By Alex Distefano
By Scott Snowden
By Anna Merlan
By Steve Almond
By Jena Ardell
By Jon Campbell
By Alan Scherstuhl
By Tessa Stuart
And regarding David Caplan's letter: Maybe it's time to fight global imperialist, cutthroat, radical Christianity. When it comes to wholesale slaughter, global imperialism, and fanatical religious self-righteousness, the good ol' U.S. of A. makes Al Qaeda look like children.
Re George Smith's "That's Entrail-tainment!" [The Essay, August 4-10]: I am quite appalled by his position. How can he demean the Iraqi abuse victims by comparing what they went through with Fear Factor, a game show? Granted, the basic tenets are the same (torture for pleasure); however, the circumstances are quite different. Fear Factor contestants choose to put themselves through this torture, motivated by lots of money waiting for them at the end. I don't believe the Iraqi prisoners had this choice, nor do I believe they will get any compensation for their pain and humiliation. It's attitudes such as Smith's that foment radical Islamicism today. I believe Smith owes an apology to every abused Iraqi prisoner.
George Smith replies: Abu Ghraib prisoners were demeaned by the U.S. military and its contract flunkies, not me. And Iraqis in the prison and the "volunteers" of reality TV are the same in that they're just objects to their masters, playthings for two sets of geographically separated but like-minded owners.
As for compensation, most reality show contestants appear to me to get squat and the handful of "winners" not nearly as much as the makers of the things. Anyway, I think what may be bothering you is that "Entrail-tainment" took a wide-angle look at the unpleasant but common end of America: That is, if you wind up in our power, whether you volunteer because you are a sap or get volunteered when we invade, expect abominable treatment because it's a natural made-for-video thing, as comfortable and familiar as putting on the old underwear. As for apologizing for comparing the Iraq experience to a game show, have you forgotten the majority of the country and media regarded and handled the run-up to the war (and that part of it in which not too many Americans were landing in the Sunday obits) as joyous, fun TV?
Profiles in penury
Re Chisun Lee's "Civil Rights Rollback" [August 4-10]: I strongly agree that racial profiling has never been more obvious, but there is another kind of profiling that also happens frequently and is based on economics.
I am a 55-year-old white woman who tries to follow rules; I drive carefully and have insurance, a driver's license, and current registration, yet I have been stopped by local police six times in the past year. Why? I drive a rusty 1970 Volkswagen with peace signs on the bumper. I started keeping an unofficial tally of the cars I saw being stopped by the police, and out of the 50 cars I have counted, 48 of them have been over 15 years old.
Of course this is not enough to validate my hypothesis, but what has happened to the way people treat the homeless? And don't get me started on the rules for women on public assistance. In this era of outsourcing and wage cuts, why is it now a crime to be poor?