By Jena Ardell
By Jon Campbell
By Alan Scherstuhl
By Tessa Stuart
By Roy Edroso
By Jon Campbell
By Albert Samaha
By Zachary D. Roberts
In his column "War Among Civil Libertarians" [August 21-27], Nat Hentoff repeated the allegations of Michael Meyers, a former New York Civil Liberties Union (NYCLU) board member, that Meyers lost a contested election because it was rigged. Hentoff, a former board member himself who had his own personal issues with both the NYCLU and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), asked that the ACLU conduct an investigation into Meyers's charges. Whether such an investigation is appropriate is a matter for the ACLU, but we are confident that the election process conformed to applicable rules and guidelines. With Meyers's active participation in the process, the NYCLU took timely and appropriate steps to address any procedural concerns and to ensure a fair election. In the end, Meyers lost because he could not garner enough votes.
While Hentoff goes to great lengths to extol Meyers's civil liberties virtues, a fact we need not dispute, Hentoff wrongly assumes that Meyers's unsubstantiated attacks on the NYCLU are, therefore, valid. Particularly troubling is Hentoff's repetition of Meyers's objection to the selection of Donna Lieberman as NYCLU executive director over Meyers's preferred candidate.
In fact, the board engaged in a thoughtful and deliberative search process that adhered to stringent affirmative action standards. Lieberman was overwhelmingly chosen by a diverse board, after the board interviewed and thoroughly considered the candidates recommended by the screening committee, on which Meyers was an active participant. While Hentoff may be upset at his friend's loss in the board election, he should nevertheless treat Meyers's claims with a little more journalistic skepticism.
Steven J. Hyman, President
Board of Directors, NYCLU
Nat Hentoff replies: On Hyman's pledge of a reply, I delayed the column for several weeks. Under pressure from the national ACLU, he finally responds, ignoring Meyers's specific chargesin extensive correspondence to and from NYCLU officialsof improper staff involvement in the election, and other abuses of due process. Contrary to Hyman, Meyers insists that he was not part of the internal investigation, which Meyers says was limited by Hyman to two "fact finders," including Hyman's wife, a member of the NYCLU board. As for Donna Lieberman, I served under Ira Glasser and later worked often with Norman Siegel. Lieberman does not measure up to her predecessors. My "personal" issue was a First Amendment issue when, years ago, as a board member, I criticized in theVoice the practices of the then executive director. Recently, Steven Hyman told me I did the right thing then, but that's not in his letter. It is up to the national ACLU to conduct a real investigation into Michael Meyers's charges.
THE PARTY'S OVER
Regarding the failing Liberal Party, described in the article "Dead Man Running" by Tom Robbins [September 11-17], may it suffer a quick and unceremonious demise. I joined it when I first came to New York City from Boston in 1965, proud to count myself a member of a political organization that conspicuously displayed the liberal label for everyone to see, and whose actions usually honored the liberal tradition. I had finally found a place where I could publicly express my left-of-center beliefs by simply saying I belonged. But a few months ago, I resigned after more than a decade of wondering why I continued to align myself with an organization that is, as Robbins points out, little more than a private club for Ray Harding's gain. I finally realized that I had hung in for the symbolic value of its name. How lame, trading my precious vote all these years for a logo! I'm sure that many of the thousands who still belong are in the same boat. My one comfort is that I took a deep breath and bailed. Now where do I go?
In "Keeping Up With the Jones" [September 11-17], which bears the tag line, "Better Decide Which Side You're On," Jane Dark makes the convincing, if hardly fresh, argument that it's nonsense for critics of punk or hip-hop to play "the 'real musician' card"that is, to disregard any music simply because its practitioners might not be accomplished musicians. Point taken. But Dark's next argument is as foolish and as dogmatic as the reactionary position she's just trashed. Dark asks us to discount entire genres of music because their practitioners can play their instruments. Really, is the narrow-minded doctrine of "technique always sucks" really anything other than "technique is absolutely necessary" stood on its head? Dark seems to argue that we need to choose teenpop over Alicia Keys (Keys, you see, is behind-the-times enough to actually play the piano). Why does Dark place "Britney in the same aesthetic bin as the Clash" (I assume that Dark means the "good" bin)? Because, "in the aesthetic marketplace" she believes we cannot free ourselves from the "dialectic" between "rockist aesthetics" and fresh contemporary music. Dogmatists such as Dark work to shrivel the world into binary arrangementsgood and evil, with us or against us, musicianship versus non-musicianshipeven if such haphazard categorizing forces us to accept, say, a Britney Spears. Isn't it possible to choose not to take sides? To enjoy Jay-Z and Hendrix, Nirvana and Mingus, the Coup and Stravinsky? I do, and that's answer enough.