Letters to The Ethical Spectacle

I usually get very impatient when I hear the words "media bias"--most often its a conservative complaining that the media doesn't promote conservative views, rather than a call for impartiality. I also don't regard the media as inherently liberal, despite the fact that most reporters are Democrats. Instead, I think the media is mainstream, most often adhering to an Official Story based on the view presented by those in power. When vital, exciting investigative reporting happens--and it does sometimes--it is a break with the status quo.

I got to thinking about media bias again in reading an account yesterday of the events in Israel that mentioned "Palestinian gunmen" and "Israeli soldiers" in the same sentence. I know that some of those "gunmen" are Palestinian policemen, therefore members of a lawfully armed force, and that some of those "soldiers" are snipers, trained to aim at the heads of demonstrators not armed with lethal weapons. In a similar situation of an occupying authority putting down a popular revolt in say, the former Yugoslavia, the press might have used a completely different vocabulary, say a "Serbian militia" opposing "Croatian resistance fighters". And the difference would have been very simple: Israel is an ally, the Serbs are not. Language is powerful, and much of the time it forestalls questions, pre-empts them before they can even be asked.

Another form of media bias is the choice of stories. One thing that hasn't received extensive coverage is that Israeli settlers in Arab areas have been out destroying the fruit and olive trees on which the local Arab people rely for sustenance (on at least a couple of occasions,murdering Arab farmers as well), and the Army has jumped in to do the same thing. From a report by the Israeli Peace Bloc:

The Palestinian Agriculture Ministry has issued a special report on the uprooting of trees by the Army and settlers during the current conflict, estimating the number of trees at around 44,181. (In more detail: 20,435 grapevines, 9,905 woodland trees, 6,621 olive trees, 2,555 citrus trees, 2,000 banana trees, 489 almond trees, 101 palm trees and 75 trees of other types.)

(The settler rabbis seem to have forgotten that the Holy Scriptures contain a specific prohibition against cutting down fruit trees as an act of war...)

You may not be aware from reading the U.S. press that no independent economy has been allowed to grow in the Palestinian areas. They are completely surrounded by Israel and no food, no electrical power can get in if the Israelis decide to shut them down. This policy of making them totally dependent was decided by the Israeli government years before the intifada, and the Barak administration has discussed but not yet approved a contingency plan to shut down all supplies and starve the Palestinians out. The episodic destruction of fruit trees instead seems like the type of Israeli symbolic violence I wrote about in 1996, when I said, "Symbolic violence may not kill people directly. But it often spurs people to kill, and even when it doesn't, it kills the soul."

You can contact me as always at jw@bway.net. --Jonathan Wallace

Democracy and The Election
Dear Mr. Wallace:

I voted for Gore. Your reasons for voting for Nader are not sufficiently persuasive to justify helping to elect a Republican, Bush, and a Republican Congress.

The mischief worked by this administration may not be reversible. Institutions that we have come to rely on to provide social stability may be irreversibly damaged I consider myself a Liberal, but I, also, consider myself a pragmatist. Like it or not we live in a real world and must deal with real options.

When I look at the smiling face of George W, Bush, I see the "Smiling Face of American Fascism" ------ the title of a book. The author's point was that when ( not if ) Fascism comes to America. it will be less overtly authoritarian than its European counterparts. Nevertheless, American Fascism, while presenting a softer public face, will invest all power in a handful of powerful nameless individuals, representatives of an immensely enlarged Industrial-Military-Financial complex. Your recent editorial indicating that George W Bush may have been deliberately selected for his lack of astuteness may have been on the mark.

We are in a strange new world. No nation has passed this way before; no artifacts point the safe way. One thing we can not afford is to allow ourselves to be fragmented. Disagreements, arguments are healthy and invigorating, but we must be able to come together when the threat is sufficient and real. This country, indeed the world, needs the Progressive-Liberal voice to survive.

Our present dilemma is how to give voice and power to Nader and the Greens without diverting votes to the Right Wing.

