Sparrow, Phoenicia, NY
Joe Checks In Very interesting. I was out of town for a few days and upon my return to New York what do I find but that Public Enemy Number 1–Mr. Joe Conason–has published a column in the 9/1 NYPress. Needless to say, I had to read it, because if its in NYPress it means you guys somehow koshered him. And, sure enough, the man wrote a decent piece. Maybe hell rethink his silly stance on Madame Hillary, and we can have some fun with him.
John Strausbaugh wrote an interesting "Publishing" column last week about the David Horowitz-Jack E. White flap. I think the most interesting point thats been made–aside from the fact that White is an ignoramus–is that when a public figure such as Horowitz is libeled by a rag with Times circulation, he has no effective forum in which to reply. Until the advent of the Internet, that is. Now Horowitz can at least begin to disseminate his arguments. (After all, Time would never allow him to defend himself in its own pages.) Luce continues to spin in his grave.
Lastly, why dont you get Camille Paglia to do an occasional column for your paper? I dont always agree with her, but her "dont give a shit whose feelings I hurt" attitude would mesh nicely with yours.
Once again, NYPress is the best.
Norm Rush, Manhattan
Social Distortion David Horowitz may not be a racist–his controversial article in the Aug. 16 Salon and other articles I have read by him do not seem to reveal an animus toward African-Americans per se, but rather against individuals who are "unintelligent" (of which blacks constitute a disproportionate number, according to Horowitz) or discontent with the current social order (of which blacks constitute a disproportionate number) or maladjusted (of which blacks constitute...). They threaten Horowitz because they challenge his fairytale neocon delusion that we live in a basically equitable, decent social system that is continually being unfairly maligned by his dreaded nemeses, left-wing social critics who refuse to renounce their radical pasts, and confess as Horowitz urges them to: We exaggerated the evils of...[the American social system] and underestimated its decencies and virtues and were sorry. (See Horowitz, Salon, Aug. 2.) In order to maintain his delusion, Horowitz adapts a neo-social Darwinist position; thus the socially disadvantaged are invariably depicted by Horowitz as characterologically defective individuals who should be subjected to punitive measures by the state–for the good of African-Americans themselves, Horowitz hastens to assure us (he is no racist). If this is not a form of class bigotry, what is it?
Thus Horowitz must deny the extensively documented fact that the criminal justice system is racist in its effects. Blacks, he tells us, are definitely not oppressed in America. The proof? There is no "black exodus" to other countries! Horowitz completely ignores the impact on poor blacks in America of such factors as: the loss of industrial jobs, the cutback of welfare and the growth of a prison-industrial complex. From 1980 to 1997 General Motors alone cut out 296,000 jobs in the United States. As industries relocate abroad to find cheap sources of labor, and welfare is cut back, many of the poor who are left without decent means of subsistence have turned to drugs.
At the same time the privatization of prisons has created a powerful economic incentive to fill up the prisons–for the most part with non-criminals who represent no threat to others. (Prisons are one of the biggest growth industry in the United States today!) During the past two decades approximately a thousand new prisons and jails have been built in the United States–yet the overall crime rate has been falling since 1994, according to the Justice Dept.s Bureau of Justice Statistics. In 1995 less than one third of persons entering prison were violent offenders, down from 50 percent in 1980. What has increased dramatically is imprisonment for drug crimes. Poor blacks are fodder for this prison-industrial complex. It really is irrelevant–except to Horowitz–what Jesse Jackson said about crack arrests 10 years ago, or yesterday. The fact is that the war against drugs is a war against poor blacks, and it serves the interests of many industries and groups in society. As former police chief Dr. Joseph McNamara stated in the National Review (Feb. 12, 1996, p. 43)–typical lefty mag, eh David?–"The drug war has become a race war in which nonwhites are arrested and imprisoned at 4-5 times the rate whites are, even though most drug crimes are committed by whites." In the prisons, according to Amnesty International, conditions are increasingly brutal. The use of "new high-tech repression tools," such as electro-shock devices and chemical sprays, is now common, and there is "a widespread and persistent pattern of police brutality."
