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Top 10 Letters

The American Prospect, MP3s, Emily Watson, Amiri Baraka, and more.

12:00 AM, Oct 21, 2002
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THE DAILY STANDARD welcomes letters to the editor. Letters will be edited for length and clarity and must include the writer's name, city, and state.

*1*

Christopher Caldwell's pining for the American Spectator says a lot about his journalistic judgement (TAPs for a Magazine). He says that many people hoped the American Prospect could be "the left-wing equivalent of what the right-wing American Spectator was 10 years ago: well-informed but not preachy, thoughtful but full of stuff you might . . . em . . . actually want to read."

Let's see--is that the "well-informed" Spectator that employed no fact checkers? Or is it the "thoughtful" Spectator that became infamous for character assassination (Anita Hill) and checkbook journalism (Troopergate)? No doubt it's the same "not preachy" Spectator that so enthralled the Limbaugh Dittoheads, known for their gentle ideological assertions and tolerance of opposing views.

As for my publication, TomPaine.com, Caldwell sneers at the ads we run in the New York Times. He says our recent ad (that replaced Uncle Sam in the famous 1917 recruiting poster with Osama bin Laden over the headline "I Want YOU To Invade Iraq") "threatens Americans--in the name of al Qaeda--with dire consequences" if we invade Iraq. His assertion is a Spectator-ish distortion.

Caldwell obviously didn't bother reading the compendium of articles supporting the ad (Reasons Why We Shouldn't). If he had, he would have found a credible basis for our assertion that a go-it-alone invasion of Iraq could play right into Osama's hands--causing Saddam to use his weapons before losing them; drawing Israel into the fight; destabilizing the region (including nuke-u-lar Pakistan); and dividing the international community. The sources for those points include notorious liberals like General Norman Schwarzkopf, General Brent Scowcroft, the Cato Instutitue's Ted Carpenter, and a columnist for Pat Robertson's UPI wire service.

Caldwell, like other apologists for the Bush administration's rush to war, doesn't want to hear such arguments, and his willingness to distort and dismiss them demonstrates how much he has in common with the hacks at the Spectator--never let the facts or credible opinion get in the way of a good ideological bluster.

--John Moyers, Editor, TomPaine.com

Christopher Caldwell replies: I stick to my belief that the American Spectator was full of stuff that people wanted to read. Call me a literary snob, but I'll stand P.J. O'Rourke, Tom Wolfe, and Andrew Ferguson up against John Moyers's list of "Brent Scowcroft, the Cato Institute's Ted Carpenter, and a columnist for Pat Robertson's UPI wire service" any day. Moyers's assessment that the articles he has run on Iraq have been "credible" will not be widely shared outside of Baghdad.

I used to work at the American Spectator. Editors checked facts there. The magazine had no full-time fact checkers not because it was indifferent to the truth but because it couldn't afford them. It had no individual patron willing to shower millions on it, the way Mr. (Bill) Moyers's Schumann Foundation has showered money on the American Prospect and on Mr. (John) Moyers's website.

When, eventually, the American Spectator gained such a benefactor in the form of the Scaife Foundation, fact checkers soon followed. So did journalistic excesses. Allow me to note that I have a considerably longer record than Moyers of criticizing these excesses in print. Allow me to note, too, that once the American Spectator found itself in the same position that the American Prospect and TomPaine.com do today, it went swiftly down the toilet.

*2*

I'm glad Lee Bockhorn is starting to come around to the MP3 revolution (so to speak), but I don't understand why he is so fearful of IP laws (MP3 and Me).

I think he's confusing morality and legality. Remember, the reason we have laws protecting intellectual property is not because lawmakers genuinely feel for the plight of the common musician. We have these laws because the music industry spends billions of dollars for lobbyists to champion the "copyrighted cause."