Letters to The Ethical Spectacle

More than 30,000 people a month are visiting these pages, and scores of them write me every month. When I started the Spectacle, I never imagined the impact it would have.

Last month's highlights: I did a Fox News Network interview on censorware and an interview with The Tampa Tribune on the topic of censorware in libraries. Look for some quotes from me on online censorship in the May Details magazine.

In the months to come, I intend to concentrate on the library issue, on which the American Library Association has not yet taken a stand. I am working on an article on the Netpics arrests for Nerve magazine and a paper on the pervasiveness doctrine for the Cato Institute.

One of the interesting things about publishing on the Web is that I receive as much mail about old articles as new ones. Most of the correspondence I get is about An Auschwitz Alphabet, published in June 1995. My review of Schindler's List, published in the January 1995 premier issue, keeps attracting criticsm, mostly negative. A piece on George Orwell from a year ago brought in two letters this month.

Please keep those cards and letters coming.

Jonathan Wallace jw@bway.net.

An Auschwitz Alphabet

Dear Mr. Wallace:

I stumbled onto your Auschwitz Alphabet this morning. I found it to be very informative and, in parts, very moving.

I have been interested in the subject of the Holocaust since I was very young and read first, The Diary of Anne Frank, and later, Simon Wiesenthal's book The Murderer's Among Us.

I am amazed at those who would say that the Holocaust never happened, and share the view that it should be taught as a part of history lessons so that it may never happen again.

Thank you for the information.

Kathy Griffin rkgriffin@ameritech.net

Dear Mr. Wallace:

Hi my name is Erin Ziff and I researched your site aucshwitz alphabet for school. I am in the 10th grade. I thought that it was very interesting and touching.

Dear Mr. Wallace:

Hello, my name is Robert Warren and I am an English teacher in San Jose, California. I am currently teaching the novel Night, and have found your website an excellent resource for teaching material. I am particularly interested in the Auschwitz Alphabet you have composed and wondered if you could send me a text file copy of it so that I could share it with my class; I think that they would find it interesting and informative.

Thank you,
Rob Warren AudsPunk@aol.com

If a reader has the time to prepare a zipped text file version of the Alphabet, you'd be doing me a real service, because I frequently get requests like this.

Dear Sir:

I am highly appreciative for the work and dedication that you put forth in your article. I am very interested in continuing my studies of this horrible era because of the detail you have given.

Thank you,
Martha Medina
University of Southern California

Dear Mr. Wallace:

Hello. My high school students are studying the Holocaust. Would you be willing to engage in discussions with them and answer questions they might have?

Janet Bosarge, Teacher, Puyallup High School, Puyallup, Washington

Dear Mr. Wallace:

A horrible tragedy; and one that affects us all as individuals and as a people. My mother lost her first husband in the war. My father saw combat as an aviator in England and a close friend's father fought in the Pacific and never recovered from the psychological wounds he received. Keep the memory of all of those who gave so much, alive.

The Harmon family lharmon@peachnet.campus.mci.net

Dear Mr. Wallace:

Hi, I'm doing research on Auschwitz for my research paper for English and I feel really sorry for all who had to watch and experience the horriable happings of the Holocaust I think people were really brave for doing what they did I don't think I could of standed it for more than 5 minutes.

I thank you for your aticle it really helped me alot, I never new much about the Holocaust or what it was but now that I have read and researched I feel really bad and I pray each night nothing like that will ever happen again

Carrie(8th grader )

Dear Jonathan:

Your alphabet is elegant, sincere, and functions on a high moral plain. My name is Helmut Soehn and I was born in Heilbronn, W. Germany, 1953. We came to this country in 1956. I can appreciate the complexity and madness that were (and still are) the Holocaust. My father, Benjamin, was an honest Soldat in the Reichswehr in France and Italy in 1944-1945. He was always very resistant to the idea that a civilized people could have committed such atrocities. That thin veneer of civilization which all of us assume to be permanent, is indeed very fragile.

