Reader Mail

Shark Bites

Spielberg Sopranoed. Pamela Harris’s Karl Rove. Guarding against Rather. Plus much more.

9.17.04

SPIELBERG'S SOPRANOS
Re: R. Emmett Tyrrell, Jr.'s Ugly Jaws:

I was heartened to read your intelligent piece on "Shark Tale" in the Spectator. As an Italian-American and one of the lawyers who filed an action against Time Warner for "The Sopranos" series based on the Illinois state constitution which condemns group defamation based on ethnicity,

I lately had felt disheartened by the enormous efforts it takes to make the American public aware of negative Italian-American stereotyping. Whatever view one takes of "political correctness," Italian-Americans are probably the only major group in American society that the doctrine does not protect, together with growing stereotypes of Catholicism, as you point out.

It is refreshing to read a piece that operates on the principle that freedom from ethnic slurs and stereotyping is a freedom for all group and not just for minority groups favored by political elites. Bravo !

I will post your article outside my office door.
-- Michael Polelle
Professor of Law
John Marshall Law School
Chicago, Illinois

Rarely, if ever do I so strongly disagree with The American Spectator as I do with the PC maunderings of the normally acidic Mr. Tyrrell concerning Spielberg's "Shark Tale." Animated cartoons feed on characters easily identified by voice. They often reference known cultural markers to get children (and adults) into the story quicker without a lot of explication. Like it or not the Godfather movies and their progeny have created a free floating cultural marker. The Italian mob is a (dying) fact. It's not some slander made up by Spielberg or the Sopranos. The language, rituals and demeanor of Italian Americans sometimes in this criminal class are well known and easily identifiable.

Nothing has pounded the joy out of animated cartoons more than the PC claptrap Disney has injected into its movies. Take a look at Pocahontas or the removal of Song of the South from circulation even to adults.

Lady and the Tramp featured the Italian pizza parlor owner who gives the dogs spaghetti. What a horrible stereotype of Italian Americans: insinuating they are fit only to run Italian restaurants and indicating others aren't equally capable of running them! Why its amazing the little tikes ever grew up able to look at lasagna again.

The bottom line is that Italian Americans don't suffer horrible discrimination in this country. More Americans know DiMaggio, Sinatra (maybe a bad example), and Sophia Loren as know John Gotti (and his horrible spawn). There are famous non-mobbed up Italian-American entertainers, CEO's (Iaccoca), politicians, and actors who provide ample counter-examples to any claim that the only depiction of Italian Americans in popular culture is the mob. Take a look at Moonstruck and (a Tyrrell favorite, I'll warrant) Breaking Away. Nothing could be more repugnant or damaging to Italian Americans than seizing on the humorless victim status preferred by feminists and frauds like Al Sharpton.

Sit down. Put a little anisette in your espresso and fuggadaboutit.
-- John J. Vecchione

Didn't the politically correct Mr. Spielberg go back an remove the guns from the hands of E.T.'s pursuers and digitally replace them with walkie-talkies in the latest release of his 1982 classic?

Wouldn't it be easy for Spielberg to change those Italian names to "Connor" and "Bryce" and "Devin," names to which the little ones might relate and over-dub the sound track, and possibly describing the killer sharks members of the "Vast Right Wing Conspiracy"?

Nobody in Hollywood would object to that.
-- John Carrigg
Downers Grove, Illinois

Please, lighten-up! As an Italian-American, I can honestly say that these images do not bother me.

Far from being offended by images of the mafia, most Italian-Americans have embraced them. Don't believe me? Then why is "The Sopranos" the most talked about, anticipated show on TV? Why does Victoria Gotti have her own reality show? And why is "The Godfather" considered by many (myself included) to be the greatest American film ever made?

It is a perverse, strange embrace, to be sure, but it is undeniable. Italian-Americans who take umbrage at these symbols are, in fact, few and far between. Most others, if they aren't watching "The Sopranos" on Sunday nights, probably don't care one way or another.

