Readers respond to Barbara Olson's hatchet job on the Clintons, a book on synesthesia and an interview with Janet Malcolm.

Published November 30, 2001 8:00PM (EST)

Read "The Unsavory Martyr."

Oh yes, with all of the crowing of the upcoming death of dissent, Salon pipes in with another defense of the Clinton empire.

As per the norm, if you are a leftist and complain you become an activist.

If you are anywhere else on the political spectrum you are simply a whiner.

-- Joe Morgante

It seems like Mr. Lauerman's main complaint of Barbara Olson's book on Hillary Clinton is that it's mean to the president. Sure, he cites one, maybe two instances where her premises are faulty, but not enough to discredit the book's overall impression of the former First Lady.

Instead of criticizing a dead woman, maybe Lauerman should focus on a living breathing one -- the newest senator from the state of New York. Even in more benevolent hands, her story is as unsavory and censurable as they come.

-- Dan Avery

Nineteen terrorists died on Sept. 11. With Barbara Olson the devil got an even twenty.

-- Steve Gordon

Barbara Olson: "a life that ended in bravery"? Barbara Olson's "undeniable bravery"? WHAT!?! From the initial reports of her words, I was bowled over: "What should I tell the pilot to do?" What should "I", I, Barbara Olson, tell the pilot to do? It is astonishing, incomprehensible, that even in the last moments of her life, Barbara Olson's colossal sense of self-importance prevailed. I cannot envision one single other person whose first instinct would be to "tell the pilot what to do."

This conceit is NOT undeniable bravery; it is unfathomable arrogance.

-- M. L. Landy

Barbara Olson must have been one charming woman ... how else to explain the high-profile career notices and posthumous lionization from her ostensible enemies? Few, however -- and Kerry Lauerman isn't a dissenter -- are able to account her "journalism" and commentary as anything but what it was: slanted, trumped-up, would-be propaganda.

Lauerman also seems to be rather tolerant of Olson's use of a literary device that non-Washington journalists usually refer to as "out-and-out lying" on behalf of her various causes. Not only does her last book play as fast and loose with the facts as virtually every other of her published utterances, it is just as narrowly partisan and destructively inflammatory in its intent.

For this reason, however tragic her demise, I find it very difficult indeed to regard Olson as "heroic"; however much I wish Sept. 11 hadn't happened, it's a sad fact of life that bad things sometimes happen to bad people, too.

-- M. George Stevenson

Barbara Olson was bigotry writ large.

Earlier this year she gave an interview to a foreign newspaper -- the London Daily Telegraph -- in which she suggested bluntly that Bill Clinton's mother was a drunken whore. The quotation was picked up by the Washington Post on July 27. In the same interview, she and Republican women associates suggested that all the women in the United States had been slaves until George Bush won last year's elections. What changed may not be clear to most American women.

Is there any evidence that she ever found anything wrong publicly in the behavior of a conservative Republican?

Many people probably died bravely in the planes that terrorists stole and crashed on Sept. 11. Notable in the recordings of phone conversations from the doomed plane was a lack of background noises indicating hysteria among the passengers.

Barbara Olson, practiced advocate and broadcaster, and evidently brave, was simply one of the first to grab a microphone.

-- Paul Lynch

Read "The Journalist and the Provocateur."

Although Janet Malcolm ultimately won her case against Jeffrey Masson, it is essential to keep in view what Malcolm did. Her New Yorker piece about Masson, while based on many hours of interviews, included statements, represented as direct quotations of Masson, that Masson simply did not make. Perhaps chief among these was "I was an intellectual gigolo." Quoting a speaker, and placing the statement within quotation marks, is an assertion by the author that the speaker made that statement using those exact words. Malcolm's defense that her article captured the gist of what Masson had said to her does not rebut the gravamen of her journalistic crime: In her article she lied about what Jeffrey Masson said to her. For that there can be no justification or redemption, and for that reason her credibility has been destroyed forever.

-- Jack McCullough

Read the review of "Blue Cats and Chartreuse Kittens" by Patricia Lynne Duffy.

I was extremely admiring of Alison Motluk's review of "Blue Cats and Chartreuse Kittens" until the end, when she made the shocking claim that her name is red. As a fellow synesthetic, I can testify: Her name is clearly blue. Sure, "Motluk" verges on pink for an instant, but only briefly and turns in no way red. Where are the fact checkers, indeed?

-- Katherine Russell Rich

My synesthesia, which is apparently mild compared to Duffy's, has always been something I took for granted. After trying more or less unsuccessfully to describe it to others at various points in my life, I pretty much gave up -- it didn't matter much anyway. Not until I took up the study of kempo karate in my early 40s did it present any difficulties. I have trouble remembering Combination Five because 5 is dark blue and yet this is an orange belt move. The set of moves we call Purple Belt Kempo Number One is actually green (1's themselves are cobalt blue, of course, but this move begins with a 3 block, which is forest green), and Purple Belt Kempo Two is dark red (never mind that 2 is yellow). Try explaining that to your sensei!

-- Nancy Hall

By Letters to the Editor

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