Letters To The Ethical Spectacle

This month's essay is on the treacherousness of language. I've been in a number of situations recently involving dueling interpretations of conversations I thought were perfectly clear, which is what led me to write on the topic this month.

It would be a mistake to see any contradiction here with my commitment to freedom of speech. The fact that we defend something doesn't mean we have to imagine its perfect. As I wrote last month, I admire Proust's highly flawed novel. Perfection is a malleable and deceptive human concept.

Flawed as language is, I thrive on your email. I can be reached, as always, at jw@bway.net.

Dear Jonathan:

As I predicted, the Senate failed to convict Slick Willie, but it was not for lack of just cause. In fact, some good may have resulted from the ordeal of the past 13 months. For one thing, as a friend of mine commented, the government has been blessedly idle. Another spin off was the entertainment value which a mere $50 million bought. Even a Clintonista like yourself might agree that this morass was more exciting than Kevin Costner's "Postman" which is rumored to have cost more than twice that sum. Additionally, we got to watch Alan Dershowitz go completely daft right before our eyes from defending one too many really guilty people.

I am excited to see that after the stench of that Senate proceeding has abated somewhat, one of the Clinton actors might be a candidate for Stinker, from New York even. Gee, I wonder how will she shed that Arkansas accent in time? But I say "Good for her!" It will be fun watching as she is beatified by the press even further, while she champions further socialization right there in your stomping grounds. You New Yorkers deserve her (carpet bag and all) in the worst way. If she gets elected, that is exactly how you will get her.


Bob Wilson

The Nuremberg Files Website
Great article, Mr. Wallace.

David Hudson
First Amendment Center

Dear Jonathan,

I disagree with you on the "Nuremberg Files" website issue. My feeling is that the special marks for wounded and killed doctors do indeed amount to direct advocacy of violence, and are not constitutionally protected speech. The fact that anyone and everyone can view this site means that what they are doing is akin to standing on a street corner and shouting "2 doctors down, 50 to go!" This, to my mind, is quantitatively different than speech on an isolated farm, and I believe that it is beyond the bounds of what the First Amendment was intended to protect.

Dr. Michael McClennen michaelm@umich.edu

Dear Mr. Wallace:

I agree with your stance on the website advocating violence against abortion doctors, although I think there must be a borderline concern here-it's bound to be a concern, and the distinction between advocating vs encouraging violence is fuzzy--in thisand other cases. But there's a slippery slope involved. We should not let our contempt for individual mind-sets and emotional repsonses force us into declaring speech illegal, based on who is doing it. I came across this quotation, made by a postal inspector in the 1940s: obscenity is "largely a question on one's own conscience. The important question, then, is whose conscience it is, and what manner of man he is." The speaker believed ULYSSES should not have been de-censored.

-- Jay A. Gertzman
Professor of English, Mansfield U.

Dear Jonathan:

Actually, this is the first article by you, that I disagree with you on. Free speech is a good thing - but there are certain limits. I think the website crossed them.

But of course, that is my view. :)

Anyways, keep up the good work with the Ethical Spectacle.


"Rune Kristian Viken" arcade@xfactor.no

Dear Mr. Wallace:

I own a copy of Cybersitter and I read through all your objections about the product and the underlying agenda. I personally agree with Solid Oak and I like what they are trying to do. The program, along with others, is a product that may be purchased by anyone and also refused by anyone. NO ONE is forced to use it. At the same time, no matter how distasteful it may be to me, I support everyone's freedom to expression and that goes along with your opinion. Because I don't agree with you, you may assume that I am a narrow-minded person. On the contrary; I took the time to read through your material and I have been to many other sites that challenge the mind. I am always amazed at how conservative people are regarded as a group of mindless automatons and that enlightened groups that you are affiliated with seek to liberate us from our misguided values. That is your right, but last time I checked, I am also afforded the same liberty to protect myself from your lack of values by whatever means I choose. What you deem as a misguided crusade and reckless subversion of the unknowing masses by a company, I see as an attempt to offer reasonable protection in a moral quagmire. I am always amused at the use of the word "Banned". I read your site. If it were banned, how would I have accessed it? That is the same for any other material that is labeled as such. I still have access, but I still have the right to voice my opinion as to how available it is. That is MY right as a citizen. If I am in the majority, I win. If not, I need to try harder. That's life in a free society.

