Letters to the Ethical Spectacle

I get four or five letters from strangers on an average day, commenting on something they read in the Spectacle. Most of the mail I get is overwhelmingly positive; most disagreements and criticisms are courteous and reasoned; flames are rare. Email is the main compensation for the effort that goes in to writing and publishing the Spectacle, so keep those cards and letters coming! I will publish your name and email address unless otherwise requested. My address is jblumen@spectacle.org.

The Environment is Where We Live


Wow, you are still cranking the anti-Newt propaganda. You must fear him greatly. I really enjoyed the way you twisted "unfunded mandates" into something good. You're a sick man. Good writer though. Keep up the fear mongering. It shows you care. It also shows we are winning. Long live the Newt!

Your friend,
Bob Wilson

Good to hear from you.

Newt's ratings in the polls plus the really poor record on getting anything from the Contract through Congress (no term limits, no line item veto, etc etc), Republicans backing off from Newt's environmental position, and other indications make me disagree with your "we are winning."

Here's what I think happened:

The public, viewing the Democrats as weak and distant and Clinton as a dishonest waffler, taught them a resounding lesson in '94.

The public, which is more middle of the road than you or I, now dislikes Newt and feels the Contract Republicans are cutting too much too fast.

If I am right, we'll see the pendulum swing back to the middle in '96.

Stay in touch--it'll be interesting to see who is right on this one.

Dear Mr. Blumen:

Why do you have so much hate for Republicans. I care very much about the environment and I am fiscally coservative. I think more americans need to take responsibility for mother nature and stop expecting the government to do everything. The EPA is one of the most abusive and radical groups in Washington. I guess people think a certain way, based on where they get their information. I don't think the republicans are out to do in mother nature. Where will we be with a bankrupt nation if we don't balance the budget?

Walter Scott Robbins walter@rmii.com

I think there is a large group of moderate Republicans in this country many of whom love the environment, and you may be one of them. However, I think the Republican leadership is well to the right of the country, and dishonest as well as extremist in its views.

A group that supports government subsidies via cheap grazing fees, wants to open up more public lands to clearcutting, isn't concerned about toxic wastes, and is promoting the intellectually dishonest "takings" and "unfunded mandates" doctrines is no friend of the environment. You say that you care very much. Did you read my essay on "tragedy of the commons"? How do you address the problem other than through government, given that private financial interests will ALWAYS have an incentive to extract every last dollar from nature?

The Movies of Our Misfortune

Dear Mr. Blumen:

Michael Medved is by far the worst movie critic on TV, followed only by his accomplice in crime, Jeffrey Lyons. In today's episode of SNEAK PREVIEWS on PBS, those two critics announced a list of their choices for the worst movies of the year. Mr. Medved's #9 choice was 12 MONKEYS!!! I don't know if you've seen that movie, but that is one hell of a good movie;More like one of the BEST movies of the year. I would really have liked to have heard some reasoning behind his decision, but IT'S REAL EASY TO PUT A MOVIE ON A LIST AND NOT EXPLAIN WHY IT'S THERE, ISN'T IT MICHAEL?!?!? And don't think I dislike him just because I liked 12 Monkeys and he didn't...That was just the thing that really set me off. This guy's a psycho-critic, make that hack-REVIEWER, that bashes any movie that contrasts with his view of life. Judging from his praise of crappy kids movies(FOUR STARS to IT TAKES TWO), he would have loved 12 Monkeys if it had actually had 12 cute little monkeys jumping around creating Jumangi-like chaos. Seeing a conservative freak like that on the airwaves just makes me sick, but yet, I watch SNEAK PREVIEWS every freaking time it airs...I just can't get enough opinions of a movie whether I plan to see it or not, no matter what moron is issuing them. Movie Reviewers like Michael Medved and Jeffrey Lyons really make us realize how lucky we are to have CRITICS like Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert.

Rhys Southan MrMaster@iadfw.net

Thanks for writing. I don't watch movie critics on TV (I didn't know who Medved was when I saw his book in my local bookstore). In the papers and mags I read today, there is no reviewer worth the name; in past years, I could sometimes tell that I would like a movie from the way that Pauline Kael trashed it, and vice versa.

