About The KoalaNote: Learn more about the people behind The Koala here.
In January 2011, in the middle of the first week of the spring semester at California State University San Marcos (CSUSM), the sun was shining, the coffee was fresh and strong at the Coffee Cart in Founders Plaza, and students were flirting with each other and their futures, when a startling thing happened: A handful of white, male students stood in the plaza between classes and handed out free copies of a new tabloid on campus called The Koala. Not so startling, you might think? Alternative student newspapers are a tradition, albeit not necessarily a grand one. Nonetheless, they have long served on high school and college campuses as vital mouthpieces for dissent, as forums for well-honed establishment bashing, as venues for the final throes of trashy juvenile narcissism. But even a superficial review of The Koala by professors and students revealed something much more disturbing than the typical student rag: The Koala dedicated the bulk of its content to hate language. It extolled fantasies of sexual and physical violence against women and girls. It slandered homosexuals with, among other things, the classic myth that they are all pedophiles. It offered advice on the joys of heterosexual pedophilia. And, it took hateful pokes at Blacks, Latinas/os, East Asians, Southwest Asians, and pediatric patients with cancer, burns and congenital defects. Indeed, The Koala’s content was startling — stunning even — in its delivery of language and scenarios gorged with gratuitous hate and blithely graphic violence targeting every demographic group with whom the publishers might cross paths. Every group, that is, except white, able-bodied, heterosexual males. (Learn more about these folks here.)
The Koala was originally an alternative student paper, begun at the University of California San Diego (UCSD) in 1982. In 1985, the tabloid achieved the status of a sanctioned student organization and began to receive Associated Student funds, much to the dismay of the tabloid’s many targets today. Although promoted as humorous satire, the publication’s content has, for at least a dozen years, been perceived as hate language. In 2002, an ill-conceived effort by the UCSD administration to dissolve The Koala resulted in an abbreviated challenge that attracted the attention of free speech rights organizations, such as the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, which advocated on The Koala’s behalf. The effort was fairly swiftly dismissed, and comments by George Lee Liddle III, The Koala editor at the time, indicated the tabloid’s survival emboldened his sense of entitlement to publish whatever he wanted, fit to print or not. Then, in the autumn semester of 2004, The Koala expanded to San Diego State University (SDSU). A subsequent effort to establish an edition at UC Irvine failed after a few issues, for unknown reasons, but likely related to failure to secure adequate advertising revenue to support the edition. And, as described, The Koala launched at CSUSM in January 2011, adopting the tabloid’s existing brand and slogan,
How did The Koala land at CSUSM?
However, unknown until after the San Marcos edition’s launch, two former UCSD students had quietly transformed The Koala into a for-profit, privately-held business back in 2005, lending new and insightful context to the tabloid’s efforts to expand. Liddle, the UCSD Koala editor in the early 2000s, and Sammy Elhag, a UCSD student at the same time, filed a Fictitious Business Name Statement (FBN) with San Diego County in 2005, declaring The Koala a for-profit partnership, owned solely by Liddle and Elhag. The two renewed the FBN in 2010, perhaps celebrating five years of selling advertisements in order to publish an increasingly obscene vehicle for hate speech targeting women and girls, homosexuals, ethnic groups and non-white races, people with illness or disability, and various faiths. In February 2011, there was another startling occurrence: Kris Gregorian, perennial student and longtime editor of The Koala at UCSD, published an editorial naming and attacking a female member of the Associated Student Council, illustrated with a photograph of the student altered to include a large penis in her mouth. The targeted student complained to the UCSD administration, which essentially told her to suck it up. Rumors of lawsuits against the school and The Koala wafted through Internet comments. The news media aired several stories, including the information that The Koala was actually a for-profit business owned and led by two non-students. Shortly after the editorial hit the news, Elhag withdrew from his partnership with Liddle, perhaps hoping the resulting distance might protect his assets from a possible lawsuit. And, miracle of miracles, Kris Gregorian became a former UCSD student and The Koala at UCSD remained in disarray until October 2011. In September 2011, The Koala at CSUSM published an image of a campus student leader superimposed into a pornographic scene. Still, the CSUSM administration refused to publicly denounce the tabloid and its hateful content. Click here to learn more about The Koala staff.
UPDATE 02/09/13: The Koala at CSUSM has not reappeared since the spring of 2012—yippee!—and editor Matt Weaver was arrested for being really bad.