Friday, October 25, 2002


To: The Rittenhouse Review
From: V.M.
Date: October 18, 2002

I just wanted to thank you for providing intelligent content on your weblog each day. Yours is easily the most thoughtful of the dozen or so blogs I read.

I was especially impressed with your comments on Donald Johnson’s letter about Noam Chomsky. Your nuanced response reminds me that I should strive to reason and to write as well as you.



To: The Rittenhouse Review
From: C.E.
Date: October 19, 2002

I suspect that by “increased visibility” [“The Hunt for Left-Wing Homophobia”], Charles Murtaugh means one of two things: (a) Mickey Kaus mentions Andrew Sullivan a fair amount, or (b) there is an increasing number of sites devoted to tracking Sullivan’s “increased” derangement as a political observer.

And by “left-wing homophobia,” I suspect Murtaugh means there is an increasing number of sites devoted to tracking Sullivan’s increased derangement as a political observer.

And by commenting on Sullivan’s “increased” derangement as a political observer, I probably have joined Murtaugh’s ranks of “left-wing homophobes.”



To: The Rittenhouse Review
From: Ben Casselman
Date: October 20, 2002

Your point about Noam Chomsky is well taken -- conservatives certainly have a tendency to go after ‘easy marks’ rather than take on those who make the best case for a liberal of leftist viewpoint. But it is worth noting that liberals have exactly the same tendency. Note, for example, the amount of ink spilled in recent months against Ann Coulter, who, though certainly deserving of all the criticism she has received, is hardly the strongest voice for the conservative side.

Some liberals, and some conservatives, have chosen to debate the issues fairly, and in a few cases have articulated their opponents’ case better than their opponents themselves. But that is the exception on both sides. Bloggers, good and bad, are particularly guilty of this sin because few can resist the urge to take on a particularly juicy Coulter quote (or Chomsky quote), while far fewer will feel an obligation to respond to less extremist articulations of the opposition.

All this is to say only that both sides have a tendency toward intellectual laziness, and that political debate is always furthered more by debating issues than by attacking easy marks.

Ben Casselman
New York, N.Y.


To: The Rittenhouse Review
From: Larry Piltz
Date: October 20, 2002

I’ve just come upon your weblog and found what I read informed and interesting though perhaps a bit smug and apathetic, though I understand that this impression might be a bit hasty. Either way, your “dispassionate observer” voice, though probably in the interest of objectivity and balance, seems to barely mask an indifference and a passive investment in an unaltered status quo, which to me would be unconscionable given the huge amount of unnecessary suffering in this interconnected world and the ease with which so much good is done. [“Chomsky As ‘Easy Mark,’” October 17, 2002.]

In answer to your wonderings about why Noam Chomsky and Gore Vidal seem to evoke such passionate defense among some of your correspondents (such as me), I’d just simply say that they are possibly the two most knowledgeable, poignant and identifiable representatives of one pole of the bipolar U.S. personality, which is comprised at the other pole of any and all jingoistic, suspiciously patriotic and quasiparanoiac individuals and groups that hold the U.S. blameless and otherwise infallible in its doings both at home and abroad and who want to know nothing at all ever about the intolerable human costs of U.S. policies now and in the past.

That Chomsky and Vidal are the antithesis of blind patriotism and corrupted nationalism is only part of the balancing mystique. They also uniquely strike an emotional chord that plays opposite to an unquestioning adherence to goals set by ruling economic oligarchies and concomitant militarism.

This chord is characterized by its clarity, assuredness, factual reliability, and, in Vidal’s case, creativity and matches in tone (though without the naiveté of) the faith-based belief necessary for allegiance to the obfuscation and manipulation so confidently disseminated at the “unchallengable” other pole. Chomsky and Vidal’s appeal is spontaneous and as justified by humanistic integrity at their pole as it is unjustified and, yes, manufactured, by the intentional deception and mechanistic knee-jerk nihilism of the other pole. Both poles do display a real cleverness and intelligence, of course.

Sure Chomsky and Vidal require certain adherences and have stridence of their own, but these exactly mirror the rigidities of the ruling dogma and help balance the political equation. And what you consider a Chomsky flaw of exaggeration is really a reflection of the bloated expanding and mutating set of articulated rationalizations and justifications for economic and military dominances and their concomitant cruelties at the other pole.

This reflection is both organic and organized, consciously refuting and negating point by point the unreality of the dominant end of the ionic bond that is political life. This precision is absolutely necessary, since war-encouraging institutes and other think-speak tanks constantly produce and regularly publish detailed manifestoes that keep people angry and agitated for the purpose of selling arms, repressing minorities, destroying the environment, et al, dear writer, et al.

When you describe Chomsky’s use of the word genocide as an exaggeration, I detect and almost tangibly feel (smell, taste) the widespread and thorough seep into your being of surrender to and equivocation about your own role in passive, private acceptance of the real and ongoing atrocities committed by your and my government, now and in historic times.

You see, genocide is still genocide even if done piecemeal over generations, except to apologists, deniers and those otherwise disengaged due to apathy and other sins of satiation and/or defeat. It seems to me you fault Chomsky for an invented flaw of being up to the task of accurately and emphatically describing the emperor’s old and new stealth clothing both, doing it well, and doing it loudly.

Certainly, people who keep more quiet, such as yourself, appear to be doing no overt harm, but to criticize people for being courageous enough to be both correct and exhortative is to be almost complicit in the crimes of horror from which you want to be sheltered and protected -- always at the cost of anyone else’s life and lifestyle but one’s own.

Thanks for listening to my reasoned and impassioned opinion.

Larry Piltz
Austin, Texas


To: The Rittenhouse Review
From: F.D.L.
Date: October 24, 2002

Dr. John is worth your attention. He is a great old blues master.

As to the rest, I haven’t heard of them either.



To: The Rittenhouse Review
From: N.L.
Date: October 24, 2002

I’m really amazed. Can it really be that you have never heard of Dave Brubeck, George Jones, or Dr. John? No one can keep up with all of popular music, but these are giants of their genres (jazz, country, New Orleans piano/boogie/blues). [“Idiocy and Genius: Making My Way Through the Culture of Music,” October 23, 2002.]

Maybe tomorrow, instead of struggling with blogger’s block by writing about what doesn’t interest you, you could take the day off and arrange to listen to some of their music. I’m thinking Brubeck would be the one to start with for you.