Letters To The Ethical Spectacle

August was a quiet month for me, though a dispiriting one for the country. I read Tristram Shandy, an eighteenth century novel with definite hypertext qualities (genial disregard of time and linearity, random linking of ideas) and worked on some more hyperfiction of my own. Most memorable movie I saw this month: Smoke Signals, the first film written and directed by native Americans. Funny, engaging, and a perfect antidote to the long line of films in which minorities are seen through the eyes of a noble white man. Dances With Wolves is the most relevant example; I have written about this trend in my review of Schindler.

Speaking of movies: I didn't much like Wag the Dog, nor do I think the President bombed Afghanistan and Sudan solely as a distraction from his problems. But when you have to give a few moments' thought to the possibility, while the President thrashes in a web of tawdry behavior and meaningless apology, something's very wrong.

Reports in the last few days suggest that the pharmaceutical factory we bombed in the Sudan was only that; it wasn't a military facility, wasn't financed by bin Laden, and a nerve gas ingredient wasn't made there. U.S. intelligence has been remarkably unreliable for many years in assessing threats, or even spotting them. The President's choice of this target raises moral issues more serious than the Lewinsky case, but has received almost no public attention.

I live for email. You can reach me at jw@bway.net.

The Press and Starr
Dear Jonathan,

Excellent piece on Starr and the press. I'm real concerned about my former colleagues in the press not seeing how seriously they are damaging an already severely damaged credibility by reporting on the "leaks" story as if they did not know one side of it.

Paul McMasters pmcmasters@freedomforum.org

Dear Jonathan:

Regarding your article about the Press and Starr... Are you criticizing the press or Starr? Are you saying the media is protecting Starr by not disclosing that they sourced their story on a leak? You cite "Content" as your source of this information. From what I have read, Brill's magazine is little else but a thinly disguised Hollywood financed gossip rag which is wholly in the Clinton camp. That is about as objective as saying it must be true because James Carville says so....

Clinton's publicity team...being just about the whole of the "media", including Hollywood, has demonized Judge Starr by slinging such accusations of leaks, and yet, Starr is prohibited from defending himself. Instead, Starr is rapidly (as is possible considering the frivolous and pathetic court delays by the Clintonistas) bringing this thing to a fruition. It will indeed be interesting when he speaks to the press and the people. Keep in mind, he will not be addressing many of the scandals ongoing, such as Janet Reno's refusal to act on the recent FBI report which allegedly indicates that the White House was at the top of the illegal Chinese campaign contributions... It will be good stuff to watch unfold however. Making Starr the object of criticism, instead of the miscreants he is investigating is the only defense these people have. Mis-direction and obfucation are frequently good defenses, witness the O.J. affair, but hardly a tactic a self proclaimed "deep thinker" such as you, Jonathan, should be susceptible to....but then, you are after all, a liberal.

Bob Wilson<

Dear Mr. Wallace,

Mr. Brill's subsequent admission that he contributed to the Democrats and Clinton's campaign made me wonder just how much of a "hit piece" (my words) this supposedly "excellent" (your word) article was. With Dan Rather, Peter Jennings, and Geraldo Rivera pushing the administration's story full time, I can only say that I must consider adding Mr. Brill to the list.

And a "Via a whispering campaign, Starr has created an extensive cloud of suspicion around people he will never indict, many of whom have committed no crime." PLEASE. Where is your condemnation of the shouting campaign to discredit Kathleen Willey, who committed no crime? Please don't try to tell me that Ken Starr is responsible for the trashing of her reputation. No, you save your indignation for Ken Starr, and give a free ride to the character assassins at 1600 Pensylvania Avenue. "The ETHICAL Spectacle?" I'm beginning to wonder.

David Block drblock@airmail.net

Dear Mr. Wallace:

Hallo! Sure, the press who were the receivers of Starr's leaks reported impartially about them--they only had one side of the issue--STARR'S! They already had proven themselves to be Starr-friendly, which was why he chose THEM to do the dirty deed. What did you expect them to do, bite the hand that fed them the illegal bits of info? Get a grip. Your article doesn't make a lot of sense, to me. I mean here is an extremely biased "Independent" Counsel feeding hand-picked highly partisan reporters edited pieces of info from Secret Grand Jury hearings: so what can possibly be impartial about it at all? I'd love a reply. Thank you.

