Even for the Fray, the disagreements were strong this week. The "Ballot Box" on John Ashcroft produced some angry moments, as did "War Stories" on the Geneva Convention, and the article on anti-war protests brought this reply from Temaj to another poster: "Where I come from 'liberal' is not an insult. Well, actually, it is, but only because it means you're not left-wing enough."
Subject: Treason To Believe
Re: "Foreigners: None Dare Call It Treason"
From: Eagle Legal
Date: Tue Dec 4 4:29 p.m. PT
Isn't treason something more like espionage? Something more like working within a state, under false pretenses, to bring it down? In that sense, [John] Walker was not a subversive. Hell, the man got up and left. That is the very opposite of false pretense. To try him for treason is to judge him for disliking America. I don't think that would be fair; it is easy to condemn his stupidity but perhaps wrong to try him for it. Let him live out his bad choice in an Afghan prison.
Subject: Judging Ashcroft
Re: "Ballot Box: Ashcroft Deconstructed"
From: Joseph Britt
Date: Fri Dec 7 11:45 a.m. PT
Defensiveness and ferocity toward administration critics serve no useful purpose now and later will make the administration look foolish when, inevitably, its policy [on security] will change in ways that recall some of the criticism it is getting today. Does this mean Ashcroft should just absorb criticism and not hit back at his critics? Well, yes … This is not an election campaign; getting off cheer lines for the benefit of the general public will not help Ashcroft later when some of the people he not very subtly accused of giving comfort to terrorists will sit in judgment of administration legislation and judicial nominations.
Subject: To Write or Not To Write
Re: "Chatterbox: The Mullah of Dupont Circle"
Date: Tue Dec 4 9:05 a.m. PT
Extraordinary evil, like beauty, calls upon each human to feel something that transcends the ordinary—by extension, it calls upon the writer to transcend genre. If Wieseltier is saying, Wittgenstein-like, that we must be silent in the face of such things, I don't agree. As humans, we think out loud and profit by the thoughts of others, however inadequate to the occasion. Wieseltier's piece itself is an example of what I mean; I'm glad I read it.
Subject: Verse and Worse
Re: "Culturebox: Hearing Aid"
From: Gordon the Aussie
Date: Tue Dec 4 11:35 p.m. PT
In [this] age, the celebrity of the performer has become more important than the artistic content of the show. That this is only just now happening to poetry indicates how far behind the rest of the world poetry is. Why on God's green earth anyone would pay good green money to attend a poetry reading other than to hit on some chardonnay-addled English Lit grad student is utterly beyond me. As for the [poetry] books, I would drop them by their thousands on the fleeing Taliban. The obsolete detritus of one culture in hot pursuit of another.
War Stories on the Geneva Convention hit a nerve: Many many posters were outraged, and some went so far as to doubt the military credentials of Scott Shuger, the writer. He had his say in the Fray: "I was an officer. ... I have the highest respect for anybody who has worn the uniform. If I were you, I'd be a little more careful to hide the fact that the Army apparently doesn't teach all its soldiers to do the same."
"Best of the Fray" has come down with hat frenzy. Arthur Stock, who is entitled to a Slate hat from the Fray Awards, offered to pass his on to the person who came up with the most needy request. More than 150 posts filled up the thread: We'll send hats to Publius for the simple perfection of "I really must have a Slate hat, or the terrorists will have won," and to Arthur and Ender's choice here of Kit.
Frayster of the week was David Orr for his contributions to the "Culturebox" on poetry readings. He first had the magnificent idea that crosswords should be read out loud, and then told us, "When Robert Pinsky claims that poetry is 'the most physical art,' he slanders everyone who's ever tried to carry a tune in a karaoke bar."