My dear man, I can understand why you do not believe in God. However, there is one thing over which we humans have complete and unquestionable control - and that is our own minds. Primo Levi used his mind in the most noble way and Adolf Eichmann did not. If the entire Catholic Church had stood up and said NO!, many things could not have occured. But whether you belong to a club, a nation, a race, or a religion, it is and will always be the individual's decision. Under such savage circumstances as the Holocaust, the real heros and villains appear. Their identity is forced to the surface based on habit and use of their own minds. Individual action is all. The freedom and control we have over our own thoughts manifest in word and action - and the ability to think is surely the greatest gift of the divine Lord himself. These are my sentiments and they do not belong to any organized religion.

You have a first rate mind and a well tuned conscience. I feel that I know you well and you will be most welcome in my home.

I wonder (out loud) if men never killed any sentient creature (animals) could they possibly kill each other? The Christians have it wrong - "if only men have souls, then we can kill other species" That, I believe, is already the perilous slide to ruin.

Helmut Soehn hsoehn@ara.com

Schindler's List

Dear Mr. Wallace:

I have read many of the things you have included in this website. Things I have not read I have browsed. Thank you very much, for it was a big help on my project that I am working on and I have found this section the most informative. Although, I was sort of disturbed by the opinion on Schindler's List. I am not sure where you are coming from, whether your family has been affected by Auschwitz and that is why you were upset and said that Schindler's List was the wrong interpretation of The Holocaust, so please don't get angry or anything. I believe that Schindler's List is to show that there was somebody that saved alot of people. Maybe compared to the number that died it was an insignificant amount, but if it was you're family member, mother or father, i am sure you would grealy appreciate those that he had saved even if it was just one. Don't take this personally. Maybe I just liked the movie "Schindler's List" too much and had to defend it. I do believe though it was good to show the good Oskar Schindler did do. I hope if I saved the lives of 11,000 Jews it would not go unnoticed. Otherwise, this website is great and thank you very much!! Write back if you wish!!!!



I want to thank the person who did your article about Schindler's list for a needed dose of reality about the movie.

I have not seen much genuine critiicism about the movie, primarily I think because too many people fear being labeled anti-semitic. The only other criticism of the movie I saw in the 'Baffler' where a writer speaking of the hollowness of Hollywood films refers to it as 'Indiana Schindler and the Temple of Auschwitz'. The sad thing is that I have seen more moving and stark images of the Holocaust on A&E. That also brings up the point that we swim in a society drenched in media. Schindler's list is a movie that could only have been made in the media 90s. A heroic American vision of the darkest impulses of human nature. Impulses expressed that did more to scar the human soul (jew and gentile alike) than anything before or since. There was precious little heroics during the Holocaust and while its admirable to lift up such examples as Schindler its necessary to show that he was an exception, not the rule.

We have learned little from the Holocaust. It broke something in mankind's soul that allowed it to be emulated to this day. Its difficult to recover the decency lost afterwards, like Argentina trying to become a democracy after the precedent is set for military coups. Once pandora's box of death is opened its virtually impossible to stuff the demons back in it.

The most affecting scene in Schindler's List (for me) was when the camp commandant summarily executes the jewish woman who is building barracks for the jews too slowly. It was one of the few images from the movie that jibe with reality. Despite the need in Hollywood for happy endings the real nature of the Nazi's was such that they succeeded for a very long time because of a frighteningly brutal efficiancy that ignored human life. As pointed out in the article it would not have been a typical hollywood ending to have the final scene of ashes coming from a smokestack that where once human beings we cared about. This anesthetizing of the mind is dangerous, it lends itself to a, 'it can't happen here' mentality. And I think that Hollywood vastly underestimates its audience. Many people want to see a good story, happy or sad be damned, if the story is well told its not necessary for it to finish with the White Male Hero beating the Generic Bad Guys of Doom. Also I don't think that the movies people see in the U.S. is a very good thermometer of public attitudes, its a media that competes with several other electronic media as well as print media. The 'dumbing down of America' has no sadder expression than Schindler's List, a kind of summary of the Holocaust you buy at the college bookstore because you don't want to read the complex book assigned by the old professor. The horror of the Holocaust was not in the spectacular, like the scene in Schindler's List where the camp commandant is shooting Jews for sport down in the compound. The real horror is the nightmare quality of anti-normalacy where train loads of humans are routinely and efficently loaded and unloaded for the express purpose of killing them at the destination, and its all just a job to those who do it. Schindler's List (like many of Spielberg's films) relies too much on the spectacular, the exciting and less on the subtle and the sudden astonisment that can come from an adroit juxtaposition of the mundane and the horrific.