I control my children's access to the net and the program helps me in that goal. At least for me, it still doesn't replace my responsibility as a parent to equip my kids with the proper tools to cope with today's world as they mature. Will I let them read your pages? Not now, but in the future I will most certainly visit with them those "offensive" political sites because that is real life and they need to know how to cope. Even now, we regularly discuss many aspects of society openly and honestly. Sex sites? No way. The internet is a wonderful place that has a staggering amount of information available to everyone. I applaud anyone that is able to create a product that goes in a particular direction that I agree with.

That's about it. I thank you for reading this letter.

Paul Minelga yeeeha@gci.net

Thanks for the info. Looking at the list of websights, etc. that Cybersitter blocks has covinced me that CYBERSITTER is exactly what I need. Thanks again.

Julian Beall JulianBeall@mindspring.com

An Auschwitz Alphabet

I have a bone to pick with you! LOSS OF SLEEP! ;-) Kudos to you Jon on a most excellent website. It's of course been mentioned from time to time in the 'trenches' of the newsgroup 'alt.revisionism' where the daily battle is fought against the usual 'it didn't happen' fringe mixed with various antisemitic trolls and those who see the group as a feeding grounf for their hauled in wares (read: dreck). It's there you'll also find Ken McVay, Dan Keren, Gord McFee et al (Nizkor folks) and various others involved in the newsgroup (including myself for some 3 years now).

In any event, I enjoyed reading your own analysis of events from the point of view of comparative analogy with today. It's not too difficult to indeed ponder the question of 'where was/is God' when one views rather graphically at many websites the horrors that was Auschwitz--indeed--all the KZ's. Yet, true to form, the 'revisionist' drum is beaten today and still finds its listeners by legions 'not' necessarilly of the unwashed variety which would, in my view, make it somewhat 'easier' to put an ignoramus label on the 'why' of it as to such motivations but rather we see a mixed bag of folks with and without the requisite neurons who continue to view the Holocaust as the Jewish 'free lunch' of today while negating in toto what happened circa the 1933-45 with the same tired canards and 'it didn't happen' tripe.

Generally, such 'revisionist' (read: denier) agenda can be readily detected under their guise of alleged 'scholarship' like one of their 'hero's', Arty Butz ('The Hoax of the Twentieth Century--1976) who takes the position that the 'alleged' (his word) missing 6 million Jews of Europe '....wanted to be considered missing or killed in order to avoid resuming previous personal relationships, pre war, they no longer desired post war.' It's hard to believe that such dreck would find an audience but Butz's 'logic' ET AL is but the tip of the proverbial iceberg when it comes to what is swallowed by various and sundry of the denier 'disciples.'

Anyway Jon, an excellent website. I can only urge you to expand on it as time goes by.

Tony Lomenzo
In 'AR' (alt.revisionism) as 'Doc Tony'

Dear Mr. Wallace:

Hi. I'm only 13 years old but your site really touched me. It was informative and helped me with a report I'm doing. Great work and thoughtfulness.


Hello Jonathan. Thank you for your time and Great Job!

Marc Terrance MTerrance@sjmercury.com

Dear Mr. Wallace:

I am currently doing GCSE coursework on Nazi anti-semitism and have used you site for research. I have found it informative and touching.

Piyush Pushkar piyush@pushkar.freeserve.co.uk
London, UK

Dear Mr. Wallace:

I am writing to you in regard to your wonderfully comprehensive website of the Holocaust. My main concern is with your assumption that there is no God. How can there be, to allow such atrocities? Did the thought ever occur to you, that instead of pointing the finger of blame at Him, you direct your indignation to the one who brought this hell on earth? It's kind of like blaming the police for not being there while my house is being robbed. God gave man free will, and since the nature of man is inherently evil, the Holocaust, (and other horrors) was/is only a direct culmination of our nature. We like to believe that man is basically good, history proves over and over that this is not true. As my 3 year old son cannot understand why I will not let him play in the street, we, as children of God, also cannot understand why he says/does/ the things he does. Do not question. Trust, as my 3 year old does me. It is for his own good, and one day, he will understand.


