Letters to the Editor

TNT exec defends "Animal Farm" ad and film; adventurous travelers should be prepared for the worst; "open-source journalism" dates back to Oklahoma City bombing.

Published October 15, 1999 4:00PM (EDT)

Pig in the Gulag


As head of marketing for TNT (or, as Gary Kamiya delicately theorizes, "a propaganda chief named Squealer whose keen insights appear to have assisted with the
creation of the ad"), I found his point of view quite interesting. He
seems mightily offended that TNT decided to take out large ads in an
effort to get the viewing public interested in watching what many feel is
a profound, and profoundly important, movie. Furthermore, he finds our
method of promoting the film most egregious. Wow!

First, Kamiya admits that he hasn't seen the film being promoted.
Yet he takes issue with the featured quotes in the ad, which came from
reviews of the film ... from people who have seen the movie. Then, Kamiya has an issue with the fact that the film was made by Hallmark Entertainment and the Jim Henson Creature Shop -- as if it were somehow inappropriate for a film version of a George Orwell novel to be
made by such family-oriented folk. He should check out Hallmark's and
Henson's credit list; he'll see that both have created movies and
television productions geared to adults, with serious subject matter.

Kamiya goes on to categorize (pigeonhole?) Orwell's tale as "a
bleak anti-communist allegory," implying that our use of words like
"thrilling," "delight" and "magic" are affronts to Orwell's intentions and
his work. Since Kamiya is so well-versed in Orwelliana, he must know
that the author's full title for the work is "Animal Farm, a Fairy Story."
Orwell seems to have intended his work to be appreciated on many
levels; he seems to have hoped readers would be captivated by the story,
as if his political allegory would have even more impact if it were aimed
at the heart. I don't think TNT was being sensational, misleading or
untrue to Orwell or his work. I don't think the ad undermines the
film or its source. And I think that the hundreds of viewers and
educators who took the time to call, e-mail and write us since the Sunday
night premiere would agree. Sorry that Kamiya thinks such responses are

And, by the way, the ad does not depict a quaint barnyard scene. The
animals are either looking slyly at the camera, or staring intently (and,
in some cases, unnervingly) at the reader. We've gotten more comments
about how disturbing the ad is than how "adorable" it is. Maybe it was
too subtle for some.

-- Scot Safon

Senior vice president of Marketing

Turner Network Television

I am only slightly less apalled by your article about TNT's
"Animal Farm" than I was by the movie itself. Gary Kamiya suggests that
the advertising campaign is remarkably clever for disguising a dark,
bitter anti-communist fable beneath animatronics and cute duckies. Had he actually gone so far as to watch the movie he would have seen the even more awful truth. TNT took the bitterness, darkness, and anti-communism and turned them into sweetness, light and pro-capitalism. The movie practically skips the pigs' takeover, which forms the core of the original story. In fact, the
movie presents the real corruption of the pigs as almost entirely due to
the evil influence of a rival farmer. So much for anti-communism.

The movie then goes on to add a post-cold-war ending that completely ruins
the story and presents things exactly as they are suggested in the
advertisement: a typical maudlin American morality play. In the end,
the animals welcome new, wealthy, blond smiling humans as their masters.
This seemed equivalent to making the final scene of "1984" be John Smith
joking with his betrayed lover in a Starbucks, each wearing an "I
survived Room 101" T-shirt as they welcome the benevolent Little Brother
as their true master.

Your writer should have watched the show before writing the story. Had
he done so he would have realized that this was not a case of
deceptive advertising, but a case of deceptive storytelling that gutted
Orwell's book.

-- Rich Simon

Princeton, N.J.

Gary Kamiya remarks: "It's hard to imagine
anything that could have turned Eric Blair [aka George Orwell] into
a pinko."

If Kamiya's imagination fails him, he should read Orwell's
nonfiction. For example, in a 1944 book review, he wrote:
"Capitalism leads to dole queues, the scramble for markets, and war.
Collectivism leads to concentration camps, leader worship, and war.
There is no way out of this unless a planned economy can somehow be
combined with the freedom of the intellect."

The contrast between Orwell's political essays and the views
attributed to him is far more depressing than TNT's marketing

-- Seth Gordon


Robbed on Lombok



This story reminds me of some of the better advice I received before
backpacking around the world: "Pack only those things that you won't mind having lost or stolen along the way ... sooner or later, it all will be."

My mentor was right; sooner or later it all was. The more expensive,
shiny stuff you carry, the more of a target you wear on your back.

-- Nat Lovell


I read this with mild entertainment and shook my
head at how inexcusably stupid and careless people are. Travel, especially international travel, is inherently risky business even in this day and age. This is not to say that it cannot be
undertaken safely. However, it does not follow that when one travels abroad
that it is reasonable to do so with one's head firmly ensconced in the
dark place.

