Rachel Neumann's online series "On the Road With the Zapatistas" has been impressive reportage. I hope she continues to cover the negotiations with the government and follows up. Neumann is a gifted writer in the same league with John Ross and John Reed.
Santa Cruz, California
Regarding Rachel Neumann's online series: I find her articles somewhat one-sided. For example, Neumann says that President Vicente Fox has released only 50 of 100 Zapatista political prisoners. It should be pointed out that those Zapatista prisoners still in jail are incarcerated in states governed by the old ruling party, the PRI, which is hostile to both Fox and the Zapatistas. The jails are under the control of state governments, so it's rather unfair to blame Fox for not releasing them.
In fact, Fox is doing more than any of his predecessors to help release poor Mexicans who have been unjustly jailed by launching Mexico's first ever bail bond fund. This salient fact goes unmentioned in Neumann's reports. Neumann also fails to note the profound ambivalence, occasionally even outright hostility, that many Mexicans feel toward Subcomandante Marcos and the Zapatistas, as expressed in Mexican media coverage of the tour.
Fox is, after all, a legitimate and democratically elected leaderthe first in over seven decades. By contrast, Marcos is not elected, and whatever the undoubted merits of his cause, the Mexican press has repeatedly pointed out that he lacks a democratic mandate. And the Zapatistas have repeatedly refused to hold elections even in the municipalities they control and where their supporters predominate.
Nor do the Zapatistas' supporters elsewhere in Mexico enjoy widespread popularity. The Party of the Democratic Revolution, which has closely identified its cause with the Zapatistas, came in a distant third in last year's presidential elections.
You wouldn't know any of this from reading Neumann's articles, which give the impression that Marcos is wildly popular among Mexicans and is winning the public-relations battle. Mexicans in general are far more sympathetic to the cause of indigenous rights than they are to Marcos himself, who is seen (rightly or wrongly) in many quarterseven among his former supporters in the Mexico City intelligentsiaas a self-promoting opportunist who is neither indigenous himself, nor particularly downtrodden.
Obviously, Neumann has every right to report based on her own sympathies, but her readers would be better served if they were offered a somewhat more balanced point of view.
Mexico City, Mexico
Rachel Neumann replies: True, Fox does not directly control the release of Zapatista political prisoners. Yet many of them are in Querértaro, a state governed by Fox's own National Action Party. Surely Fox could, if he chose, assert some influence. As to Gransden's second point, while no one elected Marcos or any of the Zapatista leaders, their three conditions for dialogue are the result of democratically conducted national consultations in 1994, 1995, and 1999. In the series, I pointed out what political opposition I observed, and my observations reflect current news polls that show support for the Zapatistas at 52 to 68 percent in Mexico City. As to Gransden's belief that many Mexicans are far more sympathetic to the cause of indigenous rights than to Marcos himself, Iand I think the Zapatistas as wellhope he is right.
Editor's Note: "Rebel Dignity" is a condensed version of Rachel Neumann's online series.
I have read Tom Robbins's "Newspapers' Hidden Hoods" [March 13]. Robbins, without ever attempting to contact me before the article was run, characterized me as a "LaChance ally." There is no factual basis for that statement. I have been, and always will be, my own man. The members have elected me for that very reason, not because of some imagined alliance with a co-worker at The New York Times.
The additional comment that I favor fighting the indictment of the Newspaper & Mail Deliverers Union implies that I am trying to fight law and orderthe "good guys." What I am fighting is an injustice. This union never committed any crime. Ten years ago, less than one percent of the membership were guilty of individual crimes that benefited them, not the union. The district attorney is seeking to create a cushy job for a former prosecutor buddy that will cost our hard-working members (who toil by night to deliver the morning papers) hundreds of thousands of dollars. You bet I want to fight this case.
It would be nice if the Voice would instruct its reporters to check with the people they're going to write about. You might get more accurate articles.
Pat Lagan, Vice President
Newspaper & Mail Deliverers Union
Long Island City
Tom Robbins replies: Pat Lagan, check your messages. I left them, for both Lagan and NMDU president Frank Sparacino, at the union's Long Island City offices, to no avail. Lagan, who's running for NMDU president, may well be his "own man," but he's also a longtime ally of exNMDU president Doug LaChance, according to many NMDU members. Which is fine by me.
Robert Christgau's statements in "Albums While They Last" [February 20] were reckless, stubborn, and damn ridiculous. In discussing the results of the Pazz & Jop Critics' Poll in which OutKast scored a dramatic "win," Christgau wrote: "But in 2000 Eminem was the more momentous artist, and not only because he was white, or 'provocative.' It's because he was brilliant, galvanizing an audience everyone knew was there with rhymes of exceptional if not unduplicated technical bravado that layered levels of meaning hip-hop had always hinted at but never so fully exploited."
Let it first be a given: Eminem is a fine storyteller who rhymes with conviction. In a few years he'll be a writer or a movie star. But Christgau shouldn't let his "progressive" liberal prejudice ease him into deemphasizing the role whiteness plays in Eminem's success. The "audience everyone knew was there" is full of angst-ridden white boys who've been blowing shit up for years. Eminem became an MTV wet dream, taught and legitimized by one of music's most talented producers, Dr. Dre. Might this have something to do with his "layered levels of meaning" being "so fully exploited"?
