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What's the Agenda?
From Patricia Calhoun's "Opportunism Knocks," in the April 29 issue:
"On Sunday, Colorado Right to Life gave birth to this announcement: 'Today our organization reminds Governor Bill Owens and all Colorado elected officials that 32 years ago--April 25, 1967--this state signed into law the first in the nation abortion law...For those who would reject that the abortion culture is at the root cause of the Columbine massacre, we acknowledge that there are, of course, other influences. Yet, can anyone deny that we have destroyed our reverence for life at the most fundamental level? Violence in the womb has begotten violence outside the womb.'"

So...what if Eric Harris's mother and Dylan Klebold's mother had had abortions?

I'm not surprised that those fanatics would exploit the situation, but it doesn't in any way lessen their trivializing of the real tragedy for their extremist cause.

Shari Stowell
via the Internet

Ms. Calhoun missed one person in her column on opportunism: Tipper Gore's spouse rushed to Colorado and the photo opportunity to demonstrate that he "feels our pain."

Keith Anderson
via the Internet

Patricia Calhoun's "Opportunism Knocks" made it official: She believes that Westword's readers are stupid.

While cataloguing real and perceived exploitation of the Columbine massacre to advance pre-existing agendas, Calhoun deliberately omitted the most shameless, hateful and obvious exploitation of all--that perpetrated by the gun-control lobby. She sincerely believes that her readers are not intelligent enough to notice even the most stunningly obvious of omissions.

What makes the gun-haters' tactics so malicious is that they are using emotional reaction to tragedy to push legislation that they know would not have prevented that tragedy and seeking to punish millions of people for crimes that they know those people did not commit. Calhoun did not say one word about this--not even one!--while mocking the NRA's efforts to defend itself from a flood of flaming bigotry and bald-faced libel. She is not discussing the matter honestly and is endorsing a double standard that rises to the level of bigotry, but she sincerely believes that her readers are not intelligent enough to see that.

Eric Krein
Lakewood

I note that Patricia Calhoun and others have commented on the April 20 shootings at Columbine High School and, like those they criticized, have also added nothing to the understanding of why those tragedies just "seem to happen." Everyone failed to note that by a fantastic coincidence, Westword published in the April 22 issue a story by Harrison Fletcher titled "Smoke and Mirrors." Although that incident took place twenty years before the Columbine tragedy, sociologically speaking the two incidents are identical.

Few sentient people will deny that the world is in a constant state of upheaval that is reflected in the worldwide spread of anarchy, turmoil and conflict. The fact that such conditions have prevailed for a long time throughout the world logically suggests the presence of a dominant common social factor. That common social factor is the capitalist system that no longer does and cannot be made to work in the interests of the overwhelming majority.

All living entities, whether they are biological or sociological, have a birth, youth, maturity, old age, senility and death. Capitalism is in the last stages of senility and death, waiting to be scrapped and replaced by the next stage of social development. To deny that is to deny that all previous social systems went through those exact stages and were themselves replaced by the then-next stage of social development.

The capitalist system consists of two major classes: a tiny minority, the capitalists, who own and control the instruments of production and distribution; and the vast majority, the working class, who own no productive property and must seek to work for the class that owns and controls the means of life in order to survive. Despite decades of reforms, millions are unemployed or underemployed, unable to maintain a decent standard of living. The nation's educational system and health-care system are a mess and getting worse. Environmental pollution is widespread, and crime and corruption are pervasive, with slums, abject poverty and widespread homelessness everywhere. Wars are constantly breaking out, bringing mass suffering and death to millions of people worldwide.

These are the social pressures that lead to a massive social breakdown that results in the bombing of police stations, anarchistic cults, shootings in schools and all the other social evils that we see as so widespread today. As long as capitalism continues to exist, it will continue to decline, bringing with it continued and increasing social misery. The politicians and capitalists will attempt to contain the situation with more police and military force, and in the end, they will attempt to impose a fascist police state on our society, the outlines of which are becoming more visible daily.