I was a new-leftist in the late 1960s, though too young then to be a leader–I was 16 in 1968. I do agree with David that the new left made serious mistakes: by the late 1960s it had assumed many of the authoritarian and elitist qualities of the old left, and it participated in the apotheosis of violence and hatred exemplified by the leadership of the Black Panther Party. But 30 years later I cannot console Horowitz and admit that the 1960s left "exaggerated the evils" of modern industrial society–if anything we underestimated its corruptness. In addition to the horrors cited above, who would have imagined back then–to take just one example–that one of the best minds of our generation, David Horowitz, who wrote with such compassion and prophetic indignation about the oppression of the poor and the vulnerable, would soon become a shameless apologist for social inequity and class privilege? How did you come to lose your heart, David? Why?
Seth Farber, Manhattan
No Animal Cracking This is in response to last weeks letter from Brian O Hara, of R&R Productions ("The Mail," 9/1).
I salute the "latent thespian" whom OHara so fiercely and bitterly criticized for writing to "The Mail" (8/18) in order to denounce OHara for murdering gerbils. Judging by what Ive seen in many films that use animals, I believe the thespian.
OHara sounds pitifully arrogant, sadistic and egotistical. Only that type of person could be such an ignoramus as to say that all species other than humans are: "...stupid, vicious creatures with no mercy, no remorse and no love."
Anyone who has companion for animals knows and enjoys their compassion and love. They know how ingeniously resourceful they can be in many situations, and how helpful they can be to other pets in the house...and all on their own! And this is a microcosm of what happens, also, in the wild.
If OHara thinks hes "superior" to other species, why does he imitate "inferior" beings? He gives examples of animals who attack other animals. But these are carnivorous animals who, if hungry, eat vegetarian animals.
Decent, civilized, evolved people respect the right of animals to live on this globe unmolested.
E.P. Albertine, Long Island City
Soup Bones Re: George Szamuelys piece in "Takis Top Drawer" (9/1), I havent seen so much nonsense written about China in a long time. You commend the Chinese for acting with restraint over Hong Kong. Yeah, you would too if you were going to get what you wanted anyway in a few years without doing anything. And theyve kept their promise to let Hong Kong keep its own government "for the most part." Well, except that theyve made the Hong Kong courts subservient to Beijing, so that the mainland can overrule any decision they dont like–such as lawsuits that go against relatives of top Communist leaders, as theyve already done. Just small things like that. They dont consider that going back on any of their promises to let Hong Kong keep its autonomy. You see, George, the Communist leaders dont understand rule of law the way you and I do. They interpret it to mean "might makes right."
As far as Taiwan goes, youre out of your mind. Taiwan is an independent state. It is not part of China, and its none of Chinas business what the Chinese in Taiwan do. You call Chinas behavior "mild"–yeah, like military sorties over the Taiwan strait. The Chinese are prepared to be very accommodating to Taiwanese businessmen in return for recognition of their ultimate sovereignty over Taiwan. Gee, who wouldnt go for that? Were tired of living under our own leaders, with one of the most powerful economies in Asia. We want to be under the thumb of a corrupt, authoritarian dictatorship with an appalling human rights record. I cant remember now why we fled China in the first place.
You seem to think there is nothing to fear from North Korea. I can tell you that the Japanese, among others, do not share your view. The fact that ordinary people are starving in North Korea says nothing about their military capability. You are incredibly naive if you think that the dictators and military leaders who control the country and its resources are not well fed.
As for your assertion that the U.S. is set to undermine China, you made that up out of whole cloth. Bill Clinton has put on a revolting show of self-abasement to appease the Chinese in order to keep trade relations humming. He has sold out Taiwan–Madeleine Albright publicly rebuked them for President Lees "state to state relations" remark. The Chinese know what a lying ass-licker Clinton is and pressed that to their advantage, refusing Clinton administration apologies over the Belgrade embassy bombing and denying the U.S. landing rights for military planes in Hong Kong. If the Chinese do attack Taiwan while Clinton is in office, I wouldnt be surprised if he sides with the mainland. What a pig.
