Letters to the Editor

Is Britney Spears just "lovestruck"? Plus: Gates' personality quirks conceal real issues in Redmond; selling science with sex appeal.

Published September 2, 1999 4:00PM (EDT)

Sharps & Flats: "Baby One More Time"



First, Jon Dolan ignores a good decade's worth of bitch-slapping,
ho-exhorting rap music to pin Limp Bizkit as "grimly misogynistic,"
totally ignoring the fact that their "Nookie" single doesn't mention one
word about retribution toward the singer's mythical girlfriend who's put
his tender heart in a blender. Then he decides that Britney Spears'
"Hit me, baby, one more time" means that she, in fact, wants the aforementioned

Was Pat Benatar also asking to be whapped upside the head in "Hit Me
With Your Best Shot"? Perhaps the time-honored metaphor of
being "bowled over" or "blindsided" by love, passion, etc., is simply being
used yet again. There's even an official word for it: "lovestruck."

-- Hannah Kerby

Sterling, Va.

Jon Dolan's commentary on Britney Spears' pop hit "Baby One More Time" was so
appropriate. I've never gotten a grip on what she is trying to imply
with that chorus. The line "Hit me, baby, one more
time" plays into the frighteningly rampant sentiment among teens these
days that jealousy equals love, and
that anger as a result of that jealousy equals proof of that love.
Violence then becomes misunderstood as an expression of tenderness,
commitment, love, devotion, vulnerability, and caring. In fact, of
course, it is just the opposite. But lessons learned at these
sensitive ages are hard to undo.

I'm so afraid that young women in America, despite
the choices we're taught to thank feminism for, are learning to accept a horrific set of rules at an
age when freedom should be the very nourishment of a young person's heart.

Spears seems to me a tragic figure waiting to happen, like a
child star who has to rebuild an identity after the inevitable crash of an artificial one -- a Dana Plato, a Drew Barrymore. I hope Spears manages not to
evolve into this stereotype. But more importantly, I worry about the
girls out there who furiously covet her popularity. I worry about their
loneliness and what it will make them do.

-- Elizabeth Randolph

Stalking Gates

Janelle Brown suggests that Ken Auletta's feature in the New Yorker, much like Rivlin's book,
"posits itself as an examination of Gates' attempt to
'upgrade' his public persona and company image." But judging from the topic matter
and tone of both these pieces, as reported by Brown, they could be better described
as being part of Gates and Microsoft's revisionist PR attempts.

Fixating on the colorful personalities who'd like to have Bill's head while giving short shrift to the real issues --
including those leading to the DOJ charges -- plays perfectly in the eyes of
Redmond. Portrayal of Gates as some kind of peculiar "geek" just furthers the attack on real history, and handily shifts the
focus. Hey, Redmond's happy (even if it says otherwise).

-- Dick Busch

New York

Is the Web "contracting"?


Scott Rosenberg questions
the implications of the recent Los Angles Times research.
But for me, the whole picture became clear right around this sentence:
"That report found that 'the most popular Web sites command by
far the biggest share of Internet traffic.'"

So what is so revolutionary, so earth-shatteringly new,
about something so recursively redundant?
If the most popular Web sites didn't get the biggest share of
Internet traffic, then what would we be defining popular to mean?

Rosenberg is right on the money: This research is no big deal.

-- Erskin L. Cherry

The Clinton marriage

My goodness, you'd think that Bill Clinton invented
adultery, the way we've heard the mightily self-righteous and hypocritical
members of the anti-Clinton contingent harangue him over it. But you know what?
The smear boys have succeeded: They have made an otherwise sane guy
like Jake Tapper think that people like Gennifer Flowers and Kathleen Willey are
telling the whole unadulterated truth.

Bill Clinton, under oath, 'fessed up to one sexual
encounter (that did NOT result in consummation) with Gennifer Flowers many moons ago.
A Penthouse magazine article from way back when quoted her friends
as saying that it was indeed an attempt at a quick fling on her part that
failed, hence her desire for revenge: Not only is she a lifelong Republican,
she's also a woman used to being able to wrap men around her little finger,
and when this one refused to wrap, she got angry.

Alas for her, her story falls apart upon examination. For instance: She says the affair started in 1979 in a certain
Little Rock hotel. Trouble is, the hotel wasn't built until 1982. Oops.
Flowers has told lie after lie after lie -- far more than Bill Clinton
could even dream of telling -- yet you hold her credibility in greater esteem
than Bill Clinton's.

