Re Howard Hampton's "Magical Mediocrity Tour" [The Essay, December 31, 2003-January 6, 2004]:

Did Howard Hampton actually read Curtis White's latest book, The Middle Mind? Or was he merely responding to the tenor of White's recent piece in The Village Voice? There is no way to determine the answer from this essay. I cannot recall reading a more hysterical piece of ad hominem attack outside of an online forum.

Is this what public debate has become, shrieking at phantoms? You do your readers a great disservice by publishing such drivel. I do not believe anyone knows how to recuperate the image of the public intellectual and philosophy's relevance in today's media-saturated environment. Hampton's attack notwithstanding, the review suffers from the same maladies it attacks in White's book—Hampton is publishing in the Voice, after all!

Hampton ignores White's argument in The Middle Mind. He makes no attempt to disprove it or demonstrate its weakness. Instead, he elects himself representative of the underclass and goes on a tirade on its behalf.

Gimme a break. The unmoored Hampton is clearly not up to the task at hand. The Village Voice ought to do better than this.

David Comdico
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania


Re Tom Robbins's "Requiem for a Bach Jock" [January 7-13]:

So Gregg Whiteside was fired by WQXR for making off-the-air anti-Semitic remarks. Fine! People who deal with the public shouldn't make anti-Semitic (or homophobic or racist) remarks. I'm surprised the Voice would publish an article defending him. I for one am glad WQXR finally dumped the abrasive, sports-obsessed, right-wing-inclined Whiteside: I don't miss his shtick at all and have long felt that he'd be more at home at a station like WFAN. I'm a lot more comfortable with the somewhat generic announcers WQXR now has in the early morning: At least I don't start the day with a sour taste in my mouth before going to the office and tuning in Jeff Spurgeon on WQXR. I could listen to him 24-7.

Gregory Klosek
Kensington, Brooklyn


Kudos on Ta-Nehisi Coates's "Compassionate Capitalism" [January 7-13]. Given that Russell Simmons has turned more poor people into rich people than most anti-poverty programs, he seems like a ghetto bodhisattva. Russell and hip-hop both believe in the ultimate redemption of Black America's career fuckups: salvation for the strayed sheep, the "careless Ethiopians," and all our prodigal sons without exception. Only Spike Lee worries about the struggling righteous ones—all those black nerds and ghetto goody-goodies who are expected to fend for themselves and not become deadbeat dads or welfare moms as a matter of personal pride.

Nobody but Spike thinks Black Lifestyles of the Smart and Cautious could be a viable television show. And that's just one of many reasons why Russell's roughneck style of redemptive activism might actually work.

Carol Cooper


Re "Compassionate Capitalism":

Oh please—just watch the latest episode of Cribs on MTV with Russell Simmons et al., and then try to take anything in this article seriously. Simmons comes off as a rich pig with way too much time on his hands—so of course he has plenty of yoga practice time.

Linda Brown
West Hollywood, California


Michael Atkinson's feverish praise of the relevance of the politics of The Battle of Algiers ["Rocket the Casbah," January 7-13] belongs with the long list of Bad Baby-Boomer Analogies in which our media culture is so rich. For starters, the French had been in Algeria for about 125 years before the events detailed in Pontecorvo's film. Algeria had been colonized to the point of containing a population that was over 10 percent French. Maybe Atkinson is saying that in 125 years, after the population of Iraq is about 10 percent American-born, the U.S. may face a revolt of the indigenous Iraqis?

The ultimate irony, by the way, is chastely avoided in Atkinson's piece. When Bush announced his war on terror, one of those soon standing by his side on the White House lawn was President Abdelaziz Bouteflika of Algeria, a political leader bloodied in the war against the French. Post-independence Algeria's leaders were secular third-world radicals, but the folks at the grassroots strongly identified with medieval Islamic values. Any lessons there for those clinging to the romantic mythology of third-world authenticity and radicalism?

Mark Richard
Columbus, Ohio

Michael Atkinson replies: Hey, the Pentagon used the analogy first. Why would a difference in historical circumstances be less relevant than the resulting facts of occupation and indigenous revolt? The Iraqis' situation has parallels all over the globe and going back thousands of years—it's just that Pontecorvo made a rocking movie about one of them. And sure, the power structure in Algeria today is a psychotic mess, but if you consider that fact a redress to "the romantic mythology of third-world authenticity and radicalism" rather than the predictable fallout of occupation, genocidal violence, and colonial oppression, then you're well on your way to being a totalitarian.


Re James Ridgeway's "Dean Calls 9-11" [Mondo Washington, January 7-13]:

Do we choose a candidate because he has the most audacity, or do we choose a candidate because he is a capable, experienced man?

Next Page »