I'm sorry to hear of the travelers' misfortune; I don't
like seeing anyone robbed or injured. However, my sympathy is
strongly mitigated by the fact that these people undertook to travel
in a foreign place without providing themselves with the means to
defend their lives and property. They were lucky
that those bandits chose not to kill them and rape the woman.
If the bandits had chosen to act on their threats, what would those ill-
prepared tourists have done? They probably would have
died. I cannot feel any sympathy for people who wilfully place
themselves in harm's way while refusing to take the necessary measures
to equip themselves with the means to defend life and limb.

The world is not going to become a soft, warm and fuzzy place in
accomodation of fools who refuse to deal with it on its own terms.
If you're going to travel, try exercising a little intelligence.

-- Andy Vida

"The Iliad" and other tales of war


David Alford believes that by admitting he had not read the assigned book -- Homer's "Iliad" -- and thus showing his own openness to learn from a young student who had read the book, he magnanimously reveals his own excellence -- i.e., his willingness to learn from the experience as much as the student learned from doing the assignment.

I came away from the description quite disgusted. Had he actually read the assigned book, he might have realized, or been able to at least articulate, a response to what could be construed as an incompletely articulated or debatable reading by his student. He could have had a genuinely meaningful classroom discussion rather than a crude imitation. Since he had not read the book, all he was able to do was to admit that the student's reading was better than his, rather than take up one of the most significant questions in literature, and by extension, the human condition: Why does Achilles act as he does? Does he grow? Is he more god or human? How can humans deal with our dual nature, our longing for divinity and our simultaneously mortal condition?

Ironically, Alford responded like a typical student to a typical professor: Not having done the reading, he retreated from an intellectual encounter and submitted to the authority of the learned. How sad, though, that he gets paid for doing it.

-- Patrick Deneen

Assistant Professor of Politics

Princeton University

David Alford has prodded me to again read my worn,
paperback translation from Dr. Montgomery's classics class in 1961-1962.
His message is loud and clear. Draw conclusions from each part of literature
and life but don't forget the big picture, the whole.
I appreciate your reminding me of that lesson, and of the danger in becoming too
self-absorbed in our opinions and beliefs to the exclusion of others.

-- Woody Stroud

Open-source journalism


The recent article about "open-source" journalism misses a few odd
little events that have happened over the last few years. Reporters and
news organizations have been using the collaborative nature of the
Internet for quite some time ... they just haven't been crediting the
source as such.

For the first 12 to 16 hours after the Oklahoma City bombing, most news
outlets and their pet "experts" were prattling on and on about how the
bombing was obviously by "Middle Eastern terrorists," and how a large
truck bomb took a lot of expertise to build. This became a topic of
discussion in the Net chat rooms at the time, and after the initial
shock, people started pointing out that any country boy could make a
fertilizer bomb, and that the date was the anniversary of the Waco
fire. One participant asked some very pointed questions about some of
the techniques involved, and logged off.

About 15 minutes later, the answers to those questions were
featured -- in order, and with almost the same phrasing -- in a CNN story,
with a "this just in" lead.

The biggest value of the Internet at times like this isn't in the
questions it answers. It's in the new questions that are asked.

-- Chad Irby

Rutherford Institute sues Columbine officials

It beguiles me how people who dub themselves Christian do not seem to
have understood how much the Christ I studied in the Gospels was so dead
against public displays of piety. Faith, when it is strong, speaks in
demeanor, not in forcing icons down the throats of passersby. Maybe
these irate folk in Columbine should read the Second Commandment they so
would like to have hanging next to their precious tiles.

As far as the "Christ is Lord" inscription hanging in a public school,
such a display is so off-base I cannot believe it's even being argued;
think of it: Public funds that support the upkeep of the school will
eventually be utilized to clean the tiles. If a public employee cleaning
the tile is not the merging of church and state at a basic
level, then I must be from a United States in a parallel dimension.
The message of "Christ is Lord" would be part of the Columbine
institution of learning, making impressions on hundreds of young people
daily as they stride past. Some might be offended, and some just might
perceive it as an affirmation of their supposed superiority. And wasn't
that part of the school's problem?

This present obscenity in Columbine is nothing more than religious
grandstanding, just the kind that Christ may have been teaching about in
the parable of the Pharisee and the plebeian. Funny how folks who call
themselves Christians appear to ignore Christ's teaching just when they

-- Peter D. Barry

Austin, Texas

The fundamental problem facing school officials at Columbine is a problem
that our nation is going to have even more trouble with in the future. Our
society is, for the most part, Christian. Christianity, unlike
other religions, does not teach tolerance of other beliefs, but rather
teaches that those in other belief systems are clearly wrong in their
approach to life. Many Christians even teach that everyone who believes
differently than they are doomed to eternal damnation.

However, our culture as a whole is secular, and we teach tolerance of
others' religious beliefs. This puts America at large in a volatile,
contradictory position with most Christians.

Creating tiles for the school that say "Jesus is Lord" may seem innocent enough to most
Christians, but it is highly offensive to Jews, Muslims, Buddhists and agnostics.

-- Rob Redmond

"The River"


If Edward Hooper's theories are proven true, his
story has the potential to be the most earth shaking news item of
the last decade of the century. The medical, social and political
implications are enormous.

