Letters to the Ethical Spectacle

Ten thousand people visited the Spectacle pages during November. I get mail from you every day, sometimes critical, mostly supportive, almost always courteous. Its the correspondence that makes the effort worthwhile, so keep those cards and letters coming to jblumen@spectacle.org. I will publish your name and email address unless otherwise requested.

The Movies of Our Misfortune

Dear Mr. Blumen:

The tacked on tacky ending of the Hollywood version of The Vanishing was more depressing than the original. Actually, I did not find the original depressing in the least.

The question seems to revolve around the lack of courage by the mega-movie makers and their unwillingness to risk their investment in something that the public will not 'like'. Who are they using to user-test their drafts? I guess we're talking about two kinds of movies: big-bucks ones and ones that convey someone's vision or opinion. Viva la differance. One can ignore what one want's to ignore. What ammendment is that covered in?

I love your site and am providing a link to it from mine (when it goes on-line after I iron-out the bugs).

I've mailed all your movie material to my daughter (Dutch/Irish) who studies film in Amsterdam. Unfortunately she does not yet have WWW access.


Dave O'Sullivan daithio@Net-Info.com

hi hi

I do believe that you are right. Perhaps more right than you give yourself credit for. Of course movies have morals and moral implications, in fact, I believe that movies have /more/ moral implications than any other source, due to the massive size of public exposure to them. Everybody likes to say that movies don't affect their opinions, but they do.

ps. I like the godlike powers given to the serial killers in Silence of The Lambs...I saw it as a pretty good representation of the incompatability of their version of 'sanity' with most other's version of 'sanity'

Brandon Wade Easley AKA. 'Bunny'

Gun control

Dear Mr. Blumen:

Hello! Violent crime is on the rise in rural America. The Sunday Boston Globe Dec.4,1994 reports headline "Violent crime on the rise in small Mass towns. F.B.I.statistics show alarming trend."

Violence is a part of human nature, there is no escaping it. The Patriot Ledger Jan 23,1995 prints "Honor student stabs mother." In N.Y. Elizabeth DeCicco, age 15, stabbed her mother to death with a pair of scissors. Another headline in the same paper reads "Weymouth shop robbed of $100.00." If I blamed these serious crimes on a pair of scissors or on a knife no one would take me seriously. Blame a gun and all of a sudden I have some credability. Why is that?

You live in a dream world if you beleive that banning a certain weapon will make people stop commiting acts of violence. They will simply find something else to use. When these acts of violence are commited the perpetrator must be held accountable for their actions and punished, not slapped on the wrist. Recently in Boston a man from Jamaca Plain raped an elderly woman. She identified the man and he was arrested. He then appeared in front of the court for the one hundred and seventy second time since 1989. Unbelievable!

Criminals and gangs must be held accountable for their own actions. Their actions shuold not be blamed on the availability of weapons. Again,I would be a considered a fool if I blamed their actions on a knife but if I blamed their actions on a gun I would be respected. When a four year old girl is shot during a gang shootout the gang members must be held accountable for their actions, instead you blame everything else but the people responsible. You blame the neighboring states, the gun store owners and you blame me, the neighbor that has a gun. If guns are illegally sold then these people must also be held accountable not everyone that legally owns a gun.

There has been a deliberate attempt made by the anti-gun crowd not to distinguish between legally owned guns and illegally owned guns used in crime. This is a convenient vehicle used to acheive the specific objective of gun control, make all guns evil. The only way the anti-gunners think they can make progress is to convince general public to fear all guns, any way they can. Never more clearly was this demonstrated than when the klahoma City bombing was turned into a gun issue. As you know not one gun was involved in the attack, yet Ted Kennedy and Charles Schummer attempted to dismantle the Division of Civilan Marksmanship as a result. Taggants for smokless powder used in reloading were called for even though the bomb had been made of ferilizer. Talk about exploiting the poor victims of this senseless act of violence. With this attitude displayed constantly by the anti-gunners how can there be compromise so that I can live with my guns and you can live free of them?

Stephen La Breck baybums@ix.netcom.com

This was a response to my reply to his wife Geri's letter, published in the December letters column.

