May 1 2009

Letters to the Editor

Ashamed to Be a Subscriber

As a FAIR subscriber and one who has given gift subscriptions to friends and family, I want you to know that “The Online Predator Scare: Profiting From the Panic” by Steve Rendall (4/09) is possibly the worst thing you have ever published. This piece makes me ashamed to be a FAIR subscriber.

Your complaints and criticisms are backed up by nothing except the University of New Hampshire study which apparently showed—your expression of those findings is sloppy—that “the actual instance of minors [aged 10 to 17] who were aggressively sexually solicited by adults on the Internet was roughly 1 percent.”

If 1 percent is correct—and we know that self-reported data is typically under-reported—then 1 percent of the approximately 40 million kids aged 10 to 17 in the U.S. is 400,000 kids. 400,000 kids have been “aggressively sexually solicited by adults on the Internet” according to your reporting, yet you don’t think that’s a problem?

Moreover, your piece ignores the Perverted Justice and Dateline experience that anyone who enters a kid chat site and identifies as a young teen is instantly contacted by an adult sex predator. That was demonstrated repeatedly on the show. Perverted Justice’s sample is probably as large as the University of New Hampshire’s, yet you don’t even mention this fact. I suggest FAIR try its own experiment online before ignoring or otherwise demeaning this finding.

You also seem oblivious to the fact that the adult sex predators caught entering private homes intent on having sex with a child included teachers, counselors, law enforcement authorities, a rabbi and other adults who had supervisory authority over children.

The evidence is overwhelming that this problem needs more attention, not less. Apparently, before the Perverted Justice and Dateline publicity there were little or no law enforcement efforts or capabilities in this arena. Dateline is to be applauded for their work and should be encouraged to continue it.

Please reconsider your article and publish a correction and apology.

Bob King

St. Paul, Minn.

The Rules for Covering Africa

I read with great interest and distress your piece “Congo Ignored, Not Forgotten” (5/09).

I served in the U.S. Navy from 1968-70, during which time I had the opportunity to visit ports around Africa. From a political standpoint, the two visits our ship made to Luanda, Angola, were exceptional, and the stop-overs there created my unending interest in that part of the world.

Julie Hollar’s report included mention of the natural resource wealth in the Congo (and the same holds true next door in Angola). In comparing the lack of media coverage there to Darfur, Darfur does not have cobalt, diamonds, oil or gold, as they do in Angola and the Congo. That natural wealth has been a national curse for them, and I agree that it’s part of the reason we don’t hear as much as we should about those exploited places.

Initially when Belgium left in 1960-61, the western press had a field day in the Congo covering the secessionists led by Moise Tshombe in Katanga Province (supported by South African and European mercenaries, and Western copper interests), and the emergence of Patrice Lumumba. Lumumba “scared” us, or so we were led to believe, making it easier for the rising star of the Congo to “go away” prematurely. It also made it easy in the public opinion realm to replace him with the thug Mobutu Sese Seko, who along with killing hundreds of thousands of his countrymen looted the national treasury.

It is sad to think that the old rules for coverage of Sub-Saharan Africa are still linked to the misery which started in the 1960s. Part of the reason is guilt, part of it is denial, part of it is ratings-driven, but all of it is disgusting.

Pete Simon

Denver, Colo.

Charlie Brown Causes

The “SoundBites” section (5/09) quotes Fox News Channel’s Glenn Beck as saying “Believe in something! Even if it’s wrong! Believe in it!”

Beck’s remark explains why so many people get sucked in by divisive causes. Politicians and other power brokers distract the public from what matters with red herrings and straw man arguments. Corporate media flacks amplify meaningless causes such as, say, keeping Terry Schiavo alive, giving people a reason to believe in something, anything.

It all reminds me of Charlie Brown standing on the pitcher’s mound in the pouring rain, saying “We can still play,” believing in something even though it’s wrong, but a reason to believe.

Jim LaRegina

Westfield, N.J.