By Alex Distefano
By Scott Snowden
By Anna Merlan
By Steve Almond
By Jena Ardell
By Jon Campbell
By Alan Scherstuhl
By Tessa Stuart
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.
Peter Noel replies: My conscience is clear.
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.
Walpole, New Hampshire
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 Voiceproviding some sanity.
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.
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.
Virgil Scudder & Associates
Out of this World
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?
Clearly, UFO counselor Budd Hopkins, the subject of Bunn's article, helps his groups with his kindness and his thorough knowledge of the subject. I am considering utilizing his services, but before doing so, I wish to recall as much as I possibly can by myself.
Katonah, New York
No Dare Dare
Statistics show that in the 20 years we've lived through the government's bogus "war on drugs," of which DARE is one manifestation, drug use has notdecreased, but instead has increased, with more and more kids getting into substance abuse at an earlier age because of all the publicity about its "evils."
Another reason might be all the families that have been torn apart by the arrest and incarceration of moms and dads for simple possession violations! After all, a great number of people doing time on drug charges are there because they got caught with a few ounces of an illegal substance on their person not because they were selling it on street corners to kids.
I do believe that a program like DARE might be effective in educating children not to do drugs, but not with its current agenda. Telling kids that doing drugs can get them arrested does not address the root problems, and means nothingto kids who've lost their moms or dads to the prison system.
Donna C. Lee
Dare To Be Different
As an operator at a tattooing and piercing studio, I take full offense at statements in Jennifer Gonnerman's article "Truth or DARE," quoting one of the anti-drug program's "workbooks," about tattoos supposedly being linked to drugs as well as a similar statement by the group's president.
Just because people get tattoos does not mean they do drugs. That's like saying every cop is crooked! (I have copfriends and clients who get tattooed, by the way.) I have 17 tattoos, and am not done yet and I do not do drugs! All this is about is a group of people getting a little power, pointing the finger, and preaching the wrong gospel.
I see a lot of drug users, and even dealers, with no ink! Tattooed people DARE to be different. The difference between tattooed people and non- tattooed people is that we don't care if you're tattooed or not.
John Crace (A/K/A Shadow)
Pitman, New Jersey
Kudos to Jeff Howe for his clever unmasking of Charles Aaron as JoJo Dancer (a/k/a The Gay Rapper) ["Dancer in the Dark," April 13]. Although I currently live in South Carolina, I have been following this story with great interest, and was thrilled to see this craven journalist exposed.
You may wonder how a country boy would hear of the pathetic exploits of JoJo the Gay Rapper. Well, where I come from, you can insult a man's taste in clothes, cars, and women, but it is an unspoken rule that you never insult a man's family.
When my brother-in-law, who works in the music industry, along with a cousin of mine, sent me "Dancer's" Rock Critical List, I was appalled to read the remarks made against my family: not only was my brother-in-law referred to as a "dickless imp," but my twentysomething cousin was described as a "40-year-old patrician"!
Judging from the Rock Critical List, the writer's perceptions are anything but lucid.
I see it as yet another example of a half-baked intellect.
Columbia, South Carolina
Just why did you feel the need to include three articles about the JoJo Dancer debacle in your April 13 issue ["Dancer in the Dark," Jeff Howe; "Get Back, JoJo," Frank Kogan; "Wet Behind Ears," Sara Sherr]?
Are you so deluded that you think people care?
The need of music critics to feel important is so fucking pathetic. They need a kick in the pants, such as JoJo has provided but don't waste column inches analyzing the shit you're sitting in. That kind of self- important wallowing is exactly what JoJo (rightly) points out as The Problem. When are you going to wake up!
The state of music criticism in this country is, with a few exceptions, worthless, and your three articles only serve to reinforce the point.
Jeff Howe's article about JoJo the Gay Rapper was hardly fast-response journalism. The Rock Critical List discussed in the piece was disseminated to the rock community by mail, then in faxes by music writers, and has been sold at my store since the last week of February.
The New York Observer (of all publications!) scooped every other paper, revealing the existence of the List in its March 17 media column. The Voice, finally catching on, then printed three stories by actual rock journalists in its last issue.
Why did it take The Village Voice four weeks to respond? Was the rock media establishment wishing that the Rock Critical List might simply slink quietly away? Not so, folks. Reaction from my customers, some in the industry, range from "long overdue" and "right on the money" to "This is what everyone thinks but is afraid to say."