Sandra C. WndRnSn@aol.com

Dear Mr. Wallace:

I visited your site with a relatively simple objective: I wanted to find out the number of Auschwitz survivors. But, after inserting the appropriate information into the letter I was writing, I read through much of the rest of the site, and found it very well-written and informative.

I am not Jewish, but have read MAUS I and II, and a few other books which touch on the Holocaust. The one thing which I was hoping to find something about on your site, but did not, was information about the Milgram experiments of the 1950s and 60s. Milgram was the psychologist who, viewing the Nazi war trials on television, noted how many of the soldiers used "I was just following orders" as an excuse for their behavior. Milgram wondered if the Germans were more susceptible to following orders than Americans.

Milgram's experiment was simple: instruct a randomly selected subject to deliver increasing degrees of electric shock to a "patient" (actually an actor; a fact unknown to the subjects). The "patient" would, as voltage got higher, begin to scream and beg the subject to stop. If the subject asked Milgram whether he should stop, Milgram would only reply, "The experiment requires that you continue."

Milgram expected to only have .02% of his subjects complete the experiment by administering the maximum shock voltage, long after the actor had pretended to die of cardiac arrest (.02%, incidentally, is the probability of finding someone with an antisocial personality disorder). Imagine his surprise when fully 60% of his (American) subjects administered the maximum voltage. This shows how susceptible we all are to suggestion. Milgram could only theorize that the numbers would have been higher had he ordered the subjects to continue. Sadly, the lesson to be learned here was obscured by the question of whether Milgram's methods were ethical (in fairness to Milgram, after a subject had stopped, he was told about the experiment's purpose and shown that the actor was really not receiving any shock at all).

Excuse the lengthy digression. I found your site to be very well done, and I actually have two questions for you, if you have the time to respond:

1) Do you, personally, believe that God does not exist, as your essay states is a foregone conclusion? Or are you a proponent, as I am, of the "shut up and stop asking questions" theory?

2) What did you think of the movie, LIFE IS BEAUTIFUL, if you've seen it? The letter I was writing when I accessed your site was to a rather surly individual who felt that the uplifting ending was "reprehensible," and that nobody should attempt to find a "transcendent meaning to the Holocaust." I agree, however, with your essay, although I use slightly different vocabulary: how can we see where we're going if we're unwilling to look at or learn from where we've been?

Thanks for taking the time to read this letter, and best wishes for the continued success of your site. Should you wish to contact me, my e-mail address appears below.

Mr. John E. Bromels

Dear Sir,

I read with great interest your superb web site regarding the Nazi death camp at Auschwitz. I am a history major at the University of Illinois, and I have a deep personal interest in 20th century European history. My primary motivation for study in this time period is in regards to France and Germany; how France transformed itself between the wars, and how Germany became the monster that it was. I find it very useful to study the history of the Holocaust to remind myself what we humans are capable of, and what I am capable of. Your web site was very informative and presented a very real, stark, and moving picture as to what life was like inside the camp.

But aside from my enthusiasm as a historian and my deep personal feelings as a human being, I write to you as a convinced theist and a Christian. As a historian I am required to confront the very evils of human nature, and as such I cannot fail to "confront God with the question of how He could let Auschwitz happen." I am certain that you have received many messages regarding your stance on God, many of them quite hostile. I wish to assure you that I do not wish to condemn you because of your views, and I merely wish to discuss with you my views on God. I hope you will not dismiss me out of hand as someone who has refused to think things through thoroughly simply because I subscribe to a personal God. But after reading your thoughtful site and the contents contained therein, I believe I have little to fear.

I agree whole heatedly with the two possibilities that you put forth regarding God and Auschwitz. The proposition that God does not care about the plight of humans, especially those who profess a belief in Him, is no God worth worshiping in any sense of the word. On the other hand, the God who punishes entire groups of people simply because of their culture, race, or any other arbitrary distinction is no God to be revered or worshiped either. You also state that for a God who does not actively punish but instead permits great evil to happen is the same as the God who actively punishes. Here I wish to present another possibility, one I hope you will agree with me is not mental gymnastics.

