The Birth of Hear Geörge

Chapter 1: Incursion

Once upon a time (~1993), in the quiet little hallway known as 5th floor low, East Ambler Johnston Hall, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, a sign appeared on the bathroom door.

This in itself was not unusual. The RHF (Residence Hall Fascists) put notes on the bathroom door all the time, like

"Today's cafeteria menu: Leftovers Smorgasbord of the Day. All you can stand to eat, 4:30-7:00pm"
"Would whoever disassembled the chairs in the study lounge to build a modern art sculpture please report to the R.A. immediately."

But this note was different. It was an 81/2 by 11" piece of white paper, turned to landscape orientation, with black lettering. It looked like this.

It was vague. It had a vague preachy message. It had a vague tagline: "Hear Josh". There was only one non-vague phrase, hidden in reverse print in a horizontal bar: "Campus Crusade for Christ".

Chapter 2: Reaction

The sign bothered me. It bothered me because we who lived on the hall were not allowed to put signs on the door. Companies could not put advertisements on the door. Recreational clubs and organizations were not allowed to put signs on the door. The only ones who were supposed to put signs on the door were the RHF, for "official" RHF business, such as it was.

The reason was so that we students could go relieve ourselves without having to put up with Toyota ads, frat party invitations, band announcements, volleyball signup sheets, T-shirt sales, or the chaff from any of a thousand on-campus organizations we weren't interest in, like the Albanian Neo-Pagan Gay and Lesbian Co-ed Lacrosse Team.

So how did this sign get there? Why was this sign allowed, but not our NFL gambling sheets? And who the heck was Josh, anyway?

So it bothered me. Now don't get me wrong; I have nothing against Christians or Christianity. My parents and several of my best friends were and still are Christians (I'm now married to one). But this sign bothered me because these people, unsolicited, came into my hall to tell me how I should live my life. It bothered me because my state-run organization was, in effect, endorsing a religion.

And most of all, it bothered me because it was all happening on my bathroom door.

Chapter 3: Retaliation

The signs appeared all over campus; in the classrooms, in the hallways, in the cafeterias. There were 3 or 4 varieties, all with vague preachy nonsense messages, all identified only by "Hear Josh".

I decided it was time to fight organization with chaos, to fight sincerity with sarcasm, to fight vagueness with vagueness. It was time for a new message from a new messenger.

It was time to Hear Geörge.

Our impromptu committee sifted through lists of quotations, many of them unfortunately unattributed, and selected the funniest from which to plagiarize. We also invented a few of our own to add to our list. Our arsenal grew to over 12 messages, several times more diverse than the scant few ramblings of Josh.

We selected Geörge as our messenger because of the Bugs Bunny cartoon with the large hairy monster that says "I will hug him and I will squeeze him and I will name him George" (this has to be taken from Lenny from the Grapes of Wrath). We added a diaeresis over the o, because the word umlaut is cool.

Our cause was initially called the "Campus Crusade to Waste Paper", but we thought it would be funnier to come up with a crusade specific to each message.

Chapter 4: Implementation

Now that we had our message, we had to share it with the people. We wrote a letter to the editor of the Collegiate Times, the campus newspaper, and drew a cartoon for submission to the paper. But we needed to compete with Josh on his own terms; in academic and residential buildings all over campus. In the hallways, on the bulletin boards.

On the bathroom doors.

We made posters as similar in appearance and layout to Josh's as our technology would allow, and headed to Kinkos (in the dead of night). The Kinkos guy intentionally abused the volume discount for our job and gave us a free discount for neon-colored paper, very welcome given our meager budget, and we were off.

We snuck into every building we could in the wee hours, and posted Geörge wherever we found Josh. Then we put Geörge papers in the unlikeliest and least accessible places we could find; in rolled-up projector screens, in high corners, on the inside of elevator doors. My favorite was taping a poster to a light fixture 5 1/2 feet off a 2-story balcony. That was the last poster down, and the tape marks were still there (in Hancock Hall) years later.

Satisfied with our job well done, we decided to announce our triumph by putting "Hear Geörge" in giants letters on the walkways on the drillfield. We were most of the way finished (about 5 a.m. or so) when a Virginia Tech police car spotted us, and started driving across the drillfield.

Chapter 5: Confrontation

Once the police car arrived (having driven more then halfway across the drillfield), the cops got out and started to berate me and Phil (my co-conspirator).

Aside from vandalism, he threatened to charge us with destruction of public property, insisting that the chalk on the walkway, when washed away by rain, would be damaging to the grass. We stared at the deep ruts the police caused by driving across the pristine grassy field as he explained this to us.

He asked what this was all about, and we showed him a Hear Geörge poster. In particular, we showed him this one. Oops.

The cops agreed to let us go with a warning if we cleaned up the chalk message. Which we did, out of concern for the grass, as the police car continued its path of destruction across the field.

Chapter 6: Aftermath

We got a far bigger reaction from the community than expected. People took down signs from all over campus to put on their door, and the editorials in the C.T. mentioned us by name. Both our letter and our cartoon were printed. I got requests for posters from many people, including some of the Campus Crusade for Christ members who didn't fully get it. The ranks of the "Friends of Geörge" were legion.

An unrelated and more strident campaign, "F*ck Josh", drew a much more charged reaction. I received one angry call about that, and other call from Tech administration on behalf of an irate professor who was sure it was my doing.

Several weeks after the initial posters were distributed, Josh made himself known. It turns out that the whole "Hear Josh" campaign was for Josh McDowell, a traveling evangelist. He spoke on campus, and I attended out of curiousity.

He opened with a canned anecdote about the student who turns in his paper late, asks the professor "don't do you know who I am?", prof says no, and the student sticks his paper in the middle of a big stack if papers. He told the story as if it had happened at Virginia Tech, and the audience bought it.

He then gave a long personal account about how he had set out to prove that Christianity was wrong, proved to himself that it was right, and is now trying to prove it to everyone else. The speech was very charismatic, and didn't leave much room for argument, but his "proof" was clearly based on some unsaid assumptions, and was less than scientific.


I made this website because of the occasional requests I still receive for Hear Geörge posters and for the story. I also wanted to make sure I got the story in print before it got any more incorrect with age.

If anyone knows where I can get a copy of the Hear Geörge cartoon, please let me know. If you have other comments, see the comments page.

Now that you know the story, or at least my self-aggrandizing and inaccurate version of it, you'll want to see the posters.

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