Letters to the editor

Are bad reviews part of the anti-Horowitz conspiracy? Plus: Woe is Microsoft; bodybuilders are a stereotype of masculinity.

Published May 3, 2000 4:00PM (EDT)

Where cowards have no names



Let me see if I can follow David Horowitz's argument. His books have been received largely negative reviews for the past 35 years, not just from major newspapers such as the Los Angeles Times and from stodgy book-trade organs like Kirkus Reviews and Library Journal, but also from ordinary readers posting their thoughts on forums such as Amazon.com.

There is only one possible explanation for this. A cabal of Stalinists has taken over the corporate print media and the dot-com publishing industry, and has additionally populated the streets with clandestine troops ("it is their mission") who disguise themselves as "consumers" and "readers" in order to mischaracterize Horowitz as a wooden-prosed ideological hack.

You had better guard your water supply, Mr. Horowitz. Who knows where they will strike next?

-- Doug Saunders

I'm the "individual in charge of reviews" at Amazon.com that David Horowitz mentions. (Or was, rather, but that's another story.) I thought it might be helpful to share what I told him about the reviewing process back then.

First, I was not the editor who assigned the negative review of "Radical Son" that upset Horowitz. That was before my time. I did, however, assign the reviews for his following two books, "The Politics of Bad Faith" and "Hating Whitey." The former was reviewed by John J. Miller, one of Amazon.com's best regular freelance contributors and a staff writer at the National Review, while the latter was reviewed by John Anderson. Both of them basically explained the subject matter of the particular book, and told why you might like it. While Anderson disagreed with "Hating Whitey" on ideological grounds, his review simply pointed out that other conservative writers had made Horowitz's argument better in earlier books.

My general policy when I was the nonfiction editor at Amazon.com was, after picking out the books I wanted to write about, to assign books to reviewers who were experts in the field and/or ideologically sympathetic to the book's point of view. And unless a book was irredeemably bad, if we couldn't say anything nice, we usually relied upon value-neutral descriptions which ended in, "This is a book that might appeal to ..." or some such.

The reason for this is simple: Amazon.com exists in large part to sell things. You don't sell things by identifying them as inferior -- or possibly identifying the deeply held opinions of your customers as inferior. If the political books that regularly appear on Amazon.com's bestseller lists are any indication, conservatives (and libertarians) make up a substantial segment of the Amazon.com customer base. So, when I was there, I made sure that those customers were kept informed about the books that would be of interest to them.

-- Ron Hogan

Reader Review of David Horowitz's Column on May 1 in Salon.com

1 out of 5 stars

In reading David Horowitz's column, I have a few questions:

1. Where does he get the hubris to assume that he deserves to be compared to such established giants as [Noam] Chomsky and Cornel West? I consider myself an avid reader of political literature, and consider myself familiar with both liberal and conservative authors. I have never heard of David Horowitz or any of his books. I am a writer and a filmmaker, and I may not like it if someone criticizes a film of mine. But I don't criticize their argument by complaining that they are unwilling to put me in the same category as Orson Welles and Alfred Hitchcock.

2. How can Horowitz complain that his reviews are negative? Talk about sour grapes. Isn't it a bit unfair to assume that all the book's negative reviews are because people hate the politics, and not because they didn't agree with your book?

3. Is a weekly column in a newsmagazine really the proper forum for these kind of rantings anyway? This kind of crybaby whining belongs either in an op-ed section or the trash can.

4. Why is he complaining about the reader reviews for his book, "The Politics of Bad Faith," when the average review is four stars? Yes, there are two reviews on the site that are scathing, unfair and poorly written. But there are also two well-written, effusive reviews that deal with intellectual issues. Horowitz is like the kid in high school who is upset that he got an A minus on his math test rather than a straight A.

5. Horowitz talks about the faceless paranoid cowards who don't list their name or e-mail address online. I was going to e-mail this letter straight to Horowitz, in hope of starting a dialogue, but it turns out that his e-mail address isn't posted either! I see no reason why he couldn't have a simple business address (as opposed to giving out his home address) listed with his column. Or if he doesn't want to do that, he should stop complaining that everyone in the world didn't like his book.

-- Matthew Buchholz
Brooklyn, N.Y.

How interesting to read David Horowitz's latest column. He might be interested to know that I recently reviewed, for Amazon.com, Barbara Olson's latest book, which certainly qualifies as conservative screed. Not only did I sign my name, but I allowed Amazon to print my e-mail address as well. I quickly learned why it's not a good idea for liberals to out themselves, and it has nothing to do with cowardice. I was OK with the names ("socialist cunt" was a personal favorite), but when I started getting veiled threats from e-mail addresses that could not be traced, I decided that it's not safe to reveal one's identity if one shares a liberal opinion. The conservatives who responded to my review were more than just plain wrong -- they were and are a culture of unbridled haters who cannot stand dissent. And there are a lot of them, I assure you.

David Horowitz should get off his high horse -- the view from here tells a very different story.

