I am a psychologist.
A patient of mine came in and started his session expressing his hatred of your
front-page picture of a Jewish man with a suicide bomber’s belt ("Suicide
Jews," 6/18). Rarely have I seen anything as ugly, as offensive and anti-Semitic
as that picture. If I were an activist, I would go around to all of your advertisers
and ask them to stop advertising in your paper. You owe the world your apologies.
Just a few
words of support for the great piece of journalism by Mr. Rushkoff. Judging
from responses in last week’s mail, one can only give credit to Mr. Rushkoff’s
insight: Aren’t these reactions exactly the ones described by him?
mixing of issues (terrorism, the Third Reich, anti-Semitism, etc.) is an old
and populist strategy in this debate. Common sense and historical knowledge
on the other hand seem to be fading, and the articles published demonstrate
and Cabal: Perfect Together
Alan Cabal for taking his bar and restaurant patronage to New Jersey ("New
York City," 6/18). It’s pathetic to see New York smokers huddled on
sidewalks outside bars like 12-year-olds behind a schoolhouse. But such conduct
is yet another manifestation of the passivity displayed by so many New Yorkers
who just lie down and take whatever politically correct dog shit the elite zealots
decide to decree.
politicians start picking up my bar tab, I’ll concede they have the right
to dictate my behavior in a bar. Until then I’ll join Cabal in saying "on
to New Jersey."
I’d like to know why, after you make plain the anti-democratic thrust of
much of U.S. foreign policy over many decades ("Cage Match," 6/25),
you feel it’s necessary to assert that you "won’t go in [the]
direction" of what you call the "whiny, finger-pointing left,"
typified by the "tweedy stench of Noam Chomsky and Howard Zinn."
won’t? But isn’t that what you’d just done? Please explain how
we are to distinguish between your review of U.S. policy and the arguments of
Chomsky and Zinn. How are yours any less "finger-pointing" or "left"
than theirs? And, as you apparently don’t differ with them on facts or
logic, why should we consider any of them "whiny" or associated with
pointed disavowals were intended to render your views more acceptable to a broader
audience, I think the approach is badly mistaken. Such a maneuver smacks of
bad faith; worse, it’s reminiscent of the habits of toadying, red-baiting
Cold War liberals. Hurling insults at others who, from the margins of public
debate, have raised essentially the same points you have only serves to validate
the prejudices that consign all critical views of U.S. policy–your
own included–to the margins in the first place, regardless of their merits.
Face it–if you’re hoping to open the eyes of the Russ Smiths of this
world, all the anti-Chomsky slurs in the world won’t cut it.
Sights on Seitz
In his review
of Manito last week ("Film," 6/25), Matt Zoller Seitz takes
aim at critics who believe, as he puts it, that "if it ain’t on 35mm
it ain’t cinema." This, he believes, is analogous to saying "music
isn’t really music unless it’s a classical piece performed by a minimum
of 12 musicians."
is false. Beethoven wrote his Moonlight Sonata for a single piano. Any
expansion of the piece into a full symphonic work would corrupt his mission.
One could argue that neither classical nor pop is meant to be performed during
rush hour in the IRT W. 34th St. station. What emerges is cacophony, not music.
If the Washington Heights area that Franky G’s character calls home in
Manito is seedy, we don’t need gritty, hand-held camera techniques
to illustrate the concept. The rough edges of the nabe can best be shown on
Director, New York Film Critics Online
"Ho Chi Minh was the actual Thomas Jefferson clone. But our decision to
cross this hugely popular revolutionary leader triggered his conversion to communism…"
("Cage Match," 6/25).
to add a little clarification–"Uncle Ho" had been "converted
to communism" long before he got crossed by the West. From the end of WWI
through the early 20s at least, he studied in Moscow, and later had been busy
organizing the revolution from Hanoi, recruiting and training the Viet Minh
to resist and harass the French colonialists, before Japan’s (brief) occupation.
Ho saw a chance to liberate his people altogether, and asked the U.S. for assistance
in 1946. But naturally, because of his ties to the Soviet Union, our best and
brightest at the time believed he couldn’t be trusted. So they chose instead
to let de Gaulle hijack U.S. policy in the region, out of sympathy for the French
who suffered so much during the Vichy years (sound familiar?), and allowed the
French to return and reclaim their vested financial interests. We know the rest.