Today our society stands at a crossroads in history. We can allow capitalism to continue to exist or replace it with a brand-new, sane social system, as our forefathers did in 1776. Then, once again, society will continue its upward climb toward social progress. It is all up to us, the working-class majority.

Dr. Bernard Presser
Denver

It seems that if the guns are not to blame, and I do not believe they are, then neither is the music of Marilyn Manson, Rammstein, etc. Unfortunately, everyone with an "agenda"--anti-abortion, anti-gun, Christian values, etc.--is predictably going to use the Columbine tragedy to promote his own worldview. The problem with this is that we will fail to understand what really went wrong within the narrow minds of the two individuals, Harris and Klebold, who created this tragedy.

David Eye
Fort Collins

Howard's End
I'm having a hard time understanding why people like Dave Meyer (Letters, April 29) are so concerned with Howard Stern's comments. Has anyone ever explained the concept of free speech to these idiots? If you don't want to hear what Howard Stern has to say, change the station! Disagreeing with someone's opinion does not give you the right to deprive him of speaking it.

I can sympathize with the feelings of anger and rage that the Columbine tragedy has left in its wake. However, removing Howard Stern from the airwaves due to his "insensitive" comments goes against the principles of the Constitution. It scares me to think that there are so many people who share Dave Meyer's mentality. We're doomed.

Bryan Cavanagh
via the Internet

Nice Feedback column by Michael Roberts in the April 29 issue. There's a lot of crazy shit going on these days, but to lay blame on assholes like Stern and Manson is just killing the messenger.

Chris Dickey
Gunnison

I read with some interest Michael Roberts's take on the Stern controversy, because his comments mirrored those made by a colleague who also sees this as a free-speech issue.

While I share Roberts's concerns over the situation and do think it's an important one, he's simply wrong to characterize this as a First Amendment-type issue. In fact, he has it almost precisely backward--it is the reaction by citizens trying to remove Stern that comes closer to representing the true manifestation of the First Amendment. There's an irony to the stance taken by Stern's "free-speech" supporters. On the one hand, they make very compelling and important arguments about the importance of protecting the First Amendment, but at the same time, they attack those who are asking the Peak to remove Stern from Denver's airwaves as being anti-First Amendment. However, what these people are engaged in is perfectly legitimate public speech.

Let's be clear on what is and is not a threat to the First Amendment. It says, "The Government shall make no law..." Had last week's idiotfest in the legislature attempted to force Stern off the air, that would be a pretty clear attack on our freedom of speech, and I'd be right there with Westword marching on the Hill. Frankly, I find even the resolution of censure to be offensive, and if you want to argue that this action was anti-First, I'd be inclined to agree. However, a group of private citizens uniting to express their concerns and to pressure a non-governmental entity to take action, using only speech and their basic rights as consumers as leverage, in no way suggests First Amendment implications.

I hate to be a purist, but it's important to understand what the Constitution actually says. Neither side is engaged in activity that invokes First Amendment concerns. The Peak's actions (and Stern's) are purely economical, despite their cynical attempts to cloak themselves in the flag, and the response by people like me, who have said we will not listen to the station anymore unless Stern is dumped, employs a conventional and broadly accepted economic strategy to make a point.

While Stern has every right to speak, I likewise have every right not to help pay for it, and to characterize such actions as anti-free-speech is to demonstrate a serious lack of understanding about the Constitution. Corporate America already exercises too much pressure on what ideas circulate through the public sphere, and in this town, Westword is often our only sensible voice. However, suggesting that the First Amendment is jeopardized by citizen action against a corporation the size of Chancellor, which has every resource in the world (including a healthy lobbying budget) at its disposal, is pure silliness. Your readers have come to expect better.

