Letters to The Ethical Spectacle

This month I watched the fight-censorship mailing list, which has been my primary electronic community for three years, dwindle away close to "list death." The list moderator isn't interested in it any more, and most of the traffic now consists of flames and irrelevant spouting. For some of the free speech implications, see this month's piece on Free Speech as a Tragedy of the Commons.

I delivered an article for Reason magazine on the pervasiveness doctrine. As usually happens when I write for magazines, I had to adopt a different, journalistic style--and attempt to make the subject matter livelier than I might on my own. And deal with an editor's suggestions (which happened to be good ones, which hasn't always been my experience with other publications.) I was glad I wrote it--its still exciting to see my name in print media--but I've been largely spoiled writing for myself and publishing on the Net.

In this issue is a new work of fiction, Montauk, a hypernovella about love and software development. If you have a chance, please take a look at it and let me know what you think. Most of my readers seem to be very skeptical about fiction on the Net-but if you're here because you like my nonfiction style, perhaps you'll enjoy this story as well.

One thing the Spectacle sorely lacks is book reviews. I rarely have time to write them, and though I now have a number of people regularly sending me submissions on a variety of topics, I haven't found a regular book reviewer. If interested, please drop me a note-or just write a few words on something you've read and send it along.

Your email keeps me interested in publishing the Spectacle-- and also educates me and makes me re-examine some of my assumptions. Keep it coming! I can be reached at jw@bway.net. --Jonathan Wallace


The Paula Jones Case

Dear Jonathan:

One reason I did not get too excited when you asked me to comment on the Paula Jones vs Bill Clinton case is, I guess I agree with much of what you say in your article. I sense you suspect that I (a staunch anti-Clintonite) would go to bat for Paula Jones. Frankly, you state my feelings pretty well on the subject with a few exceptions and some misplaced emphasis. (The other reason I didn't write is that I have spent the past two weeks on the island of Hawaii and frankly, enjoyed not thinking of such things.) You miss one aspect of the case however, and I do believe that you do so intentionally.

My big problem with the whole sordid affair is that Bill Clinton has denied the incident occurred. That is a respectable defense, but on the other hand, that was not the ultimate defense. First, he said that since he was "Commander in Chief" technically he was in the military, and thusly, immune from civil suits... Then he said..the incident did not occur... Then his defense changed to "Paula Jones was not harmed." In light of all of the emerging details of Clinton's dalliances with women...from former "Miss Americas" to Jennifer Flowers (whom he first denied screwing, then admitted in grand jury testimony that he did) it is obvious to all but the most intensely loyal and blind Clintonista, that the incident of his wagging his weenie at Paula did, in fact, occur.

Her case was dismissed, not because of lack of evidence that it happened, but as Mr. Wallace points out...the court ruled that in order for "sexual harassment" to have occurred, she had to show that her job (and normal progression in same) was jeopardized.

All good and well as far as her case goes... I agree with Mr. Wallace. What I find hard to swallow (no Monica Lewinsky pun intended) is the fact that so many Americans are willing to give the President of the United States a pass on this type of behavior. Most curious is the fact that he is still (if media reports on polling data can be believed) a very popular guy.

Imagine, if you can, what kind of uproar in the media and at the workplace, such behavior on the part of a conservative would portend. Combine the sex scandals (which are usually the kiss of death for a politician--ala Bob Packwood, whose sin was that he liked to hug secretaries) or presidential hopeful Jerry Hartpence (Hart) (who stupidly bedded a groupie now pop media reporter) with the other Clinton scandals and one would reasonably suspect that both Bill and Hillary would be exiled to France where assorted African dictators sip drinks and debit their Swiss bank accounts.

One thing is certain however. Since the media is selling a lot of advertising with sex scandals, the fact that Bill Clinton, and the Democrat party likely has sold our nation out to China and Indonesia for campaign donations has not seemed to make a dent on the public as yet. While it might just be obnoxious and pitiful that a president would be chasing interns (and anything else in a skirt) around the oval office, what has been done with our nation's security and integrity is a far, far more important issue. There is a great distinction in importance between depravity and treason. In Bill and Hillary's case...I suspect we get both.