-- Alice Lieberman

Rarely do I find myself in agreement with David Horowitz since we are political polar opposites. However, I must agree with one aspect of his article on Amazon.com: No one should be allowed to anonymously smear an author. This is an utterly revolting practice and, again here I go agreeing with Horowitz, a very real attempt to suppress and punish the publication of views that the "flamers" simply don't like or agree with.

-- Denise Tyrrell

Sayings of Chairman Bill


As a person who makes his living building business software systems on Microsoft's operating systems, and using, almost exclusively, Microsoft's tools, I can't decide which worries me more: the fact that the government dunderheads are all wet, or Microsoft's profound institutional hubris.

If the government breaks up the company, Microsoft's tools and platforms are at serious risk of degrading in quality and innovation. It will take months just to sort it all out, during which time new development at the new companies will be at a standstill. If the government does not succeed in breaking up the company, then Microsoft's arrogance and willingness to blatantly abuse its monopoly position will be rewarded and reinforced. Either way, my livelihood is at risk, and I may just need to join the Java/Unix/Linux/Apache camp on the other side of this silly fence -- as if those in that camp do not possess a collective hubris of their own.

-- Daniel Read

Rosenberg hit it right on the money with this article. I might have gone one step further -- the statement by Gates that "Windows could never have been developed under these rules," in my mind, proves the government case.

The main thrust of the antitrust charge, as I understand it, is that developers at MS have an advantage over developers at MS's competitors because, for example, developers of MS Office have access to source code and undocumented API's that competitors do not, as well as bug fixes and patches to make the products work better together. Gates' statement simply proves that to be true, in my mind. He has said that without that sort of collusion between development teams, Windows (and one presumes Office as well) could not have been developed. Where does that leave competitors to MS who are trying to write Windows software? At a distinct disadvantage compared to teams in MS attempting to develop the same kind of application. That, in my mind, is the crux of the problem at MS, and the thing that the government antitrust case should be trying to fix.

-- Lyle Bateman

Microsoft has been found guilty of abusing its monopoly power in a predatory and anti-competitive manner. It is the federal government that has granted Microsoft this power and I see no reason why it should not simply take it away.

Microsoft's monopoly is maintained by the legally enforceable copyrights it holds on Windows and Internet Explorer. Invalidating these copyrights would eliminate Microsoft's stranglehold on the industry and force it to compete on a level playing field open to all industry players. Rather than dictating limits on Microsoft's future activities by judicial decree, this simple denial of copyright protection would allow the natural forces of the marketplace to determine Microsoft's ultimate fate.

-- Lee Powell




Don't be fooled by his bluster -- the proposed Microsoft split is playing right into Bill Gates' long-term strategy.

He hasn't been investing heavily in biotech for nothing. For every new Microsoft company the DOJ creates, there'll be a Gates clone to run it.

-- Richard Gleaves

Is it time to buy Microsoft?


Last week I invested in MS stock with no hesitation. If the stock goes lower, I will buy even more. Even if the government splits up MS into three entities, each one will still make money, lots of it! For all the complaining and troubles MS has suffered, it's still the best system available to the general public. Even if MS had not browbeat computer makers into exclusively featuring MS applications, market demand would still place it on top of the heap. I've used most operating systems and applications and state that for the general public, Windows is the easiest to use. I know the pros will disagree, but they are the minority PC users.

-- Galen Dean

Gorgeous masculinity

Damion Matthews, in his recent article about male bodybuilding magazines, comes to the conclusion that in their "glorification of masculinity," they "make men feel good about being men." However, the concept of masculinity that is literally embodied by the models in these magazines is completely one-dimensional and stereotypical. No, Mr. Matthews, these pages do not tell me that I, too, "can look like a god." They tell me that I will never be able to achieve a supposed ideal of what the male body is supposed to look like, not that I have the slightest interest in being a bulked-up Hercules -- I am quite content as a lithe, slender, toned Apollo.

Just as there are many types of feminine beauty (although our culture seems to be fixated on certain types), there are many different types of masculine beauty (though again, our culture seems to place one above all others). If the models in these magazines turn you, or anyone else, on, then fine -- just do not try to intellectualize your fascination with overdeveloped musculature and "prominent bulges," because you do not succeed in doing so.

-- Matthew Hatch

This kind of narcissistic investment in the body is the same fascination you would find in very young children. This is not so much an obsession as it is a developmental fixation. Being watched and seen allows these men a sense of self that is temporal, frenetic and vicarious. It's not a horrible thing but no one knows or cares what happens to these men when their "powers" diminish from age or disease. I believe the worst scenario for them is not to be noticed or seen. What is even sadder is how this dovetails with the borderline craze of "pro wrestling."

-- Ron Anguiano

Today's Elian sound bite

What has happened to Peggy Noonan? She was one of the most brilliant speechwriters ever and now she's degenerated into this whispery Republican woman of the airwaves. Her comment that Reagan would have recognized the dolphins as God's creatures saving Elian, one of God's children, reminds me of all that was truly weird in that administration. Like James Watt, the Secretary of the Interior, who didn't believe his position mattered because Jesus was coming soon and would make all the environmental stuff moot. Wow, I miss those days.

-- David Terrenoire

By Salon Staff

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