Betty Mills Betty1925@webtv.net

Dear Jonathan,

Hooray for you! Nader is the right vote no matter what state you're in, but particularly if you're in a state of frustration with the two wings of the single corporate national party.

I live in Pennsylvania, where a vote for Nader is a vote for Nader, even if Al Gore loses the state and the White House. Anyone who thinks a vote for Nader is a vote for Bush doesn't understand just how similar the Democrats and Republicans really are. They can good cop-bad cop us all they want. They can throw abortion and gun rights at us all they want. Fact is, these issues are important to voters, but the parties fluxuate on their stances depending on the polls. Look at Gore on guns and Bush on abortion to see what I mean.

The divisive issues, such as these, are diversions used in a "divide and conquer" strategy that will leave democracy gutted and a corporate fuedal system ensconced beyond challenge in the near future. Even IF Al Gore didn't want it to happen, and even IF George Bush thought that at least God-Fearing Texans ought to be free to choose a Wall Street loan shark to arrange their retirements, these men have sold themselves to a cause that is beyond the control of sovereign citizens in a democracy.

I know my 5-part piece on Authoritarian Grammar was long and convoluted, but in it was some information that pertains to the problem of why people continue to vote for candidates whose programs are antithetical to their own best interests. Funny that it should seem so remarkable that perhaps 5% of voters might decide against such a course this time around. 5% seems like a miracle of Enlightened democracy, when it is really a sad outcome of long years of repressed enlightenment sponsored by the very people asking for our votes.

So, I won't be frightened into voting for the lesser of two evils, even in a state where it might make a difference in the outcome. Because really the only difference will be made when both "major" parties are marginalized by non-participation of voters, and when we decide for ourselves, without interloping corporate coffers, who will run, who will debate, and who will serve US.

Best regards,

Ben Price bengprice@aol.com

Dear Jonathan:

In January, Florida Governor Jeb Bush signed a law which limits prisoners on death row from filing appeals on the basis of legal technicalities. The ACLU protested:


Good ol' Jeb is a real law-and-order man. He demands the strict letter of the law be followed to make his brother the most powerful man in the world. That's what legal technicalities are for, to make the rich and powerful even more rich and powerful. Oh but wait, inmates on death row want to use technicalities too? Kill 'em.

As Gore campaign chairman William Daley said yesterday:

Here in Florida it also seems very likely that more voters went to the polls believing that they were voting for Al Gore than for George Bush. If the will of the people is to prevail, Al Gore should be awarded a victory in Florida, and be our next president of the United States. ...

In response to this clear injustice, what does the Bush campaign say? They totally dismiss the disenfranchisement of thousands of Floridians as being the usual sort of mistake made in elections. They cite legal provisions about published ballots and technical notice. They put a demand for finality ahead of the pursuit of fairness. ...

Technicalities should not determine the next president of the United States, the will of the people should.


Jamie McCarthy spectacle@mccarthy.org

Dear Mr. Wallace:

The ones like you in Florida who helped lay groundwork for the mess there are the kinds of voters the national socialist loved, they did not vote for NS or communists or the liberal democrat party so they let Hitler get a plurality.

Hitler is not running now but the principle still applies. You will not get a person you want,you will not make a 3rd party, you have not much impact.

Nick Werle nwerle@aol.com

Dear Mr. Wallace:

"Democracy is two wolves and a sheep deciding what to have for dinner." In "christian" iconography, a sheep is a metaphor for a child or a student. Why this choice of metaphor? Clearly, the opionions expressed in your e-publication may be diametrically opposed. What does the sheep represent in your statement? The public? Self-destructiveness? Anti-"christian" sentiment?

Katherine Whitefield k_quill@hotmail.com

Dear Mr. Wallace:

I just found your page for the first time tonight. I must say I am impressed. While I have met many people with similar ideas, your writing comes across as rational, well thought out and well written.

I had a thought coming home today.