Bob Wilson


Dear Mr. Wallace:

I have been looking at some of the articles about Clinton's morality. I am wondering if you hold Reagan and Bush up to those same moral standards when they went into Panama and El Salvadore and had all of those women and children slaughtered. Or is it just a sex thing -- so It's okay to murder but don't you dare have a sexual addiction. Now I may just misunderstand the whole slant of your agenda for that I am sorry to have taken your time with my ramblings.

Lynne Jenrow lynnej@u.arizona.edu


Dear Mr. Wallace:

There's one major problem with your article: it assumes the allegations against the President are true. You assume Paula Jones told the absolute truth; an objective reading of her deposition strongly suggests she did not. You presume that Monica Lewinsky has also told the truth, her own lawyer has, on more than one occasion, stated publicly that she did not. Your call for the President to resign was both myopic and wrong. Hillary Clinton is correct, there is a right wing conspiracy to take this President down.

Don Babets Pprberry@aol.com


Dear Mr. Wallace:

I wonder about the ethics of a man who will assume, without any qualification, that Paula Jones was telling the truth about the events in that now famous encounter.

If I had to make a choice as to who's version of events is closer to the truth, Bill would win hands down.

Far worse then any purported crime the President may have commited is the covert operations, worthy of the CIA, that have been run against him by Richard Mellon Scaife.

I beleive that what we know about Mr. Scaifes payments to David Hale, and others, are merely the tip of the iceberg.

It would be more accurate to rename your publication "The Ethical Speculator" and warn readers that ethical judgments rendered therein are based, not on objective criteria, but on the writers imaginings.

Sincerely,
Paul J. Clements pclement@shore.intercom.net


Freedom of Speech

Dear Mr. Wallace:

I've just learned that my web site, Preditors & Editors (http://pages. prodigy.com/XLTX22B/publish0.htm) is being blocked from access by Prodigy, P&E's server. Would you mind posting this information about an unfairly introduced attempt to censor my site to anyone who's interested?

Cordially,
Dave Kuzminski, Editor
Preditors & Editors
XLTX22B@prodigy.com


Dear Mr. Wallace:

The Owensboro-Daviess County (Kentucky) library has a rather interesting approach to the censorship idea: The terminals are placed in such a position as to enable them to be constantly monitored by a library employee who continually watches over the shoulder of the user.

Recently, I visited a web page dedicated to the memory of an acquaintance of mine and to the attempt to locate her suspected murderer.

Amy was a dancer at an "Exotic Lounge" in Corpus Christi Texas. This web page had as its background tiled images of Amy FULLY CLOTHED though in costume. A very short while after the page loaded upon my clicking, a library employee came to me and said "I don't think that's appropriate".

A site which contains a picture of a woman wearing a bikini is not an appropriate site for a thirty seven year old man to visit?

If this is not Censorship, WHAT IS?

R v Head rvhead@juno.com


I work in a school district who is running the XSTOP system and we are perfectly happy. No other filter can compare. I visited your website today and noticed a lie or two. First of all, ALL of the sites you mentioned to be blocked by XSTOP are NOT actually blocked by XSTOP. Before you start telling the world something, you should first check your facts. In your case, RECHECK them.

Sincerly,
T Schultze
tschultze@hotmail.com


Dear Mr. Wallace:

Excellent!

I protested SOA last November. I've also been reading about your case against censorship. Liberty is a terribly frightening burden for some. For others, the ultimate freedom. Keep up the good fight.

