By Alex Distefano
By Scott Snowden
By Anna Merlan
By Steve Almond
By Jena Ardell
By Jon Campbell
By Alan Scherstuhl
By Tessa Stuart
Irin Carmon and Amy Phillips ["Got Your Money Shot," December 18] have reclaimed the Britney Spears phenomenon from the leering middle-aged male gaze that has threatened to overwhelm and destroy her. As a junior accountant in a Fortune 500 company, I assure you that the clubbish and misogynistic banter between males at the water cooler will no longer touch upon Britney Spears's sexual appeal.
No, it appears that Britney is for Britney and her fans wholly. The belief that every heterosexual male has an uncontrollable lust for teenage flesh, popularized in films such as American Beauty and the rigmarole surrounding Britney Spears, gives much too much credit to the ability of men to discern between the put-ons of girls, marketing ploys, and the belief that some experience and knowledge more than compensate for a fling with a nubile young thing.
Most red-blooded American fathers believe daughters and young girls are best ignored, a cost to be endured, especially since the smart ones, like Ms. Carmon and Ms. Phillips, who are on the path to Ivy League degrees, willingly obsess about self-referential pop deities, the image of women in the world, and how men perceive them. Meanwhile, most powerful white males probably can't tell Nelly Furtado from Britney Spears from Mena Suvari.
Next time my alma mater calls for a check, I'll be sure to recall this article when I send in my $50 to the Salvation Army. At least they'll spend the money on something worthwhile.
STEVE ALLEN U.
J. Hoberman's article about action films having been prophetic in regard to the tragedies of September 11 was on the money ["Made in Hollywood," December 11]. But does that mean that creative thoughts and ideas should be regulated? Fuck no.
Many people were forced to the line between individualistic freedom and fascism on September 11. But censorship is a harsh insult to our liberty and devalues the lives of those who were lost. Therefore, Robert Altman's criticism that "nobody would have thought to commit an atrocity like that unless they'd seen it in a movie" proves him to be a summa cum laude graduate of the Steve Allen University for Jealous, Unsuccessful, Has-Been Monkeys.
I like violent films. Even the smart ones, like Sam Peckinpah's The Wild Bunch and Tim Hunter's River's Edge. Entertainment exaggerates human experience on its many levels. How can the former be censored if the latter can't?
As a human being and an American, I say two words to the heralds of censorship and tyranny: Up yours.
MADE IN GREENWICH VILLAGE
Kudos to artist Peter Scanlan and the Village Voice art department for the brilliant cover illustration on your December 11 issue. It perfectly mimics the Hollywood sensibility in a wickedly satirical fashion. Suitable for framing!
THE MULLAHS AND THE 'VOICE'
In its December 11 issue, The Village Voice carried a 1350-word article that contained dozens of lies against the Iranian Resistance ["With Friends Like These," James Ridgeway & Camelia Fard]. The article echoed the voice of the mullahs and their terrorist dictatorship against the sole democratic, independent alternative to the religious fascism ruling Iran.
The mullahs are trying hard these days to use purchased space in the freely distributed press to divert attention from their own regime, the epicenter of global terrorism, toward the Iranian Resistance. Ronald Precup, the counsel for the People's Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI) in the U.S., wrote to the Voice's editor: "I asked you to withhold publication and give my client an opportunity to respond to allegations in the article."
After the publication of the Voice article and the series of lies it contained, the PMOI press office in Washington, D.C., answered the lies point by point, particularly the shameful ties between the article's co-writer, Camelia Fard, and Iran's ruling mullahs. The Voice refused to publish the letter on the pretext that it was too long. The Mojahedin shortened the reply from 3000 to 1200 words, but again the Voicerejected it, and wrote to the PMOI press section on December 12 that "a letter even remotely as long as the second version you sent is completely unworkable in the . . . letters section." The letter stressed that no response more than 350 words would be accepted. Once again the mullahs' hands can be seen at work through Madam Camelia, the well-known friend of Mullah Abtahi, the clerical president's secretary. Every fair-minded person and honorable journalist would denounce the Voice's decision to prevent the expression of legitimate objection to its article as injurious to journalistic ethics and an insult to readers' intelligence.
The PMOI's full response to the article, turned down by the Voice, can be found at its Internet site, Mojahedin.org.
People's Mojahedin Organization of Iran
Editor in Chief Donald H. Forst replies: The Village Voice has complete confidence in the accuracy of the reporting done by James Ridgeway and Camelia Fard. News space is not for sale in the Voice.
Re Jason Vest's "Death Wish in the Holy Land" [December 18]: Why was the question not asked, "Why is there not an Israeli De Klerk?" Apartheid in South Africa couldn't have been dismantled without De Klerk. Moreover, apartheid in South Africa couldn't have been dismantled without international sanctions.
In contrast, Israel has free rein to do whatever it wants against Palestinian civilians. If one evaluates Israel's response to more or less peaceful demonstrations, using live ammunition, rubber-coated metal bullets, killing 100 Palestinians in the first 20 days of the uprising, then the question posed by Rabbi Arthur Waskow in Vest's article as to why there hasn't been a Palestinian Gandhi is answered.
