Re Nat Hentoff's "The Cardinal, Gays, and Lesbians" [May 23]: The Roman Catholic Church maintains that homosexuality is an intrinsic moral disorder. In the United States, John Cardinal O'Connor was the most ardent champion among Catholic hierarchs of this vicious lie, quite a distinction given the general backwardness of the Church on sexual matters.
As the pope's enforcer, O'Connor was relentless in his opposition to any and all gay-affirmative policies, including the Rainbow Curriculum and AIDS education, even in public schools. He also opposed gay participation in the St. Patrick's Day Parade, and anti-discrimination measures in general. Yet Nat Hentoff kvells over the fact that O'Connor once met some gay Catholics and even shook their hands, as if that piddling gesture makes up for all those nasty public-policy positions.
Nauseated by the endless hagiography churned out by the daily papers since O'Connor's passing, I had hoped that the Voice would present an alternative view of the life and career of a man many New Yorkers regard as a moral tyrant. I know I'm not alone in being disappointed.
George De Stefano
Long Island City
Nat Hentoff replies: No Catholic prelate took a different position on any of these matters. That's Catholic teachingnot mine or yours. As for the St. Patrick's Day Parade, in a similar case the Supreme Court and various civil libertarians took O'Connor's position. As I wrote, O'Connor established the first AIDS-designated center in a New York hospital and visited there often, even emptying bedpans. Not quite the mark of a moral tyrant.
Nat Hentoff's "My Friend the Cardinal" [May 16] admirably captured the complexity of John Cardinal O'Connor's politics. Although his provocative remarks on gays and abortion garnered headlines, O'Connor's liberal positions on the death penalty, welfare reform, and labor were often underplayed in the mainstream press.
These liberal stands, however, are in keeping with orthodox Catholic theology, particularly in terms of labor. In his encyclical of 1891, Rerum Novarum, Pope Leo XIII urged Catholics to chart a middle course between capitalism and socialism and defended the right of laborers to form unions that would press for a living wage.
In reminding Catholics of their traditional commitment to unions, O'Connor hearkened back to an era that John Paul II, in an effort to distance himself from socialist liberation theology, has seemed determined to leave behind. If O'Connor proved himself an ally of the pope in many matters, he was not slavishly so.
Maplewood, New Jersey
Web Of Hate
Ward Harkavy's article "Left Behind" [May 16] was an excellent introduction to some of the issues regarding the rise of extremism on the Internet.
The Simon Wiesenthal Center has been monitoring this issue since 1995. During this time we have seen the number of hate sites grow from one to over 2000. Our annual CD-ROM report, Digital Hate, demonstrates the varieties and types of online extremism. The most recent report discusses the rise of sites aimed at the recruitment of women and children.
The attempt to deal with this issue without sliding into censorship should be a major concern to all of us who inhabit cyberspace.
Director, Task Force Against Hate
Simon Wiesenthal Center
Ward Harkavy's "Left Behind" missed an important reality: the unique distinction between the Internet and broadcast media.
The broadcast spectrum has a finite quantity of bandwidth. In any given region, there can be only a certain number of stations before the spectrum has been fully allotted. Web space, on the other hand, is infinite. It's the epitome of free speech, the endless public square. No matter its proportions, every major site is reached by a URL no different from that which services the splinter of opinion proffered by someone with no other claim to fame.
Matt Drudge, one of Harkavy's examples of Internet success, started out as a salesclerk at a souvenir shop, with an interest in gossip, a keyboard, and a two-bit Internet connection. On the Internet, word of mouth is pretty much everything. Say something that folks find interesting, and they'll read itand keep coming back to see what else you have to say. A cheap (or free) Internet connection can be the ultimate equalizer.
Left in the Dust?
In "Left Behind," Ward Harkavy writes that left sites are latecomers to the Web. Not so. In fact, activist groups of left, anarchist, and libertarian persuasions were among those that pioneered the use of the Web for political purposes. Left activists had been utilizing e-mail for several years before the Web became widely usable in 1994 with the introduction of the Mosaic browser.
Within a year of Mosaic's release, there were several hundred left Web sites and dozens of anarchist Web sites.
It's because left activists have been using the Internet heavily for most of the 1990s that events like the "Battle for Seattle" and last month's demonstrations against the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund in Washington, D.C., were possible.
