Peter Noel's article "Raising Patrick Bailey" [March 9] contains factual inaccuracies, such as his reporting that the police involved in the fatal shooting of Mr. Bailey were "plainclothes anti-crime officers," when in fact the officers were in full uniform.
But worse than that, Mr. Noel advances, without any skepticism, an "activist's" theory that the individuals who were with Mr. Bailey (and by implication Mr. Bailey himself) fled because they feared the police were part of a drug gang.
Mr. Noel's one-sided reporting in this article is yet another example of his long history of abandoning objectivity in order to publish an "exclusive."
Years ago, he rushed to print his interview of Cedric Sandiford, one of the victims of a racial attack in Howard Beach, even though, at the time of the interview, Mr. Sandiford was still suffering from the trauma of the attack. As a result Mr. Sandiford was forced to endure days of hostile cross-examination by defense attorneys for his four attackers about the inaccuracies found in Mr. Noel's interview.
Last year, Mr. Noel expressed his guilt about publishing this interview ("Totalitarian of My Spirit," January 6, 1998). Too late; the damage had been done.
Then, as now, Mr. Noel's rush to print has the potential to seriously undermine the truth.
Charles J. Hynes
Peter Noel replies: In response to Hynes's first claim: None of the eyewitnesses' statements report that the cops who chased Patrick into his home were "in full uniform." I stand by my account. In the uproar over the police slaying of Amadou Diallo by a rogue "Street Crimes Unit," Hynes's troubled investigation into the equally questionable killing of Patrick Bailey, who witnesses contend was unarmed, came under rigorous scrutiny. It became a PR nightmare for a prosecutor with a sorry record of holding brutal cops accountable, as my article pointed out. Hynes sat on the case for 16 months! As to the "guilt" I carried over the Howard Beach case, that had nothing to do with self-blame. In fact, my story was about how I, a black reporter, was almost physically attacked by a hysterically angry special prosecutor on the night a jury rejected his theory of the case. Eleven years after Hynes's shameful behavior, I broke a promise to the mother of Michael Griffith, one of the Howard Beach victims, not to report the confrontation. The only guilt I feel is for having betrayed that promise.
Great pieces in last week's issue by Nat Hentoff on Clinton's refusal to recognize the genocide in Rwanda ["The Holocaust Without Guilt"] and Jason Vest on Clinton's current bombing fever ["The Nose Knows"]. Hats off to both of them for bringing this information out in the open.
My only question is why the cover was devoted to a vain and callous man ["Citizen Gatien"] and not one of these excellent, socially relevant articles.
After reading Frank Owen's article "Gatien-Gate" [March 16], I realized that yet another hallmark of New York has fallen to Giuliani and his minions.
Many things that made this city unique are being wiped out. Can it be that New Yorkers now put more emphasis on having video cameras on every corner than on having places where adults can enjoy themselves?
The New York City of the next millennium: BORING!
Body Of Evidence
The photo of the dead guy in Nat Hentoff's column last week made me want to puke. That was the grossest thing you've published since Mapplethorpe stuck that bullwhip up his butt back in the late '80s.
Please, a little restraint?
Columns like "A Holocaust We Could Have Stopped: I Saw My Father Cut to Pieces" [March 2] make Nat Hentoff a national treasure.
Jesus B. Ochoa
El Paso, Texas
David Kushner's assessment of new pet technology was so unsettling I didn't know whether to laugh or bay at the moon ["Shock Value: Technology Goes to the Dogs," March 9]. While the microchip surgery to track down a missing Rover makes some sense, a $199.96 self-cleaning litter box sounds like technological self-indulgence.
Besides, my cat would be scared shitless the minute the motorized poop raker started cranking up!
Litter Basket Case
Reading David Kushner's article brought back memories of a self-cleaning litter box I bought six months ago. After spending the night at a friend's house, I came home to find my three-month-old kitten, Speedo, yowling in the litter box, his back leg caught in the rake mechanism. I still suffer guilt over leaving him alone. Every time he looks up at me, I can imagine him saying, "Why couldn't you just pick it up yourself?"
Los Angeles, California
Flattered as i am that Elaine Showalter stooped to conquer my new book, The Pyrotechnic Insanitarium: One Nation Under Duress ["Secrets of Our Excess," VLS, February 23], I can't help wishing she had been a more attentive reader. There's no appealing critical verdicts, but the least one can ask of a reviewer is that she judge the author by his intentions.
Showalter consistently stretches me on the procrustean bed of the very dualisms my book attempts to wriggle free from. For instance, she cites as an example of muzzy-minded critical thinking my simultaneous reading of the current vogue for potty humor as a reminder of our repression of what Bakhtin called "the material bodily lower stratum" and a (Norman O.) Brownian motion away from that repression and a market-driven capitulation to the lowest common denominator.
But one of The Pyrotechnic Insanitarium's constant refrains is the poststructuralist article of faith that either/or logic crashes in both/and times; pop culture isn't a vast, vulgarian wasteland or a million points of micropolitical resistance or the extruded id of late capitalism, it's all of the above.
