Readers respond to "Lenny Bruce Died for Our Sins," by Gary Kamiya, and "We're Losing the War in Afghanistan, Too," by John Sifton.

Published August 28, 2003 8:41PM (EDT)

[Read "Lenny Bruce Died for Our Sins," by Gary Kamiya.]

There aren't many of us who would choose to defend films of farm girls entertaining domestic animals or young men losing kitchen appliances inside their digestive tracts. The real reason we fight so hard to protect porn is because the anti-porn crusaders can't seem to tell the difference between an adult film and a film for adults. For instance, a few years ago a group in the Midwest decided to clean up the local video store. Did they go after "Fisting in the Rockies"? No. They seized "The Tin Drum."

As someone once said, "Obscenity is whatever gives the judge an erection." While I'd rather not think too much about what gives John Ashcroft an erection, my guess is it has more to do with power than it does with sex.

-- David Terrenoire

It was ironic to read Gary Kamiya's article, which hijacks dead man Lenny Bruce to defend Lizzie Borden, and then to see underneath, in "related articles," an article about Sojourner Truth's speech for equal rights "Ain't I a Woman."

Somehow defenders of porn always get to be the ones calling detractors uptight hypocrites, but they are the true hypocrites (yes, Gary -- when you proudly announce that you are encouraging any daughter/sister of yours to go into hardcore then I'll believe you're a radical freedom fighter).

I believe in free speech and I believe in allowing erotic imagery to be available for everyone. What I don't believe should be legal is material that incites hatred and contempt for another section of society. Then one person's freedom of speech becomes a verbal or visual weapon to beat up another. Ask Slobodan Milosevic (who flooded TV stations with negative propaganda about Bosnian Muslims before calling people to war) how effective it is. Lizzie Borden's films are damaging to women -- these kinds of films affect how men perceive and treat women.

Don't give me that old chestnut about people being mature enough to separate fantasy from reality. They buy the fantasy -- that's why commercials are so powerful.

-- Suzanne Warren

The fact that pornography comes under any scrutiny in this country shows just how pathetic it has become under these hard Christian right-wingers passing themselves off as Republicans.

Should there be laws to keep children out of porn? Of course, and I'm tired of Bible-thumpers automatically pulling that out of the hat as if the laws don't already exist. I am an adult, I enjoy watching pornography and I have for over 15 years. I am a well-educated, some would say overeducated, kind and caring individual, not at all like Ashcroft would have you believe.

What it comes down to is, you can't legislate morality. In a country where we supposedly have actual freedom of religion (not just free to be any kind of Christian you want), whose morals do you choose?

-- Rich Phillips

Kamiya completely fails to make a principled case for his insistence that all obscenity laws should be stricken, except pornography laws that protect children.

Let's leave aside the overblown and gratuitous Christ reference for the time being. Why should it be criminal to sell photographs depicting a 17-year-old girl exhibiting her genitals by a swimming pool, but completely legal to sell a film like Extreme Associates' "Forced Entry," which depicts a teen being raped multiple times and then murdered?

Kamiya explains the distinction this way: Of course it should. How very simple he makes it all seem. But Lenny Bruce's monologues never celebrated sex killings, rape or child molestation, so to compare him to Extreme Associates and their ilk is completely off the mark.

-- Charlie Barnes

Shame on you for singling out John Ashcroft and the Republican administration for their efforts to restrict pornographic material. Led by dominance feminists, such as Kitty MacKinnon and Andrea Dworkin, the assault on pornography has been no less aggressive from the left than the right. This branch of feminism derides all male-female sex as rape, and holds erotica to be instrumental in maintaining the hetero-patriarchy. Its alliance with the religious right has made Ashcroft's actions politically costless by rendering silent the academic left.

Salon's readership is all too familiar with Herr Ashcroft's threats to our civil liberties. Why not report on something that is actually news, namely the left's betrayal of its pluralistic ideals?

-- Brad Wenban

Gary Kamiya's article on Lenny Bruce captured the soul of Lenny's act and, most important, made a very important connection to John Ashcroft's anti-porn crusade. There are two other important points in Collins and Skover's "The Trials of Lenny Bruce" that should also be underlined:

1) Lenny Bruce's attacks on organized religion were at least as noteworthy as his insistence on defusing the power of "disgusting" words. Collins and Skover's book suggests that he was prosecuted for violating obscenity statutes because blasphemy is not against the law.

2) Lenny's martyrdom was accelerated by his love of the law. He came to be seduced by the (false) promise that justice would eventually prevail.

-- Neil Litt

[Read "We're Losing the War in Afghanistan, Too," by John Sifton.]

Ah, what a typical Salon title. From the recent ambiguous, yet subtly admirable portrait of an Iraqi rebel who plays handball (look how incongruous it is for a serious athlete to take up arms!) to this latest headline, it is not hard to see who Salon is rooting for in Iraq.

The agenda to see Bush out of office and paint Afghanistan and Iraq in defeatist tones almost makes the hysterical Ann Coulter's book title worth a second look. Hell, even the New York Times had a feature on many of the positive things going on in Iraq. Any glance at the blog-o-sphere will glean firsthand accounts of much of the positives in Afghanistan.

America is not losing anything yet. We are engaged in a difficult struggle where "winning" and "losing" will be difficult to decipher for a generation. Whipping up the masses to draw the conclusion that we are losing this struggle isn't merely inaccurate; it's jaw-dropping, self-interested partisanship in a situation where the stakes are terribly high. I'm not saying an accurate portrayal will not find huge setbacks and fuel negative stories -- but in Salon's case, the outline for the story has already been drawn.

This is paint-by-numbers journalism and commentary. And if you succeed in shaming Bush, and your stories have any impact on portraying a losing situation to the American people, one that results in the withdrawal of American troops, it is the Iraqi and Afghani people who will lose. Even if your worldview "wins."

-- Bill Ardolino

By Salon Staff

MORE FROM Salon Staff

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