Joseph Nowakowski

George Orwell

Dear Mr. Wallace:

The article "Orwell Was Wrong" I believe was not entirely correct itself.

While there is little doubt that threat of Soviet Communism loomed large in Orwell's mind during his writing of 1984, I think rampant Capitalism figured as heavily. Orwell, a devout Socialist, would have been just as appalled to see the "brainwashing" that goes on every day in our media, no thanks to those genuises on Madison Avenue who crank out all their corporate drivel, dangling the Fruits of Industry in our faces as though they were the only fruits from which we might derive pleasure or satisfaction with our lives.

This, in my opinion, is a type of totalitarianism in itself-- a totalitarianism of the mind and the soul. To have our hopes and dreams created for us at corporate brainstorming sessions, spawned in factories and sold to us at local retail outlets is a bad enough kind of oppression if you ask me--a kind of oppression that breeds social pettiness, insularity, and the single-minded desire to collect junk instead of pulling each of our own weight in progressive human endeavor.

If only Mr. Orwell could get a glimpse of the Home Shopping Network, or an Infommercial, or spend a single hour watching any stupid television network, he would no doubt roll over in his grave.

Alas, Big Brother has taken off his boots; these days he wears Oxfords, carries a briefcase, and preaches in sound bytes.

Young Audiences yany@pop.interport.net

Dear Mr. Wallace:

This is serious and relevant material that you have here, a varitable rarity in the web. I landed here when I was searching for articles on Orwell's classic, 1984. I have to admit that I liked what you said but I can't agree with it completely.

You seem to have interpreted Orwell well but I think you missed an important point. Orwell was not just commenting on the betrayal of socialism but the trend of acceptance of Stalinism among intellectuals in free states. He was one of the first to diagnose Stalinism. He used Animal Farm to first satire the political betrayal and then told the same story again in 1984 with a character the reader could relate to. 1984 was realistic compared to Animal Farm tore into totalitarianism in general, not just Hitlerism and Stanlism. Orwell had a broader spectrum in mind.

As for student councils and the like, they haven't changed. I am in a youth group and we pretty much take care of the real freedom of speech.

Thank you for your time

Adam Muise amuise@netrover.com

Net Freedoms

Dear Mr. Wallace:

I am writing a college honors thesis on the ways in which the public is abdicating their social responsibilities in favor of governmental control. One area of analysis is the Internet censorship issue. I have read your book, which I thoroughly enjoyed, as well as many of the articles on the Spectacle sites. Additional information that I need, however, has proven difficult to find. I was hoping you could point me in the right direction. I sent the following questions to the Internet Caucus and received no reply. The ACLU, although extremely helpful in other matters, was also unable to assist me in this area. The questions are as follows:

1. What evidence, if any, did Senator Exon present to prove that the CDA would curb or stop pornography?

2. Who did he recommend to enforce this legislation? How did he propose enforcement given his limited knowledge of the Internet?

3. Given that the foundation of the CDA was based on an inaccurate study, and the fact that programs are currently available to parents to block unwanted access to certain sites, what was Senator Exon's reasoning for infringing on First Amendment protections?

4. Was Senator Exon moved to action in response to constiuent outcry, special interest, or his own agenda?

Any assistance you could give me with this would be greatly appreciated. Thank you for taking the time to maintain your site and for your continued insights. It is reassuring to know that people do still care and are willing to act on their concerns.

Windy Barham windy@eramp.net

Dear Mr. Wallace:

Just wanted to drop you a note to say, "Great book!" I've just finished reading it in preparation for review for this spring's Harvard Journal on Legislation.

Michelle L. Spaulding mspauldi@law.harvard.edu

Dear sir,

Out of curiosity, and nothing more, I would be interested to hear why you think you know what's best for libraries as well as other individuals who do not necessarily share your beliefs.

Not that it should make a difference, but I am a very liberal, politically active person. I believe in the rights and freedom of people of any country. However, I would like to know what gives you the intellectual power to discern how libraries should run their systems. Or schools for that matter! I hope you realise the conservative nature of your proffessed knowledge of how other institutions should be run. I am interested to know how you have come about to these convictions.

