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Sunday, March 3, 2024
The Observer

Why Hasan Minhaj’s lying is unacceptable

I would like to use my platform to tell you guys a story about harassment. 

On Sept. 23, 2023, my friends and I rushed into the Notre Dame stadium as soon as the gates opened to grab prime seats for the Notre Dame v. Ohio State match-up. We rightfully earned spots in the first few rows of the senior section. The ten of us grabbed seats, and some of us spread out to save space for four friends who were running late. After less than 10 minutes, a drunken male student came up behind me and started leering. 

“A pretty little thing like you doesn’t need this much space … Are you saving a seat for your boyfriend? Because I can fill that role right now,” he jeered.

My friends and I repeatedly told him to go away and texted our friends to come quickly. Whenever we told him to stop, he would leave, booing at us as he walked. Then, after a few moments, he would return. It wasn’t long before he grabbed me and forcibly tried to move me out of the way so he could claim “his” seat. Fortunately, an usher stopped him before things could get too far, but we were shaken up for the rest of the hour while we waited for the game to start. 

Drunken harassment is a disgustingly rampant issue at sporting events and not just at college football games. From publicly screaming in the face of the opposing NFL football team fan to rape threats for expressing an opinion on a UK Football match, the unsettling behavior of drunken fans at sports games is a serious issue and needs to be addressed. 

So, that leaves the question, how do we fix this? A full cultural facelift? Having more ushers in the stands? There are several proposed solutions out there. We just need to get to work, and demand change. That being said, if you stop reading right now, your response to this story could be one of the first steps to calling attention to this issue affecting many college campuses. 

But if you continue to the rest of this column, you’ll probably find yourself responding to an entirely different issue.

I’m Joy Agwu.

I am not Hasan Minhaj, the Indian-American, political-landscape comedian who was recently exposed for lying in his comedy specials.

If I were Hasan Minhaj, I might feel more comfortable ending this column with a call for action. I might even feel somewhat heroic by encouraging you to contact the Notre Dame administration to do something, so no one has to experience drunken harassment in the stands ever again. The story would serve a good cause, and I will have used my role as an Observer Viewpoint columnist to stir you to action based on the lessons garnered from the story. My work would have been done, if that story was not disturbinglyexaggerated. 

Here’s what really happened. My friends and I went to the game early, got great seats in the senior section and saved space for our missing friends. A drunken student did come up from behind me to try to claim the seat I was holding, but he made no vulgar comments to me. We shooed him off. Then, he came back and grabbed my friend’s legs to move them from the seats that she was covering. Eventually, we stopped fighting and let him sit where he wanted to. Within 10 minutes, he moved again and sat with his friends further behind us, rendering our whole interaction fruitless.

He was a drunk jerk, and one could argue that his behavior was harassment, but it certainly was not as extreme as I first led you to believe.

At the beginning of this article, I told you I was sharing “a story about harassment.” By construing this as a story from the beginning, I allowed myself to be a storyteller and embellish.

“That’s what we do. We tell stories, and then we embellish them.”

Whoopi Goldberg, responding to the Hasan Minhaj scandal on “The View.”
Everyone knows that comedy shows are a little embellished — partially because no one’s everyday life is really that interesting, but also because storytellers embellish. It’s what they do, and it’s not just comedians. We engage with various pieces of media knowing that it’s unlikely that the content is 100% true, but we do it because we appreciate the entertainment.

Hasan Minhaj’s actions stray from the acceptable norms of storytelling because Minhaj framed himself as a victim, so his comedy would be entertaining as well as politically informative. His stories illustrated how pervasive racism can be, affecting even the key experiences of youth, like attending a high school prom or being involved in one’s community or mosque. For years, thousands have praised Minhaj for being incredibly talented while he repackaged his victimhood into comedic lessons for the many. All the while, he was never a victim — at least, never to the degree he claimed to be. That’s what makes this different.

It is already hard enough for victims to get the proper attention when they’ve experienced harassment or abuse. Even when they get the proper attention, there is no guarantee that they’ll be believed. People like Minhaj, who abuse their platform by falsely claiming victimhood, make it all harder for those who try to tell the truth. While Minhaj brought a substantial amount of attention to problematic behaviors of the American government and within American culture, the ends do not and cannot justify the means here. There is a line where fair play embellishment crosses into harmful deceit, and Minhaj crossed it. We can only hope that his actions do not undermine our ability to believe others when they share their lived experiences of harassment, assault and abuse.

Joy Agwu is a senior at Pasquerilla West, originally from Bowie, Maryland. She is pursuing a degree in philosophy with a minor in constitutional studies. In her free time, she finds great pleasure in consuming media and reflecting on the deeper meanings behind the content she encounters. Whether you have recommendations for TV shows, movies, podcasts or any other form of media, or if would like to further discuss an idea presented in a column, feel free to reach out to her on Instagram @JoyfulJoyousss.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.