The scientific establishment is not allowing Hooper's
theories to be debated freely, though. The medical community, with its
authoritarian ideology, is attempting to quash discussion, and
are dragging their feet in trying to prove or disprove his
arguments, even though Hooper offers several ways in which
they can accomplish this.

-- Hector F. Mejias

Our lady of lies


The article by Christopher Hitchens is one of the most hate-filled, anti-Catholic and anti-Croatian diatribes I have had the misfortune to come across.

Just a few examples that contradict Hitchens' statements: 1) The Virgin
Mary appeared to the children in 1981 ( his sarcasm about the
"unoriginality" of a girl's name is pathetic -- would it have suited him
better if she would have had a movie star's name instead of her own?) It
happened 10 years before the breakup of communist Yugoslavia. Since this
occurred some 40 years after World War II, his derogatory remark calling the
blessed Mother "Our Lady of the Ustashe" referring to Croatia's
Nazi puppet regime's Ustashas, it is more than insulting. Only an extreme
Serbophile could come up with such a propaganda statement.

2) The children's brainwaves were tested by impartial international
scientists and doctors and found to have substantially altered brainwaves
during the manifestations. 3) The "ugly new basilica" is a typical
church, built in the 1930s. Only a church-hater could find criticism
with it. 4) The Vatican has never rushed approvals of such cases until
thorough research is conducted, which typically takes many years.

5) While Muslim minarets were destroyed by Croats during the unfortunate one-year war between the Bosnian Croats and Muslims, at the same time Muslims were destroying
Catholic churches and monasteries. Still, a much larger
number of mosques, minarets and Catholic churches and
monasteries were destroyed by the Serbs during their relentless five
years of bombing and atrocities and massive "ethnic cleansing" of 75 percent of
Bosnia-Herzegovina from 1992 to late 1995. Medjugorje never had any
Muslim mosques as it has a homogenous Catholic population, so none could
have been destroyed. If Hitchens actually is referring to the city of Mostar, most
of the city was already destroyed by the Serbs before the Croat-Muslim

6) Hitchens' ridiculous claim that Croats were destroying Muslim minarets under
the eyes of NATO forces shows his total ignorance. The war between Croats
and Muslims of 1993-94 ended in 1994 with the Washington Accords. NATO
came to Bosnia in 1995 after the Dayton Agreements and the end of the
Bosnian war.

7) Cardinal Stepinac, whom Hitchens falsely describes as a Nazi
collaborator, was openly opposed to Nazism and Fascism, preaching from
the Zagreb cathedral's pulpit against the treatment of Jews and Serbs.
He saved hundreds of Jews personally, which can be confirmed by the
Jewish community in Zagreb. In communist Yugoslavia he was
convicted at a sham trial for collaboration, when just the opposite was
true. He was a holy man and deserved beatification by the Vatican.

Hitchens has obviously swallowed lock, stock and barrel all of the 70
years' worth of Serb propaganda, especially that aimed against Croatia. What he
knows about former Yugoslavia fits under a baby's nail.
Does he know that after the founding of the "Kingdom of the Serbs, Croats
and Slovenes" in 1918, the kingdom came under total rule of Serbia in 1929, with the Serb
king Alexander abolishing the constitution of equality of the
three nations, renaming it "Yugoslavia" and establishing a royal
dictatorship? Does he know that Serbs ruled from Belgrade while Croats
and Slovenes were treated as second-class citizens, with many political
murders and imprisonments? Even Albert Einstein and a group of
prominent American citizens wrote an open letter of condemnation in the
New York Times in 1932 regarding the cruel treatment of Croats and the killing
of one of their well-known intellectuals. Even the Croatian
language was subjugated, and made into "Serbo-Croatian" to deny Croatia's
originality. Most army officers, police and officials were Serbs, who
spread all over Yugoslavia, especially in Croatia and its most beautiful
or richest areas, such as the Adriatic coast and Slavonia. The idea of
Greater Serbia was in full swing.

In World War II, Tito, a Croat, led the overwhelmingly Croat partisan resistance
against the Nazi puppet regime established in Croatia. A mere 2 percent of
Croats approved of the Ustasha regime. Serbs also had a Nazi puppet
regime that killed tens of thousands of Jews,
Gypsies and Croats. Nowhere is there any mention of that "little" fact in
Hitchens' writings. After World War II, all power again went to Serbia . Even
though Tito was a Croat, he was a communist first, and he obviously found
the Serbs better communists than his fellow Croats.

When the first free elections were held in 1990 Yugoslavia, Croatia and
Slovenia chose democracy, while Serbia chose communism. Since there was
no compromise, it became the reason for the breakup of Yugoslavia and
Serbia's aggression against the other republics.

Hitchens has let his hate for anything Catholic and Croatian and his
obvious siding with anything Serbian totally cloud his objectivity -- if he
ever had one. Being on the side of the Serbs in spite of all the carnage
they have caused in Croatia, Bosnia and Kosovo puts this into serious

-- Hilda M. Foley

By Letters to the Editor

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

Christopher Hitchens