Rami Ollikkala" />
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Monday, September 25, 2023


Alum commemoration questionable

It is quite interesting what happens when you put someone’s name on a building. Inexplicably, the person for whom the building is named graduates to a level where the more controversial aspects of his or her life seem irrelevant. For instance, when the name John Edgar Hoover appears on a sign in front of the FBI Headquarters, he turns from the father of the first Red Scare into a mystical entity whose example should be followed by new employees at the Department of Justice.

This deification of a notable person also has a strong presence on college campuses, and there is cause for speculation that the newly dubbed Jack J. Valenti School of Communication will follow the same psychological trends as the aforementioned example.

Jack Valenti, a 1946 UH graduate, was a fundamentally good person. He was a decorated war hero, an influential political consultant and one of the strongest influences on Hollywood entertainment during his 38 years as president of the Motion Picture Association of America. That is what everyone who sees the new sign in front of the School of Communication is going to be told, and it is true.

However, was the name change necessarily appropriate? Valenti’s legacy suggests otherwise. The goal of the college is to train students so they can move freely in fields of communication. Is Jack Valenti, the head of an organization that laid the foundation for cinematic censorship, someone with whom we wish to associate the leaders of tomorrow’s media?

An uncensored story of Valenti’s MPAA career – or possibly the MPAA itself – reveals a plot rife with technophobia and an attempt to monopolize Hollywood filmmaking. In April 1982, Valenti famously testified to the House of Representatives: "I say to you that the VCR is to the American film producer and the American public as the Boston strangler is to the woman home alone." This was based on the fear that giving the public the ability to record cassettes of movies would endanger the film industry.

At this point, one can establish that my criticism with the name change stems from a solidarity with file sharers. One can reasonably disagree with file sharing, but who would go to length to outright ban a substantial piece of technology to keep a copyright intact?

For the same reason similar sentiments can be said about the MPAA’s treatment of international trade. The Stockholm-based police raid on Pirate Bay, which occurred in May 2006 under the command of succeeding MPAA president Dan Glickman, is not a stand-alone occurrence. Twenty-two years before this, the U.S. restricted aid to Jamaica for satellite piracy in a move eerily similar to the swedish sanctions.

It is likely that my disagreement with the name change stems more from objection with the MPAA than with Jack Valenti himself. As stated before, he was a fundamentally good person, and his name could well be associated with a building on campus that specializes in military training, or in law. However, as leaders of tomorrow, let us be reminded of a free media to work with, future artists and executives alike.

Ollikkala, a studio art/graphic communications junior, can be reached via [email protected].

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