Letters to the Editor

(September 20, 2004)


Yes, but not that simple...: Philip Greenspan's Hooray For The DIS-es, The DISobedient And DISsenters
Dear Editors:

While I agree with the basic premise set forth by Philip Greenspan ("Hooray For The DIS-es, The DISobedient And DISsenters," September 6, 2004), I am troubled by how fast and loose he is with some of his stated facts. Harry Truman had military brass who objected to the use of the atomic bomb, and he did as well. Greenspan incorrectly surmises from these objections that there was little support for the use of the bomb. All Army and Navy (including the Marines) senior brass recommended the use of the bomb to Truman. This was after much discussion about a possible demonstration of its horrible power as well as numerous attempts to communicate through back channels to the Emperor of Japan that unthinkable devastation was about to be brought upon his country.

As a veteran, Mr. Greenspan surely understands that there are, in fact, no rules in war. Conducting a war (especially WWII which gave the Allied nations so few choices) forces men and women to make decisions and commit acts they otherwise would not make. In fact, he makes this very point in his piece.

Truman faced risking losing an estimated 300,000 GIs into an invasion of Japan as well as untold numbers of Japanese military personnel and civilians. His other choice was to destroy two a cities of 10,000-plus inhabitants. This was not a decision made lightly. And I would submit that the unnecessary horrors of the Dresden fire bombing muddy any morality that went into this decision.

But any discussion in 2004 regarding this decision is Monday-morning quarterbacking. It is this ossified rear-view mirror thinking of the Left that fuels the fire of the Radical Right's corporate war industry. Using WWII as any basis of moral or ethical comparison is suspect because it was an ugly but justifiable war waged on the part of the Allied Nations. It delights the Right no end when intelligent liberals make this mistake.

Additionally, The New York City protests revealed nothing other than their own ineffectiveness. I believe Mr. Greenspan's assertion to the contrary is incorrect simply because there was no effective change resulting from the protests. Unlike the three other protests he mentions, sadly, absolutely nothing was accomplished by the protestors in New York City. These 500,000 people did not do anything that caught world attention; did not do anything that any press organization (sensationalist, Left, or Right) could possibly report as a lead story; did not cause any voter to change their mind (poll numbers after the event are disturbing, to say the least); did not force any of the three candidates worthy of mention to change their position on any issue. While the commitment of the protestors is admirable, their goals were surely not met.

Last, the broad declaration of "Stop the one-sided support of Israel" disturbs me because it is so vague. Support of what? US Foreign aid (including all military assistance and equipment) totals less than one percent of the Israeli economy. Stop supporting the growing dissent of multitudes of Israeli citizens who are finally vocalizing great distrust of the Sharon regime? Stop supporting the military and political dissenters who want to stop the bloodshed? The issues around American support of Israel are so complex and emotional that it renders such a declaration as foolhardy.


Michael Yonchenko
Kenwood, California, USA - September 11, 2004


John Steppling's Review of Swans' September 6 Edition

To the Editor:

Phillip Greenspan's very sharp article asks right at the top, how could the people who produced Bach, Kant, Hegel and Schiller also produced Hitler and the death camps? Rolf Wiggershaus (in his history of the Frankfurt School) talks about Adorno on the same question; "The central thesis of Adorno's lecture...was that Hitler was only the executor of a tendency which appeared long before him, and which would certainly continue after him: the deculturing of the middle classes, the neutralization of culture in general, and of the arts in particular, and their replacement by the culture industry." Quoting Adorno, "it is this lack of experience of the imagery of real art, partly substituted and parodied by the ready made stereotypes of the amusement industry, which is at least one of the formative elements of the cynicism that has finally transformed the Germans, Beethoven's people, into Hitler's own people."

