Letters To The Ethical Spectacle

Dear Jonathan:

Regarding Night thoughts About Iraq:

In one sense your analogy of searching for the key by the light of a lamp (and I thought all this time it was a drunkard and not the Wise Man of Chelm looking for the key) is right. Iraq was a convenient next stop on the road to fight Islamofascism. Was it a direct attack? Not really, but it was certainly responded to by Al Qaeda and other Islamofascists as though it was. It was, in a sense, similar to Operation Torch in North Africa by the Allies in World War Two. It was not an attack on Germany proper but it was an attack against them none the less which was responded to by the Germans.

And I think that you are right with regards to Pakistan and OBL hiding out there, assuming that he is still alive. Pakistan's leadership is weak and fragile.

And if one does not think this is a new world war then his head is buried in the sand. And your concern on how to fight this war is a real concern. And that is the real concern for me as well.

The battles we must fight must be on two levels. But first we must realize that Islamofascism permeates the entire fabric of Islam.

Radical Wahabism holds that you can do absolutely anything--lie, steal, kill children, kill your fellow Sunnis--with God's approval if it is in pursuit of "jihad". There is a brutal, simplistic appeal in this kind of a religion--you can satisfy all the basest impulses with God's permission and gratitude

The problem with the above quote is the adjective 'Radical' to the noun Wahabism. Wahabism is now mainstream in Islam. The majority of mosques in the world are funded by the Saudis and manned by Wahabi Imans. Thus, for example, the "traditionally moderate" Islam of Indonesia has evolved into a Wahabi version.

(I've put scare quotes around "traditionally moderate" because I am always amazed how frequently and how rapidly such "flavors" of Islam become hardcore. And Shi'ites clearly are not restricted in their pursuit of Jihad - which in the Quran clearly means fighting, i.e. warfare, against all those standing in the way of Allah. And "standing in the way" includes verbal arguments. Thus when Muslims say they are only allowed to fight "defensive" wars they rarely state that they are allowed and are willing to use force against those who are merely speaking against Islam.

In a sense Islam is a personality cult, though Moslems would deny it. But most would say that Mohammed is the perfect man and one to emulate in all ways. Thus for example when Khomeini took over the reins of power in Iran in 1979 one of the first laws he changed was the age of marriage for girls to the age of nine. This was done because Mohammed married his favorite wife when she was six and consummated the marriage when she was nine. And if he could do it, and since he was to be emulated, every one should be able to be a pedophile.)

In brief while most Moslems are not terrorists, many if not most Moslems share the goals of Sharia in the Western states they live in though few actively support terrorists and even fewer become terrorists.

Thus the first level we must fight on is ideological. And to fight there must be a definition of why we fight. This has not been done publicly and is a major deficiency of the Bush administration. Doing so would be totally politically incorrect and bring on a firestorm of criticism but from the beginning I thought it was wrong not to do so.

The second level is the land battle which in Iraq has become static. Terrorism can certainly be carried out by independent freelancers and can be quite fearsome. But without a state sponsor it lacks the ability to project and to plan and succeed in frequent, complex, large scale actions. That is one of the reasons why there has not been repeat terrorism on the scale of 9/11 but paroxysmal bombings as occurred in Madrid and London and Bali. But another reason for the lack of large scale terrorism is the focus on Iraq by the present day active state sponsor of terrorism which is Iran aided and abetted by Syria.

The problem with your Operation Market Garden analogy is that while it was a failure, there was never a disengagement from the battlefield of Western Europe. Leaving Iraq would not be a setback to be made up by attacking elsewhere or else when but an outright defeat with consequences that would reverberate in the Islamic world that would adversely affect America and probably bring down Europe either into true Eurabia or turn it fascist.

Much like the Allies needed to cross the Rhine to defeat Nazism we must cross the ideological barrier preventing us from directly confronting the ideology of Islam and its malignant strains and cross the land barriers to carry our fight to the other state sponsors of Islamofascism.



