Volume 20, Issue 8
I am writing this piece in my personal capacity as a third year student at MLS, not the Managing Editor of this frivolous paper.
This piece is inspired by a comment from ‘DM Editor From Years Gone By’ on the recent ‘You Cannot Be Pro Brain and Pro De Minimis’ article. For those who didn’t see it, the comment essentially laments the decline in quality of De Minimis and calls on students to join the editorial team to rectify the ‘low effort year’ of the 2021 committee. This prompted me to reflect on what De Minimis actually was in ‘years gone by’ and how it has become what it is today.
The paper began in 1948 and dissolved in the late 60s/early 70s. In that time it evolved from being a news bulletin for the staff and students to becoming a gossip-driven, scandal-ridden magazine. The paper was revived in 2012 and has been in operation ever since. In 2019, my first year at MLS, I noticed that this revived version of the paper had slowly but surely inched closer to the controversial gossip tabloid of the late 60s. When COVID-19 came banging on the world’s door and the paper could only operate online, this direction only escalated. When I joined the committee I wanted to start this year by publishing an array of pieces from the archives to give students an idea of what the paper has been like in the past. If you head to the February 2021 archive you’ll be able to read those articles for yourself. I hoped displaying those older pieces would inspire students to get involved and contribute. This somewhat worked.
At present De Minimis has a team of five fantastic regular contributors: a satirist, media reviewer, current affair reporter, everyones’ Dear Learned Friend, and more recently, a wannabe astrologer. It has been my pleasure to get to know these people and work with them to produce the bread and butter of the paper. They have written on the Family Court merger, given advice to anxious clerkship applicants, and commended MLS for securing the latest season of The Walking Dead thanks to its ability to produce zombie-like students. De Minimis also has an insightful podcast, with recent interviews from Julian Burnside QC on public interest advocacy and Scott Stephenson on constitutional law.
So, what about The Other Stuff? Why is it that everyone I approach is not interested in sharing their nuanced opinions and the only students submitting work do so via auto-generated gmail accounts? I am not here to discuss any pieces in particular. I am instead interested in how the trend towards the inflammatory came about.
The most obvious cause I can see is precedent. Again, my cohort came to know De Minimis as the controversial paper that prompted heated discussions between classes or over a round of beers at PAs. This reaction was mitigated in part by seeing physical copies around the law building that also displayed lighthearted comics and satire, as well as people having the opportunity to talk to the editors face to face. Having a human to confront tends to increase peoples’ ability to give constructive criticism instead of writing anonymous comments to no one in particular. Since COVID lockdowns have almost completely destroyed the collegiality MLS is famous for, De Minimis has been reduced to a website where readers can be more selective about engaging with certain pieces over others. No more Kirby comic next to an anti-LGBT law firm hit piece.
Another cause is likely the state of our lovely little world. Try as we might to bring joy to MLS, staff and students alike are struggling mentally and emotionally. I remember during my time as one of the MULSS Education Directors in 2020 we received a couple of particularly mean-spirited emails from staff members who were clearly not coping well with the pandemic pressure. At present my friends and I are constantly anxious and exhausted. The desire to air any complex opinions on current affair topics is weak to non-existent. Anger and frustration reign supreme.
And finally, I hypothesise that the function of the De Minimis of the past has been replaced by meme groups. Why read about double-speeding a lecture in your university paper when Dank Law Memes posted about it two months ago? We’re going elsewhere for our laughs, and with a plethora of enriching legal and current affair critiques flooding our screens 24/7, there are plenty of other places people may wish to have their opinions published.
Well, as James Wilkinson wonderfully and completely unsolicitedly articulated, nothing would bring me greater joy than having the student body contribute. Remy Marshall’s response to Publius would have been another fine example of the back and forth debate that De Minimis used to publish had she chosen to send it to us. Of course being the new MULSS president, for which I congratulate her immensely, I understand why she chose the MULSS-produced Purely Dicta platform instead.
On a more personal note, I appreciate any criticisms you may wish to discuss with me. I guarantee there is very little you could say that would hurt my feelings. Even better, I would love to hear from anyone interested in taking over De Minimis in 2022 and talk about the future direction of the paper. I will endeavour to read the comments on this article, but I admit that I too am exhausted and will be channeling my energy into interim assessments rather than refreshing the website. If you’d like a more personable conversation, please email firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line ‘to the dogs’.
Wishing you all a restorative mid-sem break,