In retrospect, my choice of language in the Interview with the Vampire review may have been a bit over the top (the title being the worst offender), but I stand by the ideas I expressed. Though a young girl, as you point out, was one of the protagonists (and numerous readers have written to inform me that she represents Anne Rice's tragically dead young daughter), as always in the movies there is a gap between text and subtext. As I said in my essay in the same issue about rape in the movies, the TEXT may be that something horrible is happening, but the SUBTEXT is that something titillating is happening. Interview with the Vampire may be characterized by some (like yourself) as having a feminist TEXT by portraying a strong female vampire, but the SUBTEXT was pedophilic (come on, an eleven year old girl passionately saying "I want some more"?!!) and misogynist (the girl and every other woman in the movie, including the only other female vampire, died horribly.)

Anyway, when I wrote the review I never imagined I would spend so much time after that discussing a movie I really hated, as opposed to slightly more significant and interesting issues like freedom of speech and world hunger.

I saw 12 Monkeys last night, and really liked it, as I did Brazil and The Fisher King. Gilliam fishes in the delta where sanity runs into madness, quite successfully. However, the Times review I read had me so hyped up I was expecting the best movie of the year, and what I found instead was a dark, interesting puzzle picture that (unlike Brazil) ultimately copped out by explaining everything.

Mr. Blumen,

I really enjoyed reading the articles in your thought-provoking Web site. I ran into it on the way to looking for information about sexual violence in film. Specifically, I'm trying to find if anyone has started any movements toward attaching a warning or rating on movies which show explicit rape scenes. I've recently walked out of movies like "Strange Days" and "Leaving Las Vegas" because I couldn't stand the rape.

Do you know any groups who are doing this or might be interested in starting such a movement?

Respond at your convenience,

Paul Bacon - Cone@slip.net

Michael Medved in the book I cited, Hollywood vs. America, lists a number of organizations that monitor morality and violence in films.

Strange Days was pretty horrible, and a good illustration of what I was talking about in my article.

An Auschwitz Alphabet

Dear Mr. Blumen:

As a non Jewish person born in a German camp, I need to know that not only Jews were the victims of the eugenicists.

The most recent reparation settlement by Germany on its victims was made to Israel. As a non-Jew, my fellow non Jews cannot gain access to this etnocentric disbursement. Not that money is the question, but recognition follows. As I understand it, some 36 million non combattents were exterminated by the Nazis. Who were the other 30 million?


Jim Duffield staffy@omen.com.au

Thank you for writing.

The Holocaust is often presented as a feature of Jewish history.

This has two negative effects: it elbows out the other victims and it also allows the world to persuade itself that the Holocaust does not represent a mainstream human dilemma that is capable of repetition.

Jim Duffield replied:


I'm only too happy for your inclusion of my observation in Spectacle. You should know that I am an activist for indigenous Australians and see in my black Australian friends eyes each day the spectre of genocide that in some ways is ongoing even today. It's quaint and distressing to note that only a couple of years ago many Australians deprecated the war crimes trials in Adelaide as being the spectre of the past "that can never happen again in a modern world." Then Bosnia.

If genocide is part of the human condition, then I must chose not to be a homo sapins sapiens, my Staffordshire Bull Terrier deserves greater respect than my fellow human.

There could be some brother and sisterhood in the Australian genocide between the Judaic and indigenous communities in our nation to bring this reality more to the fore in contemporary society. It's a dream, but it could be a start.

Last month I printed a letter from Paul Grayson of London, who lost his grandparents in the Holocaust and who recommended a Yad Vashem Web page. I wrote to Paul for more information, and he replied:

Thanks for your response.

I am still researching my grandparents, Pejsach and Chana Grynszpan, mostly in order to flesh out the skimpy details which I was able to register at the Yad Vashem Hall of Names. Since my family were not in contact, I know nothing about them personally. The only document that I possess concerning them is a copy of the deportation orders for the train which carried them to their martyrdom, bering the signature of Alois Brunner, still at large. These I obtained from the Jewish Memorial archives in Paris. This is of course rather sad that I know so little. I continue to search using the genealogical sources on the net (and "snail mail"of course).