Dear J. W.,

I was on your website and resonated with your biography. The search for integrity of character and the power of nonviolent peacemaking needs all of us, all of us! I'm working at it in the church scene; it's not easy, but it has to be done.

John Stoner


Dear Mr. Wallace:

I ran accross a very old review of the movie Interview with the Vampire on your site, and I felt compelled to respond, despite that fact that I'm sure this has all been hashed over long since.

Reading your essay was a strange experience for me, because I agree with so many of your well-expressed sentiments and positions, and yet disagree with your focal conclusion.

I'm focussing more on our differencess here because thats more interesting, but you made especially good points about culture being influenced by media, about the fact that women have not received the same level of protection as ethnic minorities have in media (although they may not *want* the same protection), and about the fact that morality is a function of culture not of law, and therefore public opinion is a far more appropriate venue for ethical change.

I also more-or-less agree with your classification of Interview as porn, tho really it was more erotica. Porn is direct, simple, explicit imagery whereas erotica is about ideas, emotions, experience. Interview showed no sex and very little nudity, and was complex, its themes and events only obliquely evoking eroticism.

For that matter, even the violence was very understated, considering the subject matter and plot (like any Rambo movie, every development in the storyline involved death in some way - and yet it was not a splatterfest, showed little or no combat. this movie was all story, attitude, emotion).

While you're right in saying, "Definitions of pornography are notoriously difficult", I must object to ".. material designed to induce sexual excitement, which communicates the right of a human being to use physical force and violence against others in pursuit of fulfillment." For the vast majority of what most would define as porn, the first statement is true, the second is not.

For me, the most disturbing element was the pedophilic theme. On the surface, a central story element was a child being used as a manipulative gift-toy from one powerful male to another. And that certainly was the intent of the initiating character.

And yet the reality is that for most of her screen time, despite the stunted growth of her body, this character is an experienced empowered person fully capable of killing her 'abusive father' and leading her 'lover' around by the nose.. Thus the statement, "a movie in which women are mindless objects who court and deserve death.", is disproved. (although one could make the case that the on-stage killing suggests that young, dumb women are attracted to danger if it looks like Antonio Banderas) This is a *vampire* movie - its not about humans. Humans -both male and female- are merely prey in this mileu. Of vampire characters (which don't have sex and really not much gender except what they *fake* in order to pass among humans) theres only one central 'female' character and shes anything but mindless or seeking death. Shes got her own agenda and knows how to accomplish it. Yes, she dies in the end - but so do nearly all the other vampires but one - the one whos represented as having a human heart.

BTW I think it worthy of note that the most avid fans of this movie - the goth crowd - tend to be dominated by the women - especially in sexual matters - probably more so than in any other American subculture or minority.

The fact that theres a clear sadomasochistic theme in the movie, while it would arguably justify keeping it out of sight of the kiddies, does not at all justify the statement "this is a movie that should never have been made.

The S&M crowd -and by this I mean those people who have happy families & careers, with healthy equal relationships and also have a taste for carefully regulated bedroom games that involve some peculiar forms of power exchange - ie nothing criminal, unethical or nonconsentual - have a right to their fables just as much as the rest of us do. I could point to *lots* of other stories out there that have similar levels of erotic overtones and similar levels of worthless or negative images that simply cater to different tastes but are at least as damaging, and nobody bats a eye because the tastes they pander to are considered more "mainstream". And most of these movies lack the redeeming qualities of Interview - some thematic points that are worth looking at, some great writing and acting, and technical excellence - in other words, good art, done with love.

From the point of view of damage to society, these others are far more of a threat - because more people actually identify wtih them - and thus should be much further up on the list of "stories that shouldn't be told"

If I was drawing up that list, It would include at least half of what hollywod puts out every year. ie Interview would be at least half way down the list of hollywood output, ranked by how 'damaging'.