Olson, Riverdale, NY
("Mail," 6/25) comment that Jacob Sullum’s lack of enthusiasm
for the drugs he sampled indicates "he’s pandering to the mainstream
and a fucking lunatic. Or just a liar…" tells more about Ames’
compulsions than it does about Sullum’s methodology.
to prohibitionist propaganda and apparently to Ames’ thinking as well,
sampling any substance does not automatically induce a craving for more, any
more than one drink leads inexorably to alcoholism. Like Sullum, there are millions
who have "been there, done that," and feel no urge to repeat the drug
experience, not because it was unpleasant, but because it became unnecessary.
Their interest is in cognitive liberty, not in drugs, legal or otherwise.
with the cover photo on the "Suicide Jews" issue ("Suicide Jews"
6/18)? What did the photo have to do with the article? Was the photo Rushkoff’s
idea, or did you idiots come up with that on your own? Shock and blah.
with the "Idiot"?
(6/18) is eager for us all to know how hated and feared he is by the Jewish
community. If it’s even true, it’s certainly not because he’s
so anti-establishment, as he asserts, but rather because he’s an idiot.
He is everything that annoys us in the establishment–an arrogant, poorly
educated critic whose only interest in the community at large is in proving
how oppressed by and excluded from it he is.
is chock full of errors, the most humorous being that there are "Israelites"
in the Torah. But the most significant is the thesis itself: two Jews, three
opinions goes the saying, and it’s as true now as ever. There is as much
diversity on religious, cultural and Zionist matters as ever and the debates
are loud, passionate and unending. If his goal is to remain feeling alone and
unique in the Jewish community, like some kind of prophet or 16-year-old who
thinks nobody understands him, then I’ll reserve the following, but if
not, he ought to join one of the many wonderfully critical Jewish communities
on "this… island." (Apparently New York Jews only live on Manhattan
the Occupation, Jews for Racial and Economic Justice and about a billion other
organizations might prove sufficiently radical for Mr. Rushkoff’s desired
reputation. In the meantime, he should do some more research, learn where criticisms
originate (R. Wolpe was criticized by his congregation, not the other way around)
and learn to take a joke, especially one designed to give him the kind of reputation
he seems so eager to prove anyway.
the conflicting goals of submitting articulate comments on Mr. Rushkoff’s
magnificent piece ("Suicide Jews," 6/18) or timely ones, I opted for
the latter. Along comes Douglas Rushkoff, just in the nick of time. Articulating
powerfully how centuries of persecution and unpredictable modern social and
economic forces have threatened the soul of Judaism, Mr. Rushkoff’s comments
take their place in the great procession of Torah and other commentary stretching
back through the 3500-plus years of Jewish thought and worship.
as Mr. Rushkoff’s analysis is for Judaism, it is equally so for the rest
of humanity. In Western culture and civilization (to say nothing of that of
the Middle East), only the Greeks can have any claim to such formative influence
as the Hebrews. It is high time that Jewish values and thought reclaim their
rightful, and inclusive, place at the head of civilization’s table. Money
for heavily fortified West Bank settlements has nothing to do with it, much
less do Baruch Goldstein, Kach and their followers, who are as far from Jewish
tradition as any other of history’s numerous bands of murderous fanatics
and two blessings, for and on Douglas Rushkoff.
Does Bronfman Look Like?
Rushkoff’s article ("Suicide Jews," 6/18) and have only one objection:
the picture on the front cover. It’s totally misleading. If you wanted
to represent the people he’s really up against, you should have had a short
woman in her mid 50s with a chic haircut and a Tahari suit. The ultra-orthodox
are less opposed to the sort of thinking Rushkoff puts forward than are the
Bronfmans, UJAs and Roiphes of the world.
It was so
nice to see Herbn Love mentioned in your "Provisionary" column in
issue 24 ("Provisionary," 6/11). We wanted to let you know that we
don’t really consider ourselves an energy drink. We are an all-natural,
organic, herbal aphrodisiac.
sweet, nurturing formula was lovingly created by a very special world-renowned
herbalist in the canyons of Ojai, CA. We are so proud of the quality that sets
us apart from the other functional beverages out there that we thought we would
share that with you.
What a rambling,
incoherent mess Mr. Rushkoff ("Suicide Jews," 6/18) has written. He
is entirely lacking in the fundamental core principles of the faith he critiques.
