Letters to The Ethical Spectacle

In compiling this month's letters column, I used Word '98 for the first time, and I'm mad as hell. I do my own HTML, and this arrogant program tampered with it. I had to spend an extra half hour editing out changes the software made which screwed the file up---encapsulating HTML tages to display them in the finished result, making my graphic larger than I intended, adding tags I didn't need or want. I used to wrestle with earlier versions of Word, when they made educated but wrong guesses about how much text I wanted to highlight, etc. This is worse by an order of magnitude. Software whose declared intention, I suppose, is to anticipate the user's needs ends up substituting its judgment for the user's. Creating this letters column in Word was like wrestling with a stubborn collaborator. In the future I will trick the system by not giving the file an html suffix while editing it.

A gratifying number of people this month took the time to send along a "thanks, keep up the good work" note. Thank you, you are the reward for the time and energy it takes to turn out the Spectacle.

Jonathan Wallace


Really fine essay JW!

Bob Wilson

Dark Starr

Dear Jonathan: I enjoyed Janette Rainwater's hysterical recounting of why Clinton has been the victim of Hillary's "vast right wing conspiracy." She put a great deal of work on that piece. Fiction is always more difficult to create than fact. One snippet seems particularly relevant however. She wrote "...Such insufficient identification is dishonest." Who is Janette Rainwater? Is she also "declarin wowah" on Kenneth Starr?

Bob Wilson

Dear Mr. Wallace:

I sent this letter to the Ft. Worth Star-Telegram:

More than once, the elite pundits have pointed out that Clinton should have settled with Paula Jones a long time ago and avoided this situation, which I suppose refers to the allegations from Judge Starr. This cavalier attitude toward the Office of the President seems remarkably unreflective on the part of those journalists who are content with salacious rumors. If every President must be held accountable to anyone with a grudge and a lawyer who threatens the President to settle or be called a liar, he will essentially be serving at the pleasure of the civil courts. This is what we're watching played out this very day, and since the big media doesn't much care, we might hope that the Congress considers it intolerable - or it will be a sad day indeed.

Regards, Jack Howard

Dear Jonathan:

You wrote: (apropos of Congress legislating indecency on the Net while posting the Starr report):

Congress can't have it both ways.

Would that it were so. **sigh** I think a better end would have been "Congress is once again trying (and, if you do nothing different every November) succeeding in having it both ways.

Regards, Jim Ray jmr@shopmiami.com
DNRC Minister of Encryption Advocacy

Saving Steven Spielberg

Dear Jonathan:

Being a movie freak I completely agree that Spielberg should stay the fuck away from drama. However, I belive you've made an error when criticising his film Empire of the Sun. This is what you wrote:

"The first time I noticed this was in Empire of the Sun, which is by far his best movie. It is is about a young boy, separated from his parents in China during World War II, who survives on his own, first in the streets, then in an internment camp. Spielberg told this extremely dramatic story with a minimum of frills until a scene near the end. The boy, after escaping, returns to the now abandoned camp. He is eating an orange when a young Japanese soldier with whom he had been friendly pops into the frame and slices the orange with a sword.
Spielberg thus combines a "golly" moment with a manipulation. We are meant to think that the Japanese soldier is trying to kill the boy, but in reality he is protecting him from a wasp on the orange. This is unlikely enough in itself, but Spielberg also shows us a closeup, as the sword bisects the orange: it is bleeding. Golly! A bloody orange in this otherwise extremely realistic story is a false note. One Spielberg appears to be incapable of detecting."

As I recall it (note that I was very young when this movie came out, but I have a keen memory on this stuff), the japanese soldier, as he is cutting the orange, is being shot by enemies. The orange isn't bleeding, in fact it is the blood of the japanese soldier that flows down the sword into the orange.

Go rent it and see for yourself.

The Spectacle is in my view one of the very best sites on the web, and since we are on the movie topic I will close by quoting the movie Rollerball:

"Jonathan! Jonathan! Jonathan!"

Jens Matthies jens.matthies@nwt.se

Dear Jonathan Wallace:

I am writing to you because I am unable to access most of the pages of The Ethical Spectacle, presumably because my computer is old and my browser doesn't accept frames. I wondered whether they are published as text without frames?

