Things have heated up in "The Fray," where Slate readers do battle over the day's big issues. To wit, a selection of some of the forum's liveliest threads. Click here to join in.
"Scumbag"? House Whitewater Committee Chairman Dan Burton provided grist for the "Clinton and the Media" thread. Clinton's critics defended Burton's name-calling in a Dallas Morning News interview as essentially truthful; defenders wondered if Burton was merely projecting. Meanwhile, the discussion over who's really in trouble--Clinton or Independent Counsel Kenneth Starr--has grown more polarized and personal. Clinton's critics have turned up the rhetoric, even referring to him as a "rapist"--while Starr's critics are accusing him of being party to a witness-tampering scheme. It's getting ugly.
In the "Big Questions" thread, fraygrants argued about interpretations of the Constitution and definitions of personal and religious freedom. Also debated: E.O. Wilson's new book, Consilience. The former ant-nut has written what one fraygrant called "a historical polemic--that the Enlightenment thinkers were right, after all." Will the social sciences fall under the combined weight of the humanities and natural sciences? Steven Pinker's review in Slate and the Atlantic Monthly's interview with Wilson have stoked the flames.
William Faulkner's The Sound and the Fury was the subject of the new "Reading" thread this week. Chapter 1, a k a the "Benjy" chapter, was deemed "a tour de force ranking with anything Joyce, Dickens, or Shakespeare wrote" by the thread's host. Who and what influenced The Sound? James Joyce and Ulysses? Can only a Southerner truly appreciate Faulkner's settings? Contributors to the discussion ranged from novices to experts; they included a teacher who shared her experience of introducing the novel to students and an author who has written on Phil Stone (the model for several Faulkner characters) for the Mississippi Lawyer.
Slate's "Gist" and Sarah Kerr's review of Walking Out on the Boys kicked off debate in the new "Sexual Harassment" thread: Is a single pass by a superior sexual harassment, or is a pattern of repeated abuse necessary? One fraygrant's perspective: "I'd much rather work with someone who was honestly attracted to me and took 'no' for an answer than someone who may or may not be honestly attracted to me but wants to cow me in any case." Bill Clinton, Clarence Thomas, and Bob Packwood were compared, with the consensus ruling that only Packwood may have been guilty of real sexual harassment. Also examined: the lasting effect of Thomas' hearings on his performance in the Supreme Court.
This week as last, the "Language" thread was on a roll. The discussion on language and culture moved to the need for self-appointed "language mavens" such as William Safire. Some fraygrants took the prescriptivist position: People must be told how to use the language if it isn't to succumb to its natural tendency to go "all higgledy piggledy." Tosh, said the opposition. All language needs to do is communicate one's meaning clearly. The mavens are fools to fight the "tide of language change."
Voting is underway in the "Person of the Century" thread, which, created before the recent Time magazine survey, aims to identify, once and for all, the person who has most influenced the century. Visit the voting site to register your vote--it is open to all Slate subscribers. No ballots will be accepted after May 6, 1998.
Post of the Week
In the Sexual Harassment thread, the debate over an acceptable definition of the term led one fraygrant to post a statement on what is appropriate in the workplace. inspired reactions from both sides of the table, ranging from "Yes, that's exactly it" to "Call me a cynic, but I ain't quitting a job for a f--k unless I'm SURE it's love and even then, dammit, HE can quit."