Yad Vashem's URL is http://yvs.shani.net/

They are not, however, a leading edge web page, as you'll see when you choose the Hall of Names. They don't explain how to register someone, nor make it electronically easy, with a form.

Similiarly, they mention that they are "computerising" the records of deportees for people to be able to search. They don't offer any electronic access though. Again, during my visit, the search conducted at my request was done through microfiche, by the volunteer, who was a willing, but elderly survivor. I was'nt convinced that the search was necessarily complete.

However, it is a place of pilgramage and I was immensely moved, in a way that I had not expected, when I realised that my spontaneous gesture of registration actually represented the only memorial, tombstone if you like, of my grandparents. No other relative had apparently done so.

Keep up you good work. May 1996 bring you further success and many educational breakthroughs with new readers.

Paul Grayson (nee Grynszpan) grynszpan.paul@dial.pipex.com.uk

Dear Mr. Blumen:

Just wanted to say thank-you for the stuff I printed from your Internet site. My 8th grade students will reap the benefits of your years of compiling and organizing information relating to the Holocaust.

Katherine M. Searle

Dear Mr. Blumen:

I have reviewed Auschwitz Alphabet and commend you. I believe it should be recommended browsing for every school child in the United States and Europe. Too soon we forget what happened and, because of this, I fear it will happen again.

As an ISP, with your permission, I will put a link to "Auschwitz Alphabet" on my page. I would, also, like to mirror the site, permanently, with your permission, along with my history of the holocaust, which should be going up soon. Of course, you will get full credit for all of your work.

Please let me know if you will send me the code for "Auschwitz Alphabet," so I can mirror the site.

M. Steven McClanahan rescue@snowcrest.net

Steven's email address did not work and my mail bounced back. Steven, I would be glad to have you mirror the Alphabet--please contact me again.


I discovered your work (Auschwitz Alaphabet) in the Computer Underground Digest.

It is a very good and interesting subject.

May i ask you where could i connect to get all the picture that are present in these text ?



Thank you for your kind words.

I am not sure I understand your question--if you mean where did I get the pictures I used, I downloaded them from an ftp server whose address is given in the Sources file--I think it is called Nysernet.

I would also check the Nizkor Project Web site and the Israeli gov't server (addresses also given in my Sources file at the end of the Alphabet.)

Having done a lot of work on Auschwitz, been there many time, interviewed Lustig, Mueller, Gawalewicz, Klodzinski, Smolen, Kieta and many more, I am naturally very interested in your site. I find it very good, very. Also I have hundreds of color photos I took of both Aus. and Birk. I'd be happy to share these with you. As for their quality, they have been in several shows including a small exhibit at the Art Institute of Chicago.

Also, I'm writing to inform about a journal I have recently put up dealing with such issues as why did they do it. Any support will be greatly appreciated.

We are pleased to announce the opening of a WEB page entitled: IDEA a Journal of Social Issues. It can be found at:

or Yahoo search: =B3Alan Jacobs=B2

IDEA is a journal created for the exchange of ideas related mainly, but not exclusively, to cults, mass movements, war, genocide, holocaust, war, and murder.

The "Reviews" column will be devoted to various works important in shaping understanding of such things as autocratic families and groups, cults, autocratic power, totalitarianism, murder, mass murder, holocaust and genocide. These readings fall into two broad categories. 1. The literature of the extreme, that is, works that create images, and 2., works of social science devoted to understanding how and why these systems develop, broadly social psychology and social commentary.

Original articles will focus on the same themes. Current articles include:

Authors wishing to submit articles, short pieces, essays or comments may send them to ajacobs@interaccess.com.

IDEA is published by Krysia Hnatowicz Jacobs and edited by Alan Jacobs.

Thank you,
Alan Jacobs
Krysia Jacobs

Mr. Blumen:

I am writing to announce the launch of a web site for the Fortunoff Video Archive for Holocaust Testimonies at Yale University. The URL is


and the site features excerpts of testimonies from Holocaust survivors and witnesses. Would you please consider adding a link to our site from your Auschwitz Alphabet?

Many thanks,

L. Christopher Burns
Manager, Fortunoff Video Archive for Holocaust Testimonies


- got that from your uncle's letter. You should sign your Introduction since you use the first person and it's difficult to know who is speaking.