Best regards,
Jay Allen Sennett


An Auschwitz Alphabet

Dear Mr. Wallace:

I just read your alphabet about Auschwitz. Actually, I was just trying to find information about concentration camps in Germany during World War 2 when I stumpled upon it. I think it is really great. For you to make something like this, the time and the dedication is something that I wish to have, but unfortunatly don't have now. I am not Jewish, but I have always loved learining about World War 1 and 2. I am the kind of person, well actually, I am not any kind of person. I am me, but I can't watch the news, because of all the violence. I get sick. This makes me just as sick, but I think you did a really nice job of putting it together. But I don't agree that there is no god. I think there is something, whether it be fate, or destiny, or god that is controlling what goes on. I don't know what it is, and I hope I never find out. I think you did a terrific job though, and it must have been hard, so I give you a lot of credit.

See you later,
Samantha


Dear Jonathan:

I found your pages about Auschwitz, while surfing the internet.

I just wanted to tell you that the information on your pages was extremely informative. (I don't know if "informative" is the correct word to use here. All the things I read, while horrifying, really gave me a new understanding of life in the concentration camp.)

It is obvious that you have put much work into these pages. I think you have a talent. Continue to spread the word, so a horrible thing like the Holocaust will never happen again.

Sincerely yours,
Margaret Briscoe dudalical@pipeline.com


Dear Mr. Wallace

i think your web site is very interesting and informative, we are now studying Hitler in school and have gotten quite a bit of info from this. I want to thank you for having it. I love to learn about the past particularly this time frame of around WWII. Though I do wonder why people become this power hungry. I hope and pray it won't happen again to anyone or anything.

Nicodemus


Dear Mr. Wallace:

I believe there should be a Holocaust remembrance week. However, some genius made it between April 20-April 26. Since Hitler's birthday was April 20, what was the point of combining those two days?

DJY51@aol.com


Dear Mr. Wallace:

hi my name is michelle

i am in the 8th grade and doing a report on the holocaust. I myself in my opinion i think what the germans did was very rude but worse then rude but i cant put it into words. i think it is revolting. i am not a Jew but when i think about that it makes me want to burst out into tears just to even think about it. And i do think (no matter what people say) the holocaust did happen and you have my support.

sincerely
michelle


Dear Mr. Wallace:

The history of the Jews is long and riddled with persecution and extermination. It is my sincerest hope that the near genocide performed by the nazis is the last time the world will see such atrocities against anyone. Unfortunately, the nature of humankind is such that this probably will not be the case. For the past few days I have steeped my brain in the history of the Holocaust. As part of our unit on the book Night in my English class I am giving a presentation on the years and events leading up to World War II.Because of this I was not able to finish reading your site. I feel as though I will vomit if I read any more. I want to commend you on speaking out. Being the melting that it is, there is no one in this country who isn't in some way affected by this, one of the darkest chapters in the history of man.

---Sincerely, Claire Weaver


Dear Mr. Wallace:

I think that the idea of a third pathway, placing the reader in the shoes of an inmate. That would make the horror more real and be a great addition to your already wonderful website.

Cbd4130@aol.com


Dear Mr. Wallace:

I have only read 10 of the alphabet pages and find them extremely thought provoking and visual. Please do not go down the road of allowing people to make choices for different scenarios you set up. That would trivialize all that you have done. I train teachers how to teach about the Holocaust. It was real- don't make a game out of what happened. I look forward to finish reading your Alphabet.

James Rothenburg davescott99@mindspring.com


Dear Jonathan,

I haven't read all of your page yet, but I am powerfully moved. Your writing on such an intense subject is clear, well-thought out and thought-provoking. It can be uncomfortable to write or read that things were not always as they seemed and then have to readjust one's thinking.

I, too, have had a long interest in the Holocaust. I was in the play "Diary of Anne Frank" in 8th grade. I have not done the research that you have; however, I have read some of the material out there. One very interesting novel about WWII is "Gone to Soldiers" by Marge Piercy.

Thank you for your work.

Cheryl Alexander cbear@quadra.net


Dear Mr. Wallace:

Your site is very nice and was very useful in helping me find information on the Auschwitz death camp. Your pix are good and your essay too.

Thanx again for having such a wonderful site. Bye Bye.

