Letters to the editor

White House and anti-drug TV -- Big Brother manipulation or good use of government? Plus: Who's afraid of mutated foods?; Camille Paglia's moronic defense of loudmouth athletes

Topics: Football, Drugs, Hillary Rodham Clinton, Camille Paglia, Peyton Manning

Prime-time
propaganda

BY DANIEL FORBES
(01/13/99)

and

Propaganda
for dollars

BY DANIEL FORBES
(01/14/99)

In the words of Nell Carter, give me a break! I
have never seen such an egregious example of hopelessly naive reportage on the
salon.com Web site. To accuse the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) of “mind control” for working with
broadcast networks to include anti-drug messages in programming is
ludicrous. To be shocked by the implication that someone other than the creative
geniuses who came up with “Two Guys, a Girl and a Pizza Place” have been
influenced by something outside their bubble worlds is absolutely hilarious.

Do you really believe that making network TV programs is an exercise in
democracy and free speech? Why not point your finger at the advertisers
who threaten shows like “Ellen” with lost advertising revenue for
expressing gay-positive themes? What about product placement in prime-time
TV? What about inserting digital advertisements in sports
broadcasts? These things impinge upon free expression
and blur the lines between entertainment and propaganda much more than a
little tweaking of existing drug-related story lines.

And as far as encouraging anti-drug messages in programming, at least the message being
promulgated by federal officials is slightly more responsible than the
advertisers’ mantra of “Consume, Consume, Consume.”

– Amanda Holm

Maybe I’m a little dense or naive, but I thought part of the good things government did was to work toward solving the drug epidemic in our country that is our modern plague. The terms used by Salon to describe the “deal” make it sound underhanded and illegal. So far
I as can tell, the deal was neither. In fact, I would say it was admirable that the government took steps to use the media for positive goals in contrast to what seems to be the destructive
and inane purposes of many popular TV productions.



For years the popular media has indirectly espoused violence, uncontrolled sex, drugs and immorality that have brainwashed the people into being a society without values or good judgement. Why shouldn’t the government use the same power of the media for a good
purpose?

– Stan Kotajarvi

It seems to me that the righteous indignation reflected in Daniel Forbes’ articles is somewhat misplaced. If the “guvment” was involved in real propaganda activities, like promoting racist or sexist stereotypes, or police-state tactics against civilians, or imperialist military activity in
other countries, then I would agree with his concerns. But influencing children not to harm their lives and others by getting addicted to alcohol and drugs? Ridiculous. I think the networks and the “guvment” should also have targeted smoking cigarettes and tobacco, besides alcohol.

– Ron Buckles

The deliberate guiding of content by the ONDCP, however
admirable its intent, is troubling when you consider who else could have been doing it, such as a large tobacco company. I for one would welcome disclaimers at the end of a TV episode such as “Production assistance by the U.S. ONDCP,” but I think the same type of disclaimer
should be used for consumer product placement in a TV show or movie.

This issue actually is very similar to the current debate about campaign finance reform. The American public needs to start being much more vocal and curious about who’s funding whom and what in this country, and what agenda they’re trying to advance. It isn’t easy to tell anymore.

– Nancy Finch

The idea that any governmental agency can foist its morality onto the public via TV programming is thoroughly appalling and equally frightening — and to make me pay
for this “indoctrination” with my own tax dollars is the
ultimate insult! I’m sick to death of this administration’s attitude that
it must “save” me from myself — whether it’s tobacco products, drugs, or handguns, my personal freedoms are being subtly eroded at every opportunity.

This latest interference with creative freedom only proves how far
the government will go in its subliminal, stealth campaign to destroy our
individual rights and warp our perspectives. As for the network executives
who co-conspired to promote this propaganda, I hope a smart lawyer for the
FCC finds some way to sanction you for your reckless disregard and
willful, malicious breach of the public trust.

– B. Morris

Thank you for publicizing the federal government’s
attempts to control content on network TV. This
action by the ONDCP is reprehensible at best, and is a clear violation of
FCC content regulations. How long did our “drug czar” intend to
keep the public in the dark on this issue? McCaffrey should be
fired immediately and prosecuted for spreading lies and half-truths about
drugs and America’s drug users, and using our airwaves to do so. The “war
on drugs” is clearly a war on ideas, as evidenced by this latest pathetic
attempt by the ONDCP.

Have NORML (The National Organization for the Reform
of Marijuana Laws) and similar organizations been allowed equal time to
confront the charges against drug users made by the ONDCP? I don’t recall
seeing the “Pot just might be harmless” commercial in prime time.

– Robert C. Cook

The government’s efforts to control drugs during the
past two decades has been a total fiasco. And now, the shadow of
“Big Brother” controlling the minds of the country truly comes to
mind.

The idea that the networks and media have given up our
First Amendment rights by secretly assisting the government in its
publicity campaign is frightening. How can a free society exist if the
people do not know that the government is spewing its rhetoric in an insidious
manner to undermine the very freedoms which we hold dear?

The only way to stop the drug problem is to treat the issue as a social — not criminal — problem! Legalize it, tax it! Don’t put good people in prison for exercising the same rights that women enjoy under Roe vs. Wade — the right to do with their bodies as they see fit. After all, if you can
legally have an abortion, why can’t you get high?