As a conservative, I don't like it when others play the "victim" card in frivolous situations. I especially don't like it when it comes from fellow conservatives. Real persecution of Catholics and Fundamentalist Christians does exist, and needs to be addressed. Let's not muddy the waters by whining about pop-culture images of the mafia, or Steven Spielberg's next movie (which, coincidentally, looks like a real stinker, anyway).
-- Gavin Valle
Peapack, New Jersey

Thank you Mr. Tyrrell for this article. It's about time someone outside of the Italian-American community recognizes the degrading stereotypes perpetrated upon us time after time in our popular culture. If it wasn't for "Organized Crime" (read: Italian gangsters) and Nazis, the entertainment industry would have no villains. This trend is rife in the video game industry as well.

What's even more disappointing is when the principals in these endeavors themselves are of Italian descent. Offerings such as "The Sopranos," "Goodfellas," "The Godfather" series, etc., include cast and crew that are mainly of Italian descent. When has Martin Scorsese made a movie showing Italian Americans in a good light? When the subject of his movies is not Italian gangsters, then it's Jake LaMotta -- a real role model for Italian Americans.

I recently had an on-going disagreement with a local conservative radio talk show host because he was using Italian gangster lingo to slur our Italian-American Governor (whom I don't support). He accused me of being overly sensitive.

As a third-generation Italian-American, I don't normally use hyphenated ethnic identification. I use it in this case just to make a point. I'm an American that is proud of the contributions made by Italians throughout history- most of whom don't get the recognition they deserve. Since Italian Americans don't have the clout of other protected minorities, I don't see this trend ending anytime soon.
-- Joe Librandi
Peoria, Arizona

I would like to thank Mr. Tyrrell for taking Mr. Spielberg to task regarding his "Shark Tale," which uses the worst stereotypes of Italian Americans as mafia hoodlums. I believe it bears repeating that while there Italian Americans in organized crime, according to the Justice Department only .00025% of the country's estimated 26 million Italian Americans have ever had anything to do with crime. It's not too often if ever that we get help from the media in dealing with this gross stereotyping. Sincerely,
-- Francesco Castellano
Cambridge, Massachusetts

What would Spielberg think if a movie producer wrote about him? My heritage is Italian, and damn proud of it. The Godfather, The Sopranos -- may those who produced it drown in the red ragau when they eat it.
-- Rosejean T. Castriota

Many eons ago I noticed that all of Walt Disney's evil characters had distinctly English accents (there is no such thing as a British accent, incidentally). Because of our innate superiority, Walt did not realize that it is impossible to insult an Englishman (or woman) subliminally. One has to prepare for that with a pistol at hand. Egads!

Love.
-- Carol McKenzie
Kensington, Maryland

A CASE OF TRUE ROVE
Re: Pamela Harris's letter ("No Doubt About It") in Reader Mail's Moving On:

Reading Pamela Harris' letter positing the Karl Rove connection to Rathergate sent chills up and down my spine. What are we going to do if these people get lucky and win?

This nonsense isn't confined to the pond scum residing in the fever swamps of the left. You may recall when this story first broke that it was none other than DNC Chairman Terry McAuliffe who connected the dots and found the grimy paw prints of that devil Karl Rove behind the memos. After all, if the forgeries are that easy to spot, someone must have wanted the forgeries discovered in the first place!

It takes an inordinate amount of self-absorption and delusional thinking (not to mention exhibiting symptoms of acute paranoia) to ignore the facts to satisfy an errant worldview. And that what has me worried about a Democratic victory at the polls. Has the left become so unhinged that something akin to an ideological cleansing will occur under a Kerry administration? Will they yank the license for Fox News? Sic the IRS on Rush Limbaugh? Perhaps we'll be treated to spending some time in liberal "re-education" camps -- for our own good of course.