After attending the reading from Primo Levi's books I found your Auschwitz Alphabet on the web and thought that you might be interested to know of the first public "performance" based on his work has just started in Cape Town.

It would be nice to be able to download the whole alphabet as one file. I've downloaded all the pieces. It took a couple of hours from here and I've saved it to read at home this evening. It is a beautiful presentation.

The note below is one I sent to friends to encourage them to attend.

With best wishes,

Max Klein, Assoc Prof Paediatrics - University of Cape Town

------- Forwarded Message Follows -------

Currently at the Castle of Good Hope (British Officer's Mess):


Readings from Primo Levi by Christopher Consani

Opened last night for a 2 week run

8.30 pm. Booking at Computicket

Highly recommended. Deserves full houses. Saw it last night. For the ladies: dress cool - the auditorium is small (80) and no aircon. Book your seats in the left half of the auditorium close to windows.

Primo Levi was an Auswitz survivor. His holocaust writing ranks with that of Eli Weisel - but is more restrained.

Powerful impact enhanced by understated and sensitive rendering by Chris Consani. This is the first public "performance" of any of Primo Levi's works anywhere. Permission for this presentation was given by the author's widow. The unusual venue was necesitated by the conditions imposed by the widow who refuses permission for performances in any theatre.

A Shaggy God Story

I devoted the October issue to an essay on God, reaching the conclusion that He probably does not exist and then discussing how morality can exist without Him. I was startled to get only a single piece of email in response, while I get scores about my review of Interview with the Vampire. Possibly there are more Vampire fans than God fans on the Net.

Hi Jonathan,

I finally got connected to the Ethical Spectacle and got caught up in your articles on God. I couldn't resist a response to your philosophizing and searching self-analysis...so here are my two cents:

You write that you were searching for a loving, forgiving, protective God, and there was no trace -- perhaps you are looking too far afield for your salvation and joy?? "God" is right here at home -- in every good deed you do and in every soft, sweet thought that you have. Look upon yourself with love and "god" will love you. Look upon the world with love and "God" shall love the world through you.

It seems that so many people seek some unknowable, but loving Creator... I believe that if people look at their values and assess what they hope to find in "God", they will realize that they are looking for the human qualities that are labeled "good" -- like hope, love, happiness, etc. The thing that people may lose sight of is that these attributes are *HUMAN* -- if there were some all-knowing, all-powerful entity, why do we think that it could be described as having human attributes. I suggest that perhaps people are looking for an external (rather than internal to themselves) entity onto which they can place responsibility for those positive attributes so that they will have a model to live up to and an excuse for their own failure to do so (e.g., I am not perfect -- only "God" is perfect -or- "to err is human").

I believe that "bad" things happen in the world when people do not embrace "god" -like qualities. This unfortunately means that people who do embrace them may get hurt or killed, and this is tragic. But if we look at the tragedies of our lives and lose our own god-qualities then we have lost much more than just that -- and society has then undergone a doubly hard blown. Not only are we selfishly indulging our own anger, we are robbing the world of another person's worth of "god"liness and all of the manifestations and offshoots that that entails. The fact is that we create the world around us everyday and our attitudes toward ourselves and toward others create the only avenue by which we can access the god-qualities so many of us seek in this life.

Living a moral* and happy life is hard -- it takes guts and will and stamina, things that are hard to teach and even harder to possess. It means being constantly vigilant against giving in to the easy path. And it means having self respect and self restraint -- two things that our consumer culture and our wasteful society do not promote. It requires that we open our hearts and rely on our stores of courage to believe in ourselves and in our world, to act on our beliefs, and to be compassionate and kind toward those who do not share our beliefs.

* by "moral" I mean living up to a set of values and beliefs.

Shannon Spencer

Gun Control

Although its been a while since I last wrote anything on the topic, I continue to get letters every month. One of these days, I'll pull all of my gun control pieces together into a single page of links for accessibility. In brief, I have come to see gun control as an inter-community relations issue like pollution. How do you enjoy your pro-gun lifestyle while helping my community, which does not want them, keep guns out? Pro-gunners who begin by writing me with regurgitated NRA lists of excuses like Alamodem's letter, below, never seem to reply once I have phrased the issue this way.