I am certain you have heard about Dubya and the 25 year old DUI. While I am not terribly offended by the act, I am disgusted by the hypocrisy. He claims to have changed his ways, but it hasn't been long since since he mockingly denied Karla Fay Tucker a stay of execution after she claimed to have had a religious conversion. She was not asking for freedom, she was asking for life.

I am certain you could do much more with the concept than I could. Needless to say, I look forward to hearing more of your ideas and your insights.

Will wrobsky@aol.com

Dear Mr. Wallace:

I just finished reading your three most recent essays at The Ethical Spectacle ( "Why I'm Voting For Ralph Nader", "Democracy and Illusion", and "Democracy and Stupidity"), and I must say those are the most informative and inspirational political pieces I've ever had the pleasure to read.

I've been convinced for some time now that the government of our nation is seriously out of step with what I perceived to be the largely unspoken "will of the people", and have been greatly frustrated that few, if any, in the "fourth estate" have gone to any lengths to point out what is wrong and therefore urge us, as citizens, to do what is necessary to regain control of our governance. In your essays, you have done precisely that, and for that I am very grateful.

I read Ralph Nader's acceptance speech a couple days ago and found myself seeing echoed in his words all the ideas I would hope a major candidate for President would espouse; that he has *makes* him a major candidate, in my estimation, and I will happily join you in casting a vote for Mr. Nader as part of a foundation for a future in which my two daughters will have an opportunity to bring about the change you wrote of.


Jeffrey D. Goff jgoff at home dot com

Shalom, Jonathan.

I read your article carefully and the linked articles you mentioned. I must congratulate you on your honesty and forthrightness.

There is however, one point I must have missed. What do you see as a lasting just proposal? I know that you repeated the idea of returning land as acceptable to many and the underlying desire to "westernize" the society stripped of nationalistic ideals which lead to self sacrifice. However I really wonder what solution do you propose. I am all out of just solutions. Lots of bad ones though.

Enjoy the Autumn colours, and the festival of harvest.

Keep on Tik'kun

Tikkun (a play on the word Tickin') means a conscious action based mission to change and repair the world by each individuals contribution to a just, moral, and caring existence. Isaiah 58:1-8

Rabbi Yossi Sapirman
Beth Torah Congregation
Toronto, Ontario Canada

Dear Jonathan:

Tough stuff-- Really well done. As an ignorant on Israel and non-jew, I have long felt the same as you (but without any of the details). I have wondered to myself many many times over the years "What am I missing? What is it I don't know".

Reading your piece tells me I haven't been missing anything at all. Israel is a racist nation, as I always thought.

Thank you for the piece, and your honest efforts at objectivity.

G. H. Lovgren gosta@swedesdock.com

Dear Mr. Wallace:

I have always found the Spectacle to be an intelligent and evenhanded publication, and more then once I have found a deep seated ethical position of my own confirmed by something you've written or published.

I was dismayed to see that the periodical I thought I knew has been converted into something hardly distinguishable from a Fatah propaganda rag. I recognize that Israel isn't the shining example of Jewish statehood we're told it represents in Sunday School, but at the same time, there is blood on the hands of all involved.

Perhaps I would have taken less offense at a full half of the Spectacle being ceded to the 'Israeli Peace Bloc' had equal (or any) space been dedicated to the opposing argument.

Even if the Palestinians are an oppressed and long suffering people, analogies comparing them to the downtrodden in South Africa are invariably false. I don't believe Dr. King of Ghandi included stone throwing or bus bombing as approved forms of nonviolent protest.

I recognize this as a complex issue, and I also realize my views are impacted strongly by my culture, youth and (in?)experience, however I felt obligated to voice my opinion.


M. Montazzoli CaseBClosed@aol.com

An Auschwitz Alphabet
Dear Mr. Wallace:

hi, found your website by putting 'arbeit macht frei' into google.com. (after coming across the picture in my hard disk image collection)

(your site was at the top of that list.)

it's a good concept, and very well done.

