Letters to the Editor

Blame the airlines for "air rage"; Greil Marcus takes a tasteless swipe at the Spin Doctors; Mr. Blue's bad advice to single mom.

By Letters to the Editor
Published September 14, 1999 8:00PM (UTC)
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Flying in the age of air rage


Through their own actions, the airlines have created conditions
that will predictably and reliably produce violent behavior in a segment of
the mass population now flying. The airlines must take responsibility, and
should act to 1) identify and reduce the possibility that
violent outbreaks will occur under current conditions and 2) alter the
conditions that create the violence. Otherwise, an informed and clever
lawyer will be able to argue that the airline "provoked" violent behavior.


-- Denny Kernochan

Northridge, Calif.

Without minimizing what happened to Renee Sheffer, I submit that
Salon could find more immediate topics to report on instead of hyping
such a minimal "problem." My guess would be that flight crew are at
greater risk of bodily injury in airport parking lots than they are
while in flight.

According to the article, in 1998 there were 614 million airline
passengers in the United States. David Fuscus of the ATA estimates that there
were "at least 5,000 acts of passenger misconduct every year." By my
hasty calculations, that means that a whopping 0.000814 percent of
passengers were involved in these incidents. It's even more
interesting to note that of the incidents Hester cites in his
article, only five of them involved U.S. carriers.


Of all the things wrong with the current U.S. air travel industry, I'd
have to put "air rage" pretty low on the list. Perhaps Hester could
investigate the billions wasted by the FAA on its modernizations, or
maybe he could discuss how airline employees can smuggle drugs and
weapons without anyone at the airlines noticing until their coffee
supplies are impacted.

-- Paul Robichaux

Customer rage is becoming more prevalent in both the service and
retail industries. In my four years as an employee of a well-known national
bookstore chain, I and my co-workers have been threatened physically, sexually
harassed and called unprintable names, and have had dictionary-sized books thrown at
us. Service and retail workers stand on the last frontier of people you can
be legally abusive to. Hurray to those airlines adopting "zero tolerance"
policies on incidents of rage. Companies and citizens should know that the
customer is not always right.


-- Kimberly Bojanowski

I am shocked that in your examination of the "air rage" phenomenon, you use
as your first and longest example the behavior of a mentally ill person.
Yes, he was violent, and, yes, flight attendants and passengers were
injured. But that man was not disgruntled at having to turn off his cell
phone, being refused a drink or waiting in the long line while first-class
passengers got in the short one at the ticket counter! That was not "air
rage." The author's tone, including his use of quotation
marks for "mentally ill" and "psychotic episode," indicate a disbelief in
the reality of mental illness. Why else would he group together a man who
was experiencing a traumatic event that he has no control over with those
boorish people who violently attack others due to a minor irritation?


-- Mary Shillue

Somerville, Mass.

Real Life Rock Top 10


I have to say that I found Greil Marcus' recent dig at Chris Barron,
in which he declares the best news of
the week to be that Barron is suffering from paralysis of the vocal
cords, to be unnecessarily cruel and in bad taste. While I personally
will lose no sleep at the prospect of never hearing the Spin Doctors
again, the real-life misfortune of an artist losing the tools of his
trade, and a fellow human being the use of his voice, is a tragic
event. Should Marcus' arms become paralyzed, I would hope that the
recipients of his negative reviews would not publicly rejoice in his
inability to type further columns.


-- Travis Hartnett

Austin, Texas

Dear Mr. Blue: Still tempted


Mr. Blue's response to "Struggling Mama" was off the mark. Her
decision to have a child was just that: her decision. Her lover had no options, and no say in the matter. She
had the child over his objections. Why should he pay for her decision?
To haul this man into court and wring a monthly payment out of him will
just cause conflict and heartache. She and her son are happy the way
things are. Leave them be.


-- John Klingle

Merrimack, N.H.

"For Common Things: Irony, Trust, and Commitment in America Today"


Caleb Crain's review of that shameless collection of
pieties, "For Common Things" by Jedidiah Purdy, was
inspiring. He illuminated the banal essence of the book, and he did
it with humor. Crain's line about the benefits Purdy would have gained
from a public education where "children who suck up to adults too
cravenly are methodically cornered and beaten by their peers" is
brilliant. I'm quite sure the humor-impaired, Purdy and his fans, won't
get the joke. They'll probably accuse Crain of advocating "storm trooper
tactics" or some such nonsense.