Please. White rage conflicted with the guilt that most times accompanies white privilege is ugly. Niggas with attitudes have been expressing rage for years; thing is, there's just so many niggas with attitudes. OutKast was talking that same bullshit back in 1993 (perhaps not so violently). They did not "benefit" from "polite liberal prejudice." They didn't give a shit.
Christgau's cantankerous comments made clear what OutKast was talking about in "Rosa Parks" back in 1998, in which Andre rhymed: "When all's said and done and we got a new Joe in town/When the record player get to skippin and slowin down/All yawl can say is them niggas earned that crown but until then . . . Uh huh, hush that fuss, everybody move to the back of thebus. . . . The emperor is butt-assed naked."
Robert Christgau replies: Please let me note that "most momentous" does not mean "best" before suggesting that while Eminem's whiteness is obviously a precondition of his eminence in a predominantly white culture, without his levels of meaning he'd be as meaningless if not as awful as Vanilla Ice. Let me also note that I did not indulge in the stupidly one-dimensional defense of Eminem's "rage," that only a few Southern chauvinists think OutKast were as brilliant in 1993 as they became by 1998, and that while the far more sexist Dr. Dre certainly "legitimized" Eminem, he did not produce "Criminal," "Stan," "Kim," "97' Bonnie & Clyde," or "My Fault," all of which encompass levels of meaning that OutKast have yet to attempt.
Francine Russo's out-of-control, ultraharsh online review of Tory Vazquez's The Florida Project ["Life in the Projects," is nearly comic in its vituperation. As a longtime collaborator and friend of Tory's, I was chagrined to see her first full-length show (!) get torn a new asshole with such vitriolic disdain. I believe in Tory Vazquez's talent. She is a true gem of the downtown theater community, as anyone who has seen her short pieces and/or her work with ERS, Collapsable Giraffe, and Rich Maxwell can attest. I wouldn't wish a review like Russo's on my worst enemy. FR, the show was supposed to be funny and touching, which it was. You didn't get it, and you shouldn't have been so ridiculous in your judgment. People, you knowactual human beingsmake theater. Let us live.
Lower East Side
Francine Russo replies: I feel distressed that my review was misunderstood. When I said that the "premise" of the show was "bad art, badly done in deadly earnest," I meant to be describing the piece as a parody of the bad art in many TV soaps, theme parks, etc., and I did mention the subject matter as low-taste Americana. Perhaps I should have said "bad art, well done." I thought I was indicating that the awfulness of the acting and choreography was deliberate and meant to be funny, which it often was. I did summarize by saying The Florida Project had a "droll charm," and I want to say that I had a smile on my face much of the time. I'm sorry if my expression of this was confusing.
As a former resident of Jamaica, I found Michael Deibert's interview with Coxsone Dodd ["From Kingston to Brooklyn," March 13] to be the clearest reading of the Jamaican music scene I've seen in the U.S. media to date. Usually the American media collude with those who killed Jamaican music by continuing to call so-called "dancehall" reggae when it is neither "dancehall" nor "reggae" in the Jamaican sense. In fact, there's been very little dancing in Jamaica for years . . . and very little music. Shame!
Gold Coast, Australia
In Ward Harkavy's attempt to expose Bill Clinton's refusal to pardon convicted rapist Wayne DuMond while Clinton was the governor of Arkansas ["The Castration of Wayne DuMond," March 13], he defames a small town and dismisses what DuMond allegedly did to a popular teenage girl. I am a former resident of Forrest City, Arkansas.
Harkavy points out that DuMond was embarrassed by having his testicles shown to several people. He fails, however, to point out that the victim's panties were held up in the courtroom. I agree that some of Forrest City's leaders left a dubious legacy and that a lot of bad things used to go on in that small Delta town. Sheriff Coolidge Conlee was a questionable figure, and power was (and still is, to some extent) concentrated in too few hands. But the community should not be judged by this incident.
SLICE OF REALITY
Ward Harkavy should turn "The Castration of Wayne DuMond" into a full-length book. It has all the makings of the great American novel. Erskine Caldwell could not have matched it. Great story!
Thank you for "Limit Access, Stack the Court" by James Ridgeway [Mondo Washington, March 13]. Ridgeway's column brings to light the many challenges to women's reproductive rights that we will face over the next four yearsincluding the possibility of an anti-choice majority on the U.S. Supreme Court, the reality of a U.S. attorney general who has consistently placed abortion at the top of his hit list, and the vital importance of keeping constant pressure on pro-choice Democrats and Republicans to ensure that they not only label themselves "pro-choice," but that they vote pro-choice.
Ridgeway mentioned the National Organization for Women's April 22 Emergency March for Women's Lives. NOW-NYC is planning to send buses of activists to Washington, D.C., and we encourage all New Yorkers who are concerned about the future of our reproductive choices to join us.
NO FAN IS AN ISLAND
Jeff Z. Klein's "Survivor" [March 13] was the best and most accurate piece I've read on the current state of the Islanders. GM Mike Milbury sucks, no question, but it is important to realize there is a core of fans who want the Isles to return to greatness. Thanks for giving Steve Ellers' Save the Islanders Coalition the press it deserves. Keep the faith.
Smithtown, New York
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