And if you, I and another half dozen people representing a full cross-section of American attitudes all got to axe the ones we wouldn't want, hollywood would be reduced from a multi-billion$/year industry to putting out about 3 movies a year. Quite aside from the fact that the politicians would never allow so many jobs to be lost, I for one would mourn the loss of art. For, despite the fact that I do believe that more than half of what hollywood puts out is garbage, I still believe that some if it is art. And I also know that no two people entirely agree about what is good art. I'll put up with the existence of the crud in order not to have my art censored too much.

So, like you, rather than try to outlaw things, I try to influence peoples attitudes.

(although I do think the ratings system should be changed, so its geared toward violence at least as much as it is to sex)

BTW as a footnote, I really have to object to this statement: "..the majority finds it socially unacceptable to engage publicly in race or religious hatred." I can't think of a single person I know, whos black or asian or gay or polyamorous or muslim or of any other minority who would agree with you.

however, as a barometer of whitebread male opinions, you may find this review heartening. What it says to me is that this movie was not really aimed at the mainstream. As with any good freak show, theyre allowed to pay their money and gawk for a bit. It was made by the freakies for the freakies, not intended to be relevant to the mainstream. for the most part, they'd just be bored.

John Voldal

I am not proud of this essay, which in retrospect I think has a hysterical, over-the-top tone. I especially am embarassed by the title I chose. Calling something of this nature "pornography" is a choice I wouldn't have tolerated from anyone else. In general, the use of the word "pornography" in a rhetorical denunciation of a film, novel, etc. translates only into: "I declare myself the winner of this argument". Which is a rather useless statement, as well as being an impermissible debate tactic.

I think I started the essay from a reasonable proposition, that the movie postulated a class of (somewhat) human beings with a right to torment and kill others and therefore promoted violence against women and against people in general.After that, things got way out of hand.

The reason I don't ever edit or delete past work--my own or others--is that the Spectacle, like a print newspaper on microfilm in the public library, is a snapshot both ot the writers' minds and the times in which they wrote. If we went back and revised microfilm, we would be taking a Soviet/Orwellian approach to the past. The ease with which HTML can be changed does not excuse such tampering.

This essay is one of the top three I ever wrote in terms of the amount of reader response it continues to generate, year after year. These emails are mainly from young women who adore the Vampire series and who revile me, often in startlingly personal terms, for not liking the movie. Many of these correspondents launch into extensive flights of logic to explain why the vampires have the right to behave the way they do, or even why the scene in which a young woman is stripped naked and then killed is not really violent, or sadistic.

One thing I have experienced on several memorable occasions writing for the Spectacle is glimpses into subcultures I never imagined existed. One of my goals (I should add this to my bio) is to be able to say, with Terence, that "nothing human is alien to me". To understand does not mean to endorse, but simply to know that the differences between us and the people who frighten or horrify us are vanishingly small, and that in rejecting or disagreeing with them we must refrain from portraying them as not human. I think I forgot this a little when I wrote my review of "Interview".

Well Jonathan I have just read your work here on Spielberg. I'm not shore when you did this but I don't think you have seen much or any of his movies, or at least payed attention to them wile watching

I've seen most of his movies including saving privet Ryan and empire of the sun I think they are both great movies

And you say Spielberg is trying to send messages out that other races are evil or some kind of crap like that.

Like in saving privet Ryan. Where you say that the germen soldier comes back and kills a number of troops that Spared his life. And that Spielberg was trying to make germen soldiers look like scum. That is crap, just because Spielberg is Jewish it does not mean he hates germens. And as for him trying to make the germen soldiers look like scum it is like any other movie, there is a bad or not so good person and besides it was that one germen troop in the movie that's killed the person that spared him. The moral or message Spielberg was obviously trying to make in this movie was to show people how horrific ww2 was and that both sides suffered tragic numbers of men. Not to try tell people how bad germens where. Both Americans and germens had violent men in ww2. And any where you go you will find bad people.

It seems to me that you just don't like Steven Spielberg or Jewish people them self.