Also: has apparently explored the “slippery entrails” of President Roth’s mind. Full story at 6:00.
Class of 2014, meet Martin Benjamin ’57.
I’ll be honest. When some friends at The Argus told me that Benjamin had stopped by the office to hand-deliver his latest Wespeak, I was excited. I love me some Martin Benjamin—like, in that same slightly detached sense that I love cheesy ’80s horror movies and the falafel cart. I love the sweeping, grandiose poetry of his semi-coherent vitriol (to Michael Roth: “you’ll still have me, the diehard whose job it is to interpret the slippery entrails of your mind”). I love his garbled metaphors, spiky similes, fierce wordplay (“God is dead on High [street]”). I love dramatic readings of his most vicious, colorfully worded allegations (describing Michael Roth, or “the Robin Hood of South College,” in Obama’s presence: “you gushed like a teeny-bopper who’d just been goosed by her first crush”).
Who is this guy? If you’re a frosh, I’ll defer to the excellent Benjamin profile in The Argus‘s Who’s Who on Campus, by Justin Pottle ’13:
It takes a lot to be considered a lunatic at Wesleyan. Whether Martin Benjamin ’57 is the University’s closest thing or the only person sane enough to ask Michael Roth to “circumcise the foreskin of your heart” is the question at hand. Part deranged prophet, part Ann Coulter, part nostalgia incarnate, Benjamin loves the days of “Old Wes,” but hates most everything else, i.e. diversity, Obama, freedom, and babies. Benjamin’s wildly inflammatory, albeit eloquent Wespeaks are published in The Argus every few months and offend, well, everyone who has a soul while still remaining hilarious and weirdly refreshing. Shrouded in mystery, Benjamin remains an integral part of modern Wesleyan lore. He’s fascinating, insulting, and, above all else, legendary.
He only writes two, maybe three Wespeaks a semester. (You’ll see him in Olin any night of the week, scruffy beard and plaid shirt, pounding them out on Wesleyan computers. Approach him—he can be shy, and has refused to be interviewed on multiple occasions, but he has tons to talk about, including the book he’s trying to research and write and the photography and poetry he has on display in Usdan.) So when I was told that The Argus had shelved his Wespeak—too offensive, even by Benjamin standards—I was pretty bummed. What would Wes be with a silenced Martin Benjamin?
Thankfully (or remorsefully, depending on your view), the piece sees the light of day in today’s Argus. And it’s ugly. This time he’s not just calling President Roth a “poster boy” or insulting Ted Kennedy’s corpse. He’s tackling Islam. Twisting Chaplain Aly’s plea against anti-Muslim hate speech. Rattling off a list of Islam-related bombings. The hilarious Roth-baiting soundbites are far and few between (highlight: “No doubt you’ll be trying to warm it over, like yesterday’s mashed potatoes, via Old Faithful, your weekly spout.”), taking a backseat to Benjamin’s piercing Islamophobia.
If history is any indication, outraged students will soon flood the Wespeaks section with spirited rebuttals to Benjamin’s piece. That’s routine. If you’re tempted to write in, please do, but be aware that Benjamin—who graduated from Wesleyan in 1957 (check out his yearbook photo), moved back to Middletown in the ’80s, and began writing regularly to The Argus about a decade ago—has berated and battled generations of Wesleyan students and will likely offend generations more. Know that he is intellectually and emotionally attached to a mythological notion of “Old Wes” that has not existed for fifty-odd years. And heed the advice of Wesleying co-founder and alum Holly Wood ’08 in a fantastic 2006 post:
The man has nothing better to do than respond to your wespeak. So if you’re going to write one, write a good one. Make it worth your time. You know he’s sitting at home, licking his lips, waiting for the opportunity to write another open letter to Wesleyan.
If you’re interested, here’s a collection of links to pertinent literature by or about Martin Benjamin ’57. Procrastination central:
- An Open Letter to Michael Roth (10/05/10)
- An Open Letter to President Roth (10/13/09)
- An Open Letter to Arts Editor Liz Tung (04/07/09)
- Wesleying: How To Respond to Martin Benjamin ’57 (featuring links to Benjamin’s Wespeaks dating back to ’99)
- Wesleying: Martin Benjamin Unmasked (Sort of) (regarding Benjamin’s little known but well-refined artistic side)
- Wesleying: Martin Benjamin ’57 Strikes Back (because you’ve secretly always wanted to see the guy’s 1957 yearbook photo)
- Ampersand: “Open Letter to the Class of 2040, by Martin Benjamin 2.0”