I wrote back:

I don't think you really responded to any of the points I made in my mail.

I believe in holding the shooter responsible. Lock 'em up. Give 'em the death penalty when appropriate. And keep the guns out of their hands at the same time.

I believe there are hardly any "illegal guns" in the USA, depending on how you define them. There are few or no guns made in secret illegal factories, and few or none smuggled in. Virtually every gun used in a crime was legally purchased somewhere by someone, after which it may or may not have passed into illegal commerce.

An article in yesterday's NY Times profiled Bob Barr of Georgia. His state is the leading culprit in the mass sale of guns to individuals who use them in crimes in NYC. His response? Lead the campaign to lift the semi-automatic ban, so we can flood NY with even more guns. In an interview, he is defiant and endorses the illegal sale of guns into NY for "home defense."

Virginia had the dishonor of being the main source of NYC murder weapons some years ago, and their embarassment led to a ban on the purchase of more than one weapon a month, if I remember correctly. Personally, I think your Second Amendment rights would still be fully protected if you couldn't so easily buy ten or twenty weapons at a time, then resell them to people who bus them back to NY.

You claim that I blame everyone but the shooter. Absolutely not so. You, however, blame everyone except the guy who sold the gun to the killer. I think there are really two choices: 1. God bless 'em for killing each other, let 'em keep it up as long as its not in my backyard. 2. Exhibiting good citizenship in finding some middle ground to solve this problem. You live at the head of a river into which you are dumping pollution. It doesn't affect the quality of your life, but it floats downstream and sure hurts mine. What are you going to do about it?

Dear Mr. Blumen:

Surely the most important single fact about the need to control guns is that it simply is not true that guns are dangerous only in the hands of criminals. The people at most risk are the friends and family of gun owners. As I understand the data, more than half the people who are murdered in this country are murdered by their friends and relatives. Although it is possible to murder someone in a fit of passion or by accident or due to losing control of one's anger even without a gun, it is clearly more difficult and less likely to be fatal. I suppose a sophist might say that these killers are also criminals by the very fact that they committed murder. However, then their argument has no meaning since, by their definition, it is impossible to kill wrongly without becoming a criminal. The clear point is that these are people who for the most part would not kill in cold blood, but in a fury if the weapon they grab is lethal, somebody may end up dead for all the different reasons that cause those who care about each other to fight sometimes.

As for the second amendment, my understanding is that the NRA itself never relies on it in court cases. The reason is, again if my information is correct, that the courts have long since routinely decided that the second amendment relies to "well-regulated militias" and so simply is not relevant to the issue of owning pistols are nuclear weapons or anything in between.

I know from my experience of twenty five years of teaching adults that there is no opinion so passionately held as the right to bear arms. But perhaps someone can answer the following question for me: I know of a man who is mentally unstable. His own family have run from their house to find safety in a neighbor's home because they feared for their lives. There are others who live on his street, including children who play up and down the street every afternoon. This man is known to own at least two pistols which are not locked up. Perhaps he will move. Perhaps he will never lose control to the point of using those pistols. Perhaps he will "only" kill members of his own family. But since the mere possession of these arms is not a crime, is it reasonable that his neighbors should have no alternative but to wait and see if he kills somebody? Of course, you can solve this questions by arguing with its assumptions: maybe he is not as unstable as his neighbors think. Maybe some states at least would have a law making it illegal for someone mentally unstable to own a gun, (but because guns are sold in large numbers at flea markets and other places not regulated by the rules that apply to commercial businesses, it is hard to see how such a law would help much). It is also possible to argue that he would probably have guns even if it were illegal, so, like prohibition, gun control would not be effective. But such answers dodge the question rather than deal with it: what do those who favor the right to bear arms suggest society do to protect itself from the single largest group of murderers: our otherwise law-abiding neighbors, friends, and relatives?