College Park, Maryland
Work in Progress
Thank you for James Ridgeway's article "Right Thinking" [May 16]. As an unabashed Rush Dittohead and a longtime admirer of Sam Smith's Progressive Review, I'm finding myself liking The Village Voice more and more these days. There's less kumbaya doofism and more common sense.
Re Sharon Lerner's article "Legal Needles: A New Law Bodes Change for Drug Users" [May 23]: I question the hallelujah from Drew Kramer, executive director of the Lower East Side Harm Reduction Center, in response to the new availability of syringes at drugstores throughout the state.
One of the main purposes of the needle exchange is to help educate about responsible drug use. The exchange not only provides free syringes, but also education for users about the possible spread of disease through improper drug use. Exchange workers actually demonstrate how to inject properly, as opposed to the little slips of paper inserted with the newly convenient syringes. How many users will really stop and read the fine print before they inject their next high?
I stopped reading the fine print on my packs of cigarettes a long time ago.
San Diego, California
A belated thank you for Lenora Todaro's coverage of the Washington, D.C., demonstrations against the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank ["Portrait of a Protest," April 25]. The Village Voice is one of the few publications that have grasped the significance of what appears to be a growing movement that has focused on the root of so many problems in the modern world: plutocracy. The movement cut its teeth in Seattle, learned to walk in D.C., and will reach adolescence in time for the Republican and Democratic national conventions. By this time next year, the authorities may have a big, brawny protest movement on their hands.
To say that Indiana University coach Bobby Knight's basketball teams "haven't truly been successful in 13 years" [Jockbeat, May 23] is to also condemn as a failure every other team in the country that hasn't won a national banner.
Although Indiana hasn't won an NCAA championship since 1987, it won more games in the 1990s than any other team in the Big Ten. IU last went to the Final Four in 1992, and may well have gone back the following year if forward Alan Henderson hadn't hurt his knee. IU has been to the NCAA tournament 15 consecutive years. It hasn't won a Big Ten title outright in 10 years, but guess what? Illinois hasn't won a conference title outright in 48 years; the drought is 30 years at Iowa. The last five years admittedly have not been up to the high standards Knight's earlier teams established, but it's worth noting that IU beat three of this year's Final Four teams in the regular season, spent much of the year ranked in the top 20, and was the last team to beat eventual champion Michigan State. I am not necessarily saying success justifies Knight's bad behavior, but the record is more complicated than Jockbeat admits.
Re "Yo' Mama" [May 23] by Andrew Hsiao, about the Mother's Day protests by Asian and Latina garment workers in New York City: Thank you for the interesting and informative overview. Glad to see a mass medium acknowledging the efforts of small grassroots organizations.
Re Lorne Behrman's review of Primal Scream's Xtrmntr ["Punk Is Not Sexual," May 23]: I realize that this is the oh-so-"artistic" Village Voice, and we readers should expect a fair amount of self-indulgence in your reviews. But make like a bowling ball and spare us the sort of tripe that tried to pass for a review of Primal Scream's latest album. I regret to inform Behrman that the purpose of a review is to discuss the relative merits of works, not to revel in subpar sexual fantasies. Material notwithstanding, I entreat Voice reviewers to keep to the subject at hand (as it were) and save the verbal wankery for their unpublished novels.
Now that I know that by combining the faces of Clinton and Giuliani one gets Harvey Keitel ["Imitation of Bill," May 16], I can only wonder what we might get by mixing Hillary and Donna Hanover . . . Lorraine Bracco?
Tell Me, Mama
Do deceptive movie trailers constitute false advertising ["Sneaky Peeks," Michael Atkinson, May 16]? Of course they do! In my opinion, all advertising is false advertising. As I noticed a growing trend toward targeting tots with multimillion-dollar ads, I puzzled over how to explain the complicated process of media deception to my six-year-old son. I decided to simply tell him that all commercials are lies. Now whenever he sees a commercial making claims, he says, "That's a lie, isn't it, Mama?" I respond, "Of course it's a lie. It's a commercial."
In Donna Ladd's article "Living in Terror" (May 23) the action taken against a right-wing extremist who allegedly was harassing Sara Salzman, a critic of Holocaust revisionism, was incorrectly stated. A cease-and-desist letter was sent to the man in Arkansas.
A meeting of the Immigration and Naturalization Service's District Advisory Council to assess policies and procedures will be held Thursday, May 25, at 1 p.m. at 26 Federal Plaza, room 537, in Manhattan. The meeting is open to the public, but there is limited seating. Those wishing to attend should call 212-264-0736.
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