Letter of The Week
I just read J. Hoberman's interview with George Clooney about Good Night, and Good Luck ["Celebrity Journalist," October 511, 2005], which was released in France this month. It is good to know that some journalists are still doing what they ought to be doing, i.e., asking relevant questions, linking political actions and speeches with their often forgotten consequences, and considering news not only in terms of what's patriotic or unpatriotic, but in terms of ethics. I found Clooney's film very cheerful in times when freedom of information and speech are reduced to such minimums. The attacks on Clooney's film are probably a sign that he hit the right spot. The film has been well received here, not just by hard-boiled anti-Americans but by all the people who are appalled by the lack of real information on TV.
Re Nat Hentoff's "George Bush: Master Spy" [Liberty Beat, January 1117]: The fact that such a column was written and published suggests strongly that the mettle of this democracy is not going to be tested by this situation. A leisurely stroll down to ground zero might remind Hentoff of the dangers posed by terrorists living in this country, whose rights to privacy were untouched during the planning of the attacks on 9-11. On the flip side of this issue is a very real concern that secrecy about surveillance activities will not be maintained if any number of people in the government are privy to the information. This has always been a sticky wicketthe amount of secrecy permitted to surround government activities when that government is the world's greatest proponent of democracy and openness. In the end I think we'll get this right. We'd better.
I have a lot of respect for Hentoff but he and other like-minded folks really have their heads stuck in the sand on this one. It is really tiresome reading about Bush as the imperial presidential ogre who is usurping the Constitution and exercising unchecked power, breaking the law, etc. From the rarefied air of places like Greenwich Village and San Francisco I don't see the same level of concern raised about the Islamo-fascists that are blowing up kids, killing our young men in uniform, and flying planes into buildings. We are at war and the government should be monitoring conversations of people who are talking to terrorists. This is the same tack that FDR, Carter, and Clinton took. I am more than willing to trade theoretical privacy for some old-fashioned security. If the Republicans are so horrible, vote them out of office next time around. Good luck trying to find a Democrat who is credible on national security.
Alan K. Rode Encino, California
It sickens me to read anything that Hentoff spouts. That he is shocked about anything our leader in the White House does is a sad joke. Let's never forget that Hentoff was all for the unlawful attack on Iraq. Why should anyone listen to a writer who would give George Bush his blessing on waging war? You blew it, Hentoff, and your opinions have now been rendered useless.
Virginia Beach, Virginia
Nat Hentoff replies: Bush has continually discarded the Fourth Amendment of the Bill of Rights, but the Constitution has not been suspended. Bush's justification for the attack on Iraq was false, but Clinton was right when he went into Kosovo for humanitarian reasons, and that's why I was for ending the monstrous crimes of Saddam Hussein. As Clinton later told the Financial Times, there was no way France or Russia would have allowed the U.N. Security Council to end Hussein's torture chambers and mass graves. I do not support Bush's mismanagement, to say the least, of the war.
Three cheers for James Ridgeway. It's a thing of beauty to see a member of the press confront the ridiculous and mendacious statements of President Bush ["The Bush Family Coup," Mondo Washington, January 410] and his pretensions to absolute power. To my relief and delight, Ridgeway describes the thickheaded obstructionism and awful bumbling that allowed the terrorists to be successful in attacking the U.S. on 9-11. Neither Congress, the Department of Justice, nor the 9-11 Commission has held this president and his administration accountable. As the administration tries to use the results of its own inattention and criminal negligence to take away our constitutional rights, we need to hear a lot more about these issues.
Re Anne Ishii's article on Memoirs of a Geisha ["English as a Second Language," The Essay, January 410]: I love Rob Marshall's reasoning for casting Chinese actors as Japanese characters. Marshall says he did it because they were simply the best actresses. With that thinking, it's time for a remake of Jamie Foxx's Ray, since I've heard many critics say Joaquin Phoenix does a better job in Walk the Line. Oh, I know, there might be some objections to that race thing, but I remember reading what a transformation Al Jolson made in blackface. Don't we all want to see the director of Chicago's cut of Ray, the Man in Black?
Hell, it's just hair
Everyone in Rachel Aviv's "The Mane Attraction" [Fashion Forward, December 28, 2005, villagevoice.com] must have been joking. A girl having her long hair cut off was more traumatic to her stylist than the notion of a child with cancer? On what level of Dante's hell is this morally justifiable? As for the argument that women must keep their hair long because it's sexy, why should sexy be a woman's overriding consideration? Isn't this what appalls us about sharia, that women are reduced to their sexuality? How slippery is the slope between "Keep your hair long because it turns men on" and "Cover your hair because it turns men on"? Sisters, grow your hair, cut your hair, shave a mohawk, dye it blue. Do whatever the hell you please: It's your hair.
Congratulations to Dan Savage on his continued reference to Rick Santorum in Savage Love. In an article titled "Will Lightning Strike the Republicans?" [January 713] The Economist refers to the fall of Santorum and mentions the new meaning of that name as follows: "gay activists use his name to denote something indescribable in a family newspaper."
I felt the Voice's response to complaints about the inappropriateness of the term squaw ["Sex and the Single Squaw," Jump Cuts, December 2127, 2005] was inadequate. I'm not sure printing letters from two women under the equally provocative headline "Squawking Mad" isn't just as insulting. The Voice was not alone in its ignorance of what is deemed offensive to Native Americans, but at least Time Out New York printed a well-written apology for its headline ("Squaw Talent") and changed it. I realize that headlines are written by editors, but I'm sure Jessica Winter is embarrassed to have her name tied to it. Native people have hardly any access to a public voice, so I agree with a previous letter writer that the Voice ought to help educate readers, beginning with its own staff.
Ossining, New York
I thought Nick Sylvester's "Hips of Steel" [The Essay, January 1117] was about exercise. Then I read the line about old people in their rent-controlled apartments being "busy not dying." I am a housing advocate and lifelong resident of the L.E.S. and I work with just the kind of people Sylvester mentions. I know from firsthand experience that landlords make the lives of these residents a living hell, hoping that they will die or move. The reason: asshole hipsters who will pay $2,000 a month rent to live in dilapidated buildings some people have no choice but to live in. Is Sylvester so blind to his own classism? I've always felt that this is what hipsters actually think. Now one of you is stupid enough to admit it.
Re the flashback to James Browning's review of James Frey's A Million Little Pieces ["Frey's Incredible Suffering Not So Credible," January 10, villagevoice.com]: Frey does not owe anything to anyone. Hopefully his stories inspire hope in millions (they did in me). If nothing in the books is true, but people still find hope, then who is hurt? The people who are mad about this are the same people who get angry when the Bachelor does not pick the girl they like. I think that Frey's emotions and feelings were real (regardless of the names, events, and places).
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