Mike Anker manker@ix.netcom.com

The Auschwitz Alphabet

Dear Mr. Blumen:

I would like to thank You for having put this very essential information about the incomprehensible annihalation of millions of innocent people, on this network. It will undoubtedly do a great deal of good, seeing as how millions of young people explore it every day. We must all make sure that the horrors of the concentration camps never be forgotten, and Your effort is by far the best I have come across on the Internet. I have not been an Internet-user for very long and subsequently I find it difficult to establish what country You are from, but I myself am a European. Here we have, during the last few years, been subjected to the abhorrent propaganda of the so-called "revisionists" i.e "historians" claiming that the Holocaust never took place, trying to make us all forget the past in order to be able to repeat it, most likely! These people are very convincing, and it is vital that we all prevent them from reaching into the minds of our young. Your Auschwitz alphabet appears to be the perfect antidote for their teachings!

Yours Sincerely,

Christer Lindqvist Christer.Lindqvist@mbox2.swipnet.se

Shalom, Jonathan,

My name is Daniel Tatar, and I am a first-year undergraduate student at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. In a recent paper addressing the legacy of hate I personally experienced in my visit to Auschwitz, I quoted an excerpt from your introduction:

Auschwitz was not unique in kind, but only in degree. In every era of history, human beings have committed genocide, from battles between competing varieties of prehistoric man to the "ethnic cleansing" in Bosnia today.

Although this was found to be very beneficial and appropriate for my style and approach, the professor has questioned your authority on this topic. Why are you an authority on the Holocaust? Please let me know so that you are found more credible in this paper. (Mind you, I found your entire Auschwitz Alphabet to be extremely credible enough, but we're talking about a professor here. Need I say more? :) )

Thank you for your time and cooperation.

Daniel Tatar tatar@students.uiuc.edu

Unfortunately, I am not an expert in much of anything, just opinionated.

I don't know if I survived in Daniel's final draft or not.

Hello. I stopped by your site and had an enjoyable time looking around. Your "What I Learned" essay is quite true; you and I think very much alike, I think.

I thought you might like to know that the Nizkor Project has moved from its old island.net pages to:


You might want to update the link on the auslink.html page.


Jamie McCarthy jamie@voyager.net

Dear Mr. Blumen:

I found your Ethical Spectacle by accident, (while doing a search on "Zyklon-B" for some research my cousin is doing). I was impressed by your Auschwitz Alphabet, and very moved by this:

As long as we are taught that genocide is something that can only be committed by a demonic "other", that we are good people and the desire to commit genocide could never come to us, we will perpetuate genocide, for it is precisely (as Santayana said) those who deny who perpetuate the evils and disasters of the past. Gibbon said that history is nothing but the record of the follies and misfortunes of mankind: it is not however graven in stone that we are eternally doomed to commit the same crimes and mistakes until we expire on this earth.

Never have I read this important idea put so clearly and directly. Thank you. I will continue to browse more of your pages in the future, and I have added pointers to your work from my infomation pages.

Gary L. Dryfoos dryfoo@mit.edu

Dear Jonathan:

The Alphabet contains some very disturbing material, although I am positive alot of people are not aware of all of this.

It has been very educational for me.


Tina Kalamaras
Melbourne, Australia

Dear Mr. Blumen:

I too am Jewish and my grandparents were born in the "old country". Fortunately, they came to America, but their families were not so lucky. Many died at the hands of the Einsatzgruppen and many went to camps. Thank you for this page - I will visit many times.

Nikki (nikki@postoffice.ptd.net)


Hello!! I just wanted to compliment you on the excellent work you have done on "The Auschwitz Alphabet". It is a very informative document, which (hopefully) a lot of people are benefitting from. I am especially impressed with how you have taken some of Levi's writings and organized them into subject categories. I think that this is great way to make Levi's work available to people who may not have had the opportunity to read his brilliant stories/essays/autobiographical accounts.

I had the opportunity to visit Auschwitz-Birkenau this summer, and as you can imagine, it was a very powerful experience. I still can't get over the feeling of "absolute evil" that overcame me at Birkenau; and seeing the underground cells in Block 11 at Auschwitz were like having a nightmare while I was awake.

I am a PhD student at the University of Pittsburgh's Katz School of Business, studying business ethics, with a special interest on the role of business in the Holocaust. I want to commend you for mentioning a number of the firms which I have studied who were involved in Auschwitz (like J.A. Topf, Krupp and I.G. Farben); since I feel that it is important that people are aware of how businesses willingly profited from places like Auschwitz and in all of the activities which produced the Holocaust.