The GOP figures that they can keep up the crap barrage under the principle
that "where there's smoke, there's gotta be a fire." But in the case of all
the phony "scandals" -- from TravelGate to FileGate to Whitewater itself -- the
smoke's all coming out of some very-well-financed smoke machines.

-- Tamara Baker

St. Paul, Minn.

Christopher Andersen does not mention one solid source, yet we are
suppose to believe anything mentioned in this book. Yes, Clinton-haters
believe such rubbish, but they believe anything negative about them.
Tapper mentions Bob Woodward and how his book backs up Andersen's. But as
mentioned in the latest Brill's Content, Woodward's sources and direct quotes
are as vague and questionable as Andersen's.

Also, you seem to give validity to the book because the Clintons do not
disclaim it. Past experience shows denials lead to more attention,
more questions and more book sales for Andersen.

The definition of nonfiction is compromised when we include
these books in that category.

-- Linda Sparks

John McCain plays Dumbo


Jake Tapper forgot one elephant/gun statistic. The number of elephants
that have prevented someone's wife from being
raped and having her throat slit: 0.

By the way, don't forget on the same day the Jewish center shooting
happened, another freak in Israel drove his car over and killed 15 people who were
of a different religion. Having his car registered didn't prevent it.

Also, don't forget that all the guns Buford used at the Jewish center
were already illegal in California. That didn't prevent it either.

-- Lance Larsen

Espionage without evidence

What I think Jeff Stein's article is implying is that 1) if Chinese
intelligence did get any valuable information out of Wen Ho Lee, they probably
used methods so indirect and subtle that the poor man wasn't even aware of
what he was giving them, and 2) whatever they got from him was probably so
incremental as to be the intelligence equivalent of one piece of a 500-piece
puzzle. And for this he's lost his job and might still be prosecuted and
imprisoned. Spying without espionage. Collaborating without intent. How clever. It's almost
like spying by witchcraft! I guess it's time for a witch hunt.

-- Vic Jang

Rag vs. rag

Thank you for Jenn Shreve's Skeptic vs. Fate comparison, which reminded me of
the old Spy vs. Spy bit in Mad magazine, and for characterizing us as the
obvious quality "rag" of the two. I will gladly take readers who prefer the
insights of the brilliant and iconoclastic social psychologist Carol Tavris
over those who would rather read what Jing, the psychic parrot, has to say
(or is that think?) on anything, including cats. To be fair to us, Shreve
chose one of our more conservative and academic issues to analyze, but the
point is well made. We scientists and skeptics should take a lesson from
the tabloid rags like Fate -- that if we want to appeal to broader and larger
audiences, we need a little sex appeal.

-- Dr. Michael Shermer

Publisher, Skeptic magazine

I think what's needed is a glossy, populist skeptical magazine: a magazine
with high production values and lots of eye-catching graphics, and written in a
language accessible to the average person. Call me an optimist, but I find
most folk are looking for information in a manner they understand. They do
want to learn, they just don't want to work at it. That's a
tough order to fill, but it's one that no one has attempted.

However, as you suggested in your article, people also want
to believe in Bigfoot, UFOs and governmental conspiracies. These make the
world less mundane. Perhaps that desire is too great -- hence the
popularity of Fate, Fortean Times and dozens of trash tabloids. Perhaps Skeptic
magazine has it right, and expensive graphics would only make a skeptical magazine
economically unfeasible. I don't know if a populist skeptical magazine would
sell, nice graphics and all, but it would be nice for
someone to at least try. And having Gillian Anderson on the cover couldn't hurt!

-- Allan Goodall


Edward Said to respond to claims he's not a true Palestinian

But of course Edward Said is not a "true Palestinian." Said is far too sophisticated and refined for that.
His loyalties are to aesthetics and linguistics; In that sense, he is more French than anything
else. His sensibilities are those of the dandy; at once
too complex (intellectually) and simple (emotionally naive)
to be a "true Palestinian." As an intellectual,
he is attracted to the idea of Palestine; as an
artist, it captures his imagination. That is all.

-- Yahia Samir Lababidi

It hardly matters who actually owned the house in
Jerusalem or where Said went to school. Said's
personal history is only significant as an example of the tale of his
people. Other people certainly did go through similar hardships, except
they can't write like him.

Still, I think it's interesting to ponder why is it that the most
eloquent voice of the Palestinians is a man who is so unrepresentative
of his people. As an Episcopalian, he is part of a tiny minority in a
nation where religious affiliation is extremely important. Having lived
most of his life in Egypt and the West, he has hardly experienced
firsthand such seminal events in his people's history as the Six-Day
War and the Intifada.

-- Micha X. Peled

By Letters to the Editor

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