Ms. Harris's letter shows that even if Bush wins by a landslide, they will continue to give aid and comfort to the Islamists abroad and obstruct the policies of the President here at home. That does not bode well for our republic.
-- Rick Moran
Algonquin, Illinois

That Karl Rove sure is a mad genius. Who else could produce phony memos deriding Bush, copy them 12 or so times, then turn around and fax the copies to CBS, knowing they'd be used by Dan Rather in a "60 Minutes II" hit piece? He's about 5 or 6 steps ahead of everyone else. Glad he's on our side.
-- Joel Natzke
Kansas City, Missouri

It didn't take long for someone to blame Karl Rove and an insidious conspiracy for the stupidity of the Kerry campaign and Rather/CBS. I am in complete agreement. No doubt Rove also planned for Kerry to have Tour of Duty written along with the biography by the Boston Globe reporters, card-carrying members of the Vast Right Wing Conspiracy. He also tricked Kerry into basing his entire political life on Vietnam. A brilliant stroke was having the Kerry website claim a Senate position actually held by Bob Kerrey. But what I'd really like to know is how he has gotten a talented and powerful Clinton/DNC, with proven crisis-handling ability, to stand on the sidelines and look incompetent.
-- George Marks
Providence, Rhode Island

Ms. Harris: In a word... yes!!!

Your parroting (blathering) Democrat talking points is proof of the pudding. Apparently when those of your ilk cannot blame America first, Karl Rove is automatically nominated to take the heat. My advice? Get a life -- try to investigate the real world rather than MSM drivel.
-- C.D. Lueders
Boca Raton, Florida

I do not often write to websites nor do I often become politically involved in matters. I usually try to stay out of such fervent issues because I have long since realized that you can never change people's minds. It's the brain's defense mechanism which causes these false decisions to be made and only long bouts of therapy, or the awakening of oneself to suppress the id, can cause a person to change their mind. It's the sole reason why we have 80% of the voting population who vote the same way during every election. With that being said, I do have an opinion and feel like I should express it on the letter by Ms. Harris.

She is spot on with her accusation of Karl Rove being behind the dubious forged documents. It isn't the first time he has done this and it won't be the last time. In 1986, he found a bug he planted in Bill Clements' office and blamed the Democrat, Mark White; it worked and Clements became governor. In the '70s he did the same thing. The documents can be traced back to a fax number at a Kinko's in Texas; this should give you some idea of where they came from.

All you have to do is look at how this election is going and you can see the genius of Mr. Rove. He has the uncanny ability to dupe the American public into thinking that Rather planted the documents and that there's a liberal bias at the same time. It's a master stroke DaVinci would be proud of. They won't be able to trace the documents back to Karl Rove, because they were faxed from a Kinko's in Texas. It's a brilliant move by a brilliant man, this isn't a conspiracy theory but it is politics being played out on a grand level for all to see, you just have to take your face out of the mud to see it.
-- Mike

I nominate Pamela Harris for the "Jennyass of the Year Award" in recognition of her letter to you stating that Karl Rove is responsible for the forged documents that CBS is still stonewalling about. Yes, indeed, Karl Rove is an evil person, although she hasn't a single specific incident to cite to support that canard. Presumably she would not be paranoid if evil Republicans weren't out to get her!
-- W. B. Heffernan, Jr.

When I finished laughing (and I spent a great deal of time doing that), I realized that Ms. Harris is a Dan Rather acolyte of the first order. It had to be Karl Rove because there is absolutely no evidence, not a shred, pointing to him. We all know that he is so clever that he would do something like this and leave not a trace pointing back to him. That lack of evidence proves it! This scenario, including Ms. Harris letter, far outstrips anything that Orwell, or even Vonnegut could come up with. Kudos to Ms. Harris for the magnificence of her illogical logic.
-- Joseph Baum
Newton Falls, Ohio