Sincerely,

D.J Rothenberg


Dear Mr. Wallace:

I am doing an assignment on Auschwitz for my history class of Nazi Germany and i would just like to say that your page has been the best source i have yet found. Your help is greatly appreciated. Thankyou.

Kate Agouridis


Dear Mr. Wallace:

I have been using the national curriculum known as Facing History and Ourselves to teach my eighth grade students about the Holocaust and genocide. Your alphabet echoed many of the themes that we have been studying and discussing. It is an extremely well done analysis. Why is there no mention of Rwanda under other genocide? Thank you for taking the time to create what must have been a painful project.

Sincerely,
Susan Barnes ACBARNES3@prodigy.net


Miscellaneous

Dear Mr. Wallace:

Years ago I read an essay by an R G Cleveland (I think his name was) that described categories of personality in terms of their interaction with their society or government. Recently I ran across that article again in the Feb 1973 "Analog" magazine, and decided to go hunting for more by the same author.

I haven't had much luck. Someone by that name appeared in a bibliographical reference ("Dukler, A. E., M. Wicks III and R. G. Cleveland (1964), 'Frictional Pressure Drop in Two-Phase Flow -- B. An Approach Through Similarity Analysis', A. I. Ch. E. J. v 10, p. 44."), but until I ran across http://www.spectacle.org/896/letters.html today I found nothing closer.

But on that page is a letter or essay entitled "The Fork in the Path Called Hiroshima", by W.R. Carter, that refers to the Tribesman, Barbarian and Citizen. I'd like to contact M. Carter and find out whether s/he can point me to other materials by Cleveland. Do you have Carter's email address, or can you pass mine on? Thanks.

Bob Bridges bridger@wellsfargo.com


Dear Mr. Wallace:

You may be interested to know that I have placed several links to articles contained on your site from the Web site for Xero magazine, at http://www.xeromag.com.

Xero magazine is a small-press, underground magazine of art, photography, fiction, and poetry. A recent issue contained an editorial about the politics of feminism and pornography, and was prompted by several letters we received at Xero after one of our issues was published. The editorial itself can be found online at http://www.xeromag.com/v1i3ed.html (or by following the links to Excerpts -> Prose -> The Politics of Women).

As I was perusing your site, it occurred to me that the editorial itself might be something that would be of interest to you, and you might wish to link to it or reprint it (or at least take a look at it), so I thought I'd drop you this line. In any event, at least you've picked up some inbound links, which is always good. :)

Franklin TacitR@aol.com


Dear Mr. Wallace:

I am pleased to find your site "The Ethical Spectacle" an interesting read. I certainly am supportive of honest dialog and discussion relating to the uncovering and exposing of Truth.

However, while I may be over-reacting, it appears to me that you have appropriated the term "ethical" to be used simply as a definition of what you (or your authors) find to be correct. Certainly you would agree that the study of ethics ("right behavior") tends to go beyond (and beneath) a predominate viewpoint on the world - yours clearly being more toward the far left. Stated another way, what is identified in your collected essays as "ethical" is catagorized without supporting arguments. WHY something is ethical or unethical (what the fundamental principles behind that thought might be) is more important to me than the conclusions drawn.

Again, thank you for your web site....

John Truslow truslow@aol.com


Dear Mr. Wallace:

Apropos of your article on gay people in the military:

You wrote:

Being fit for the military is a binary switch: there is not really anything in the world which makes you unfit for military service, or anything else, only if it is known.

Sounds good...seems to make sense...unfortunately, not true.

Let's get past the surface. Let's get past the upper levels of this issue and get to the real issue behind this. When you strip away all the civil-rights grandstanding, and the pre-prejudice against the military, you find that the don't-ask, don't tell policy is indeed the only reasonable solution to what is the CORE problem with gays in the military.

It's not about the so-called binary issues. Gays are just as smart, just as strong, just as fast, and just as capable of killing or being killed as anyone else. Here's a big suprise--that's NOT the issue.

The issue is morale.