– Don Ewing

Mutant
food

BY KRISTI COALE

(01/12/00)

Thank you for the excellent article by Kristi Coale. First, it is one of the most
well-written, comprehensive articles on the topic of genetically engineered foods. Second, at long last someone has the guts to disclose the Food and Drug Administration’s shameful bias toward industry, and outright corruption. It is long overdue that the agency be
reprimanded and overhauled. Sadly, the problem goes beyond the FDA,
EPA and USDA. I’m afraid that many of our politicians in Washington –
via soft money contributions and political action committees (PAC)
– have become controlled by industry at the cost of public health
and enlightenment. I hope Salon will continue this type of investigative
reporting which looks more deeply into issues. Thanks for your great story.

– William Crist

Boone, N.C.

Ms. Coale complains that the companies who have produced genetically mutated (GM) seeds have been unable to “prove” that the organisms are safe. Such proof is, of course, impossible. One cannot “prove” a negative. To limit the development of new technology to such a standard is a Luddite notion at best.

It is also obvious that Ms. Coale has not spent much time on a university campus. On mine, you can get nine professors to sign onto nearly anything. The fact that Druker could dredge up only nine unknowns as co-complainants says more about the weakness of his suit than the
strength. The idea that said nine are taking great personal risk by supporting
the suit is absurd. What does she think tenure is for? These are all
tenured faculty members who will quite likely occupy their positions until
they die, and perhaps well beyond. We who are lucky enough to have tenure
are granted it precisely so that we can take unpopular positions
without fear of repercussions. How many other people can say that? Courage indeed!

Finally, one has to ask, “Where’s the beef?” Genetically mutated crops have been around for nearly 10 years, and to our knowledge, there is not a shred of evidence of any actual damage. In the words of Commerce Undersecretary David Aaron, “not one sneeze, not one cough, not one rash.” If the religious wackos and neo-Luddites object to GM organisms, that is their right. Let’s just recognize them for who they are.

– George Pfeiffer

Coale overstates the case against genetically modified
foods. Nearly all foods are GM foods and they have been since the birth of
agriculture. Genetic modification was achieved in prehistoric times by
selection. Then came cross-breeding. Now we use gene splicing. In the
future we will use artificial genes. The real issue is not whether we
label a food “GM” or not; it is how we determine a food is safe and
nutritious. Coale and her ilk would be well-served to focus on the big question
and to eschew the labels of ignorance.

– Jim Hershberger

The flap about GM food is
overblown. The unstated, but obvious, assumption of pieces like Kristi Coales’
is that natural equals good and GM equals bad. Of course there will be people who have allergic reactions to GM food. So what? Shellfish allergies are fairly common, but I can still buy shrimp and lobster at the supermarket. In recent months we have even been informed that surprising numbers of people react badly to the common peanut. Skippy and Jif were still on the shelves the last time I looked.

– Dick Eagleson


“Punch” Bradley, “Judy” Gore and the injustice being
done John Rocker

BY CAMILLE PAGLIA
(01/12/00)

Camille Paglia writes: “The massive Secret Service bills for this escapade
(the Clintons moving to N.Y.) are coming out of your taxes — which would be
better employed in upgrading inner-city schools or providing free
prescription medicines to senior citizens.”

What’s the alternative? Disband the Secret Service and have our leaders and their family members assassinated as an annual ritual? I’m sure Ms. Paglia would find a way to defend ritual assassination with some off-handed reference to the Greeks. For the rest of us, we’ll
take the Secret Service as an unfortunate, but necessary, institution in the
defense of free elections.

And since when is a lame-duck president and his family
moving from the White House an “escapade”? I don’t think the next
president would be too happy if the Clintons decided to settle into the
Lincoln bedroom in 2001. So they moved a year early, either way they have to
move. It’s amusing to watch the darts that are thrown by people who hate the
president. Alan Greenspan might call it an “irrational exuberance” of
hatred toward the Clintons. Can we raise the interest rate on Ms.
Paglia to cool her expansion?

– Brian King

San Francisco

In her column, Paglia writes: “Athletes are warriors, not diplomats, and
they shouldn’t have to conform to genteel p.c. codes.” This is precisely
the moronic attitude that creates the John Rockers and [Arizona relief pitcher] Bobby Chouinards of
the world. As long as she and others are around to reassure them their behavior is perfectly fine, this sort of nonsense will continue.

She also writes: “Football, which I have repeatedly described as my pagan religion, is the key to understanding American business and politics.” In other words, being loud, stupid, and violent is how we should be. Perhaps Camille should stop the silly chest-thumping.

– Tracy Mohr

My goodness, Ms. Paglia writes long columns. Regarding her
snide remarks on the cost to taxpayers for security measures at the
Clintons’ new home, granted, we’ll pay through the nose. But protection is a
necessary guarantee we must make as a nation to all our ex-presidents. I’m
sure we’ll be hearing about the cost for the next year but I’m making a vow
right now to ignore all articles that don’t also include what we do for
other living presidents and/or their families. Be fair now.

– Diane Wagner-Price

As a former ’60s liberal and now a 49-year-old Ronald Reagan/Rush Limbaugh conservative type, I have found Camille Paglia to be
one thinker I would vote for in any capacity. Her razor sharp no-nonsense
lucidity combined with boundless creativity has proven to be the
consistent haven of agreement between me and my fairly liberal democrat
girlfriend. That is to me the true benchmark of superior rationality and
idealism. Thank you for showcasing her awesome talent.

– R. Pier

West Orange, N.J.

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