you and ART are not using the YouTube video clip as a form of self-promotion is ridiculous. You say you have received thousands of letters of support. So the promotion is working well.

    As for you saying that this Paris Hilton clip doesn’t represent your work favorably. Well, that’s all in your control, isn’t it? The video clip could be removed from the YouTube site by ART and you at any time.

    Theatre is mostly an elite art form today. I am glad you will be looking at the public v. private school issue. I’ll watch for your comments. Best of luck with your new show. Keep on keepin’ on.

  3. Nick,

    I saw your comments on the ClydeFitch blog, wherein you challenge Mr. Jacobs to present his evidence to counter your claims that there were two school groups present at the event, and that calling the protesters “a Christian group” was inaccurate.

    I’m actually more interested in seeing YOUR sources, because what you’re saying contradicts all other reports I’ve seen of the incident, including Daisey’s. And, well, he certainly was present, so as your claims contradict an actual person involved, I believe I’d be more interested in seeing what is behind your statement.

  4. Actually, if I may also offer a few other details to clarify my perspective — no, I do not believe targeting the entire Christian Right as a whole is fair in this instance, and I ESPECIALLY do not believe that targeting Christianity is a whole is fair. But if the group itself, even though they were coming from a public school, signed up as a group from the “West Overshoe Public High School Bible Society” or similar, as I understand is the case, then I believe it’s appropriate to refer to them as a Christian group. Using that as an excuse to target all Christians isn’t fair, I agree, but saying that they’re NOT a Christian group when they went under the name of one is, I would gently suggest, turning a blind eye to the fact that a group of Christians may be a little mistaken about the face they are presenting to nonChristians.

  5. Kim,

    You said: “a group from the “West Overshoe Public High School Bible Society” or similar, as I understand is the case.”

    Where, how, and by what means, did you come to this faulty understanding? Hearsay and/or slander, but not from reading any actual facts about the group.

    Mike Daisey is now in contact with group members and promises a report.

  6. My son was there .
    One thing most people are missing. It seems to me, Mr Mike Daisey, knew before he posted on youtube, who this group were and came from. In the info area of the clip It states 87 members of a Christian group. why?
    I talk to him about this in messages ,he said he had posted before he knew who they were. It does not look that way to me . The one that puts the clips on youtube, are able to pull their clips, and repost, They can remove comments and block veiwers from making a comment. Which he did to me.
    Day of walk out 4-19-07
    Talked with Cindy L. from the school and the man the poured water David 4-20-07 acording to news papers and his site.
    Youtube shows posted 4-21-07.
    Why? After reading much about Mr. Daisey and hid followers. I think I have the answer.
    Seems as he forgave 1 and punished 86 others lets not count the other 11 adults just the 75 kids that were 14-17 years of age.
    He heard there cries with their comments .
    They were high school kids from s. California .there for choral competition.
    To date 5-4-02 more info are shows Christian he could have corrected this on 4-21-07 why

  7. Mike Daisey Audience Protest, Walkout and Attack Video
    Video Home

    Uploaded by mdaisey
    Date uploaded: Sat Apr 21 11:12:52 2007
    Length: 576 seconds
    Viewed: 122749 times
    Average Rating: 4.70 (637 votes)
    Description: Mike Daisey was performing his monologue INVINCIBLE SUMMER at American Repertory Theatre on April 19th when the show was disrupted by eighty seven members of a Christian group who walked out of the show en masse to protest the content, and chose to physically attack the work by pouring water on and destroying the original of his show outline. For a full account of the experience please visit and
    Date of recording: 2007-04-19
    Channels: News & Politics

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