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To Harold Meyerson (“Ralph Rising,” June 30–July 6), “The image of Ralph Nader plunking away at his ancient Underwood as the night wears on is the stuff that myths are made of,” and indeed, the persistent myth is that Nader is a sort of one-man Spike Jones Band, plinking and tinkling an array of incongruous instruments.
Meyerson persists in describing Nader as the “great Lone Ranger” of left politics: “What he hasn’t been is a man for collective action.” He made the same case in the Weekly nearly four years ago (“My Nader Problem — and Ours”), but in that campaign Nader was constrained by his [self-imposed] $5,000 spending limit, prompting Meyerson to dub it a “minimalist charade.” This time, he is complaining that Nader has raised only $1 million and has not done enough on campuses, despite Nader’s having gone on a nonstop barnstorming tour through 50 states between March and the end of June.
If we are to believe Meyerson, the “Nader problem” is his anti-charisma (described as “retro-cool” by some young admirers), in contrast to great orators such as Populist-Democrat William Jennings Bryan, or Socialist Eugene V. Debs, or “Bull Moose” Progressive Teddy Roosevelt. Meyerson understands that Nader deliberately refuses to play the role of the ingratiating and demagogic politician; as the candidate said in a February 1996 interview with Meyerson, “I’ve gone through a lot of history with inspirational candidates whose movements go nowhere. Give me 10 people who work hard. That will push a movement further than a thousand people who erupt in wild applause at the end of a speech and then drift away.”
Through those tens of people, Nader has built over 50 nonprofit organizations that have recruited millions of activists over the last 40 years, including the Student Public Interest Research Groups in two dozen states and the Public Citizen network, groups with hundreds of thousands of members currently. Hopefully, his commitment to building the Green Party and encouraging synergy with the Labor Party will be at least as productive of “collective action.”
Nader is creating a politics which is truly post–20th century, despite the irony of his new blue-green politics, which, as Meyerson says, “in old-time parlance largely means Red. For his part, Ralph Nader has emerged as the scourge of the world capitalist system in its totality, a synthesizer, a seer despite himself.”
And, despite himself, Meyerson has got it right for once.
—Walt Contreras Sheasby
Harold Meyerson surely cannot believe that the Green Party is only now concerned with things other than environmental. Four years ago, nearly all of the issues that Na der addressed Sunday were on the platform of the party. Was Meyerson sleeping? Long ago the Greens expanded their concerns, and the issues that came up in the Green convention are by no means new.
To address some of the points in Harold Meyerson’s article, I must say that everyone I speak with feels very strongly that Ralph Na der not only absolutely reaches his listeners, but resonates fiercely with their everyday concerns over their own, their neighbors’ and their families’ lives — lives that, prior to his presidential bid, seemed futilely destined to a continuing downward spiral as their very hopes and dreams were daily, hourly, siphoned away to the highest corporate bidder. His honest and passionate speeches, always his own rather than a salaried speechwriter’s, and his specific answers to questions, lacking the ever more offensive “soundbites” of other public speakers and packed with vital information that citizens never hear addressed elsewhere, are music to our ears. We can’t get enough. Ralph Nader touches a raw nerve in the angry, outraged or apathetic American people. The uncompromising figure typing away at his old Underwood into the night so that justice can prevail spurs myself and those I speak with to join this grassroots movement. We are passionately listening. To us his message is damn straight and clear: An informed and organized movement of citizens can indeed ensure a just society. And the call to action begins with those many citizens who have, for so long, felt left out of the process: to register and vote — for Ralph.
Oaks Project Volunteer
THE CASE FOR SKINLESS HOTDOGS
Would you be caught dead publishing a film review by a male critic who referred to the lead actress in a film as looking “jowly, wrinkled and more than a touch fatigued”? Or who described her as “an icon cruising rapidly south”? Or, worst of all, snidely stated that said actress must know that she’s “getting a little too seasoned” to pull off a part?
Of course you wouldn’t, because that would be promoting the agenda of a blatantly sexist journalist. Yet that is precisely what you did by publishing Ella Taylor’s so-called film review of The Patriot [“The Patriot Game,” June 30–July 6]. The spiteful, abhorrently chauvinistic statements above are not those of a male chauvinist, but the exact words Ms. Taylor used when referring to Mel Gibson in the film.
If she doesn’t care for Mr. Gibson’s conservative politics or simply has a chip on her shoulder the size of Britain, she should keep it to herself instead of resorting to such shoddy, irresponsible journalism. What a bunch of hypocrites you are.
—Lia Niskanen Bishop
Bill Kohlhaase’s description of Roy Hargrove, playing June 30 at Catalina Bar & Grill [Scoring the Clubs, June 30–July 6], makes me sick. He writes, “Say, wasn’t that trumpeter Roy Hargrove appearing in a New York Times Magazine fashion spread a couple months back? Hargrove’s smooth good looks — especially those knotty dreads . . .” to start off his recommendation. What is that? Must an artist be famous or good-looking for anyone in L.A. to get off his superficial cloud and attend a concert? If Kohlhaase must mention Hargrove’s “good looks,” can he at least make it a side note, instead of his first point?
RADIO FREE BRITAIN
Full marks for Oliver Wang’s article regarding DJ Shadow and Cut Chemist’s Brainfreeze CD [“Singles Night,” January 14–20]. I had heard a few whispers about it here in the U.K., but knew very little about it until I found your Web site. Good-quality information, well written and enjoyable. Many thanks.
Guildford, Surrey, U.K.
WILL THE REAL DR. LAURA PLEASE STAND UP
Re: Kristine McKenna’s “Junkman’s Journey” [Music supplement, June 23–29]. Beck talks about a major Jewish idea here: not to gossip or talk about people behind their backs, using loshen hora (“bad words”). In Jewish thought, gossip stains the soul. Talking trash about someone puts out bad energy and hurts three people: the person doing the talking, the person listening and the person being talked about. It’s great to hear Beck speaking as a Jew on something that keeps society from being more cohesive.