Also, I appreciate your account of your own experience as a schoolchild.

I often wonder too, 'where was God'? and wonder what the theological 'spin' on this is going to be eventually.

i.e. will there ever surface a religious experiential account of the Holocaust challenging God's 'plan', along the lines of the Book of Job, that acquires the status of sacred scripture, over time?>

Or has such an account already arisen and been acknowledged?

(all I am familiar with is Elie Wiesel's 'Night')

anyway, take care! Peter Norton pnorton@atwc.teradyne.com

Hi Jonathan,

In my first message to you I said, "I've been reading and rereading your writings that appear to all belong to THE ETHICAL SPECTACLE Vol. I, No. 9 September 1995. Lately my attention span is down to about ten minutes, but your work there held me riveted to the screen for hours, reading and rereading."

Your observations on the human condition punched any number of my buttons. The problem I had formulating this follow-up message was that, to me, the subject matter is so important I feared any comment of mine would appear to be trivializing something profound. I decided the best approach for me is to concentrate on a single observation.

About four years ago, having too much time on my hands, I started searching the Internet for old friends. This can be a dangerous exercise, with unforeseen consequences. My latest adventure started very recently, when I located the sister of my best friend from childhood. I have not communicated with her for over thirty-eight years. She and I used to have some very interesting discussions. On October thirty-first of this year, I wrote my first email message to her, in which I included:

"Things that you might find of interest about me:

"My intense dislike of organized religion is as strong as ever, another characteristic that has lasted just over 50 years. I have developed a personal philosophy that allows God and Auschwitz to exist at the same time, for example, without paradox, recriminations, or doubts."

To my amazement, the very next day I read your words in, "What I Learned From Auschwitz."

You said,

"The most important lesson one can learn from Auschwitz is that God does not exist. There are only two possibilities: either God caused (or at least permitted) the destruction of the Jews, the Gypsies and the other victims, or God does not care...there is a third approach to retaining belief in God: shut up and stop asking...By far the simplest explanation for Auschwitz is that there is no God to intervene in human affairs. No deity exists to care what we do to each other. All compassion and all hatred in the human universe is ours. We are on our own."

I wish I could have spoken to you as you developed these observations. There is another possibility that you have overlooked, but first, a short preface.

My major objection to organized religion is that most require a suspension of disbelief and a "leap of faith" or other contrivance to get past the contradictions of observable facts with dogma. This has been so obvious to me from the time I was eight years old or so, that I cannot discern many differences between the deeply religious and the mentally ill.

Organized religion prefilters information and teaches adherents to do the same. It is difficult to move past this because early training stays with you forever. It is very difficult to experience reality directly. Auschwitz is a reality that cannot be ignored. It could not be ignored by those that were there and it cannot be ignored today. That is the true significance of the Holocaust. If logic and reason had much significance, then every organized religion would have collapsed around the year 1945. Apart from what you have been told, do you have any reason to believe God influences anything at all in the human universe? Based on your direct experience and observation, have you ever seen any example of human problems that were not caused, and occasionally fixed, by humankind itself?

Here is a premise that does not conflict with observable facts, and allows God to coexist with Auschwitz:

God does not influence events in the human universe, or all of creation, in any manner whatsoever. Everything that happens is the result of either nature or humankind itself. I do think there is some evidence that He is very concerned over the effect that events have on the individual soul. This would be the point of the whole thing.

I see life as a process that must be repeated over and over. As we know from history, all human endeavors are doomed to failure, so for anything to have any meaning, it is going through the process itself that is the point. God does not intervene for the same reason a scientist does intervene in an experiment, the process must proceed without external influence to be valid. I do not wish to give the impression I think life is an experiment, but rather a process to develop the soul.

As you can see, my premise is a refinement of your last explanation above. I think there is no evidence that God does not care, once you accept the fact there is no reason to expect God to intervene in human affairs. For life to have a point, which I believe is simply to go through the process of living it, there must be someone or something of a higher order, at least managing things. A reason for living, and a pretty good goal, is to help each other get through this thing in which we are all trapped.