Now, let's not jump to conclusions about military folks having low morale because they are bigoted and prejudiced against gays. The parallel with blacks doesn't hold here, because the morale problem with gays is NOT about some people in the military being bigoted against gays. Even if everyone accepted the gay lifestyle and had no problems with it, the morale problem associated with gays in the military would still exist.

It's not about that they can't do the job, and it's not about that some people are bigoted against them.

The problem is with sex and culture, and the culture of sex.

People not associated with the military either forget, or just don't have a sense of what life in the military is like. Even those who have obtained high rank, forget much of what it's like for the grunt-level bulk of the military. As the proportion of military members who are married gets ever-larger, even they begin to lose sight of what the real problem is.

If gays in the military is not a morale problem, then forcing teenage boys & girls, just out of high-school to be naked in the shower together isn't any big thing. That's the problem.

Stop and think about it for a minute. Just forget the politics and all the knee-jerk reactions you may have regardless of what political party you may be associated with. Stop and really think.

The military is 24/7. For the younger troops (18 & 19) they are living (that's living, all of it 24/7, not just working) in a barracks and having to take showers together. This is the issue. Don't trivialize it. Don't think it's nothing. Don't think, "oh, they can deal with it."

Most people when they think about gays in the military, they try and relate working conditions to their own job. You know, how would I feel if the guy in the cubical next to me is gay. No problem, right? Unfortunately, to really think about this issue, you must think further. You don't just work with your co- workers, you LIVE with them. You know, all day as you work, that later on, you'll all go home together and get in the shower with them... How would you feel about showering with your female co-workers everyday. (Let's get past the false bravado, and really think about the self-conciousness here) What about the women? How do you think they are feeling about it?

If boys and girls were raised from birth to use the same bathrooms and shower together throughout their lives, then maybe...just maybe...gays in the military might work. But they're not! You can't take 18 year- olds conditioned in a society one way, and then throw them together and say, "Okay, now don't have any trouble with this..."

The military is NOT a place to experiment with social conditions. It is only okay to have gays in the military when there are no longer any female-only, and men-only restrooms in the country. When there aren't seperate male and female locker-rooms in highschool, or the gym, or at the stadium. When it's okay for male reporters to interview female athletes in the shower. You must change society first, so that children are raised to not be self-concious about their naked bodies in front of others who may or may not be oogling them. Are we really ready for that as a society.

And, oh please, let's not trot out that tired old come-back about if there's a disciplinary problem then the offender should be punished. This is a morale problem, not a criminal case.

Go into the office the next morning and announce, "From now on, for cleanliness sake, everyone, males and females must take a shower together, all at once, when we first meet in the morning. Now if anyone gets out of hand, or says anything, or leers while they're are in the shower, then they will be disciplined."

I'm sure that'll solve all the women's anxieties, and nobody would have any problem with it... yeah, right.

We're talking real world here, not some academic discussion. Just think about it.

If taking a shower with someone who may be apprasing your body sexually, someone you don't know, don't care for, who's bigger, isn't a problem, then the millions of dollars being spent to renovate Navy ships for women is a waste of taxpayer's money. The man and women sailors should just have to share the same bunks, and share the same bathrooms and showers. It's costing millions to fix the ships...why?

Everyday. Not just once or twice a year. Everyday. You don't just work with each other, you live with them. Look around you...you live with your co-workers. Whether you like them or not. Was that bump accidental, or was it a copped feel... You can't just ignore it and avoid the person... You'll be showering together...later. Oh... Will I keep my mind on my work, or will I be dreading the shower that comes later. Everyday.

Have gays been in the military? Yes. Did they do fine? Yes. Are they patriotic and just as capable with a weapon? Yes.

I'm in the shower, and someone walks in...I've never seen them before. If they're female I know it. But if they're male do I know if they're gay? No. I automatically assume that they're straight. I don't WANT to get myself self-concious unnecessarily. The problem with the new person in the shower, isn't that they are gay...it's only if I KNOW that they are gay...now I'm self-concious. Men and women could shower together all day long, and it wouldn't be a problem if we didn't know they were the opposite sex...but we do. And that's the problem.