Good luck on your future work and I hope that you are willing and able to continue devoting your time and effort toward projects like "The Auschwitz Alphabet".

Ray Jones
U. Pgh.- KGSB


I was touched by your "Auschwitz Alphabet," et al. I want to let you know what I think. I am a prolife activist and have long been interested in the root causes of man's inhumanity to man. But it seems to be a dead-end quest, because, as you say, it is bound to happen again. So, what to do about all this? While this question is really left to the imagination, your suggested remedy is, well, dissatisfying. Your closing suggestion that we need to "...practice kindness...if we were all kinder...can I be proud of myself.." seems to be a trivial counterbalance to the ugly events swirling about us. What I mean is, if all we can do is smile and be kind, than we really are powerless to stop the ugly events. It is an implicit acknowledgement of our powerlessness -- a.k.a. Job's dilemma. This should lead a thinking person to DISCERN the possibility of a God who is recorded (in the Old Testament) as saying,"your ways are not my ways."

Please permit me to be presumptious for a moment. I believe that you are searching for spiritual discernment. Two examples support this presumption: First, in your closing essay ("What I Learned From Auschwitz") your "what did you do..." (in regard to the woman at the cash register, the duplicated video tape, the stranded pedestrian, the sick elderly man in the restaurant, etc.) is remarkably parallel to Christ's command to help others (see Matthew 25:42-46). Second, (again, a strong parallel) you refer to an Exerpt from the Passover Service: "...the stone which the builders rejected...", which is prophetically repeated in all three of the New Testament synoptics: Matthew 21:42,Mark 12:10, and Luke 20:17.

Although you might argue otherwise, I would say that you are on to something good. And that "good," as I see it, is eternal salvation. Contrary to what might seem to you as impossible, even Elie Wiesel believes it: "Where is He? Here He is--He is hanging here on this gallows..." Note Wiesel's capitalization of "He".

His ways are not our ways. I believe in God, Original Sin, and Salvation. My friend, you and I are located somewhere between Original Sin and Salvation. The outcome is good but the way is rocky.

All a distraught Jew (and Christian and Gentile) needs to do is to take that leap of faith and see Christ "hanging here on this gallows." Meanwhile, lets do something concrete (i.e., not just think about it) to stop the silent holocaust of 4,400 pre-born babies being slaughtered every day in our own back yard. Join me in this struggle, while its still safe for decent people to do so. I think Maximilian Kolbe was on to something!

Good luck to you.

I look forward to your response.


Frank DiBlasi, Jr. diblasi@mhv.net

I replied:

Thanks for the good word.

I respect your views but, as my essay suggested, see the Holocaust as one major stumbling block to faith in God. It is perhaps a limitation of my character that I require explanations. For more of my views on God and religion, see the October issue of the Spectacle.

I recognize the triviality of my prescriptions but have nothing better. I am hopeful and fearful about man's prospects. The March issue of the Spectacle will focus on "Progress and Decay" and examine some of the root causes of man's self-destructiveness.

Dear Mr. Blumen:

Moving page. I may give friends that I have cajoled to read "Maus" (IMHO, the best introduction for non-Jews) the URL.

The Greg Raven site address actually is


although perhaps a non-functioning link is all it deserves. . .

Do you know the link to the tour of Dauchau???? Not the reunion site, which I have, but a virtual tour. . .

Again, thanks for your thoughts. Some memories of my Father (age 13 in '39 when they left) and Grandfather (bribed his way out of Dauchau) are on my home page.


Carl Frank cfrank@wrf.com

Dear Mr. Blumen:

Your presentation really is excellent and, of course, educational, if only people will have the moral interest to use it. My paternal grandparents perished in Auschwitz in 1943 in the "sunset' of their years. No pity!

I was recently in Yad Vashem and registered their names in the Hall of Names. Wpould it be dignified to also encourage people by advertising the relevant Yad VaSHEM PAGE?

In any event, well done.!

Paul Grayson (nee Grynszpan)

Miscellaneous Mail

Dear Mr. Blumen:

Just been reading your November issue of Spectacle.

