LETTER OF THE WEEK
Sydney H. Schanberg's "A Time for Disobedience" [Press Clips, April 20-26] raises an issue I have been concerned about since the "spin" on the WMD situation. I can't tell you how often I have said, "I only want to live long enough to read the books that will be written about this administration." The American public has to rely on the press to keep informed. If journalists only report the pabulum dished out each morning by Bush and co., then they might as well be replaced by stenographers.
We, as a nation, consistently berate countries where the press is controlled by the government. My fear is that we are becoming one. If we can't depend on a professional, investigative, persistent, courageous press corps, then we are lost.
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Not the free-love freeway
I read Rachel Aviv's article "When Chloe Met Charlotte" [Education Supplement, April 13-19] with interest, as I am one of those 30 college sex columnists. However, I don't know what appalls me more: Natalie Krinsky's advice to her readers to find a "favorite gay," or Aviv's generalization that these writers are silly coeds writing about their genitalia.
I would be the first to admit that my articles are often more irreverent than academic. But while I have written about fetishes and public nudity, I have also written about AIDS, date rape, and contraception issues. I disagree with the opinion expressed by these columnists that women writing about sex is inherently political. If my column has any merit at all it is because of what I say, not because I have breasts. Such thinking is both reductionist and, frankly, lazy. There is no excuse for the ignorant heterosexism displayed by Krinsky and her ilk.
In an age when abstinence-only education is promoted in public high schools and a bared nipple provokes a national furor, colleges have come to be seen as the last bastion of hedonism. I find the existence of this idea vastly more interesting than the fact that I write about sex. I can tell you one thingyou won't find reckless sexual abandon at my school. We're too busy trying to find jobs in Bush's economy.
Teach your readers well
Thanks to Sydney H. Schanberg for his candid words about the Bush administration's ability to control its message and its misuse of anonymous-source press briefings ["A Time for Disobedience," Press Clips, April 20-26]. Instead of walking out, why not consider another option: Write exactly what transpires at these bogus briefings. For all I care, let the official stay anonymous, at least at first. But write something that outs the whole charade. Readers may not know about or understand this whole on-the-record, off-the-record, anonymous-source ritual that reporters must negotiate to get the kernel of a story. They certainly don't get how it's being used to pervert the whole news-gathering process. I agree with Schanberg; it's time to do two things about this shameful perversion of the public's right to know. First, explore options that allow reporters to stand up to administration officials without getting fired. Second, teach readers what's going on and why it's destructive, not just to journalism's credibility but to our republic's credibility.
Ones who swallow
Schanberg doesn't have to convince the American public how important the press is to our freedoms; he has to convince journalists. They're the ones who swallow the lies of this administration and then regurgitate them to the public. They're the ones who fabricate stories about WMDs (take Judith Miller) and other non-events. They're the mouthpieces of the government. Talk to them.
St. Paul, Minnesota
Bravo to Michael Musto for his article "Pope Springs EternalBut Why?" [April 13-19]. I couldn't agree more.
Grace under fire
Re Joy Press's "Full of Grace" [April 13-19]: I may not be a Gen X'er, not even close at 60 years old, but I do see this the same way. I have always found CNN anchor Nancy Grace's snarling nose and turned-up lip a major turnoff, not to speak of that self-righteous attitude. She easily could be a poster girl for all this hatred that is screwing up our country today.
Clifton, New Jersey
We keep a large monkey wrench on the coffee table in our house at all times. My wife has strict instructions from me that if Nancy Grace appears on TV she is to pick up the wrench and strike me repeatedly on the head until I slip into unconsciousness. Many thanks to Joy Press for putting into words why this is necessary.
Santa Clarita, California
Cry for Argentina
Congratulations on your story on "flaring nostrils." Here in Argentina we have to stand Grace on CNN more often than we'd wish. She's so pathetic!
Buenos Aires, Argentina
I expected to see several letters commending Kristen Lombardi's excellent article "Time for a Prayer Circle" [April 6-12], but only one rather shallow, insensitive letter was printed. The Workplace Religious Freedom Act seems innocuous, even benign. But it has vast and pernicious applications in George Bush's America, which is steadfastly eroding the wall of separation between church and state. Lombardi used several different examples; certainly women's reproductive rights and gay rights will be severely trampled on. The letter writer fatuously suggests that if one pharmacist in Ohio won't fill a customer's contraceptive prescription, others will. If one cop won't protect an abortion clinic, another can be scheduled in. But why should anyone pursuing his legal actions or transactions be humiliated or discriminated against because a provider has "personal convictions" in opposition to the law? Wal-Mart wrote me that if one of its pharmacists has a "personal conviction" against filling a contraceptive prescription, the customer "must find another pharmacist at Wal-Mart or another pharmacy." Not good enough! Has Wal-Mart given secular humanist workers the OK to refuse to sell guns? This act stipulates "religious" freedom, as if morality derives only from religious beliefs. I can imagine heavily religious rural areas or small towns where it might be very difficult to get a pharmacist, cop, nurse, or counselor who could immediately fill in for the religious objector. The law of unintended consequences will come back to haunt us if this act is passed.
Re Tom Hull's article about the way Smooth Jazz squeezes out all other jazz but the Dead Legends ["Mostly Harmless," April 13-19]: Amen. Amen. Amen. Thanks for clarifying something that I have been feeling for a long, long time. Consequently I buy digitized CDs of the living legends, even as they slowly fade away. Two of my longtime hangouts were Real Jazz cruises and Ravinia. Real Jazz, no way. What's an 82-year-old supposed to do? I watched and listened as Nicholas Payton evolved. So make each note like Count Basie. Basie who?
St. Louis, Missouri
Both sides now
Re John Giuffo's "Report From the Upper West Bank" [April 6-12]: While both sides of the Columbia Unbecoming debate fling around the useless and empty term academic freedom, nobody has bothered to examine one of the most pertinent angles of the case. Why is it that one of the few thriving centers of Middle Eastern and Asian studies has come under attack in a country and a profession where there is already very little tolerance for the views of people from the Middle Eastespecially those expressed by people of color? While anti-Semitism certainly exists on campuses across America, the level of anti-Arab violence, on campus and off, is at an all-time high. Those who have attacked the faculty of the Middle East studies department have already made the reckless move of conflating pro-Palestinian advocacy and scholarship with anti-Semitism. In demanding that Columbia create a fair and balanced faculty, they have ignored the ponderous and weighty support given the state of Israel by scholars around the country, deeply prejudiced public opinion, and the mechanisms of federal government. Yes, anti-Semitism is deplorable. We should acknowledge and interrogate it in all its forms, just as we should come to grips with anti-Arab violence committed by U.S. citizens at home and abroad, in word and deed, on a daily basis.
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