Letter Of The Week

Barkun up the right tree

Re part one of Gary Indiana's "No Such Thing as Paranoia" [May 26-June 1]: I am an academic who is relieved to see that someone has decided to expose and discuss the bland hysterics of Michael Barkun. I've been trying to get a critical review of his book published since it came out, and no academic journal will touch my comments. So, am I paranoid about something? Do I have a reason to be? (I've been studying UFO cultures for 20 years, and he has it so wrong and so shallow—like there has ever been a consensus reality outside of ideology to begin with.) Anyway, it took an intelligent and thoughtful person outside the mélange of university claptrap to cleverly say most of what I've been wanting to—it's gratifying to see that someone else is paying attention.

Carol S. Matthews
Washington, D.C.

Lies and the Liars

Your "Paranoid Nation" articles [Kareem Fahim's "Lost in America" and Gary Indiana's "No Such Thing as Paranoia," May 26-June 1] seem to overlook one of the biggest uses of conspiracy theories and one of the main reasons that they are so abhorrent: to spread ideological hate. Whether it is the 4,000 Jews (or Israelis, depending on how open the tellers are about their anti-Semitism) not showing up to work on 9-11 or the mainstreaming of such age-old ideas as the Jewish control of the media, banks, etc., conspiracy theories and websites that carry them are being used to breed a new generation of haters. And while sometimes there is a grain of truth buried in the bushel of lies, when skepticism turns into actual belief in unsupported theories, the truth becomes far more obscured and sullied than any corporation or politician could ever hope to do.

Michael Levy
Upper East Side

Kids See the Darndest Things

Re Tobi Tobias's review of the John Ollom dance piece The Journey [Ongoing, May 19-25]:

I am a parent of one of the children, and you should know that John Ollom and his company have taken the most extreme precautions to ensure the children were not exposed to the nudity and violence of the show. They have been professional and considerate of the parents' concerns. John Ollom and his company deserve credit for the care they have taken.

Anne Swanton Newman
Green Brook, New Jersey

Tobi Tobias replies: The mother of one of the young dancers proudly pointed her child out to me and engaged me in conversation. After I'd duly admired the girl's evident beauty, talent, and sound training, I asked if the children in the cast had been allowed to see the piece as a whole. The mother said, firmly and happily, "Yes."

Class Dismissed

Re Ta-Nehisi Coates's "Ebonics! Weird Names! $500 Shoes!"[villagevoice.com, May 26]:

Coates really hit the nail on the head with his article on Bill Cosby. I am not black, but the statements on class really hit home. It's sad to see social irresponsibility coming from such prominent places. The brutal honesty of the piece was a bittersweet pleasure. Thanks!

Matt Mishrikey
Cambridge, Massachusetts

The Buck Stops Here

What Bill Cosby was saying was that people (white and black, rich and poor) have to take responsibility for themselves. Parents aren't parenting, criminals have turned into the victims, and the buck is being passed because, in the words of so many, "it ain't my fault." I am a teacher outside of D.C. I see this type of behavior day in and day out—the $500 sneakers and no books at home. I have to listen to parents tell me how to teach when they can't speak a lick of proper English and possess zero parenting skills. It's a shame and it must stop. This is what we have allowed our society to become. Cosby is saying that what we have now is far from Dr. King's dream.

Yes, Cosby is well-to-do. So what? That makes his observations wrong? That means he is not in touch with reality? Give me a break. When you point the finger of blame, there are always four fingers pointing right back at you.

Matt Holland
Alexandria, Virginia

The Bill Cosby News Hour

What is Coates's point? That Cosby's diatribe is totally unwarranted? That "lower-income blacks" are simply victims of circumstance, and the last thing they need is a "black elitist" like Bill Cosby giving his opinions? It's an age in which popular black icons are r&b singers and rappers who promote sexual activity and reckless spending, while African Americans are dying of AIDS and going into debt in high numbers. Coates seems to mock Cosby for trying to remedy this image. Racism continues to set African Americans back, so a little moral conservatism in the black community to combat this sickness is needed. As a young African American, I see these damaging stereotypes and all I hear are black activists, authors, and ministers talking and not doing anything. Turn off the B.E.T., turn down the Hot 97, put down the Jet, and do something. Thanks, Bill, for your diatribe. Somebody give this man a news hour.

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