From what I can see, we are witnesses to narcissistic rage. Rushkoff reminds
me of the annoying types who, having been excluded from fraternities, prep schools
and country clubs, devote all of their energies to attacking them.
Mark Ames ("Books," 6/24) for telling it like it is in his review
of Jacob Sullum’s Saying Yes. I’m a recreational drug user;
I’m not ashamed of that, and I’m not proud of that. Sullum must be
a repressed soul and associate with a large numbers of squares or else fears
shocking mama. The title of the book is Saying Yes, but this wishy-washy
moderate puritan doesn’t say yes, no or anything. He invokes his right
to remain silent and maintains his authorial distance from his subject. So I
will either avoid his book like the plague or make a big bonfire out of every
Offensive, Blatantly Offensive–Make Up Your Mind
you didn’t realize, your latest cover ("Suicide Jews," 6/18)
is in extreme poor taste and is highly offensive. Considering that Jews are
targeted around the world by suicide terrorists (Israel, Tunisia, Morocco),
portraying a religious Jew as a suicide bomber displays exceedingly poor judgment.
Since September 11, 2001, the world has witnessed a dramatic and shocking increase
in anti-Semitism both in print and in actions and deeds. In this issue, it appears
as if you are contributing to this disturbing trend.
If you are
looking to grab attention, it works; however, you sacrifice any integrity in
the process. Clearly, the point of the cover article could have been made without
such offensive imagery. Although freedom of speech provides you with the right
to print almost anything you want, common sense and decency dictate editorial
restraint before publishing something so blatantly offensive.
("Suicide Jews," 6/18) is a little long in the tooth ("42 years
circumcised") to be playing the enfant terrible. Rushkoff wants to address
what it means to be Jewish. What should be the role of Judaism in a modern and
primarily secular society? Modern Jewish communal and intellectual history has
been grappling with these issues since the days of Spinoza. There have generally
been three broad responses.
has been to reaffirm traditional Jewish belief and practice and, when besieged,
retreat into insular communities. The fervor and insularity of large parts of
the Orthodox community comes from just such a preservationist mentality.
is to try to work out substantial change in Jewish practice and even traditional
belief while retaining (and often emphasizing) other values as a true core of
Judaism. In its milder forms, this entailed a more rapid pace of change in the
vast body of Jewish religious law, which in this country was particularly the
work of the Conservative movement. Reform Jews stem from a series of philosophical
thinkers (not all reformers) like Moses Mendelssohn, Abraham Geiger and Leo
Baeck who attempted to proclaim a particular Jewish moral vision of universal
import but which gave Jews a particular responsibility to be its bearers and
exponents. Rushkoff in his calmer moments sounds like many modern products of
the Reform tradition, so it is hardly surprising he often finds a warm reception
among non-traditional Jews.
response is to proclaim that Judaism is superfluous and has become irrelevant
in a modern, skeptical, liberal society where "most thinking adults…don’t
believe in an all-powerful creature with the white beard." The adherents
of this third stream have been silently slipping away for hundreds of years.
They have often been agnostics or free-thinkers, Ethical Culturists or Unitarians.
Of course, to the extent their descendents fail to share their advanced sentiments,
or marry others of more benighted religious persuasions, their families quietly
slip into the Christian mainstream.
of Judaism rejects conversion or converts, but only Reform actively welcomes
"inter-married" families where there is a strong intent to raise the
children as Jews. Other Jews are simply concerned they will be too subject to
compromises of Jewish practice, belief and education stemming from the overwhelming
gravitational force of an intensely Christian environment.
committed Jews generally want to try to make Judaism and the Jewish community
work better. They don’t have time for a parasitic iconoclast like Rushkoff
who challenges their legitimacy and denigrates them while he makes zero contribution
or effort as part of Jewish institutions, even to the extent of affiliating
with a presumably congenial "Humanistic" congregation. Rushkoff wants
everyone to spend vast efforts on his dorm-room bull sessions to decide whether
there is much point to continued Jewish existence at all.
A lot of
Jews have already decided their responses to that question. Rushkoff and kindred
souls will have to decide theirs from a vast array of possible affiliations
and an immense Jewish literature on religion, philosophy and ethics. Judging,
however, from this essay and the apparent thought and research behind it, Rushkoff
hasn’t been working very hard at his questions and doesn’t intend