The God who permits the great evils of the world to happen, I would like to propose, may or may not be evil. If this God allows evils such as Auschwitz to happen because he is fundamentally disinterested or has deemed it a "good" thing is also not a God worthy to be worshiped. I would like to place the former in the "disinterested God," and the latter in the "racist God" category if I may. I wish to introduce a third possibility, a loving and caring God that is deeply and personally interested in good and evil, but who allows evil to occur because of a limitation He has placed on Himself. This limitation is that He has provided humanity with a free will. Humans are free to love God and do good, although humans can of course hate God and still do good. Human beings are also free to hate God and do evil. To answer the question as to why God would allow us to do evil and hate Himself is to understand why humans value the love of other men and women greater than that of animals or of a computer. The God that I propose does not wish for robots, but rather for men and women who will freely choose to love Him because of who He is.

I understand that this God may be very hard to picture among the backdrop of the corpses and crematoriums of Auschwitz, and there are times when I confess that I do doubt. I would not be human if I did not. But while there is much evil in the world, there is also much good. And the existence of the good amongst the evil causes me to think, ask questions, and seek to understand.

I hope you found my message thought provoking. If you wish I would be happy to discuss these issues and others with you in greater depth. If so, I look forward to hearing from you. If not, it has been a pleasure and a privilege to communicate with you. Thank you for your time and patience with this long message, and thank you for your powerful, informative, and moving site.

Adam Hickey ahickey@uiuc.edu

Dear Jonathan,

I enjoyed your essay, Free Speech as a Tragedy of the Commons. However, I would like to raise some points with you regarding your analysis of push/pull technology as a means to exempt an individual from participating in the tragedy.

The problem with subscription (push) is the exchange of information with persons (or companies) who would abuse the commons. How many letters would we receive if we only received letters from persons we contact directly. "Junk" mail is pollution, physical or e~; but not because it exists, because our identity is shared without our permission.

My office receives junk faxes every day. To my thinking this is stealing. My fax (and computer) are not on my desk to receive unsolicited information, no matter how useful its purveyor claims it may be. Every piece of paper on my desk, every email I receive, has a cost associated with it.

You are correct when you say that the Usenet mailing list is a commons; you are incorrect when you say that one can abused through the use of the list to which one subscribes.

In my opinion, the commons is not the medium, but the information it carries ~ our identity. This is what is being abused, not the post or airwaves or the internet. The unauthorized sharing of our personal identities in the tragedy of the commons, not free speech.

Thanks again for having an opportunity to respond to your essay.


Mark Herkommer mherk@flash.net

PS: On a side point, a personal issue with me. You make this point:

"Looked at this way, a commons is something pushed upon us and which we do not have the option to reject. The air we breathe is a commons, but the airwaves are not, as we decide whether to have a television in the house and choose the programs we watch. "

I strongly disagree with you about the airwaves. The airwaves belong to all, regardless of whether or not we own a television. Cable of course is quite different. Would we say that the pollution of a lake in Utah is not important because we draw our water from a lake in Texas? Just as we should require the highest standard for water quality, we should demand the highest quality from broadcast TV. We would never say, "well, the water kills off only a few minor species, but the overwhelming majority can drink it safely". The same is true of broadcast TV ~ it must be protected and restrictive as possible. Cable is for hardier species.

Dear Mr. Wallace:

Your site is currently linked to a class at the Florida State University's School of Information Studies entitled "Information Needs of Young Adults." The site is available only to those students who are currently enrolled in the distance learning class via site password protection.

If you have any objections to our students using your site as a resource in their studies, please express your desires to me and we will be happy to comply with your wishes.


Harry Buerkle
Graduate Research Assistant
School of Information Studies
Florida State University

Dear Jonathan:

I entirely agree with your piece on Saddam. Dave Barry just put it another way (and mentioned the taxpayers paying for all this stuff) this weekend. http://www.herald.com/archive/barry/1999/docs/jan31.htm

Jim Ray liberty@gate.net

Dear Mr. Wallace:

Just posted the first three parts of my ten-year study on attorney discipline in the US. You can find the report at www.amoralethics.com. Thought you might find it of some interest.