Greenspan mentions dissent; something which has come to be viewed as the ultimate sin (read Marcuse on Luther and the Reformation here; sin as voluntary enslavement, inner freedom vs. outer authority, and the origins of authority in pater familias). Greenspan has several excellent examples of how conformity and the need for agreement and consensus is exploited by the authority structure. He ends with a note on the protests in NYC...and it's good to remind ourselves of just how many people did come out on the streets during the great spectacle of re-nominating Dubya. The RNC resembled nothing so much as a high school production of Marat/Sade and must go down in history as the clearest case of mass psychosis ever seen (and as an advert for Human Growth Hormone, the Governor of California is a deeply terrifying icon. And as a side note, I used to work out alongside Arnie at his World Gym in Venice, and watched for a couple of years as he bullied employees and sexually insulted various women, all the while avoiding the power lifters and really big guys who might just toss him off the roof if he tried such stuff with them. Nothing worse than a bully-coward, nothing). The institutions of the empire are awash in bad faith and outright hypocrisy...nay, outright CRIME (The Hague and Milosevic is so telling in this regard). Greenspan wants us all to find the authentic core of what protest really means. I think he is right to do so.

Speaking of the RNC, Eli Beckerman reports back from New York City in a cogent brief piece on the state of protest and (that word again) dissent. There is a residual sadness in Beckerman's observations, and I think we all feel it just now...well, a lot of us do. It's a fine report though and colored with his years of experience in these matters (and I'm glad he mentions The Onion and Ms. Lee).

Richard Macintosh again brings his stellar insight to bear on issues very much related to Greenspan's. I suppose we could group both under the heading of a "Psychoanalytic Reading of US Propaganda." I am reminded of the writings of René Girard, a favorite of mine, and his analysis of victims and scapegoating. The new world order is at least partly built on the demonizing of its victims, and the perverse dynamics of self-loathing and guilt. This becomes true even of much of the left, when sectarian (a kind of Trotskyist word, that) abuse is heaped on people who are otherwise on the same side. The ABB debates tended to demonstrate this, the near hysteria of the pro Kerry people, who have invested so much in demonizing Republicans and Bush. Of course, that's easy to do, but it rather profoundly fails to examine the larger historical forces at work, the forces that created a Cheney and a Rumsfeld (or a Hitler), the lunatics who are running the asylum. These fanatics don't exist in a vacuum, and they are the outcome of the later stages of this waste economy under which we suffer. Kerry and Bush now share a good number of corporate backers....share!! The same people are paying for both campaigns! There is also a need to examine at some point, in a related matter, the fringe conspiracy theory types out there. I mention this because often there is over-lap on issues (even a blind squirrel gathers some nuts). The seductive quality of "being-in-the-know" on certain topics, knowing some "hidden" truth (calling Dr Freud, line six)...is hard to resist...especially if one already feels alienated from the mainstream for one's opinions. However, this particular brand of bourgeois paranoia strikes me, in the end, as highly reactionary. It mystifies the real issues out there...and those are difficult enough to get people to listen to without having to find oneself standing shoulder to shoulder with guys ranting about invisible helicopters. The problem, of course, is that (as Fritz Lang said) just because I'm paranoid doesn't mean they aren't out to get me. And hell, maybe it WAS a hologram that took down the WTC. . . . what do I know?

The Nazi template is hard to resist -- it's so obvious. The devolving of public education is a large part of creating the right conditions for propaganda, and US public education is in a pretty sorry state these days. The abandonment of art education and a focus on specialized technical knowledge has created the new technocrat; the ethically challenged bureaucratic specialist who sees no practical need for history or philosophy. This extends to the University and the Post Modern left; with courses on John Grisham and the lyrics of Madonna....or, as a colleague I once knew in Hollywood, who wrote a masters dissertation on the Love Boat (at Harvard I believe), on TV sit-coms. Such confusing of symptom and cause is representative of the ahistorical trivializing of our society. Adorno saw Astrological forecasts as a symptom -- and one should see John Grisham as a symptom too...same as NYPD Blue or Law and Order (three MOST reactionary and crypto-fascist TV drama ever to get produced). Cops DON'T HAVE inner lives...that's why they became cops! This new anti-intellectualism can be found in both right wing and liberal blogs, by the way. Buffy, Star Trek, Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings...all CHILDREN'S material, all embraced proudly as a sort of badge of the new empty populist posture. Ugh.