In her letter to the editor, Ms. Harris claims the trail of blame for the false documents of Blathergate leads logically to the President. Although, I have to admit, she had me inclined to accept her scenario as a possibility until I realized that if that was the case, CBS and Rather would be fervently screaming their sources name and links to the Republican Party from every microphone they could find! It doesn't make sense that they would protect their source, unless it could be linked to Democratic circles. Here's my own conspiracy theory. I believe Ms. Harris to be not an avid reader, but a plant from the Kerry campaign or CBS (same thing?) trying to obscure reality. OR maybe she and Swiss Miffed are really the same person?! I thought long and hard about it and it makes sense. Given there's only about 200 conservatives in the whole state of Massachusetts, she must have a Democratically-based motive to suggest that Spectator doesn't tell the truth. Proof? It fits the demographics of the state and the timing is right, so it must be true! Unless someone can prove otherwise: I stand behind that.
-- Frank Novio
Mansfield, Massachusetts

She believes it is a right wing conspiracy. Wow. I see she does not live in the real world.
-- Rich Corcoran
Salem, Massachusetts

Miss Harris: You neglect one vital point. Dan Rather knows where those memos came from and is protecting the source. He would NEVER do that if the source was remotely connected to the Bush campaign. If the president or Karl Rove were involved, you'd be seeing headlines and newsflashes about it.

No, Dan Rather's silence as to the source leaves the only conclusion that the memos were leaked by Kerry's campaign and Rather is protecting that campaign from further implosion.

By the way, your intense distrust of Karl Rove has nothing to do with the fact that you are from Boston, Massachusetts, does it?
-- Charles Garman
Omaha, Nebraska

TWENTY YEARS TOO LATE
Re: Peter Flaherty's Viacom's Parental Duty:

Great article by Peter Flaherty. However, re: "60 minutes" being a "cash cow," I was originally hooked on the show in the mid-'70s. But their obvious high-handedness and one-sidedness covering issues and people totally turned me off. CBS and "60 Minutes" were unethical showmen and I have not watched the news on CBS or "60 Minutes" for over 20 years.

I am somewhat amused it has taken 20 years for millions to come to the same conclusion.
-- John Sorg
Indianapolis, Indiana

HEYWARD HO
Re: David Hogberg's Having Said That:

Regarding David Hogberg's analysis of the CBS (Rathergate) statement -- Well done, young man!
-- Ms. Lee McDonald
Snohomish, Washington

Mr. Hogberg says that among the questions that CBS is redoubling its efforts to answer is the question, "Who was the source of the memos?" He further states that "CBS wouldn't have to redouble its efforts to answer that question -- indeed, it would take no effort at all."

I submit to you that they have redoubled their efforts to answer that one. The answer is, "%#@& off!", and with the weight of Heyward added to that of Rather, they now have twice as many people saying it.
-- Stephen Foulard
Houston, Texas

It was fortunate that David Hogberg had a quiet evening to deconstruct that deeply nuanced "announcement" by CBS. What a sorry attempt by them to slog out of a quagmire. I suppose it's a pitfall of being journalistic poseurs, but it's impossible for me to take anyone seriously who misspells "corroborate." Did someone at CBS type this out on an old manual typewriter? Haven't they heard of spell-checking within word-processing software, or is "Microsoft Word" a dirty phrase around those parts now?
-- Evelyn Leinbach

ON GUARD
Re: George Neumayr's Mad Dan's Noble Lie:

Simply stated: this is an excellent article.
-- Phil Beisel

"Why allegations about a missed physical and truncated National Guard service trouble Rather so deeply when Bill Clinton's draft-dodging did not is another question Rather isn't likely to answer."

Neither is he likely to be bothered by the fact that John Kerry's lies to the American public in 1971 (and the media's response to them) resulted in at least a 2 year extension of the Vietnam war and the additional deaths of hundreds of soldiers and the maiming of thousands.
-- J.W. Howard

At this point in time, what possible difference does it make if George Bush wasn't the greatest soldier in the Texas National Guard? Bang! You've convinced me. Phony memos or not. Bush was a "slacker." So?!?! What's it prove? That he'd make a bad Commander in Chief? Bush has never claimed he deserves to be re-elected based on his Guard service over 30 years ago. He's presented his case based on his actions to address what we've all had to deal with over the last 4 years. If you don't like it -- fine. Offer a viable alternative.