David Palmer Noethics1@aol.com

Dear Jonathan,

I felt the urge to immediately contact you - I found your website, when surfing on the net - exploring the issue of ethics. I am an Australian - a proud one, but embarrassed by many of the things our government is doing on a number of fronts - that si a longer story to which I will not go further. The reason I write is that I was chosen as one of fifteen (supposedly) up and coming Australians that are going to have an impact on the nation, sometime in the future. The fifteen were the inaugural winners of the Vincent Fairfax ethics in leadership Award - an amazing experience - it is run form the St Kames Ethics Centre in Sydney Australia (its Executive Director is a philosopher by the name of Dr Simon Longstaff). Anyway, it was amazing journey exposing each of the fifteen t ethical issues that we have faced or potentially could face in life. Basically, all fifteen want to do something with our own lives to make lief a better place - sounds a bit wanky but .... So, my ethical journeys have been taking me to further exploration and I found your site - it is a God Send. I love your writing style an I am voraciously reading everything I can on the site - in as little time as possible - will have to re-read to get the true picture though. I just wanted to say how much I deeply appreciated your site, your thoughts and your beautiful writing style. I thought your bio was inspirational - I have now emailed it to many people and hopefully, you will have exponential growth demands within Australia. keep up the good work and hopefully our paths will cross one day. Take Care.

Denis Moriarty strataus@bigpond.com.au

You are a sad miserable asshole. I dont believe your vision for the future. if you have a problem with, this call me, you have my email address, if you can type it that is. fuck you.

"Maggie Hittinger" uglyone@earthlink.net

I've just read your "review" of Interview with the Vampire and I must say I am appalled. What gives you the right to compare a harmless erotic and romantic historical drama to Hitler and the Holocaust? You say that if the woman stripped on stage would have instead been a man, that the "titilated" audience would have been disgusted. That is not true at all. Consider the main audience of this genre. Most of them are young men and women who are either bisexual or experimenting with their sexuality. The other viewers of this film are called "open-minded individuals." Also, do you honestly think a man would just let some pale skinned freaks put him on stage and let them strip him down (that is if he is not a homosexual)? It really is more likely that that would happen to a female than a male. Even classis vampire lore has made it perfectly clear that vampires are dark, erotic and, in most cases, even bisexual by nature. I hold nothing against your site or your other views, I only ask that you consider all possibilities before you cut down a fantastic work of art that will be remembered for many generations to come.


Dear Mr. Wallace:

i just want to comend you on your efforts and hard work. your direction and thoght process is valid in my perspective. i also want to grant gratitude in "retracing the steps" towards a better society. in other words, taking a closer look at our most influential past, The Ancient Greek Era. You have the potential to achieve the 'good' and become a philosopher king :-)......Though, i cannot assist you in your efforts on gathering more info on the greek times, i can always reccomend a second or third read of Plato's Republic...........keep upn the good work and good luck with life and its adventures.....


> To Whom:

Just read your article What the courts say about the Second Amendment. The entire article was based on the premise that the 2nd Amendment refers to the States' "rights" against the Federal government, not on any individual rights per se. I find this very amusing. States have no "rights" only "power." Only people can have "rights." Since the language in the Second Amendment clearly expresses the "RIGHT" of the people to keep and bear arms....it must follow that this Amendment is addressing "individuals" not a "state or community."

Take the 1st Amendment for example. The "RIGHT OF THE PEOPLE" to peaceably assemble... Are you saying that the Constitution is addressing the "RIGHT" of the people to assemble "as a state?" If this is true why hasn't it been argued that the First Amendment is simply establishing "states?"

How about the Fourth Amendment which reads: "The RIGHT OF THE PEOPLE to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated..." If your article is correct in its assumption that "the people" refers to a "State" (or more than just an individual) then how could this Amendment pertain to anything? Are you suggesting the only papers, houses, etc protected by this Amendment are those that are jointly owned by a "State?" That's absurd!

There is a clear agenda among those with anti-second amendment sentiments. Any thinking man can see right through it.


LSB4 LSB4@bellsouth.net