As I make amply clear in my book, conspiracy theory is often the "justifiable skepticism" Showalter endorses and the "crackpot hermeneutics" she decries, a tangled web of paranoid exegeses and corporate malfeasance and CIA skulduggery straight out of Noam Chomsky's nightmares. Showalter prescribes the Enlightenment cure-all of sweet reason for our millennial anxieties, as if the black helicopters that troubled Timothy McVeigh's sleep weren't equal parts paranoid delusion, Buchananite half-truth, and the tales angry, downsized white guys tell themselves to make sense of the new, postindustrial order.
Likewise, beating me with the stick of my admission that the Unabomber isn't just a text to be deconstructed, but a serial killer who blew away innocent people, misses my point that Ted Kaczynski was both a floating signifier and a serial -bombing murderer an alleged paranoid schizophrenic and lunatic-fringe incarnation of a widespread resentment toward the digital elite who sneeringly inform the unwired masses that they're either part of the rubber or part of the road ahead.
I'm surprised to encounter such dogmatic insistence on black-or-white binary oppositions in the author of Hystories: Hysterical Epidemics and Modern Media. There, Showalter argues that chronic fatigue syndrome and Gulf War syndrome are at once unreal figments of the "hysterical" mass imagination of postmodernity and real, at least psychosomatically, to their sufferers.
Nyack, New York
All Goth's Children
Michael Freedberg's article "The Goths Must Be Crazy" [March 9] was perturbing. Freedberg's view of the black/dark metal scene is unnecessarily derogatory. While correctly mentioning that many black/dark metal bands are Scandinavian, he didn't explain that a lot of the bands use Norse imagery and Nordic pagan traditions in the lyrics. Many Goth musicians create beautiful poetry and lovely, intensely orchestrated music. Freedberg might have to, as he says, "work hard to be admitted" to this genre, but not everyone has this same response.
It is hard to believe Michael Freedberg listened to many of the albums he critiqued in his article, particu- larly Beauty in Darkness Vol.3.
Only two bands on the compilation (Cradle of Filth and Dimmu Borgir) could be considered black metal by the even the loosest definition, and many of the bands featured (including Liv Christine and Him) are so radio-friendly and accessible that to lump them into the same category as Katatonia or Cradle of Filth is ludicrous.
Writers like Freedberg are merely guardians of the mainstream, striving to keep all music simple and easily categorizable.
Michael Freedberg replies: It was not I who labeled these bands black metal. I was taking my cue from the liner notes for the CD, which term almost all of the bands compiled therein as dark metal, gothic metal, black metal, etc.
That many young directors and actors don't pay homage to Jerzy Grotowski is not surprising [Stephen Nunns, "After the Guru," March 2].
Some cannot see the importance of Grotowski's contributions and innovations because they are lost in the world of technology. For them, microphones, video monitors, and high technology have become the basis of theater.
Grotowski was not about icing and toppings; he wanted to get at the essence of theater. Maybe he succeeded, maybe not, but at least in his "Poor Theater" he tried to remain honest to what theater was and is, and what it is capable of doing. The rest is history: others learned from him, came and went, and tried to incorporate his lessons in their work. For young actors and directors to dismiss Grotowski so easily is a sign of either lack of understanding or vanity.
William Bastone's article on CD bootleggers ["Pirate King: Music's No. 1 Bootlegger Gets Busted Again," February 23] notes the large sums of money that people like Charles LaRocco make selling bootlegged live recordings of popular musical acts.
What is puzzling is why the industry gets so upset over such recordings. LaRocco is just responding to a market need.
It is the industry's loss if they feel it is not worth their effort to produce a limited pressing of a lesser-known artist, and someone like LaRocco goes ahead and does it on his own.
The Voice has a stellar film section. The reviews are insightful without being pretentious. Plus, the rest of the section is jam-packed with tasty extras.
Erica J. Pennella
Voice Writers Win Awards
Two Voice writers have won awards in a competition sponsored by the National Book Critics Circle. Jazz critic Gary Giddins won the award for criticism for his book Visions of Jazz: The First Century, published by Oxford University Press. Longtime contributor Albert Mobilio was cited for excellence in reviewing.
Staff writer Alisa Solomon is the recipient of the 1998 George Jean Nathan Award for dramatic criticism for her book Re-Dressing the Canon: Essays on Theater and Gender, published by Routledge.
Cook to Speak at CUNY Congress
Dr. Blanche Wiesen Cook, biographer of Eleanor Roosevelt, will be the featured speaker at the CUNY/ Professional Staff Congress's conference on "Women in Academia, Labor, and the Professions" on Tuesday, April 13, at the Graduate Center, 33 West 42nd Street, Manhattan. Cook's speech, on "Eleanor Roosevelt: Women, Power, and Unions," will follow a reception from 5:30 to 6:15 p.m. The event is free and open to the public. For further information, call 212-354-1252.
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