Certain irate writers have questioned the ethics of my selling the Rock Critical List (the $1 price barely covers copying costs), but we know what's really pissing them off: a brutally funny "10 worst rock critics" list topped off by a dead-on accurate indictment of the current state of rock journalism.
Ted R. Gottfried, Owner
See Hear Fanzines & Magazines
How long has it been since Austin Bunn took a math class? In "Slaves of the Machine" [April 13], he claims that the largest known prime number is only six digits long, and cites 909,562 as the actual number. First, that's an even number, which, if I calculate correctly, is divisible by two. Also, the largest known prime is 909,526 digits long.
Austin Bunn replies: My last math class was seven years ago (which is also a prime number). You are right.
Death To Diplomacy
It's heartening to witness the steady euthanasia of the "politically correct" michegass that hung like a dark curtain over many aspects of academic life on campus in the early '90s [Jeff Howe, "Speech Therapy," April 13]. The entire PC movement, though its genesis in the impulse not to offend remains unassailable, was doomed to failure, and not just because it led to things like a septuagenarian University of Wisconsin professor being yanked from his classroom in mid-lecture, as Howe reports.
The pace with which (contestably) righteous indignation morphed into legislation, in the form of speech codes, was phenomenal. The PC mentality was forced on a lot of people, stemming as it did from the pouting of a few, not the will of the majority. Had the sensible majority spoken out sooner, the '90s might've been more fun, in the classroom and out. Unfortunately, out of apathy and apprehensiveness, if not fear, no one really questioned the zeal of the presumably offended, and from lecture halls to student newspapers the politically incorrect were effectively gagged.
If there is a lesson to be learned from this, it is to question know-it-all policymakers early and often. In the case of political correctness, we hoped the idiocy would dissipate without any action on our part. Fortunately, it's beginning to fade.
Bravo to Andrew Hsiao and Deirdre Hussey for their excellent article "Mothers of Invention" [April 6], about women who have lost children due to police brutality. As a parent, I can think of nothing more painful than losing a child. How wonderful that these families have turned the loss of their children into something meaningful for an entire community.
Nahdiyyah Parker Jarnagin
Lumberton, North Carolina
Real Life Crime
Guy Trebay's article "Tale of a Beheading" [April 13], about the brutal murder of Eddie Northington, was moving especially because Trebay did not depict him as a stereotypical, defenseless gay man but as a complex human being. I also appreciate the attention Trebay brought to this story, which was largely ignored by mainstream media. The apathetic response from the gay and lesbian communities was disheartening.
Giles Foden's review of two new South African books ["Who's Sorry Now?" April 6], was extremely well done even given an unfortunate headline, which showed a complete lack of understanding of what has happened and is still happening in South Africa. Our history is diverse and complex; assigning blame to one particular philosophy is tempting, but won't ultimately help solve our various social and economic problems.
Foden's suggestion that certain parts of The Country of My Skull ask too much of foreign readers in terms of language and scope of reference is valid. However, Antjie Krog's book is extremely important for the numerous South Africans who are living in New York. It's an amazing and moving account. I urge any South African who has not read it to do so.
Re: Danny Hakim's "King Pong" [April 13], about the Atari Historical Society: As an Atari aficionado (I've owned every version from the VSC 2600 to the Jaguar), I was pleased to read about Curt Vendel's fantastic work in creating the Atari Historical Society.
Sadly, most people look back at Atari and dismiss it as junk forgetting that Atari started the computer game industry. Without Atari's early work, systems like Nintendo 64 and Playstation might not exist today.
Atari showed the world what could be done with video games.
It's about time the Voice reviewed a restaurant in Manhattan! What's up with all of those outer-borough restaurant critiques?
Due to a computer error, Gary Giddins's preview of the 92nd Street Y's April 10 concert, "Hoagy's Hundredth," was inadvertently omitted from last week's Music Choices listings.
Letters should be brief, and phone numbers must be included. All letters are subject to editing for clarity, legal, and space considerations. Send mail to: Letters to the Editor, The Village Voice, 36 Cooper Square, New York, NY 10003. Or fax to 212-475-8944 or e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. E-mail letters must include phone numbers.