As a former Democrat from (almost) the same generation as President Bush, I find it amazing that anyone from that time criticizes anyone for finding a way to avoid service in Vietnam. School deferment, medical deferment, running to Canada, joining the Coast Guard.... Most of us tried whatever we could to avoid being drafted. Including "volunteering," when other options were denied, so we could pick our assignments. And now those same people berate Bush? What a bunch of hypocrites. God bless those who did serve. God bless them for their sacrifices. They deserve our respect. A respect Kerry never showed until, of course, he wanted their votes.

Apparently fraudulent documents, slander, hatred, playing the race card and whining are all the Democrats have to offer. No thank you.
-- M. Tagliaferro
Ann Arbor, Michigan

In regard to "Mad Dan's Noble Lie," I believe you miss the real "transcendent truth" that the noble lie was meant to convey because you miss that the CBS memo story was only one arm of a three-pronged attack which also included the DNC Fortunate Son ad and the Kitty Kelley book.

The goal -- a "dirty tricks" counteroffensive to the Swiftvets' ads as threatened by Susan Estrich.

The strategy -- to raise what had been only a kooky left-wing blog charge to the level of hot mainstream topic, namely, that GW had avoided his Guard physical due to substance abuse.

Note that Viacom is the parent company of both CBS and Simon & Schuster and that a similar strategy had worked quite well with Richard Clarke's book. The transcendent truth was supposed to be that GWB had a chronic cocaine problem that was ongoing at least through the early 1990's. The forged memos went up like an exploding cigar only because the blogsphere short-circuited the process.
-- A pajama wearer

The use of fraudulent documents to corroborate the claim that George W. Bush shirked his duty, disobeyed a direct order and benefited from '"sugar coated" fitness reports is simply outrageous and unacceptable. Make no mistake, the deliberate attempt to bring down a president of the United States by fraudulent means is serious business.
-- Mark Posnick
New York, New York

SAY GOODNIGHT, DAN
As always, this grateful reader appreciates your fantastic coverage of Rathergate, although I'd prefer The Prowler's source(s?) in CBS News would be a little more forthcoming with some color comments about the tone inside the building.

It has got to be alternately frightening or hilarious: blogs monitored 24/7, like banks of aides in the Clinton White House constantly refreshing The Drudge Report during Monicagate; Dan Rather hallucinating, after going for a week without sleep; interns updating their resumes to de-emphasize current employment and beefing up work elsewhere, etc.

But in the midst of all the Rathergate hoopla in the blogsphere, I'm most refreshed to see that Bloggers, Conservatives, and Libertarians have a sense of humor, with parodies and cartoons galore. Clearly the tone of The American Spectator over the years has shaped the tone of the emerging Blogsphere, and all for the better.

I'd like to add to the fun and play on a theme: In the spirit of CBS News's executive Jonathan Klein, I think it is time for faithful readers of The American Spectator to send Dan Rather a pair of pajamas. He'll need them if he is shown the door: as he should be.
-- James Ward
Breux-Jouy, France

If it is shown that Bill Burkett is behind the forged memos, we'll be able to recycle a particularly odious phrase from Ted Kennedy. This attempt to derail the Bush candidacy was indeed "a fraud cooked up in Texas."
-- Evelyn Leinbach
Colorado

FOR DEPOSIT
Re: Jackie Mason & Raoul Felder's Jews and Survival:

Oh, thank you for this column! Please, please continue to publish them. I have been searching for their columns for some time now. (Perhaps they stopped writing for a while?)

I have identified certain components necessary for my continuing sanity during this perilous political period. Your publication and Jackie Mason and Raoul Felder columns are very important examples of these components. I must also mention my gratitude for all the laughter Jackie Mason has provided me for years. Laughter is mandatory for retaining sanity.
-- Margaret Binkley
Port Deposit, Maryland

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