I have very much enjoyed the sections of The Ethical Spectacle that I have managed to read, particularly your comments on Speilberg. It took me a long time to understand my dislike and distrust of Schindlers List, and I was pleased that you had reached very similar conclusions and spun them into a clear essay. I have only just seen Saving Private Ryan, so I'm not yet sure whether I agree with you about that. There are some sections of the film that were as cliche-ed and silly as you suggest, others that simply seemed laughable to a non-American, and yet others that were profoundly involving and moving. It was very strange to see a film that was simultaneously brilliant and ridiculous.

Anyway, I hope that I can get to read more of your work. If not, I shall simply have to wait until I can afford a new computer.


Josh Lacey josh@noemi.demon.co.uk

In the near future, Laurie Caro and I are planning to eliminate frames from the Spectacle's design. In the meantime, you can access any issue by going to the following URL:


For the date, enter three or four digits representing month and year, eg, 998 for September and 1198 for November.

This will get you to the top page for that issue, bypassing the frames.


Dear Jonathan:

Keep up the good work - for all of us.

good weekend

Michael J. Bushman mbushman@HK.Super.NET

Mr Wallace,

It is a shame that you would waste your apparent legal talent to make a case that exhalts your ideals above the welfare of our children. If for nothing else, those of us who care about how our money is spent are clearly opposed to children being given access to material that is quite damaging. I imagine that those who so desperately need pornography can pursue in other locations than the public libraries. You may want to apprise yourself of the damage that pornography and violence can have on children. Curiously, when was the last time your kids had a good dose of pornographic material?

Don't waste your brain

Freeman Chakara providence@Redrose.net

Dear Mr. Wallace:

While I am very much opposed to censorship of any kind, I think anybody who wishes to be "protected" from what they consider to be objectionable content by using blocking software is no more violating anybody else's free-speech rights than when they refuse to enter certain bookstores or avoid certain sections of bookstores. If critics such as yourselves make your objections known, potential buyers of the software will be better informed. That is all to the good. But if critics manage to prevent blocking software, purveyors and their clients will have even more reason to pressure the federal government into explicit censorship of the web. One of the main arguments used in opposing censorship is the existence of blocking software and its availability to those who object to incorrect thoughts and dangerous pictures.

Thomas V. Anderson tandersn@gate.net

An Auschwitz Alphabet

Dear Jonathan:

The photo you have up with the term Musselmanner is of Buchenwald or Dachau, not Auschwitz. The men in the photo are not Musselmen. They are obviously lucid, aware and not at all the walking dead. In fact Weisel is in the photo, though in your rendition he is unrecognizable. This photo was taken at liberation.

Please don't misunderstand. I think you are doing a good job. But this sort of mistake, honest though it is, is just the kind of thing the revisionists jump on.

All the best,

Alan Jacobs ajacobs@bravenewweb.com
Idea, A Journal of Social Issues http://www.bravenewweb.com/idea

Dear Mr. Wallace:

hello, my name is chad. I'm 13 and recentaly we have been studying about the holocaust and concentration camps. This subject has really caught my attention and i am always thinking of the people that got killed in auschwitz itself. I'm really in need for a picture of the whole outside of auschwitz. if you have one please email it to me. I truly am sorry that the germans treated you and your family like this. Thank you, and even if you don't have a picture I would still truly appreciate it if you emailed me back. I want you to understand that this is not a joke to me, I am very serious about this.


Dear Mr. Wallace:

I am a student at Syracuse University and am working on a research paper involving Auschwitz. While searching the internet I cam across your page as well as a page for CANDLES Museum, which stands for Children of Auschwitz Nazi Deadly Lab Experiments Survivors. On their website, (www.candles-museum.com) their founder, Eva Moses Kor (a Mengele twin survivor), has an interview with Hans Munch, a Doctor at Auschwitz who was written about by Lifton in the Nazi Doctors. I am unfamiliar with the book, but it seems to me to be the same man as Ernst B. You probably already know that, though. Just in case, I thought I'd let you know about the page. There's a really in-depth description of his story on the website. Just trying to help.

Bill Beard, Syracuse University, Syracuse NY

Dear Jon,

I just finished your Alphabet, and I find myself as I always do after reading or viewing anything about the death camps: physically and emotionally flattened.

