Letters to the editor

AOL-Time Warner -- a marriage made in hell for consumers. Plus: Curtis Mayfield's unworthy successors; dump the vile David Duke!


Letters to the Editor
January 14, 2000 10:00PM (UTC)

AOL and Time
Warner's marriage of insecurity

BY SCOTT ROSENBERG

(01/10/00)

and

The Net on
AOL's Time Warner deal

BY JANELLE BROWN, DAMIEN CAVE and LYDIA LEE


(01/11/00)

When the Fort Worth chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union investigated complaints
of censorship and anti-minority hate in user profiles on
America Online, AOL's news search engine failed to find a single
reference to this nationally reported story.
(See Wired Strategies.)

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Our public posts in AOL discussion groups seeking information
from others censored by AOL resulted in my AOL account being
cancelled for "commercial solicitation." AOL's "community action
team" told me that I could not receive copies
of my own customer records, and I was hung up on.

The thought of AOL chairman Steve Case in charge of Time magazine
and CNN is indeed chilling.

-- Frank Provasek

President, ACLU Ft Worth Chapter, Texas

Scott Rosenberg's article was an interesting discussion of the AOL-Time Warner merger. But amid all the
talk
of "missing the broadband bandwagon" and increasing "market share and
power," a much more fundamental question emerges: Why are we handing
over
the lifeblood of democracy -- information dissemination -- to corporations?

Rosenberg notes that "Corporate media power really is getting
scarily
concentrated." It's not "getting," but has been concentrated since the downfall of the
independent labor press. The Net was developed with taxpayer money
within
the Pentagon high-tech industry welfare system. That a company like AOL
should reap profits by charging for access to a product that the public
has
already paid for is an absurdity. And for Salon to moan about how
companies
like AOL are getting too big misses the point -- the truly "scary" thing
is
that they exist in the first place.

-- Damon Poeter

Bangkok, Thailand

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The AOL-Time Warner deal is another brick in the wall of making big
business too big for anyone to regulate or stop. When the Exxon/Mobil
Oil
merger went through I asked myself, How in the name of all that's
right
will this benefit anyone but the stockholders?

There is an increasing tempo of big mergers, which only
concentrate
more economic control in fewer hands while reducing price and product
competition for consumers. It seems to go almost unnoticed that the
resulting huge businesses have a disproportionate effect on government
regulators, and government itself through lobbying and the almost
unregulated political fund-raising which is rapidly eroding the last
vestiges
of fairness in our political process.

The SEC and other federal regulators are not being allowed to do
their
jobs because the political will to allow them to function has been
co-opted by the increasingly evil political
campaign funding, which threatens to exchange the American oligarchy for
a
real plutocracy.

-- John Barker

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The government should first make AOL clean up its own
service
before it even considers approving this merger.
AOL cannot take care of its own subscribers now. They censor all
kinds
of speech with their TOS ("Terms of Service"). The spam AOL'ers receive is unreal and many times the amount a person
would
receive with a normal ISP account.

Try signing up for a free trial period and see how much you get in the
first
hour you are online. Most of it is for MFM ("Make Money Fast") schemes or
for
pornography. Then try and cancel and see what happens. This merger
can't
be good for anyone except Steve Case, the former toothpaste salesman.

-- John Hozian

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Well, damn. Many of us who -- for reasons unknown -- still use AOL are
getting miserably slow service, with regular bootings. (In AOL's case,
"Internet service provider" is almost a malaprop.) So, if AOL buys Time Warner, does that mean my Entertainment Weekly
will
show up late or not at all, too?

-- Regina Deavitt


Ghetto Trippin'

BY ERIC BOEHLERT
(01/07/00)

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and

Curtis Mayfield

BY JODY ROSEN
(01/07/00)

I was afraid that Curtis Mayfield's passing would be overlooked amid
all
the end-of-the-century hype. The fact that he died only a few days
before
the end may be an omen. Thanks for Eric Boehlert's on-the-money essay on
the
idiocy surrounding the popular trend in black urban music. Mayfield's
music
was filled with such pain and dignity that it's a crying shame that
Puffy
and the like are his successors. What's even worse is that these
contemporaries are likely achieving much more popular success than
Mayfield
and his contemporaries ever obtained, without even a fraction of the
talent
and artistic vision.

Artists like Curtis Mayfield and Marvin Gaye so
eloquently brought the suffering of urban blacks to the rest of America
and
paved the way for a new generation of musicians. The result? Benefactors
like Puffy can flaunt jewelry and live out B-movie fantasies and
"sample"
the hard-earned tracks that they laid down. What a shame.

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-- Alex Perez

Salon is at it again. It seems that over the last year it has become
sport
at a supposedly "liberal" magazine to criticize and rebuke black
people for any instance that does not conform to the limousine liberal
standard of behavior -- i.e. Maxine Waters, Louis Farrakhan, Jesse Jackson
and
now Jay Z. I suppose the black poster child for Salon is Colin Powell.