I am sorry, I too have been searching the net for pro gun control sites with no luck. I too hope someone has the time and talent to put together such a site.

Thanks, Geoff Prior, Ukiah, CA.

You asked for additional Web sites on gun control. Here are 2 fine ones: even more useful than the NRA's site, IMHO.

The Second Amendment Foundation: http://www.saf.org Includes many hot links to other sites, including to you.

Jeff Chan's Firearms Archive: http://www.portal.com/~chan/ Very extensive collection of articles. Of special note is his _Guide to Internet Firearms Resources_, available for downloading or for following its many hot-links online.

Both of these sites are pro-gun-rights. I'm still looking (so far in vain) for sites favoring the opposite side.

Best regards, Ken Dowst, Hartford, CT

I was quite startled to hear that the Second Amendment Foundation has a link to the Spectacle, because none of the pro-gun resources that I have found on the Net point you to anyone who tells the other side of the story. Well, it turns out SAF links to my links page, which collects general resources on politics, law and ethics, though some people probably find their way from there to my essays on the topic.

Dear Mr. Blumen:

In The Million Man March, you say: "to repeal the semi-automatic ban and put more guns on the urban streets".

You make similar remarks in some of your other essays, but after seeing it again, I had to comment. There is no "semi-automatic ban" in effect in this country. Just what do you think a semi-automatic weapon is? Any pistol that is not a revolver and any rifle that is not bolt-action is a semi-automatic weapon. Really, of all legal-for-civilians firearms, only revolvers, bolt-action rifles, and shotguns are not semi-automatic weapons. I think what you are trying to say is "assault weapon" or "assault rifle" ban. Please don't think that I am making a political point -- I'm not. I'm simply trying to point out that your terminology is in error. If you think that all semi-automatic weapons should be banned, then tell us that, but they're not currently banned, and the "assault weapons" (an almost meaningless term) that are banned are a tiny sub-set of all semi-automatic weapons.

Brent Krupp fletcher@u.washington.edu

You are correct. I think I used semi because I understand assault weapon is meaningless.

The more I think about guns, the more the issue really boils down to finding the middle ground that accomodates the needs of different communities. Community A wants its guns, and is relatively peaceful. Community B has nightly gunfire, and its lawabiding citizens are vastly in favor of keeping guns out of their community. The criminals from B drive to A, walk into a gunstore with a local friend, and buy multiple weapons to take back. Community A should want to help B keep the guns out while preserving its own rights. B should not need to take A's guns away but should seek its cooperation. I think it was Virginia that passed a one gun a month rule because it was embarassed at being the main source of murder weapons for NYC.

Good Day EH!

I Just can't get over the idiots who buy the idea of gun control. First of all it is not guns that kill it's people. If all the guns were taken away I guarantee you that the killers would find another way to kill, ie home maid explosives, home maid blow guns and bows , throwing knives, and the list goes on for ever!! Any idiot can figure out that crime isn't controled by taking away the weapon that scares you the most, because they will replace it with something new. Think of it no guns, I wonder what technology will dream up next that isn't a gun but can be used to kill in an all new unsuspecting way. Hey lets make up a law preventing the use of all weapons. The US national sport would need to be played under strict govt. rules as no one could even own a bat. kids could not play the games we all grew up with. Food would have to be prepared in strict govt.agencies as we could have no more knives. Any industry worker would inevtably loose his or her job as many tools used there could be used as weapons. Lets raise everyones taxes so we can pay for the regulating of everything that can hurt us. Well you might as well confine everyone to there place of residense, and put straght jackets on us all.

How many Trillions of dollars do we have to spend on stupid ideas dreamed up by all the over activised idiots who think they know the answer. Seems to me there are alot of politicians who listen to these people and go along with them just to get a vote and don't care that it costs us to much money. When will they realize that to make everyone happy is out of our price range! It dose not take a genius to figure this out.

And you know the answer is right before our eyes. Wouldent it be a lot cheaper to punish the criminal with what ever means is affordable and effective.Efective enough that one would think twice about comiting the crime beforehand.It worked in the past and works in some countries. It's real amazing what a little caining can do to one who is needing to express himself by commiting a crime.

