Letters from our readers.
May 30 1997 3:30 AM

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Murdoch = Sleaze

"Rupert Murdoch, Humanitarian?" was David Plotz's embrace of the one magnate who has done more to bring down the standards of journalism worldwide than any other. Whether in newspapers or television, Murdoch has consistently shown a disdain for fairness, class, and appropriate journalistic behavior. And he single-handedly deserves responsibility for creating the tabloid-television phenomenon with A Current Affair, the worst affront to American television-news standards of our era.

As someone from MSNBC, I can't be considered exactly the most objective source of analysis of Murdoch's media behavior (in light of MSNBC cable's competition for distribution and eyeballs with his Fox News Channel). So, I'll leave that analysis for others. But you need only pick your medium or your country to determine what he's left in his wake. Plotz and Slate may be willing to embrace his efforts to bring media (in Murdoch's case, sleazy media) to worldwide audiences. You may even want to applaud his efforts to bust unions. But to ignore Murdoch's contribution to dumbing down and trashing media and journalism is to only tell part of the story.

--Merrill Brown


Redmond, Wash.

Santorum = Saint

In "Sen. Symbol, R-Pa.," Jacob Weisberg unfairly chastises Sen. Rick Santorum for opposing Sen. Tom Daschle's (D-S.D.) last-minute bill that would supposedly ban all abortions after fetal viability. Santorum just didn't want to accept such a hollow measure.

The Daschle proposal would have permitted abortions after viability if continuing the pregnancy posed a risk of "grievous harm" to the mother's health, a determination left solely to the doctor. No doctor could be prosecuted for making such a false claim, because no one else's opinion would matter. And of course, the courts have previously held that "health" includes both physical and mental aspects. This enormous loophole made the bill completely irrelevant.


Daschle's bill was a sham, designed to draw support away from Sen. Santorum's bill, which actually would have done something to criminalize certain types of abortions. Criticizing Santorum for opposing the Daschle bill simply so that he could garner political points is an untrue and very unfair characterization of the events.

--Stephen J. Konig

Roanoke, Va.

Do the Shoes Fit?


In "Boycott Nike and Reebok," Robert Wright commits the usual error of outside commentators on black culture: He sees it as monolithic. Olajuwon is a Nigerian guy and Rodman is an African-American. Olajuwon's culture, for the better part of this century, was British colonial. Rodman's was hard-core Americana, with the influence of American slavery.

Wright can throw up a lot of chatter about the ways that the shoe companies are wrecking the inner cities and offering sick models for little black kids to look up to, but the vulgarity of his means--depicting two representatives of wildly different cultures as if they were culturally identical--belies the error of his agenda.

The only difference between spending a ton of money on Nike shoes and on a Gucci suit is in what type of cultural expression you choose. Wright seems to think we should boycott everything that expresses a black ego. It turns my stomach to read yet another backdoor assault on the economically powerful models that African-Americans have managed to establish. Those blanched Protestants, after all, who dictated that humility could be measured in chinos and tweed, couldn't have been assholes, too, now could they? Speak softly and sponsor a housing project, then when that doesn't pan out, blame it on the shoes.

--Matthew DeBord


New York City

Rodman's Rump

In "Boycott Nike and Reebok," Robert Wright wants shoe companies to sign players who will help inner-city kids conform their conduct to the expectations of a suburban job interview. I think that is terrible.

Dennis Rodman's popularity has nothing to do with a shoe contract. Rodman works his ass off rebounding and scrambling for the ball, and not only when everyone is watching and every game is important. There is virtue and substance there even if Wright can't see it. Rodman is also popular because his rebellion and mad behavior are welcome in a world where we're expected to be deferential and compliant.

Wright doesn't understand that the reservoir of personality and influence in sport is not controlled by Madison Avenue or Nike. The source for greatness is the individual player. Some waters run deep, others shallow. Nike's "I am Tiger Woods" means something only because Tiger Woods traveled to a place where he was not welcome and beat the bastards at their own game. Woods of course was conspicuously absent from Wright's essay.

--John Love

Pasadena, Calif.

Neutral as a Knife

Franklin Foer wrote an interesting article on the latest abortion hubbub in this week's "Gist" on fetal viability. But there was an outrageous error in the links for the article, which identified the Alan Guttmacher Institute as "nonpartisan."

The institute is owned by Planned Parenthood, the largest abortion provider in the nation. I submit that this oversight suggests either that Foer isn't as informed on the subject as he appears to be, or that his politics are showing. I enjoy the usual "here are the facts--deal with them" tone of Slate, and I hope this mistake will not be repeated.

--John Murdoch

Wind Gap, Pa.

Ban Non-Voter Contributions

David Mastio's "The Kiddie-Cash Caper" was a great piece on the use of minors to launder campaign contributions. Unfortunately, the author failed to mention that the leading bipartisan campaign-reform bill would end this sham. "It shall be unlawful for an individual who is not qualified to vote in a Federal election to make a contribution ..." is the simple solution offered in the McCain-Feingold campaign-reform bill. This provision would outlaw contributions by resident aliens, felons, and children.

It is important not to shrug our shoulders in despair over the current state of our election process but, rather, to actively seek and support real solutions which can revitalize American democracy. I encourage anyone who is ready to simply give up on Washington politicians to remember that they are only there because we sent them to be our representatives. Let them know that you expect them to support efforts to clean up the campaign-fund-raising system.

--Jamie Willmuth

Checkered Out

I thought Alex Heard's piece "Sore Loser" put Garry Kasparov's behavior in proper context, but as a member of the Chinook team (computer checkers), I would like to make two points. First, Chinook did play Don Lafferty again in January 1995, and Chinook won that match with one win, no losses, and 31 draws. While this result is no more statistically significant than Deep Blue's recent win, both matches do constitute important data points. The 1995 match is documented at the Chinook Web site and in a recent book by Jonathan Schaeffer on the Chinook project.

Second, perfect play (which is not necessarily the same as inspiring or imaginative play) in games like checkers and chess can be reduced to pure computation. So, as computers get faster, they will surpass human capabilities in these limited domains.

--Paul Lu

Toronto, Ontario

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