Devil in the Details

In “The Partisan” [June 3/10], Timothy Shenk calls Sean Wilentz a “meticulous historian who can back up every claim with impeccable footnotes.” But in his dealings with his colleagues to his left, Wilentz has not always been so meticulous. On the occasion of historian Howard Zinn’s death, Wilentz wrote in the Los Angeles Times that Zinn “had a very simplified view that everyone who was president was always a stinker,” but “that can’t be true…. Abraham Lincoln freed the slaves. You wouldn’t know that from Howard Zinn.”

I would argue that last point is refuted by the fact that Zinn says the following in A People’s History of the United States: “It was Abraham Lincoln who freed the slaves.” In fact, he says it twice on that page, which is also the very first page of his chapter on the Civil War. It is a sad comment on the state of prevailing intellectual standards that blunders of this sort seem powerless to diminish Wilentz’s reputation as “undoubtedly one of the great” historians.

David Detmer
munster, ind.

Furry Logic

I am shocked and saddened that The Nation allowed a mean-spirited, ill-informed, and politically immature response to go to print: the opinion Liza Featherstone flippantly spewed regarding People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals in her April 8 “Asking for a Friend” column. She regrets deciding to give away an inherited fur coat “in the 1990s, [when] PETA activists had succeeded in inextricably associating fur with cruelty (unfair in the case of inherited fur, since the animals in question would be long dead anyway).” Continuing her uninformed opinion, she adds, “Fur, like diamonds, has always attracted an unthinking and low-key misogynist class rage, which is probably why PETA targeted it in the first place.”

And the editors missed this?

PETA is one of the most important and potent animal-rights organizations ever. It educates, acts, saves, and brings awareness as no other organization has before to subjects like species intelligence, sensitivity, communication, and longevity. I’m sure at least one generation of vegans, vegetarians, and those who wish to lessen their impact on other species has been influenced by PETA’s actions, ideas, and powerful magazine.

PETA is about eliminating suffering. It doesn’t matter how long something has been dead. The fur (or meat or skin) still makes a statement. What that statement is depends on one’s consciousness regarding suffering.

J. Christeve
la selva beach, calif.

Debunking Junk Science

All praise for Mark Hertsgaard and Kyle Pope’s excellent article “Fixing the Media’s Climate Failure” [May 6]. My college’s alumni magazine recently published portions of a letter from a classmate, a “longtime research scientist,” in which he states that, in his studies of variations in solar radiation, he could not find “any evidence that the presence of carbon dioxide in our atmosphere changes the amount of radiant energy we get from the sun, or that it could cause climate change (global warming/cooling).” He further stated that global temperature trends are caused by “naturally occurring events.” For journalists to tell the story that will resonate with their audiences, they will also have to refute such “science.” Perhaps your writers can help debunk it.
Fred Coleman
akron, ohio