Bill Nisbet wfnisbet@compuserve.com

Dear Mr. Wallace:

One can only absorb. Da ist kein denken heir!

I lived in a Orthodox neighborhood in Denver in the 70's, next door Mr Sapler walked to synagogue, Rose his wife was not observant , we introduced our Iranian friends to them who were Jewish and eventually went to Parisi's Bas Mitzvah.

I Took my wife in 1994 to the Holocaust museum in D.C.

in 1995 I stopped to se Dachau when I was on a business trip to Stuttgart.

I read but can not understand.

Nick Werle nwerle@aol.com

Dear Mr. Wallace:

I really appreciate your website "An Aushwitz Alphabet". Its helped me through and through with all the reports I am to write on the Holocaust. About every year I have had to write a essay on the Holocaust, and every time I go to your website. I don't enjoy writing about it that much, but I definatly agree with your closing thoughts. My whole school had to watch Shindlers List a couple of days ago, and now that i think of it, i think the movie wasn't describing the Holocaust truthfuly. Well, anyway...thanks a lot for making this website, its awsome.



Dear Mr. Wallace:

I came upon your web journal while searching the Internet for materials on George Orwell for a Science Fiction course I am teaching at Rhode Island School of Design (we are using sci-fi as a lens for exploring 19th & 20th century history). Your words and your journal provoke many thoughts and possibilities for me. Too diffuse to make sense of right now, just let me thanks for telling some of your own story and providing a space for the exchange of ideas. I am interested in your book and have some ideas about a contribution to Ethical Spectacle. Again, thanks.

Michael Budd mabudd@earthlink.net

Dear Mr. Wallace,

I just finished reading your article titled My Right To Own A SAM and I found your perspective quite interesting. Your questioning the intention of the Founding Fathers I think may have been somewhat off the mark. The mention of a well regulated militia, and the lack of infringement on peoples rights to keep and bear arms are one sentence. Therefore, they are one thought. The time of it's writing was on the heels of war against England. During this time, every farmer with a musket was easily turned into a very effective militia member. The key to this effectiveness was the fact that he was defending his own home, that of his neighbor's, or perhaps a neighboring community. There is no indication that the men founding the government were putting in place provisions for it to be overthrown. The very notion is ludicrous.

A fine example of the militia ideology in action is Switzerland. The majority of their armed forces are made up of a true national guard, where almost every household has a minimum of one family member who has been trained in the military, and is required to keep his uniform, and issued service rifle at home. Another point could be made by the actions of the French Resistance during W.W.II. Their mandate was the use of everything in their possession for the defense of an already occupied homeland.

There are examples throughout history, and many around the world today. To prevent citizens from being able to keep and bear arms invites at the very least, the POSSIBILITY of lost freedom. This possibility may seem extreme on the home front, but it happens all around the world every day. The right to keep and bear arms protects the right of the individual to defend his country, his home, and to hunt in order to provide food for his family. To put this fundamental right aside would be nearsighted, arrogant, and make the assumption that "it could NEVER happen here". This is the exact reason the Founding Fathers included the second amendment.

There is no provision for the use of firearms to be used in the committing of crimes, or murder, or even acting in a reckless or dangerous fashion. These acts are already illegal, with or without firearms. As for your right to own a SAM, I believe you should ABSOLUTELY have that right. Under the provision that your home is under attack by aircraft sent by some form of hostile foreign element. This being a weapon of a singular specific use, there can be no practical use for you to have it for any other reason. Unless there is a sporting aspect of which I am unaware, but I doubt it. The "hunting" of aircraft sounds kind of like a terrorist action to me. Maybe I'm too conservative in my views.

I welcome any thoughts you may have on these ideas. Please feel free to respond, and I look forward to you doing so.

Chris Giles c-giles@home.com