Letters to the Editor

Is true satire only from the left? Also, readers reject Wenner's world.

Published April 26, 1999 4:00PM (EDT)

Truth and consequences


So Joyce Millman's list of proper satirists includes not only Michael
Moore but also Richard Pryor, Lenny Bruce, George Carlin and the Smothers Brothers.
Perhaps to her, true satire seems to exist only when
coming from the left. Her argument would hold much more weight if she
gave any indication that she sees satire as having room for the slightly libertarian,
moderate Republicanism of Dennis Miller and Bill Maher alongside the
radical fanaticism of Michael Moore.

-- Aaron Schatz

Cambridge, Mass.

Joyce Millman's article on "The Awful Truth" actually misses the one
thing that sets Michael Moore apart from everyone else -- he goes to the
source. While everyone else indulges in plain commentary or commentary on
commentary, Moore distinguishes himself by walking right up to Bob Barr,
or at least right up to Trent Lott's house. It's easier to blather on
about Fred Phelps than it is to walk right up to him with a camera and
have a little chat.

Watching Bob Barr duck and weave is far more entertaining than all the
comic punditry in the world. Moore just gives his targets rope -- they
invariably put it around their own necks.

-- David Link

Sacramento, Calif.

I read with irritation Joyce Millman's celebration of Michael Moore's
narrowness of mind. I liked and admired "Roger & Me," but
thought "TV Nation" was awful. While I enjoyed Moore's irreverence up to a
certain point, his show reeked of the kind of moral certitidue that, like
Pat Robertson, is more scary than funny.

Millman confuses Moore's grating one-sidedness with conviction. Not once
have I seen Moore acknowledge the other side of an argument, even for the
purpose of refuting it. He views every issue from the same, tired,
pseudo-populist point of view, leaving viewers with the sense that it's
Moore himself who is really trying to con them. What kills Moore's ratings
isn't conviction, it's intellectual laziness and predictability.

That Millman wants Bill Maher to pick a political party and stick with it
is telling. Maher's "failure" to do so doesn't signify the lack of a point
of view, but rather a lack of loyalty to anything but his own values. If
only more political show hosts were as committed to the concept of thinking
things through, based on one's own principles, rather than picking an
ideology as an adolescent and holding on, blindly, for dear life.

-- Jay S. Levin

Millman hit the nail on the head. Back in high school, when yearbook time
came around, we had a section called "class superlatives," with categories
like "best looking," "most studious" and "most likely to succeed." There was also a category that
fits Kilborn, Miller, Maher and company to a T: "talks most, says

-- Tim Kane

Wenner's world

Don't ask me to "dig" Wenner's world. As a female music and arts journalist
for more than two decades, nothing discouraged me in my youth more than observing
how exclusively male the staff box and bylines of Rolling Stone were (and
remain). David Weir's list of talented individuals encouraged by Wenner
emphasizes this: All five women mentioned were in the
photography/design/editing end of the business. They were not the
"voices" of the magazine. I think it's important to recognize that Rolling
Stone was not the expression of a generation, but only half of one. Although
I came of age in the '60s, too, nothing I ever read in Rolling Stone expressed
my experience as a woman. I stopped subscribing in the mid-'70s because I
felt it was telling me that the only role I could have in rock 'n' roll was as
groupie/wife/sex object -- that my reactions to and reflections on music and
culture did not matter.

-- Anastasia Pantsios

Jann Wenner is the walking
epitome of everything that is wrong about the corporate takeover of rock
'n' roll and the baby boomer generation -- greed, hypocrisy, etc. Then
you top things off by having the article written by a former Wenner employee
who was there during the golden years. So much for objectivity. A
terrible, terrible misstep in an otherwise great series.

-- Dave Purcell

Newport, Ky.

Must AOL pay "community leaders"?


