Letters to the Editor

You think the media's money fixation is new? Plus: Remembering George C. Scott; what does Salon have against organized religion?

Published October 11, 1999 4:00PM (EDT)

Media money fixation


Janelle Brown wrote, "The old media adage of 'Sex sells' has been shoved aside
by an even uglier '90s truth: Money sells." About 7,000 years ago,
a wise king/poet in India wrote a collection of rhyming poems (in Sanskrit) to form a compendium called "Nitishataka" ("Hundreds of Morals") and an even larger didactic work "Hitopadesha" ("Moral Advice") in which he observed the following (translated into English):

He who has Money, is Cultured,

He's a Pundit, he's a good Listener and endowed with Quality;

He's an Orator, and he's very Handsome,

All qualities take refuge in Gold ...

Being once a student of Sanskrit (eons ago) and learning the wisdom from
great Sanskrit works (not to mention my rather privileged Brahmin
upbringing), I feel it was ironic that my staunchest goal in life when I
graduated from college in the early '70s was to work, live and prosper
in America. Having lived in the United States and Canada for the past 22
years as a computer systems software professional, I feel remorse at the
depreciating "value system" of America (sadly emulated by all developing
countries, including India) and the debilitating influence it has had
on the younger generations. Now, if only the media stopped
it's ugly glorification of the riches!

-- Nash Aragam

Maitland, Fla.

I do agree that the news is flooded with
stories about start-ups, IPOs and the new millionaires or
billionaires. But I would also like to point out an article in a
recent issue of Wired Magazine (Sept. 1999) titled
"Nonprofit Motive." A lot of this new breed of instant millionaires are now turning their attention to philanthropy -- with a twist. Not only are they donating money and stock, they are
donating their time and management experience into something the
article calls "venture philanthropy." They are setting up
organizations and foundations that they believe will more effectively
and efficiently channel the contributions to the people who need it.
A case in point is mentioned: When eBay went public in 1998, they set
aside 107,250 shares of stock to create the eBay Foundation.

-- Ben Wyckoff

Another day, another IPO, another Salon lament about
another media lament on how today's Silicon Valley is
all about greed, greed, greed.

Please keep in mind that you don't have a certain
number of pages to fill each day.

-- Steve Read

Silicon Follies: Laurel moves out, Paul moves in and a CEO goes UFO


Just wanted to thank you people for Silicon Follies. As a former liberal
arts type who finds himself working as a software instructor, I found this
work totally delightful, witty and full of lines and quips I'll carry with
me for a long time. I will miss looking forward to the next episode.

-- R. McGunigle

Clarion. Pa.

Piper Laurie remembers the smoldering genius of George C. Scott


Michael Sragow's retrospective on the late George C. Scott evoked
memories in me -- not personal, of course, but those of a movie-goer.

I remember Gen. Buck Turgidson in "Dr. Strangelove," explaining with quivering
enthusiasm to a shocked war room how his bombers can slip in under the
Russian radar. His whole body has become a bomber, arms spread and at
an angle. His eyes shine with a dark pride, his mouth shows a smile,
teeth like the teeth of a skull. He's a perfect complement to Peter
Sellers' timid president.

I also remember a lesser-known film, "The Flim-Flam Man": Scott is the old con artist,
explaining to his young "student" the fine points of the flim-flam.
Those eyes again, twinkling with the enjoyment of the con.

And finally, "Anatomy of a Murder," the courtroom drama. The powerful
image I have is of James Stewart arguing in court. There is turmoil and
arguing going on around Dancer, the prosecutor, which was Scott's character, but
he sits controlled, hands together as if in prayer, thumbs pressed
against his lips and nose. Again his eyes are alive, but controlled.
Suddenly Stewart slaps his hand down, angrily, on the table right in
front of Scott. Scott barely flinches. Every time I see that, I think,
"What characterization. What concentration."

I will miss George C. Scott because I enjoy good acting.

-- Bob Siegmann

Who's the real underdog?


Anthony York misses a major point. If a major candidate must be "media ready" -- the filter through which York seems to judge Bradley -- then we will never rid ourselves of multimillion-dollar politicians. The media are a major part of the problem, because they create the problem.

I support Bradley simply because I believe he would at
least try to fix this broken political system. This is a judgment on my part
about his character, not an agreement in every detail to his program.

If Bradley does not succeed, it does not matter to me whether Bush (the
likely winner in this case) or Gore becomes president. Both are the ghostly
conceits of television, and not anyone I will ever know. I don't expect them
to do anything that would really help me or the people I know.

-- Walter L. Battaglia

Davis, Calif.