Why is there silence when Israel violates human rights, commits war crimes, and continues to violate international resolutions? Why do the media tell the Israeli narrative and question the Palestinian narrative, even though that is not a different narrative from that of international human rights organizations such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch? These questions are missing when asking about a Palestinian Gandhi.
Arjan El Fassed
Palestinian Society for the Protection of Human Rights & the Environment
According to the splashy front-page headline for Jason Vest's otherwise thoughtful pieces in the December 18 issue, Israeli would-be assassins of Yasir Arafat could be identifiable as "Israelis," but Palestinian fighters who kill Ariel Sharon would be called "terrorists." At a time when the U.S. government is being oddly and violently selective in its definition of who is a "terrorist" and who is a patriot or ally, your language is, at best, lazy and irresponsible.
I am writing in response to Peter Noel's article "Black Interloper: Russell Simmons's 'Racial Contract' With Andrew Cuomo" [December 11]. During the last 40 years, I have participated on the front lines of many of the struggles for freedom, justice, and equality throughout the United States and internationally. Over the last year, through the Hip-Hop Summit Action Network, I have had the unique opportunity to work closely and directly with Russell Simmons as an adviser and confidant. On a daily basis, I have observed a very gifted and committed businessman use his achievements and wealth to help others less fortunate. Simmons has a heart of sincere compassion and is consistently speaking out on behalf of helping people get themselves out of poverty.
As hip-hop enters into the political sphere, no doubt there will be those, as quoted in Noel's piece, who just do not know what time it is. Russell Simmons represents the generation of young people who do not buy into an inferiority complex and who will not be silenced by those who want youth to vote, but who are afraid of youth who think before they vote. The truth is what drives hip-hop.
Our music, poetry, dance, graffiti, and art reach across race, gender, age, ethnicity, geography, religion, philosophy, and ideology. The truth is the common denominator, and that is why hip-hop will survive attempts at censorship, and why Russell Simmons will survive attempts of character assassination by those who fear the future.
Noel and company are completely misguided. The gubernatorial contest next year is not about personality politics. It is about the real-life issues of improving education, health care, the economy, community development, and ending poverty and injustice. Name-calling is immature, and Reverend Al Sharpton and the National Action Network should apologize for the "Uncle Tom" quote [by a Sharpton aide in the article].
Whether the victor is George Pataki, Carl McCall, or Andrew Cuomo, the 2002 election for the next governor of New York should be decided based on who will be the best and most truthful person to respond to the issues and needs of the people of New York for a better life.
I stand with Russell Simmons and the hip-hop generation.
Minister Benjamin F. (Chavis) Muhammad
President and CEO
Hip-Hop Summit Action Network
FISTS OF FURY
Mitch Abramson's piece on lethal assaults in the ring ["Anatomy of a Sucker Punch," December 11] omits mention of the aftermath of the 1983 Luis Resto-Billy Collins bout. Collins (who complained to his corner between rounds that he could feel Resto's knuckles through the gloves) was killed in an auto accident nine months afterward. Abramson appears to lament the fact that Resto never "fully recovered" his livelihood and has no private toilet. In fact, both Resto and Panama Lewis got off easy for their criminal behavior.
Glen Ridge, New Jersey
In Joy Press's article about cartoonist Julie Doucet ["Strip Teaser," December 11], there is the following line: "[R.] Crumb's comics were notoriously littered. . . ." It would be more appropriate to have written: "Crumb's comics are notoriously littered. . . . " I find it interesting that Crumb is referred to in the past tense when he is still very much the productive artist. How can he not be? He was built to draw.
Wonderful article by Mary Gaitskill on Shirley Manson ["Leader of the Secretarial Pool," December 11]. Not only do I adore Manson and J.T. LeRoy, but Gaitskill has this way with words and pictures that is so pure and human. Thank you. After a much too short and stressful reading of my paternal hero Paul Auster, I needed this good piece of wordsmithing.
I recently received an e-mail regarding a free party at a bar on the Lower East Side. The e-mail boasted underground hip-hop music within a relaxed, no-dress-code environment. I couldn't make it so I encouraged two of my male friends, Latino and black, to attend. My friends were having a quiet conversation before they were approached and told very politely by the bouncer, a black man, that at his manager's request, they had been asked to leave because they were not "attracting the type of crowd he desired." The bouncer told them they could return in a couple hours when the bar became crowded so they would have a better chance of "blending in." They returned later to find an all-white crowd enjoying the sounds of "authentic" hip-hop.
I have no problem with white people listening to hip-hop, but this bar had the nerve to reject two minorities because they didn't fit in? They wanted the white, artsy folks who frequent the myriad bars on the Lower East Side and patronize the "locals." The ones who refer to the neighborhood I have lived in my whole life as "Loho." I hope the Voice examines this phenomenon before it's too late and my whole neighborhood is gentrified into condos, trendy bars, and pretentious talk.
Jahan S. Mantin
Wayne Barrett's article "Rudy's Gift to Mike" (December 18) reported that New York City budget director Adam Barsky stated that Mayor Giuliani had been to the White House many times "for friendly meetings" about post-September 11 federal aid. It was Barsky who went to the White House, an error caused by a confusing pronoun changed to refer to Giuliani in the editing process.