-- Larry Specht


Commentary's scurrilous attack on Edward Said



I consider Edward Said as a voice of sanity in a sometimes insane
world. The positions he has advocated were not rebutted. Instead, an
oblique and cowardly approach was taken; instead of trying to counter his
positions with logic, the approach is to attack him personally in order
to prove that he couldn't possibly be saying anything worthwhile or
true. The unfortunate fact is that
the idealistic phrases tossed about when the state of Israel was being
considered -- a light to the world, a socialist and democratic
paradise, a community based not on the material but the spiritual --
died aborning. The Israeli Supreme Court just outlawed
torture of prisoners (read: Arabs), to the dismay of the (Jewish) majority of the
population. Perhaps the author of that article might compare
the high-flown phrases before Israel independence with the reality of today.

-- Sol Cohen

Vallejo, Calif.

While I am not an Israeli, I would, as a Jew, like to take this
opportunity to apologize to Christopher Hitchens for the chutzpah my
Israeli brothers and sisters showed by laying down their lives in the
defense of their country and their people in 1948, and, pushy arrogant
bastards that they are, actually winning a war that everyone was sure
they were going to lose.


It is really a shame that the Israelis were prepared militarily in 1948;
had they not been, perhaps Hitchens would now be feeling sorry for us
instead of the Arabs. All things being equal, I will take his bile over
his sympathy any day.

It is only in hindsight and under the influence of pernicious political
bias that victory in war can, by itself, be taken as proof of aggression
or even military superiority. Revisionists like Hitchens falsify history
by putting Israel on one side and only the Palestinians on the other,
thereby endeavoring to show that Israel, even in 1948, was the aggressor
against an obviously weaker foe.

However, the war against Israel has always been a pan-Arab effort. In
1948 Israel was invaded by the combined regular and irregular forces of
all of the surrounding Arab countries (including the Arab Legion of
Transjordan, which was armed, trained and officered by the British), whose
express purpose was the destruction of Israel and the
extirpation of its Jewish population. Israel need apologize to no one for winning a war
they were forced to fight and upon which their survival depended.

It is a sad fact that wars create refugees. The War of Independence
resulted in Jewish refugees as well as Arab ones, but no one mentions
the Jewish refugees anymore, because, after all, the Jews won. The pan
Arab leadership, which enlisted the Palestinian Arabs in their war
against the Jews and then abandoned them when they lost that war, must
bear the blame.


-- Earl Hartman

Get over it, David!


Conason is wrong: Horowitz was defamed by Time. While Matt Drudge
immediately offered a retraction with respect to Sidney's wife-beating
allegation, Time Magazine has not offered a retraction to the "racist"
allegation In addition, there is a significant difference between
weekly print media and the instant electronic gossip column. Time
Magazine is supposed to be more measured and more accurate.

Conason is a hypocrite, who decries privilege while
demanding it for himself. He is a member of
the quintessential breed of new journalist, who whines of his rights
while seeking to silence all dissenting views with a stream of invective
that typically includes "hate" as the central theme.

-- Jason Stewart

Bozeman, Mont.

Rarely do I read something that I covet so much as Joe Conason's point of view on
the childish spat between David Horowitz and Time. I found myself saying,
"Exactly!" so many times that a co-worker had to yell at me to "shut up."

Horowitz's own hypocrisy reeked before he even got through the third
sentence of his initial column, not to mention his reaction/protest
piece. Only conservative Christians have such hubris in their "humility" to claim
Christianity is the "last acceptable prejudice" and then confidently and
eternally damn homosexuals, not to mention having backed decades of
racist beliefs and acts.

Horowitz fits right in with that kind of pathetic hypocrisy, and it's both
embarrassing and humiliating.

-- Billy Faires

Chattanooga, Tenn.

Dark Hotel


I discovered Dark Hotel a week ago. Read all the back issues. This
is one great "comix." I was in Kosovo recently and, soon after returning to San Francisco,
saw the film "Cabaret Balkan." Drago's story brings back the reality of the
place and the mystery of the film. The art is fantastic. I hope this has a
long run.

-- David Butterfield

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Christopher Hitchens Garrison Keillor Joe Conason Middle East