I read of your conclusion that there is no god, and certainly that seems the most logical conclusion.

While I do not have all the answers, and do not really expect to convince you, I feel I must put in a word for His defense. Please forgive me if this becomes long-winded. I should also warn you that I am a Christian, so we add the complication of Jesus of Nazareth into the mix.

A personal god indeed could not stand by and watch millions of His creation brutalized if His relationship was a law-enforcement relationship. However, this is not His relationship with us.

If you see someone murder your friend in front of you, you may desire to go after him with your bare hands; however, that is not the way our system works, and neither is it God's, IMHO. You would want the courts to try him after the fact and see that justice was served. The law does not recognize anyone's right to kill for revenge. (It does allow the use of lethal force to prevent a crime, I know; more on that in a moment.) While you are not perfect and would attack the guy immediately, by definition God must be perfect and therefore would have to take the proper channels.

And there is another complication, which I believe answers the question of why God couldn't just be judge jury and executioner right then and there. God desires a love relationship with man. Love consists of allowing the other person to make their own choices, even if that means choosing against you. Love CANNOT exist without this requirement; it defines love. The old, "if you love someone set them free.." cliché. If God intervened when we were hurt or were in trouble, etc., we would not love Him for being God we would love Him for what He could do for us... and love isn't selfish, either, so that rules that option out.

It should also be pointed out that I continue to hear the phrase "innocent jews." The jews were no more innocent than you or I are. Fact is, in the glare of a perfect God, we all deserve hell now. Not only is our life a gift, but each breath continues to be another gift. As His creation, we don't "deserve" anything for Him... but He has bless us all so much that we get this crazy idea we have a right to a happy healthy long life. The jews in Nazi Germany didn't deserve that horror any MORE than anyone, but they didn't deserve it any LESS, either.

..And I would be willing to bet that Hitler or any of the other death-agents would happily trade their place in hell right now for a trip to one of the concentration camps.

God does not bring judgment now. We are judged at the end of our lives, but not now, because God's interference like that in our lives would eliminate the option of a love relationship with Him, and that's why we were created. I guarantee you, anyone who DID survive, if they still loved God, you can BET loved Him for who He is, not for what He can or cannot do for them.

See the shift in focus? You don't want to be loved for what you can do, you want to be loved for who you are; because you won't always be able to do what you can today, and the pressure to perform is awful. We are created in the image of God, and He has the same desire t be loved not for what He could do but rather for who He is.

Certainly He does at times intervene in our lives; but can you imagine how forcefully God would have had to interact with mankind to stop this? Hitler was determined, and those around and below him were just as determined. If we could see it from above, perhaps we would find that God DID intervene, by sending in the Allies and not allowing Hitler to take over the world. Not being able to see all of the possible outcomes, it's impossible for us to say.

Point is, a loving personal God doesn't have to be canceled out by the atrocities at Auschwitz. Whether you believe that my letter shows that or not...

...well, that's in the hands of God, now isn't it? :)

In His Majesty's Service,

Gene Savage

Dear Mr. Wallace:

Someone quoted "Arbeit Macht Frei" ironically, which led me to your pages. You should rename https://www.spectacle.org/695/ausfaq.html to ausfaq.txt. It shows up badly as HTML.

S Page spage@macromedia.com

Dear Mr. Wallace:

I was fascinated by your Web page...I have been doing Holocaust research for many years. Unfortunately, I have relatives who fought in that war...it was before I was born, but I still feel the guilt.

I would like to help in some way if I could be of service. I am very good at research and believe wholly in this cause. I NEVER want to see a repeat of this horrible blot on the face of History.

If you can use my help in any way, please contact me. Any reply would be appreciated.

Sincerely yours,

Catherine A. McKenna


Congratulations Jonathan: I hope you reach many more thinkers!...and make a difference!

Jack Metzel

Dear Mr. Wallace:

I am at present in my final year studying towards a BSc (Hons) in Quality Management at Salford University, Manchester. England. As part of my academic progression I am to chose a specialist area of research on which to base my dissertation. The area that I wish to specialise in is business ethics. It is my aim to formulate a generic ethical code of conduct and implementation methodology. This, I would eventually hope to expand into an integrated systems approach encompassing Quality, Environment, Health and Safety and Ethics.

