Letters

FORUM AND AGAINST 'EM

In Lenora Todaro's article "Citizen CEO [February 12]," the subhead, "The WEF's Corporate Moguls Debate Their Role as Unelected World Leaders," reflects a bias on the part of the Voice.

I too approached the World Economic Forum panel featuring Bill Gates and Bono with great skepticism. I went in with a cynical view of the failed development projects I had seen during two years as a Peace Corps worker in Cameroon. Surprisingly, I came out of the session re-invigorated about a career in international development. Bono spoke with eloquence, passion, and knowledge about debt relief after his recent tour of Africa. Gates talked about the distinction between health aid (usually unchallenged by anti-globalization groups) and economic project aid (which traditionally has had mixed results). Both men said more needs to be done to alleviate poverty. Gates even admitted that he hadn't done more in the past for one reason: He was ignorant of the unimaginable state of the developing world.

Rich CEOs, rock stars, and politicians aren't going anywhere—they are likely to be part of the future. So what are they supposed to do? If they do little or nothing, they maintain the status quo, but creating a dialogue through forums like the WEF draws derision from cynics. Perhaps rather than highlighting Valentine's Day consumerism on the February 12 cover, the Voice could have given readers a story that helped educate them—including many of the uninformed protesters—on the many real challenges facing developing nations.

Michael Metcalf
Manhattan

Lenora Todaro replies: The subhead is based on the WEF participants' own vision of themselves as global leaders (the Forum's theme was "Leadership in Fragile Times") and, in particular, one workshop originally titled "The CEO as Statesman." The story does not deride Bono's earnest effort to bring attention to debt relief, nor is it cynical about Bill Gates's promise to spend money on AIDS relief. It does point out ironies, and it does suggest that the rhetoric of WEF participants in general is not necessarily backed up with action. Also that the bonds forged among CEO "leaders" and politicians at the WEF can in the worst-case scenario wreak havoc on people's lives. Witness Enron.


INSIDE STORY

I want to thank Esther Kaplan for her honest coverage of the police activity during the WEF protests ["Spies in Blue," February 19]. However, I was one of the protesters arrested that weekend, and I need to clarify a few of Kaplan's statements.

I was not detained "overnight" by the NYPD, but for more than 60 hours. I also have not yet been awarded a settlement for my earlier incidence of illegal detention, during an Amadou Diallo protest, because that claim is still being filed. I expect to add my recent WEF protest arrest to my list of claims. I was detained while watching a demonstration because an officer said I threw rocks and bricks at the police, and that as a result a crowd of 100 people gathered and became unruly—although in the end I wasn't charged with incitement to riot. Interrogations regarding political affiliation, surveillance of political activity, brutalizing (peaceful) demonstrators by placing them in extremely tight plastic cuffs until their hands go numb, and preventative detention have no place in legitimate police activity.

Robert Jereski
Manhattan


WORD GAMES

Joshua Clover's review of Hatred of Capitalism: A Semiotext(e) Reader ["Pomo Trip," February 12] criticizes the American writers in the anthology (of whom, admittedly, I'm one) for "being an ocean apart from the children of critical theory; they are instead the scions of radical subjectivity." Earth to Clover: Critical theory is radical subjectivity too, and just as perverse as any of the "marginalized . . . sexualized . . . angry . . . alienated" first-person narratives that he dislikes. It's just written by those and for those who prefer their ideas to come clothed in long sentences and delphic hyphenates rather than via character and incident. But that doesn't mean theory is more serious than a first-person narrative, whether fictive or non, any more than an Ab-Ex painting is more serious than a painting of a Campbell's soup can—though it certainly seemed that way at first to many people. It's all linguistic fun and games (in the Wittgensteinian sense), so it's a pity to have a guy who only likes theory dissing those who want to broaden the party, and in the process (not so incidentally?) bringing back notions of hierarchy that works like these are trying to destroy.

Jane DeLynn
Manhattan

I like Joshua Clover's smart and savvy style. I would dispute only the assertion he makes about the death of theory, and his insistent description of its obsolescence. I understand the point of view from which such a statement can be made, but it's inessential. I won't argue the point about how many times theory has been declared dead only to bounce back, haunting and hounding the very utterances that denounce it. I won't recall Hegel's declaring art a thing of the past or any of the serial death knells that provide the background music for many critical performances like Clover's. I won't get into the logic, inaugurated by Freud, that teaches how the dead are more powerful than the impoverished and shivering live ones—artists, writers, thinkers, whatever. (So dead theory would be more pernicious than theory alive and fragile.)

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