Letters to the Editor

When life was tame, rock 'n' roll needed to be dangerous; why is Australia censoring the Net?

Letters to the Editor
June 14, 1999 8:00PM (UTC)

50,000,000 Backstreet Boys' fans can be wrong

Ira Robbins wonders why the Backstreet Boys and other schmaltzy pop singers are so popular in late 1990s America, especially compared to the sultry, driving rock music popular in the 1950s. I think the answer is obvious. In the '50s, danger was a novelty. Nobody thought twice about doing things like opening a bottle of aspirin with no shrink-wrap seal or accepting homemade cookies during Halloween trick-or-treating. A wild boy like Elvis Presley shook up the status quo by adding a little danger, a little excitement, to the lives of bored teenagers. Today, the status quo is danger. With AIDS, gangs, drugs, absentee parents, and school shootings, the novelty now is warmth, comfort, safety. Kids are trying to bring a little sweetness into their lives, and who can blame them?


-- Renee Axtell Harvey

Today's music is the most banal since the disco era of 20 years ago and possibly matches what I consider the worst rock era, from 1959 to 1963 -- a time so devoid of good rock 'n' roll
that many casual listeners crossed over to folk music.

I do find it odd that today's youth are considered more violent than the
previous generation, yet most listen to sappy, wholesome music. Perhaps the
media exaggerates the violent actions of a few. Even the radical and
rebellious music of the late 1960s produced just a few bomb throwers like
the Weathermen. Maybe music is a less overt factor on youth behavior than
society believes.


-- Vince Egler

Prisoner of its past


I'm surprised that a piece on the "Chinese mind" was assigned to a white
guy. Would you assign a piece on the "African-American mind" to a white
guy? I'm not disputing his right to discuss China's problems nor his
knowledge of China as a political body, and I'm sure Schell has met
many Chinese in his professional life. But he's not Chinese and his
descriptions have the feel of an outsider's perspective. Yes, Chinese are
paranoid (about outsiders and insiders, too), but quite frankly, Schell
can't help sounding a bit paranoid himself.


I probably would have let this pass, assuming that balance would be
provided by other articles. However, not a single one of your "Related
Salon stories" on China is written by an Asian or Asian-American. What gives?

-- Susan Chow

How many sites would Australia's Net censorship scheme kill?




The Australian population was mostly surprised by this legislation.
Australians are a very liberal lot, much closer to the Swedish way of
thinking than the often Bible-bashing American view. We don't object to
topless or nudist beaches and can watch liberal doses of multinational
naughtiness on our multicultural TV channels. We don't even feel the
necessity to repackage material to please an insular introverted world
view, as the United States seems compelled to do.

Whilst we don't have explicit legislation to protect freedom of speech
we do have common law based on the British model. I will be surprised
if this unworkable legislation will last, but I do not think it is really
intended to, despite the very conservative views of our Prime Minister.
It is really about placating a minority senator in a tiny minority
state, Tasmania, to get him to agree to major tax reform in the Senate, where the
government does not have control.

Since this very conservative and very traditional Catholic senator did not eventually cooperate on the tax reform, I think this legislation will be allowed to eventually fade away.


-- Peter Breis

Canberra, Australia

Australia is trying to legislate a responsibility that belongs squarely on
the shoulders of the parents. If parents don't want their children to view porn on the
Net, then they need to place password access on their computers and sit with their
children while they're surfing. This is a rehash of the sex/violence on television
issue. The same rule applies -- monitor your children. Don't ask the government to do it for you.

-- Denise Holmes


The (un)friendly witness of Christopher Hitchens



Perhaps Charles Taylor might have a better understanding of Hitchens'
writings and rantings if he had a better understanding of Hitchens'
motivations: It's not about hatred, its about money. The easiest way to
make a fast buck these days is to create a book, video or newsletter that
purports to expose some evil of the Clinton administration. There are
hordes of right-wingers in this country who, after being whipped into a
frenzy by the likes of Limbaugh, Falwell, Bauer et al., are willing to spend
their entire paycheck on this anti-Clinton garbage.

-- Tom Lynch

Bedminster, N.J.

I found most of Taylor's "review" of Christopher Hitchens' excellent,
gutsy book about President Clinton laughable. I don't know if Hitchens was knowingly trying to tweak White House apologists by referring to Judge Starr as, oddly enough, Judge Starr, but
it's fascinating how much that does in fact bug them. What it tells me about
Hitchens is that he took the matters Judge Starr was investigating seriously,
when so many on the left were afraid to. Unlike Taylor, Hitchens cares about
the low crimes and high crimes of our elected officials.


Taylor asserts he isn't making excuses for corruption, but the rest of his
review makes it clear what a lie that is. For example, he attacks Hitchens
for betraying a friend, Sidney Blumenthal. Maybe it's because I don't live
in Washington but, silly me, I'm more concerned over the fact that Hitchens'
affidavit proved people in the White House were seeking to spread lies about
Monica Lewinsky and were lying again when they denied that fact. And that,
Taylor makes clear, is something he couldn't care less about. Nor does he
show any real concern about any of Clinton's long list of crimes and
corruptions, most of which he conveniently sidesteps. How sad and shameful.

Hitchens wrote a serious book, intended for serious readers, among whom
Taylor obviously cannot count himself. I'm sure he'll find James Carville's
memoirs on these matters much more to his liking.

-- Robert A. Mason


Taylor is under the mistaken impression that the Danny Williams story
"proved to be false." The story has not been proven false. All that's been
"proven" is that the DNA data published in the Starr report does not match
that of Danny Williams. No government agency, from Starr's office to the FBI to the
NSA, is willing to confirm that the DNA data in the report corresponds to
Clinton's actual DNA. On the contrary, most experienced diplomatic
professionals readily concede that such information about a head of state
would never be published, for any reason, due to perfectly legitimate
national security concerns.


This story will rear its ugly head again after Clinton leaves office. Unless
he assigns a particularly close Secret Service agent to guard his DNA (an
endeavor with a very low likelihood of success) someone will
eventually get a hold of a sample. Only then will we know who Danny Williams
really is. The similarity of appearance between Williams and Clinton is much
too uncanny to be accidental.

-- Worth Colliton

Looking out for No. 1


I, too, drink my own urine once in a while; and I, too, have never
noticed any improvement in my health -- with one exception: It is
absolutely the best and fastest way to treat depression I have ever
heard of. Funny that no one mentions this. Urine is also a terrific topical poison ivy treatment -- and easy to carry with you!


-- Roslyn Reid

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