York tries to paint Bradley as out of touch with reality -- as though every other
significant presidential candidate weren't also an elite politician and
therefore just as out of touch. Bradley, the candidate with the most
serious, clearly defined proposals for change, is the last one who should
be called a "cipher." The result of his candidacy will tell us a lot about
what kind of leaders America really wants -- this is a race of substance
vs. style, ideas vs. polls. Every article like York's that treats
image as more important than the issues contributes to the ongoing
dominance of slick, fake politicians. I suppose it was only to be expected
that the media would turn on Bradley the moment he stopped being the
underdog, but it's too bad to see Salon leading the way. Meanwhile, I
haven't seen a single article in Salon that actually analyzes Bradley's
policy proposals -- or anyone else's, for that matter. A magazine that
fails to make a positive contribution has no right to critique the status

-- Tom Davies

Takoma Park, Md.

Said who?

Chris Colon manages to both damn Edward Said with faint praise and coin a new
oxymoron. Colin writes of Said's just-published memoirs that "'Out of Place' offers
sufficient evidence to exonerate Said of any blatant obfuscation." However,
obfuscation is by definition subtle rather than blatant. To have engaged in "blatant obfuscation" on the subject of his uncle's house in Jerusalem, Said would have had to tell lies about the house which were at once both clear and confusing -- an obvious impossibility. So to defend Said
against a charge of "blatant obfuscation" concerning that house is meaningless.

-- Jonathan S. Mark

Alexandria, Va.

Nothing Personal: The dung show


I know people like yourself make careers of sensationalism and negativism,
but I think your view on the Mormon-owned KSL TV station was out of line. It
is comforting to know that someone, or in this case some group, has the backbone
to stand up for a moral philosophy while the rest of us just accept the
declining standards of language, ethics and morality as "just reality."
Because you don't have the fortitude to hold to a higher standard of behavior
that elevates the human condition doesn't mean you should berate those that
do. Your doing so demonstrates that you're part of the societal problem
instead of the cure.

-- Jeff Richards

Our lady of lies


As a priest, I agree with Christopher Hitchens' assessment of the situation in Croatia re: Medjugorje.
No Catholic is required to give credence to any such phenomena, but many do.
That they do is more a question for psychologists and sociologists, since
this very human quest for magical phenomena to explain something in our
lives is not limited to religious enthusiasm. UFO
aficionados come to mind easily, among others.

But Hitchens simply has to invest his own vitriol and apparently anti-Catholic (if not anti-religion) judgments into the article. The undertone of contempt for religious devotional practice and history, and for those who practice it, is not journalism. He is preaching his own
cynicism with religious zeal. His contempt continues to the local people as well, as if the
history of the region over the last two centuries has no part in how life is
lived there.

Hitchens wasn't writing a journalistic piece about either the pope, the
Catholic Church, the local church, any local belief system or the
socio-historic context of Croatia. He simply vented his own hubris and
general attitude of contempt of the rest of the world in an easy essay. No
doubt his pub bills were due and he had to make some money quick. Or is that
simply my cynicism?

-- Father John Byrne


What would Christopher Hitchens have Mary say that would be more meaningful
than what she told the children at Medjugorje? Does he blame her, or a spiritual hoax, as he sees it, for Croatian hatred? If his point is to expose hypocrisy, he needn't travel so far to
find it. But if he wants to prove that Mary did not appear, he should
realize that this can never be proved, or disproved.

-- Frank Dorman

Richmond, Va.

Reading Mr. Hitchens' vitriolic attack against the Virgin of Medjugorje made
me feel like converting to Catholicism out of sheer spite. His hatred of any
form of spirituality is palpable throughout his writing -- always dripping
with words like "delusion" and "hallucination." His critique of the Dalai
Lama, published in Vanity Fair a few years back, contained a statement to
the effect that reincarnation is claptrap, without backing it up with a
single informed study or expert opinion -- Hitchens thinks reincarnation is
bogus, therefore it is bogus. Same with religious visions -- they are
"hallucinations" because Hitchens believes so, and that settles it;
anyone who sees or believes in miraculous visions is ipso facto

I'm no Catholic -- I'm not even a Christian -- but Hitchens turns my stomach.
He just goes to show that militant atheists are just as narrow-minded,
uptight and bigoted as militant religious zealots.

-- Crystal Di'Anno

Oakland, Calif.

Steve Forbes finds religion



A fundamentally laissez-faire party that bribes voters with promises
to manhandle every social "ill" that comes along -- what's wrong with this
picture? Your article "Forbes Finds Religion" aptly demonstrates the
schizophrenia at the heart of a Republican Party still overly fond of the
Reagan era. Only now it's Steve Forbes (instead of Robert Dole) who's
saying, "I'll be your Ronald Reagan." Forbes has gone from an amusing but
relatively benign capitalist-cum-presidential hopeful to a downright
loathsome huckster for whatever cause he thinks will sweep him into office.
One imagines that Forbes couldn't care less about his own ideological
inconsistencies or about the singular hypocrisy of ultra-conservative
politicians that he's embracing -- it seems all too apparent now that he
just wants something to show for all the money he's spent.

-- Teri Bostian

By Letters to the Editor

Related Topics ------------------------------------------

Catholicism Christopher Hitchens Religion