Carole Larsen ncsophie@dnet.net

Bob Wilson on Southern Baptists
Dear Mr. Wallace:

Bob Wilson writes:

My question is, where's the threat? Liberals have their lifestyles. The Baptists did not say that non-Southern Baptists women must "submit" to their husbands. They did not say that non-Baptist wives must be nurturing and manage the household. I say, it is their church, and as long as free will dictates membership, whose business is it to criticize? How come those liberals in the media who assail conservatives as being intolerant of others find such license to criticize the religious beliefs of others?

I don't count myself as a "Liberal" -- Like many on the 'net, I don't think any media-coined buzzword describes my political beliefs. But I join with "Liberals" in criticism of the self-declared position of the Southern Baptists.

I take issue with it from a number of viewpoints, and I can't really prioritize them to declare which one I believe to be more important, but here are a couple to ponder on:

As long as Southern Baptists count the President of the United States as a member, command the support of a significant portion of congress, and openly espouse the belief that their members should be active in the political process to shape the world more like their peculiar vision of utopia, I believe it is the duty of every free citizen to voice loud and strong opposition to those parts of their beliefs which assault liberty.

And Southern Baptists *do* assault liberty: Almost a man (women don't count, apparently), they support the CDA (and CDA-II), they vote to restrict abortion rights, they enact child porn legislation which counts hand-drawn paintings from the imagination of an artist as pornography, they support a constitutional amendment which could outlaw flag-burning, they condemn what they call "judicial activism" (what I call "justice" -- "I say tomayto, you say tomahto") and they support forced school prayer.

All of those measures apply whether you're a Southern Baptist or not, so for Mr. Wilson to say that there is no threat of having Baptist religious beliefs enforced upon you if you're not a baptist is a profound mistruth. I'd suggest that he examine his loyalties and reassess his criticism of us critics.

Mark Newton newton@atdot.dotat.org

Dear Mr. Wallace:

Someone needs to tell Bob that the Southern Baptist Convention does not speak for all southern baptists and there are some women (and men) who are southern baptists who wish these loudmouths would shut their ignorant mouths and stop dictating their personal beliefs as if they should be law for everyone in the churches they supposedly represent.


Born Southern Baptist but got a brain and got over it!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Dear Mr. Wallace:


I have just been looking at the Ethical Spectacle website as part of my Master of Arts research paper on the use of filtering software. It is a very informative site and has been bookmarked!!

I'm very interested in your book and would like to know if it is available in the UK, as it seems to be out of print at the moment.

Many Thanks for your time

Sara Ellis Sara@projectne.co.uk

Hey folks, If my 12 year old is stopped from seeing a few "respectable" sites because the censoring software is not sophsticated enough to weed throught the smut... So be it. You are making a big deal out of nothing.

Shawn & Nancy Healey shealey@pottsville.infi.net

An Auschwitz Alphabet
Dear Mr. Wallace:

I just wanted to drop a quick line, and tell you how refreshing your newsletter is. Thanks for putting it together.

I found it because I was looking for information on Gypsies. I am one of those curious people who get an idea and go nuts researching it. Well, I found the info on the holocaust... very very good info.

Then I went back to see the rest of the newsletter.. and enjoyed it very much...

So... thanks! Keep up the good work!

Lin R. dazey@harborside.com

Dear Jonathan:

Thank you so much for writing this alphabet. I am a 22 yr old male, living in New Zealand with my partner and 2yr old son. I read your piece, mostly out of interest in certain parts of history. I could never comprehend the amount of human suffering that went on, how people could be treated like cattle and regarded as waste. My emotions were stired when I read about what happened to the children as, I, myself am a father and I would protect my son, even if it meant my own life, the fathers at this camp did not even have this, their rights stripped of them.

We must not, cannot, sweep history under the mat.

Thank you Jonathan.

Lars Karl Madsen lars.jane@xtra.co.nz

Dear Mr. Wallace:

I am writing to say that I found your site extremely thought provoking and interesting.

You seem to be an authority on the subject of Auschwitz already, but if you have not already read it, could I recommend a book called "The Password Is Courage" which is the wartime biography of av English soldier named Charles Coward.

The second part of the book describes the time he was a P.O.W. in a camp attached to Auschwitz and you may find it interesting especially in relation to your chapters on escape and resistance.

