By Alex Distefano
By Scott Snowden
By Anna Merlan
By Steve Almond
By Jena Ardell
By Jon Campbell
By Alan Scherstuhl
By Tessa Stuart
There should be a law that permits artistic projects such as the naked photo shoot discussed by Robin Rothman ["Nude Awakening," June 8]. Why arrest artist-photographer Spencer Tunick? The nudity? How sad that we live in a country filled with so many cultures, and are open to so many different preferences, but at the sight of a boob, a butt, or the hint of thigh, we lose our shit. We act like five-year-olds and that's insulting five-year-olds, since they have better common sense about these things.
Regarding Nat Hentoff's column "How Free Can Speech Be?" [May 25]: As lead defense counsel in the Portland, Oregon, case about free speech in posters and on the Internet, I would like to point out that neither the plaintiffs' lawyers nor the court ever succeeded in identifying any particular threatening language in the posters and Web site at issue.
The reason for this failure is simple: the communications contained no threats. Plaintiffs' lawyers claimed the communications as a whole were threatening. But that is like claiming that an article in The Village Voice is libelous as a whole without ever identifying any particular false statements in the article. How would the Voice like to be sued for libel on that theory? Principled First Amendment advocates should be gravely concerned about the result in Oregon, which punishes with a $107 million damage award and a permanent injunction speech that is less provocative than what is purveyed by some shock jocks and TV talk show hosts. The communications did nothing more than name, condemn, and seek legally available information about the abortion doctors listed standard pro-life protest literature.
This verdict points the way to further suits under the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act and the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act against the speech of political opponents based on little more than the claim that because of acts of violence in the social context surrounding political speech, the speech becomes a threat even if no threat is actually stated. Such suits, as we learned in Oregon, are virtually impossible to defend.
Nat Hentoff replies: At the trial, Dr. Elizabeth Newhall, who performs abortions, testified that when her name appeared on "The Deadly Dozen" poster, she was terrified and began to wear a bulletproof vest. She knew that on the Web site lines had been drawn through the names of murdered abortion doctors on the poster's wanted list. This, according to settled law, was a true specifically named threat. I say this as a First Amendment pro-lifer.
Aspiring watchdogs of war will themselves be the first casualties if they look to Jason Vest for accurate reporting [Press Clips, June 1]. Vest's claim that in the Balkans conflict "tens of thousands of sorties" have been flown is simply false. According to Major General Charles Wald, senior planner for the Joint Chiefs of Staff, 6950 bombing runs had been made as of May 26. The dispute over whether the number of sorties is adequate to NATO's objectives has been a top story since March. Vest watches the press; does anyone watch Vest?
Fred Moody's "Digital Ink" [June 1] shed some well-deserved light on the subject of Web-only art and content. Groups like mousecontrol.com are leading the way toward an environment where destinations will be more important than portals. Web artists Ryan Lane and Nathan Tucker have created the perfect art form for our age: quick doses of original and amusing entertainment designed for short attention spans. Such genius rarely gets the attention it deserves.
Kudos to Allen St. John for his critique of Rey Ordóñez ["The Mets Hit Parade," June 8]. Rather than following the lead of many writers and attacking Ordóñez's shortcomings with the bat, St. John had the guts to expose his defense for the all-flash, no-substance that it is. St. John's willingness to use an unestablished stat like "zone" rating should be commended. While not a perfect stat, it is a logical step toward assessing fielding with the same degree of objectivity and accuracy that is applied to hitting and pitching stats.
Re Dennis Lim's review of Notting Hill["Star Stricken," June 1]: Lim needs to take this movie a little less seriously. Was he expecting Casablanca? It was funny and entertaining. Predictable? Did he really expect anything else? This movie, as artistically challenged as it may be, is a justifiable hit. People left the theater smiling. Lim should have left his technical dissection in film school: clearly, his expectations were too high.
Newport Beach, California
Sometimes the words come too quickly, unsupported by sufficient thought.
Only upon seeing it in print did it occur to me that, for one of the musicians, schizophrenia is not a metaphor but an illness that he has bravely and astonishingly overcome. I apologize to Tom Harrell and my readers.