Gilles d'Aymery posts two good pieces; one a scorecard of stats on the irrationality of American pseudo supremacy and the other his excellent Blips from the Martian Desk, with wonderful comments on both Wal*Mart and the lynching of Slobodan Milosevic. The scorecard is particularly relevant given the current round of Cuba bashing being engaged in by both Kerry and Bush.....gee, health care seems a whole lot better under that evil dictator.....why is that?

Milo Clark has a sobering piece on the Bush corruption machine and the spectre of electronic voting "machines" -- both defective machines actually. Clark's piece is more essential material for the obvious; that this coming election may well be determined by the crooks who own the electronic apparatus that "count" our votes. Clark has done his usual fine research work on this one. Just read it and ask yourselves; Karl Rove wouldn't do this kind of thing, would he? Please, someone, tell me why the Democrats don't object more about this?

Jan Baughman gives us a parable for the post modern century of oppression. One feels a certain chill while reading it...the truth is woven here in a way that makes it uncomfortable in the best possible way. The sheep look up!

José Tirado's piece is on Buddhism and the Greens. I only point out one thing; and that is the Green Party decision to vote Green only in "safe" states....making sure one votes Kerry the rest of the time. What would Lord Buddha think?

And here in Poland, the price of sugar has quadrupled since we joined the EU.....ah, progress!

John Steppling
Krakow, Poland - September 11, 2004
[ed. Steppling is a LA playwright (Rockefeller fellow, NEA recipient, and PEN-West winner) and screenwriter (most recent was Animal Factory directed by Steve Buscemi). He is currently living in Poland where he teaches at the National Film School in Lodz.]


Ah, this darn editor...: John Steppling's review of Stan Goff's Full Spectrum Disorder
Dear Editor:

There is a destructive misspelling in John Steppling's otherwise fine review of Stan Goff's GREAT Full Spectrum Disorder.

It is in the review's fifth paragraph; it's only two-sentence one. Its "The desperate death throws..." ought to read "The desperate death throes..."

Chris Fogarty
Chicago, Illinois, USA - September 6, 2004

[ed. What should a responsible editor do when caught in the act? Blame the author, of course! Many thanks for pointing out the typo. John has a clear mind and much talent, but is either a poor typist or a terrible speller (or both) and it's sort of an uphill struggle to catch all the errors... Fortunately, friendly readers tend to come to the rescue!]


Back in Paris

Monsieur d'Aymery,

No relation with François Marie, I'm afraid, but anyway, who would know in your boonies that Voltaire was born F.M. Arouet?

"A Model of Freedom and Democracy for the World to Emulate ™" eh? Sure, just ask the Iraqis, or for that matter the Cubans who have more representatives per capita than the U.S., a better public education and comparable health care at a fraction of the cost (then again Cuba's economy is based on human needs, not profits and greed) -- but you were your ironic self, weren't you? "Deaf, dumb and dangerous," says Garrison Keillor... So dumb, actually, that they fear a terrorist attack more than being murdered (there were over 16,000 murders in 2003 in the U.S.) and they still believe Saddam Hussein instigated 9/11... How dumber can one be? And these dumb and dangerous asses are in the process of destroying the world. Bravo, bravissimo!

It was, wasn't it?, Dorothy Day, the "grand old lady of pacifism" -- you know, Peter Maurin (another Frenchman by the way), The Catholic Worker, etc. -- who said that "Our [America's] problems stem from our acceptance of this filthy, rotten system." Decades later, the system is simply filthier and far more rotten, and you can smell its capitalist putrescence from anywhere you stand all over the world. It stinks badly.

What happened to Phil Rockstroh -- has he given up on you? Tell him I need my bi-weekly Rockstrohean fix to keep sane and polite, as I doubtlessly always am!

I'm back in Paris...and you, Mr. d'Aymery, should have planted roots at le Cosquer instead of exiling yourself in Barbaria.

Allez, bon vent. Give 'em hell.

Alouette Arouet
Paris, France - September 17, 2004


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Published September 20, 2004
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