I also think that taking away our guns is sensless, as I being a law abideing citizen was offered a .44 mag. Handgun, unregestered with shoulder holster,amunition and no questions asked, can you believe it? I couldent!! I wonder how easy it would be for a criminal minded person to find a gun?

I also get a kick in the pants when I hear of these surveys taken in the populous of a major city. WHAT A CROCK!!! How many hunters do you know in the city. Come to the small towns and farming comunities where hunting has been a natural tradition since the begining of time.

Thank you for reading this part of my mind.

Dave AKA alamodem@ycs.ab.ca

In responding to Dave, I noted he is from Canada, which has more gun control and less murder than the U.S. I sketched out my "keep and enjoy your guns, but help us keep them out of New York" idea. No reply. Last week, the Times profiled a woman who lost three sons and a nephew to gunfire in the same New York neighborhood in the last six years. This is not an uncommon story here, where small children are also regularly killed in crossfires. No-one has yet explained to me how putting more guns into New York will defend a four year old on roller skates from a bullet in the back.

The Vampire....Yawn

I would like to know the author and how to contact this person. I have only skimmed the article. I have downloaded it and intend on composing a response.

I will refrain from any comments here, only that I noticed there is no author's name nor response e-mail address. Curious.

Thank you.

Byron Leger byronl@hnoc.org

I wrote the article--everything in the Spectacle is mine unless otherwise attributed.

As you will have noticed from my letters column, I have published numerous responses, most of them angry, to the article. At this point, I will publish anything that is well thought out and presents some new ideas. I am disinclined to run anything that pretty much just insults my parentage, like some of the mail I have been getting.

No further word yet from Byron....


I looked through your website (drawn by a search on Morgan Freeman-- I liked the points you made), but couldn't din any statement of what the spectacle is all about. To be sure, the content speaks for itself, but I'd be interested in some background--what else do you do with your time, how do you find your writers, how many hits do recieve, that sort of thing...did I not look in the right place?

Jim Barton jxbarton@aol.com

The Spectacle examines the intersection (or collision) of ethics, law and politics in our society. It is a monthly newsletter, available on the Web only. I write all unattributed pieces myself. Some authors are friends or acquaintances, while others are people who first wrote me after reading an issue of the Spectacle. I welcome submissions on any topic fitting within the above charter, even if I don't personally agree with the conclusions.

The Spectacle was visited by 30,000 people during December.

I am a business executive and attorney based in New York City.

I have responded to this and several other similar comments by posting a bio and mission statement. Thanks for your interest.

Dear Mr. Blumen:

Another human rights web site you might want to include is Ohio Right to Life, "http://www.infinet.com/~life", which emphasizes the right to life championed by the Declaration of Independence.

Jay Johansen johansj@afcpo.wpafb.mil

Dear Mr. Blumen:

I have a web site--Ethics Updates--that deals both with ethical theory and with a number of issues in applied ethics, including abortion, euthanasia, animal rights, death penalty, environmental ethics. If it looks good to you, I would appreciate it if you could link it.

Many thanks,
Larry Hinman hinman@cts.com

Dear Mr. Blumen:

i put a link to your page.. i would appreciate if you would put one to mine if you have the time. my home pages name is Breed's World, but if you do put the link, you could put Philip Bakelaar, (my name). im only asking because i hope to have links to resources related to your home page soon.. i thought your home page was a good place to start though. :)

Philip Bakelaar pbakelaar@exit109.com

Dear sir:

My name is Steven Fransblow & I am currently a student at Marianopolis College in Montreal. I was a participant in the 1994 March of the Living, a trip that took me to Poland & Israel.

Recently in Montreal there has been a need and call for Marchers to go and speak to the "non-Jewish community". As part of our outreach efforts, a homepage on the WWW has been established at "http://www.bonder.com/march.html".

We are hoping that in the neat future the site will be greatly expanded. Can you please add this link to your list of Resources?

Thank You

Steven Fransblow
Chair, Outreach Committee, March of the Living
Montreal, Canada

Suggest adding the United Church of Christ Home Page to your "religious" list.