I
wonder if this is a Clintonesque move to establish credibility by moving
closer to the center through public spankings of outspoken blacks. From
David Horowitz to Debra Dickerson, it seems that Salon's intent is to lash
any
black person who wanders out of the mainstream with the editorial whip while simultaneously reassuring the white audience that they have
nothing
to fear from these exceptional black people.

Boehlert employs a few
verses
of Jay Z's lyrics to brand his entire work as glorification of violence
and
misogyny. In fact, Jay Z's reputation as a thinking rap artist stems
from
his clever lyrics, use of word play and his attention to the consequences of one's actions. Does he
mean to
suggest that no rappers preach against the use of drugs on the basis of
one
rapper's lyrics? Try Outkast, Goodie Mob, 8Ball & MJG, Public Enemy,
Common
Sense and the Roots.

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-- Josh H.

Eric Boehlert's article about Curtis Mayfield's influence on hip-hop
clearly illustrated the main problem with hip-hop music. Too bad it
wasn't
the point he was trying to make. It's ironic that someone who covers
the
music industry chooses to focus on the negative acts of a few isolated
individuals like Puffy, Eminem or Jay-Z, while ignoring all of the
creativity that flourished in hip-hop in 1999. Perhaps Curtis
Mayfield's
legacy lies in the musicianship of the Roots, or in the creativity of
Prince Paul, or in the poetic nature of the lyrics of Mos Def or
Common.
The real problem is members of the mainstream press not giving coverage
to
the real talent in the world of hip-hop while wasting ink on the
talentless
likes of Puffy, Jay-Z, et al.

-- Nick Adams

Eric Boehlert focuses on the text, or "lyrics," when comparing today's
gangsta
rappers to the late great Curtis Mayfield. But let's also mention the droningly obvious: Rap, in general, is a
tuneless
rant, devoid of lyricism and a medium that would only have thwarted
Curtis
Mayfield in exploiting the uniqueness of his singing voice, much less
his
own harmonic and melodic compositional style. The general musical nastiness of rap nullifies the sensual and advocates a nihilistic approach to music in general.

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-- Charles Greenberg

Glad to see a Curtis Mayfield
obit/retrospective that finally mentions his wonderful
eponymous album of the early '70s. It stands up well to the
justly praised "Superfly" album. I still find myself humming "Move on
Up" and "Wild and Free" all these years later. R.I.P. Curtis !

-- Henry Balke

What's
at
stake in the 2000 elections?

BY MICHAEL ALVEAR

(01/10/00)

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Until today I've been a big fan of Salon.com. I enjoy reading Garrison
Keillor and find that in general Salon's coverage in all areas is
refreshing and thought-provoking.

Now I'm going to have to consider finding some other source of good
writing
online. Why? Because this publication has chosen to give David Duke a
stump for his anti-Semitic, inflammatory rhetoric. This man is not a
serious journalist and the only possible reason I can think of why the
otherwise discerning editors and publishers of Salon would provide him
with
this forum for the hate that oozes out of his diseased cortex is that
they
have finally succumbed to the profitable lure of sensationalism.

Perhaps the editors of Salon believe that the views of David Duke are
so
far removed from what we now consider sane and reasonable that they can
be
provided as a sort of self-parody. Ladies and gentleman, that is a
mistake, for even if no reader takes his poison seriously, the
legitimization of these bitter, pernicious and vile throwbacks merely
encourages them to continue their warped crusade against all social
progress and justice; surely if we continue to encourage the
dissemination
of this vileness we'll still be seeing tragedies like the dragging
murder
of James Byrd Jr. at the end of the next millennium.

David Duke certainly has a right to say what he likes and promote his
views
as he likes, even though those are views I find personally abhorrent.
But
Salon certainly has no obligation to provide him with a forum, as I
have no
obligation to read it.

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-- Thomas K. Burkholder

The remarks of David Duke and Matthew Hale certainly add a freak-show
element to Salon's political coverage. However, I trust the magazine
won't
be adding them to its regular stable of political pundits.
It's probably better to stick with the toothless bluster of Camille
Paglia.

-- Mark Carlson

I think it's vile that Salon would choose to voice the opinions of this
man [David Duke]
who has incited racial hatred. While free speech is a cornerstone of
the
Constitution, this editorial decision is unspeakably wrong. I will
notify
all those I can to protest this decision and to no longer read this Web
site.

-- Michael Nathanson


Show me the hungry

BY ARIANNA
HUFFINGTON


(01/04/00)

My gratitude to Salon and Arianna Huffington for bravely parting the
bullshit "prosperity" sea to reveal the growing divisions between rich
and poor. Huffington's words on this issue will carry far more weight than
a
liberal like me shrieking for no apparent reason.

I recently had the chance to ask a panel of Internet millionaires
assembled
at the Columbia School of Journalism about the growing divide between
rich
and poor, and where the money of this new gilded age was going.
Alexander
Gardner of the [investment advice site] Motley Fool said (and you can look this up in the
Village
Voice): "I don't think there's a problem with the gap between the rich
and
the poor." That cost the panel what little credibility they had.
(Gardner
went on to attack investigative journalism, calling it bad for
business.)

I'm glad Huffington sees the problems that men like Gardner do not.

-- Brian Lyman


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