I am a huge fan of Neil Postman. (Though Postman himself would probably not want to have any "fans") Not only is he incredibly perspicacious, he is also a lot of fun to read. When he talks about technology, particularly about television as in Amusing Ourselves to Death, I think he is dead on.

But I get bored with the familiar jeremiad that "computers" and the "information superhighway" (already in need of resurfacing because it's so highly overused an inapt a metaphor) are somehow less real, or inhuman. So I am disappointed to find that Mr. Postman invokes the same stereotype.

And stereotype it is, for I am mystified how anyone who spends any amount of time on the net could say that the interactions there are not "real" or "human". There are some unique problems and even disturbing aspects of computer- mediated communication, but these are not among them. All my thoughts on this subject would take a lot more space than this, however, so I'll stop.

But congratulations on a thoughtful Online Magazine. It's a welcome find among such a sea of trivia and commercialism.

P.S. Have you read "Informing ourselves to Death," Postman's follow-up comments on the Internet and computers? You can read it on the net at: http://www.isn.net/di/postman.html.


Jeff Bennion Jeff.Bennion@m.cc.utah.edu

Dear Mr. Blumen:

I didn't want to blur my point in the letter about gun control, but I did want to say that I spend a fair amount of time hunting through the web for materials on ethics. I have found nothing yet that I like so much as Ethical Spectacle mainly because the tone conveys openness to reason but not detachment, not verbal acting-out but deeply held concern to repair the world. I thank you for it.

Mike Anker manker@ix.netcom.com

I'd sure love to know who you folk are. Good stuff, agrees with my world view -- but my curiosity remains. [stuff is good, tho, w/ or w/o identification. thnx.]

Paul Craig ppcraig@ucdavis.edu

Actually, I'm not anonymous on purpose--I've just never gotten around to writing a bio...

I am a software business executive and former attorney based in New York City. I am 41 years old. I daydreamed for a number of years about publishing The Ethical Spectacle as a print newsletter, when the Web came along and allowed me to do it cheaply.

Jonathan Blumen is a partial pen name. "Blumen" is the name my grandfather changed to something else when he hit these shores about 1918. Since I very occasionally write or lecture on software topics for my company, I picked a pen name in order to keep my personal views strictly separate.

Thanks for your interest.

Hi there,

Just came across your site while surfing. I have a suggestion for your Politics and commentary section, there is a Political Magazine online called George at www.georgemag.com. Check it out and you may want to make a link to it on your page of Ethical, Political and Legal Sites on the Web.

Please do let me know as to what u think of this suggestion.

Thank you and regards,

Vishvas Sethi sethvis@charlie.acc.iit.edu

Good E-zine!! I am compiling a list of political magazines for my political web pages. Don't worry, I am including yours..

-- Dewey John Chapman Jr.

Hi: I am in the process of setting up the web page for the non-profit group Feminists for Free Expression. I do not know how long you are keeping this month's issue of The Ethical Spectacle on-line, but I would like to obtain permission to keep some or all of the articles relating to porn and the internet on line when our site is up and running.

Is this possible? Please let me know.

If you are not familiar with FFE, and want to know more, just e.mail me.

Thanks .....

Spencer W. Weisbroth blklist@crocker.com

I grant reprint rights to Spectacle articles pretty freely upon request. Articles should not be modified and attribution should be given, including the URL.

Flame of the Month

Another Vampire fan heard from:

So you think this is pornography!!!

Maybe all you hypocrite americans should think before you write such an article on the net.

It is a well known fact, that america has the biggest market for selling pornographic movies ( even childrens-pornography) in the world.

Before you judge a movie and it's contents you first should read the book and then tell me if it is about pornography or about deep feelings and great passion.

Murder and rape are more common to the american society than love so don't even judge this fiction.

Roger Huntjens huntjens@cuci.nl

Everyone is entitled to their point of view.

However, the Vampire fans who have written to me are the rudest people I have met on the Net. They are the only ones who insult me personally because I don't like what they do.

Telling me that I am not qualified to comment on anything because I am an American is also a very prejudiced (and shallow) remark.