Finally, you assert that if Taiwan "slips away," Tibet and other provinces will follow and that will be the end of China. Well, for your information, George, Taiwan slipped away 50 years ago. You really should get out more. Im sure the Tibetans would be happy if Tibet seceded, but that is impossible at the moment. Im not aware of any other province in China that has the slightest inclination to secede, so I think the scenario you describe is extremely unlikely–as in, forget it.
Joe Rodrigue, New Haven
Slamming The "Drawer" Lately Ive enjoyed George Szamuelys articles almost as much as I do Alexander Cockburns. Before Cockburn came on board I mostly hated your newspaper, with its special mix of right-wing polemic, journalistic gossip and yuppy egocentrism. Now I find the mix much wider and sometimes, as with Cockburn and Szamuely, quite interesting. Szamuelys recent trenchant critiques of American cultural/economic and military/political imperialism vis-a-vis Western Europe, in the Balkans and now toward China are especially unusual and valuable.
However, while I can appreciate exaggerations or eccentricities of view that help journalists stake out unpopular (but correct) views in popular and effective ways, I think Szamuelys "The China Syndrome" column ("Takis Top Drawer," 9/1) goes too far, not in his criticism of U.S. policy in Yugoslavia or Asia, but in his apology for the policies of the Serbian and mainland Chinese leaders. Speaking of the U.S. bombing of Serbia, for instance, he writes: "The ostensible reason proffered was the supposed abuse of Albanian human rights." Forgetting for a moment the intentional U.S. obfuscation of terms like "human rights," cant Szamuely argue that the U.S. is hypocritical, self-interested, imperialist, wrong, etc., in its Serbian intervention without qualifying Serbian oppression of ethnic Albanians as "supposed"? Everybody knows there was nothing "supposed" about it!
Such apologies for nationalism, in my opinion, are just pig-headed and undermine his efforts to rally opposition to U.S. imperialism. Similarly, he argues that the U.S. would be happy to see China weak and divided, the better to exploit its resources, and that China actually faces decomposition, like the Soviet Union, with potentially catastrophic consequences. These are important arguments, and reflect the thoughts and fears of Chinese mainland officials. But rather than set them out and discuss their relevance, he (unintentionally, I think) plays into the hands of the worst elements on both sides by urging the mainland government "to stop Taiwans drift toward independence. Threats alone will have no effect... China has to show its readiness to use force now."
Well, where to begin? First of all, this misses the point. The threat to Chinas unity on the political level (Communist Partys monopoly of power) and state level (China has huge regional economic and linguistic differences) comes not from an "independent" Taiwan seeking "state-to-state" relations (were talking here about words only, as Taiwan has been independent in fact since Mao took the mainland and Chiang Kai-sheks KMT fled to the island under U.S. protection). Rather, Chinas unity is threatened by the social/economic changes occurring in China under the CPs own guidance. As the Soviet Union under Gorbachev and Tiananmen Square showed, a "Communist" party introducing capitalism sooner or later is likely to shatter. Not the independence but the inter-dependence of Taiwanese, mainland Chinese, Japanese, European and U.S. businessmen is what constitutes right now the greatest threat to a unitary Chinese state. What kind of state are we talking about? Socialist? Social Democratic? Capitalist? We may have our own opinions about what it ought to be, or can be, as historical circumstance must limit the choices one way or another, but surely the Chinese people need to be given a chance to decide this question for themselves. This is the issue, and it is especially poignantly raised in regard to Taiwan. This is not only because the 22 million "overseas" Chinese on the island have created a rich entrepreneurial society that mainland Chinese envy and despise at the same time, and not just because over the last 10 years they have established a thriving democracy (enriched by tensions between native Taiwanese and KMT "mainlanders"), but because there are unresolved issues involved in both societies that date back to Confucius.
A man like George Szamuely should understand that at stake in China is not whether Marx was right or wrong, or whether the Communist Party can or should survive, but the future of a very large part of humanity, of its values and self respect. This is profoundly a question of culture, and, yes, of democracy. Echoing the jingoistic posturing of corrupt Communist Party bureaucrats over the use of force, or worse, the use of force itself, will not resolve these conflicts, but deflect any consideration of them, and further threaten the security of all the Chinese people.
Kenneth Wiland, Manhattan