Having seen the progression and the high ethical stance that the your web site portrays, it would be of the greatest benefit if you or any one visiting your site could possibly forward any relevant information or comment, in order to further my on going research.

Any feedback or advances, in this area that should be made as part of this research will be openly available for your perusal on completion.

Proposed Dissertation objectives:

· Ascertain industries perceptions of ethical issues.
· Determine the origin of these issues.
· Determine how these issues are disseminated throughout organisations.
· Determine if a generic set of ethical issues exist.
· Determine whether the ethical issues adopted are sector based.

Yours sincerely,

Anthony Shaun Wilson m00fgr00@mcmail.com

Dear Mr. Wallace:

I am attempting to locate journal articles that address the ethical issue of physical restraints of children, especially in an acute care facility and/or psychiatric treatment facility. If you could make any suggestions on how to find them I sure would appreciate it.Thank you so much...

Brenda Hughes R.N. psychiatric nurse

Dear Jonathan:

I was wasting some time skimming the ethical spectacle archives while I'm eating lunch. Your closing comments on the gun debate tickled me; not because I thought they were intended to be funny, but because you missed the point:

Here is a particularly poignant excerpt:
[Quoting the NY Times:]The parents of Kipland Kinkel, the boy accused of the Springfield [Or.] shootings, were not gun enthusiasts, but their son was....The parents agonized over the boy's gun obsession, finally giving in and buying him a weapon. The father and son took courses in marksmanship and safety, and the guns were kept under lock and key.
But given Kip Kinkel's moods and temper, the parents had debated whether to get him a single-loading bolt action weapon or something with more rapid-fire capability. They settled on the more powerful gun, a .22-caliber semiautomatic Ruger rifle....It was that rifle that Kip used to fire off 50 rounds at Thurston High School.
He also killed his parents with it.

When Kip Kinkel got a gun and shot people with it, who was to blame:

1. Kip
2. Kip's parents
3. Kip's friends (if he had any by this point)
4. Springfield, OR police
5. The ATF
6. Our national leadership and their wonderful example of appropriate behaviour
7. The guy with the FFL who sold the gun
8. Ruger who has been building this same mostly reliable .22 rifle for years and years
9. The 1850's era inventor's who decided brass cartridges would allow for a higher rate of fire
10. Some Chinese folk who invented gun powder
11. The framers of our constitution who didn't think through the implications of behaviour by criminals
12. God, who hoped we'd have enough sense to avoid sinning on a regular basis

The reason I believe your debate and your conclusions were funny is because you fail to make the case that lack of leadership, responsibility, authority, compassion, and values are what are really at fault for this kind of event.

Kip failed to recognise, accept and bear responsiblity for living the values passed down to him by others.

Kip's parents failed to exercise the leadership, authority and reponsibility delegated by God to properly train their son. If Kip was "confused", they needed to give him an attitude adjustment, secure in the knowledge that external influences (their neighbors, schools, local government and society) would support their efforts.

These external influences failed in their duty; they showed outrage, not compassion. Their visible example is usally one of misdirected, immoral, and often violent behaviour. They subvert the authority of the parent and they try to teach that responsibility is born by others rather than self. I.e., not only do they want me to tolerate stupidity, they want me to treat stupidity as an appropriate lifestyle choice.

Obviously, outside of Kip, the parents bear the primary burden, since they are the only permanent relationship that Kip had to this point. So, if you want to limit repeat performances of this kind of behaviour, you have to do these things:

1. Train parents to accept leadership roles appropriately (i.e., bear responsibility, set the example, discipline inappropriate behaviour, etc.)
2. Teach society to support the parent without trying to assume responsibility or authority (those are given to the parent by God and cannot truly be taken away, merely subverted)
3. Teach individuals to recognise that final authority for their actions is born by themselves. Parents teach and have authority over their children while they live in the parents home; that authority is gradually transferred to the individual as he matures. Even if the individual matures slowly, he cannot be allowed to pass out of parental authority.
4. Prevent immature persons from bearing children. In other ages, children matured quickly because they bore burdens and suffered trials at an early age. Because our current society tries to take responsibility for things it doesn't really have authority over, we impede the maturing process for individuals.