Do you have a degree in library science? Or in educational theory? Also, can you call this type of blocking censorship? When a school is trying to keep their computers available to the students for primarily educational purposes, what point does pornography play? Do you think libraries should suscribe to playboy?

It really isn't an issue of "repressing" freedom of speech since it is an adult topic simply being restricted to adults. It certainly isn't as dangerous and arbitrary as censorship. The internet is a medium in which 83% of its images is pornographic. This is something that becomes superfluous within an educational context.

Why don' t you spend your political energies into a little more research and a little less hot air. Perhaps then your opinions would sound less half baked and instead more researched. Thanks.

Lindsay Weiss reviewme@n2h2.com

People with whom I disagree

Dear Jonathan:

It's tough not to smile as I read Auren Hoffman's essay titled "Mending Affirmative Action."? She begins by saying she is "for Affirmative Action" (That, she assumes, means she is politically correct, and is for diversity)…Then she states that she does not believe that an admissions office should favor the son of an upper-class African-American family over the daughter of a poverty-stricken Asian family. Her total naiveté is mind numbing.

Oh really? Why not? Should a poor African-American be put ahead of a poor Indigenous-American woman with say a cleft palette? What about the case of a moderately poor mixed Asian-American boy who's father was black? Should he get the slot ahead of the totally poor South-American born immigrant who's mother sells herself for crack? That type of discrimination seems to be what her essay calls for. Amazing!

Since the program requires that someone make arbitrary decisions to discriminate against "someone" based on such factors as the color of their skin, Ms. Hoffman seems to say that before the color matter, the bank balance should be considered. Then she says that "geography" should be accounted for.

Lets see, I say east of the Mississippi, south of, say Ohio, those people get first pick.

Then we look at "disability" (what ever that term is supposed to mean) and the ever important "background." There is a biggie. Also, she says we must take "religion" into account. (That's a brilliant idea. Religious quotas?) These "other characteristics of an applicant (she says) are just as important as race in determining college admissions."

Then, as I wipe the tears of laughter from my eyes, she says "Don't get me wrong - diversity is very important.". . ."But race-based affirmative action is not the answer to promoting racial diversity." She says to "start with the elementary schools...? So? How do we apply "affirmative action" to the kiddies? She doesn't say.

Here's a concept for you. Why not give first priority to whomever scores the highest on an entrance exam? That way, the seats in front go to the brightest and best. We won't even ask their race, gender, religion, "geography", or what their daddy's checking account balance is. We could even give these people "scholarships." Whoa! There is some radical thought. I bet the P.C. police will be knocking at my door soon as such radical expression doubtless puts me in as a candidate for some serious "re-education."

Why is it so hard for a liberal to recognize that discrimination is wrong, regardless of who is doing the discriminating? It is tyranny when it is done by the government. Deciding what " discriminating factors" to use to make governmental discrimination right is simply goofy.

Bob Wilson

Dear Mr. Wallace:

These stats from Preston Covey, an professor at CMU who studies ethics, may interest you: A gun is 32 times more likely to be used to defend against criminal threat than to kill anybody.

A gun is 245 times more likely to be used by a non-criminal to defend against criminal threat than to commit criminal homicide.

A gun is 535 times more likely to be used to defend against criminal threat than to accidentally kill anybody.

A gun is 50 times more likely to be used to defend against criminal threat than to kill another person.

A gun is 50 times more likely to be used to defend against criminal threat than to be used in suicide.

Terry McIntyre tm@mnemosyne.switch.com


Dear Jonathan,

I'm writing to you somewhat blindly, in that I don't know your feelings on the topic of unconditional relationships. Anyway, I'll give you my definition of an "unconditional relationship" to start with:

"An agreement between two individuals, to do their best to relate, openly and honestly with each other, no matter what circumstances may arise".

The Society (SPUR for short) is new. It is voluntary and exists to increase public understanding and awareness of the nature and benefits of unconditional relationships. The idea arises out of concern for the ever increasing number of marriage and relationship breakdowns. At the moment, from a practical point of view I am trying to accumulate a variety of letters and articles on the topic.