It might be worth pointing out more explicitly that there is a big
difference between the volunteerism which helped build the Internet and
the "volunteerism" which helps AOL administer its profit-making

Volunteers wrote the open standards for the network protocols -- protocols
that can be implemented by anyone. Volunteers built tens of
thousands of Web sites devoted to all manner of weirdness, the majority
of which still exist as not-for-profit home pages, available to anyone
with an IP address; volunteers populated the 5,000-plus Usenet groups,
turning many of them into expert forums where more quality information
is exchanged for free in one week than is contained in many community

All of these things were built by people dedicated to what was supposed
to be a single global community, accessible (thanks to open standards)
by anybody, anywhere. The people who own the wires that provide the
connections make a profit by charging us for access. But most of the
information we share is shared freely with anyone who asks, without much
thought to whether anyone should profit from it.

In sharp contrast, AOL (which started as a private network with no
Internet connectivity at all, and which struggled for a long time to
maintain its existence as an autonomous network which was advertised as
being somehow equivalent or superior to the Internet) started and
continues to maintain its online communities as an integral part of its
brand -- as a product it offers to its customers. In other words, the "value added" by AOL to the freely available content of the Internet as a whole is by and large the product of the
efforts of these unpaid volunteers. It's AOL's selling point, and it's what earns them their profits.
It seems quite clear that the efforts of these volunteers have a
sizable positive impact on AOL's bottom line.

I suspect many of these volunteers have been with AOL for the better
part of this decade -- since the era when AOL was a private service,
before the emergence of the Web, back when Usenet access was largely
only available to universities and the military. At that time, free
connect-time was worth a good bit of money, and more importantly, the
AOL community was the whole online world to a lot of folks who
didn't have access to the Internet itself.

At that time, those people with a yen to volunteer and build an online
community saw AOL (and CompuServe, which I believe has always paid its
forum hosts) as the best place to do so. Now, however, the larger free community of the Internet surrounds them -- it's grown up all around them like a city around what once was an
isolated farmhouse. Perhaps it's time for them to join the rest of us in
a larger community of volunteers -- a place where it's just as possible to
share your knowledge and make a difference in somebody's life, without
having to swear an oath of loyalty to Steve

-- Ross Grady

Chapel Hill, N.C.

War is hell -- for GOP politicians


The contenders for the GOP's presidential nomination may not see another opportunity like Kosovo arise before it's too late. So they better make some definitive moves fast. Combined with the recent allegations about Chinese espionage, the Kosovo conundrum provides the escape hatch Republicans have been looking for desperately, the one that allows them to walk away from the GOP's apparent obsession with a morality-based campaign. They can now sidestep abortion, gay rights, race and immigration and avoid criticism from extremist constituents.

Unfortunately, outside of John McCain, everyone seems to see the Balkan offensive as a chance to bash Clinton instead of a chance to sound like a leader. Released from a wretched summer of rehashing Clinton's peccadilloes and shortcomings while trying to appease the abortion-obsessed Christian right, reinvigorated GOP candidates must now make bold statements and seem credibly able to deliver them. They must separate themselves from the screeching pack: Approximating a presidential stance on foreign policy sounds a lot better than repeating the same garbage about the Lewinsky fiasco, that's for sure. Elizabeth Dole and George W. Bush may not be able to duck and dodge for much longer, and those who have real foreign policy experience like McCain and Dan Quayle may move to the head of the pack. Forced to abandon its original script, the GOP must find a cohesive, intelligent stance on Kosovo, as well as the right candidate to articulate it.

-- Tim Fogle

Louisville, Ky.

Shadow dancing in Buffalo


Jeff Stein's linkage of the gay agenda and the radical
pro-choice movement in Buffalo is tenuous at best. To my mind, the two should
be practically antithetical. As a Christian and a
homosexual, I believe that human life should be held sacred
from the earliest stirrings in the womb to a dignified
natural death. Senseless abortion and hate crimes like that
which killed Matthew Shepard are both acute examples of how
people dehumanize one another, especially those who do not
fit into their idea of how things "should be." Thus, my "gay
agenda" and "pro-life agenda" are the same: to work toward
the Christian ideal of human dignity for all people.

-- Marc A. Schulte

San Diego

By Salon Staff

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