By the way, Sergeant Coward was given the distinction of being made a Righteous Gentile for his efforts after the war ended.

Best regards,

Gary Rodaway GaryRodaway@cableinet.co.uk

Jonathan: Special thanks to your uncle, (and my first cousin), Sy Schechtman, who, while referring me to his article in the current issue of the Ethical Spectacle, directed me to a vibrant source of meaningful intellectual stimulation, something that remains essential in my eighth decade of life.

I find myself in that "rare" (which I do not accept) category who cannot accept "God" as a viable premise, but embody "compassion, tolerance and respect " for others. Being a physician who cares for those less fortunate in the social and economic hierarchy of our society, I am imbued with a constant reminder to effectively practice these traits.

I have just registered to receive your publication and congratulate you for your dedication to the principles that you espouse.

Matthew O. Locks molocks@sprintmail.com

Dear Jonathan:

I'd like to bring to the attention of your organization the more than a year and a half struggle to create an unmoderated newsgroup on the Bahai Faith. Many members and non-members of the Bahai Faith believe there has been a pervasive and systematic effort to oppose the creation of talk.religion.bahai by both individual Bahais and the Bahai administration. The THIRD attempt will begin after the end of this month on news.groups and alt.religion.bahai.

Your members that might be interested in this area of religious freedom and free speech might find interesting the current discussion on alt.religion.bahai or the extensive files on my web site.

I and many other Bahais would appreciate any assistance or advice your members might be able to offer.

Thank you.

Frederick Glaysher fglaysher@hotmail.com

...The Bahai Faith & Religious Freedom of Conscience: http://members.tripod.com/~fglaysher/index.htm
Subscription & archive: http://www.findmail.com/listsaver/bahai-faith/

Dear Mr. Wallace:

The home link on your main page refers to the February 1998 issue instead of the current issue.

Other then that, keep up the good work. I'm been reading for quite awhile, and although I don't agree with everything you put forth, it does give me quite a bit to think about.

Also, I just want to thank you for bringing the Kevin Mitnick story to more peoples attention. It seemed that for the first 3 years no one except hackers seemed to give a damned about the blatant civil rights violations that are occurring in this case.

The judicial system does know have the expertise to be able to handle the issues that are brought up in technical cases. They cannot fully understand what is going on.

Spite I can understand, I have trouble dealing with ignorance.

But now I'm off on a tangent...

Really only started this to tell you about the link....

Oh well... Later......

Rob rjsheehy@zebra.com

Dear Mr. Wallace:

The media is shortchanging our public by not discussing the potential blackmail implications of a President's bad behavior. Many of our citizens have obviously not considered this issue. It is the media's duty to discuss the blackmail aspect of behavior if they truly are interested in thorough, balanced coverage of the President's alleged sexual indiscretions and lack of truthfulness.

Americans should be very concerned about the national security and political implications of our President's "personal" behavior. Any potentially embarrassing or illegal activity engaged in by an official of the government or military leadership creates a dangerous vulnerability to exploitation. Individuals entrusted with classified information or political power must be expected to avoid such indiscretions to protect against blackmail by foreign or domestic political or economic special interests. As an example, intelligence organizations make some of their biggest gains by exploiting embarrassing or illegal behavior. While occupying a position of special trust a person must accept the fact that the position dictates the boundaries of personal behavior and at times this may require personal restraint beyond that expected of the average citizen.

Finally, we should not look to other countries or cultures for examples of political leaders' accepted indiscretions to justify the bad behavior of our own leaders. America was built on the concept that we should endeavor to be the model for the world in moral behavior of all kinds. Doing the right thing has been the hallmark of our country since it's inception. Our president should strive to personify our ideals. A president can't be perfect but should certainly avoid blatant crude behavior while in office. Special trust demands special behavior.

Kenneth Ness, Lt Colonel, USAF (Ret) ness@netshel.net

Dear Mr. Wallace,

I just checked out your website, it is very, very impressive. Can you please tell me who Richard Foreman is, and where I can find out more about him? Thanks very much,


Jenny LaFauci TizzyYaYa@aol.com

Richard Foreman is a playwright who typically premiers one funny, surrealist play per year off-Broadway in New York City. His latest was Benita Canova earlier this year. The Ethical Spectacle motto, "Noticing that no-one held the values I defended, I decided to make a spectacle of myself," is from a play of the early 1980's, Egyptology.