At first sight the ideals of SPUR may appear like the antithesis of your 1995 article about relationships in "The Prisoner's Dilemma" series. However I suspect there may be more overlap in our views than meets the eye.

Would there be benefit in an exchange of ideas between us? if so, here is my home page..

Yours sincerely
Paul Brocklehurst

Hey Jonathan, I'm writing to firstly congratulate you on your wonderful e-zine..it has proven to be very useful to me specially at the present time. I am currently starting research on war crimes to enable me to write my research paper which will hopefully grant me my diploma. The honors course that I am doing, called the International Baccaulaurette (sp?) requires that each student hand in an "extended essay" on his/her chosen topic, and mine is war crimes.. Lastly, I just wanted to say that should you want, or be interested in having a teenager (I'm 17) contribute to your magazine, I'd love to have that experience..just so you have some sort of background one me, I am Brazilian but have been living in London, England for the past 6 yrs.. Anyhow, once again, your e-zine is terrific..

take care,


Dear Jonathan:

I enjoyed reading your article on teaching html to at-risk kids (which ones aren't these days) and the Web Club Kids. Sounds like you're really doing something. My school is hung up on Internet paranoia--how can we let kids create web pages??? We'll get there, slowly. I've shared your article and the other one...but teachers are notorious for being hard to change. I agree that technology is a major way to get these kids excited about something legal. Articles like yours can help motivate adults.

Katherine M. Searle searle@netexpress.net

Mr. Wallace,

You have a very nice book which would revolutionize the view point of every citizen. I hope to see your work in progress

More Power!

God Bless!

jenny jenny@ibni.com

Dear Mr. Wallace:

I'm very dissapointed that you seem to include sites covering only one side of many issues presented here. I am looking for information on the pro-choice movement, yet you do not include any pro-choice sites. This is clearly a large bias for any one trying to do research on ethics. Any one educated in ethics knows that in order to present a valid position, both sides of the coin need to be considered. Maybe in the future you could be a bit more inclusive and open in your selections here.


Hello Jonathan;

I'm enjoying my Saturday morning surf which frequently takes me in new and interesting directions and I'm pleased to have discovered "The Ethical Spectacle". I've just begun exploring, but it looks like the kind of site I will visit often. Who knows, I may even end up being a contributor. I'm a radio journalist, currently based in Winnipeg, but possibly on the move soon.

In the meantime, hope you're having a great weekend in one of my favourite cities.

Roger Currie currie@mb.sympatico.ca

Dear Jonathan:

Upon a search for info on Ben Gurion and the Holocaust, I came accross your interesting site, and the painful but accurate page about Israel with this quotation:

A country founded in blood--built on the backs and the corpses of a group of its inhabitants--is badly off-balance and will never recover, if it does not undertake a terrible soul-searching, a flight from violence and lies. There is a stirring, a yearning for peace and relief from violence today, but it is still being mitigated by hatred, denial, greed, and the desire for revenge. When the Israelis learn to police their own lunatic fringe, can avoid offering with one hand what they withdraw with the other, and face the Palestinians with firm honesty, there will be a chance.

If you are serious about your beliefs you wrote of here (which I believe you are) then please thoroughly examine our website and the "Ben-Avraham Plan" for Israel and the region, and then please link to it from your site.

Where is it? Go to our IPC home page (http://www.ipc1.com/) and then find your way to the "Ben-Avraham Plan" in the Israel National Website... It is the only solution that starts with addressing the REAL problem...

Your feelings reveal your understanding at the 'behavioral' level of our problem in Israel. Moreover, we have a thorough understanding of the psychosocial, the behavioral, the cognitive, and even the psycholinguistic root and essence of the problem, and thus we are NOW implementing its large scale *solution*... You'll find in our site Four Programs which are predicated upon the transformation of our behavior (from the purely "behavioral" to the "cognitive")...

This problem, which you seem to imply that it only applies to a portion of Israel's extreme elements, is in fact much deeper, pervasive, and worse than you even know... believe me... "Unconsciousness" is the problem... and in Israel, it damages us more than any of our enemies could dream...

Our project will eventually gain the vast support of Diaspora Jewry, as it already has begun to... I invite you to support and promote this project to your network in the ways you see fit. Please contact me with any questions or feedback.


Adam Ness adam@ipc1.com