If I don't ask, and nobody tells, then it isn't a problem. But if I know who in the organization is gay ahead of time, and I know that later that same day, we'll be showering together...I've a morale problem. I haven't been raised in a society that allows that kind of mixing without self-conciousness. Don't trivialize this. These are 18 and 19 year-olds. People who don't live the military-barrack's lifestyle don't appreciate the complex social and sexual dynamics that are at play there.

If gays are to be in the military, then we must fix society FIRST, so that the social conditioning is set to not cause morale problems in the military. When you only have unisex locker-rooms and showers at the local high-school, then, and only then, can you begin to discuss allowing open homosexuality in the military. I haven't seen a lot of people clamoring for the money saving effort of unisex locker-rooms throughout America.

Let's get off our high-horses and out of our Ivory towers.

Irving irving@gnt.net

The problem seems to be that if gay people are allowed in the shower with you, you'll start thinking about what they may be thinking. It seems like the solution to that problem is, don't think about it. And that is a less restrictive alternative than barring them from the military.


Dear Mr. Wallace,

My name is Andrew Spaudie and I have only visited your site for the first time today. I was actually searching for the scorpion anecdote and happened along to your homepage. I like very much the approach you take to issues, because I immediately sense that you attempt to remove the charged atmosphere surrounding an issue and reduce it to its most atomic yet still tangible blocks. Not that you do not have your own perspective, glasses which color your world differently from other onlookers, but I sense you have attempted to counter this effect as much as possible. Obviously you examine an issue with special attention to the spirit of the law rather than the letter of the law, which I commend and am sad to say that I was surprised about. I am all too often disappointed by the lack of careful, academic inspection and evaluation of issues in today's editorials and mass media, not to mention the unethical conduct that our current judicial system and American society in general tolerates in regards to individual responsibility and intolerance. You have refreshed my confidence in the human spirit, and I look forward to reading further. Bravo.

Andrew Spaudie AJSpaudie@mail.geocities.com


Dear Jonathan:

I'm sitting at my computer (in rural Nova Scotia)searching the net, and I just chanced upon "The Ethical Spectacle". I read your mission statement and continued on to read, "About Jonathan Wallace". Your bio struck me from several angles and I felt compelled to write. First of all, I am forty-four years old and, like you, have always been interested in ethics. My family and I are not affiliated with any particular church, but, like you, go to a variety of places of worship.

Your quote about law school struck me as well. Our fifteen-year- old son wants to be a lawyer and dreams of going to Harvard (or at least to Dalhousie University here at home). Like his mother, he dreams of making the world a better place, but I worry that he will "enter law school talking about right and wrong, and leave ..." I once heard that same sentiment phrased this way: "Someone stole justice and hid it in the law." For an altruist, the legal profession seems a tough road.

My third connection with your website involves my profession. At present, I am doing some Masters work on ethics in education. I have a dream that's yet to be fulfilled - I am a disillusioned public school teacher who has spent the past two years developing a plan for an alternative school. Gandhi's statement applies to me. If I wish to see the kind of school where kids will be able to grow as total human beings, I (and my small but motivated group of like-minded colleagues) must create that school.

In the meantime, I teach grade nine and am currently discussing sexuality with my students in a course called "Personal Development and Relationships". One approach we have taken with this topic is making ethical decisions. Finding your "Ethical Spectacle" was a professional coup. It will become an invaluable resource.

In another course, we are looking at Hitler's reign of terror. Your review of "Hitler's Willing Executioners" opened my eyes. Wide. I *will read that book; then I'll be able to put the holocaust into perspective at last. Previous explanations of the Germans' ignorance did not make sense to me.

I want to thank you for your website. I'm sure you are touching lives that you will never know about. I wanted you to know that you've touched mine.

Best regards, Mary Mac Donald dmmd@atcon.com