In any case, can you really claim that guns are a significant part of the problem here? I think not.

Trying to fix a leadership/responsibility problem by limiting the kind of guns people use is like making cars safer by adding 5mp bumpers, seatbelts, and airbags. Care-less people are still going to hurt themselves and others.

Tom Stewart ughtas@gvtc.com

Dear Mr. Wallace:

Thanks for being on the net, enjoyed the website and the good conrtibution you have made!

-- George L Sharpe M.D.
Associate Professor of Nursing

Dear Mr. Wallace:

Hi --- I just wanted to let you know how much I have enjoyed your site. I haven't gotten through everything yet, but everything I have read so far is extremely interesting. A friend sent me the URL. I love finding sites like this, ones in which there is substance and organization. Thanks for your effort and time in making this available to all of us.


And there came two angels to Sodom at even; and Lot sat in the gate of Sodom: and Lot seeing them rose up to meet them; and he bowed himself with his face toward the ground; And he said, Behold now, my lords, turn in, I pray you, into your servant's house, and tarry all night, and wash your fet, and ye shall rise up early, and go on your ways. And they said, Nay; but we will abide in the street all night. And he pressed upon them greatly; and they turned in unto him, and entered into his houlde; and he make them a feast, and did bake unleavened bread, and they did eat. But before they lay down, the men of the city, even the men of Sodom, compassed the house round, both old and young, all the people from every quarter: and they called unto Lot, and said unto him, Where are the men which came in to thee this night? bring them out unto us, that we may know them. and Lot went out at the door unto them, and shut the door after him, And said, I pray you, brethren, do not so wickedly. Behold now I have two daughters which have not known man; let me, I pray you, bring out unto you, and do ye to them as is good in your eyes: only unto theses men do nothing; for therefore came they under the shadow of my roof. And they said, Stand bvack. And they said again, This one fellow came in to sojourn, and he will needs be a judge: now eill we deal worse with thee, than with them. And they pressed sore upon the man, even Lot, and came near to break the door. But the men put forth their hand, and pulled Lot into the house to them, and shut to the door. and they smoth the men that were at the door of the house with blindness, both small and great: so that they wearied themselves to find the door. And the men said unto Lot, Hast thou here any besides? son in law, and thy sons, and thy daughters, and whatsoever thou hast in the city, bring them out of this place: for we will destroy this place, because the cry of them is waxen great before the face of the LORD; and the LORD hat sent us to destroy it. VERSE 24 of the 19th chapter of Genesis Then the LORD rained upon Sodom and upon Gomorrah brimstone and fiew from the LORD out of heaven; and he overthrew thos cities, and all the plain, and all the inhabitants of the cities, and that wich grew upon the ground......Oh but God is a loving God, he would never punish his people, he's just so loving.....Revelations 6:16 And said to the mountains and rocks, Fall on us,and hide us from the face of him that sitteth onthe throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb: For the great day of his wrath is come; and who shall be able to stand? For all the immoral who think there is no God of Wrath, well the Bible says it, the Bible declares it, the Bible speaks it, Oh by the way, no one, no not one has ever or will ever refute anything that is written in the Bible for it is God's words whether you or I deny it. There's a Heaven to gain and a Hell to shun....Make your choice. JOHN 3:16

"dennis butz" dbutz@glasscity.net

Dear Jonathan,

Thanks for posting such an uplifting site. Keep up the good work


Tom Brook

Dear Jonathan:

Thanks for your site, for taking the time and making the effort.

Since you're in Brooklyn, I don't know if you know about the Brooklyn Society for Ethical Culture @ 53 Prospect Park W. I've never been to that particular society (I am a member of the Ethical Society of Northern Westchester) but I thought I would make you aware of them since your views are in synch with most of the Ethical movements thoughts. So if you're looking for some community you might look them up especially since they have an active Haitian project going on.

Just in case you are not aware of Ethical Culture, and so that I introduce us properly, we are a religion. That is, we are a non-theistic religion, were ethics are considered the guiding light of life.

Karin Krueger

Dear Mr. Wallace:

I have been searching for recordings of Dr. King's speeches. I love how he speaks to people and was wondering if you may know of a place where I can purchase the recordings either on tape or cd.

Thank you very much for your time.


Zachary Smedley