Samuel R. Smith
Denver

In recent days, a campaign has begun to remove Howard Stern from the Peak. I don't give a damn about Stern or his show, and his comment is certainly offensive, but so is this campaign to have him removed from the air. It would be one thing if the campaign against Stern were a genuine groundswell of popular opinion. But this movement had its genesis on Jacor-owned radio stations, like KBPI and KOA, which are in direct competition with the Peak's owner, Chancellor Broadcasting. Broadcasters on those stations have devoted ceaseless hours of public airtime to urging people to boycott Peak advertisers.

This is a thinly veiled opportunistic attempt to cash in on the Columbine tragedy and gain market share in the Denver market by squelching a competitor. I find that a disgusting exploitation of the pain that the Littleton community is going through right now. Why is such energy and time being devoted to combating Howard Stern? He is worthless. Why not use that motivation to help out the families and friends of the victims, or use it to volunteer to help youth at risk? The more attention devoted to Stern, the more the Columbine High community is not allowed to move beyond their pain. Get your priorities in order and help out those who need the help.

Finally, there is a glaring First Amendment issue at stake here. I always get very frightened by people who are narrow-minded and intolerant enough to try to oppress free expression, no matter how ignorant and offensive it might be. By trying to shut down the show, free expression takes a backseat to blind fury. Do the powerful and sensible thing: Make the individual choice to turn it off if you don't like it!

Justin Finter
Boulder

I just read about Howard Stern's latest ignorant comments. This is all that is wrong with this country. The kids are listening to idiots like Howard. And the only reason they can listen to him is because organizations such as KXPK-FM (the Peak) have sold their souls for either money or prestige, instead of putting the effort and time into doing good.

Howard is a sick person; I doubt that his comments were really taken out of context. I pray for his soul.

B. White
via the Internet

The events of the last couple of days show how misdirected much of the rage is. The solution to Howard Stern is quite simple: Don't listen and he will go away.

People's concern should be directed a little closer to home. Are local authorities so pro-gun and anti-diversity that they think it's okay to force three teenagers to the ground, cuff them in front of the media frenzy and drag them to jail merely because they were observers of the unfolding tragedy and wearing black--and then allow the individual who illegally sold to minors a semi-automatic handgun used in the murders to "negotiate the terms of his arrest"? Now, that's obscene.

John Maloney
Arvada

Granted, the remarks by Howard Stern were at the least insensitive. But the media hounds in Denver (Boyles, Martino, Rocky Mountain News, Denver Post, the major networks, etc.) gave the remarks even more credibility by replaying them and analyzing them over and over. The media outlets in Denver have acted like car-chase lawyers in this tragedy. It seems they are more concerned with ratings and cheap publicity than they are with the kids and their families and teachers.

Brett Haselton
via the Internet

Music has always been the obvious scapegoat when people don't want to look at the real issues. For once, I agree with Michael Roberts: Marilyn Manson is the Alice Cooper of his generation. Should we be looking at what pushed these kids to the point of going to war with their school and community? It couldn't have had anything to do with years of mean-spirited teasing at the hands of insensitive peers, could it? Why can't we realize that being teased or harassed because of one's appearance or tastes is not just a "rite of passage" in adolescence but is actually destructive, senseless behavior?

I thought that blaming the music was finally passe. Remember when a line about a girl masturbating in a hotel lobby was enough to start Senate hearings? If people really believe the music made them do it, we are in trouble.

Don Geesling
via the Internet

Letters policy: Westword wants to hear from you, whether you have a complaint or compliment about what we write from week to week. Letters should be no more than 200 words; we reserve the right to edit for libel, length and clarity. Although we'll occasionally withhold an author's name on request, all letters must include your name, address and telephone number. Write to:

Westword Letters
P.O. Box 5970
Denver, CO 80217
or e-mail (include your full name and hometown) to: editorial@westword.com.

Missed a story? The editorial contents of Westword, dating back to July 1, 1996, are available online at www.westword.com/archive/index.html.

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