Rape of the Truth

In Peter Noel's piece about Al Sharpton's latest grab for respect ["Father of the Movement," April 6], he writes that Norman Siegel, executive director of the New York Civil Liberties Union, had "to clear his conscience" before linking up with the activist, who was found liable for defamation in a civil trial last year. Brother Noel quoted Siegel as saying, "I told him [Sharpton] I think Tawana Brawley was a hoax. I think he made a mistake with Freddie's. I think he made a mistake in Crown Heights."

It is time for Noel to clear his conscience, too, for being too close to Sharpton, for writing too many Voice dispatches from inside Sharpton's head. How close is Noel to Sharpton? So close that in the aforementioned article, about Sharpton's comeback from "pesky political pariah" to "RESPECT," Noel failed to mention the biggest obstacle to the latter— the Brawley trial and verdict.

After barely losing the 1997 Democratic mayoral primary, Sharpton officially crossed over from pariah to respect. That's why President Clinton posed for photos with him and Democratic politicians vied for his favor. In fact, Noel has avoided the Brawley case for years. Though he's occasionally quoted Sharpton's wild claims about the rape in the Voice, the city's best reporter on race has closed his eyes to hard investigation. Not once did he go to Poughkeepsie (where I was a witness for the plaintiff in the court proceedings) to see the odoriferous, pariah-renewing defense that led to a defamation verdict and the need for another comeback.

When Sharpton and his codefendants refused to be interviewed together on ABC's 20/20 this February, correspondent Charles Gibson reached out to Noel as a surrogate. Asked "Why, flat-out, doesn't Sharpton say 'I was wrong,' " Noel endorsed Sharpton's discredited view, reiterating that Tawana was raped. I don't believe Noel believes that. If I'm wrong, perhaps Noel will share with Voice readers what facts support Tawana's rape and Steve Pagones's participation in it— as Sharpton still insists.

Philip Nobile

Peter Noel replies: My conscience is clear.

Yugo, Guys

Congratulations on two fine pieces of journalism in last week's issue on the crisis in the Balkans, by Jason Vest ["Clinton Bombs Again"] and James Ridgeway [Mondo Washington].

Since the advent of NATO's invasion of Serbia, I've been trying to make sense of the U.S. position in the area historically and currently, using conventional and unconventional sources. Vest's piece was one of the most succinct reviews of the Serbian/Kosovan conflict I've read. And Ridgeway's lead item ["Clinton in a Spin"] gave me some information I hadn't read before: Clinton negotiator Richard Holbrooke's Credit Suisse bank connection.

Tasty coverage indeed.

Larry Tsetsi
Walpole, New Hampshire

Eastern Exposure

Thanks for Jason Vest's excellent article, "Clinton Bombs Again." As an American living in Taiwan, my only exposure to the Kosovo crisis has been through CNN, the official mainland China news, The International Herald-Tribune, and the Internet.

CNN has proven to be more patriotic and inane than Pravda under Brezhnev. It is mind-boggling to watch news of worldwide protests pushed farther and farther back in favor of stories detailing the pride of Stealth bomber mechanics.

I've been in contact with friends and family in the States, most of whom seem to have discovered instant moral outrage. It seems to be a curious function of the U.S. press to create and direct this. It's nice to see the Voice providing some sanity.

Nathan Miller
Taipei, Taiwan

Turkey Trot

I had one problem with Jason Vest's attack on Clinton's war in Yugoslavia: the clichéd nature of the charge of hypocrisy: i.e., how can we oppose ethnic cleansing in the Balkans, but do nothing about similar offenses in a country like Turkey? To the contrary, I believe that when our leaders find the moral courage and political rationale to oppose genocide and ethnic cleansing, we should embrace it.

John Ransom
Bologna, Italy

Water Logged

James Ridgeway, in Mondo Washington [April 13], cites a story about a ship ordering a lighthouse to divert its course, which was posted on Commander David Hackworth's Defending America e-mail newsletter.

This story is an urban (or is it naval?) legend. Our media-training company has used one version of it as a practice speech since 1990, and it was not new then. Even the divergence suggested to avoid a collison, 15 degrees, has remained the same.

Great story, though.

Ken Scudder,
Virgil Scudder & Associates

Out of this World

As a possible alien abductee, I read Austin Bunn's "The Alienist: Artist Brings UFO Abduction Home to New York" [April 13] with great interest.

Like many of the people in Bunn's article, I can tell you that living with strange memories is no fun. There are a number of stages in the abduction phenomenon which assault the mind. I have been examined by psychiatrists and found to be highly stressed, but otherwise in good mental health. I have a few phobias, but who doesn't?

I go through stages of disbelief and belief, supplanted from time to time with the thought that maybe I am crazy. Which is why I decided to be examined. As for the memories, they are dreamlike snippets, which I recall vividly from more than 50 years ago. And I almost never recall dreams. So why do I remember these? And why are they so vivid? Why do I have the belief that they are memories of real events?

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