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Parsing Free Speech

Michael Kinsley seems to have achieved near-miraculous objectivity on the subject of journalists’ claim to a legal privilege to preserve the anonymity of sources even when any such right has been denied and disclosure required by due process of law. The courts may well decide that the enforcement of criminal laws and laws related to national-security interests requires disclosure in a given case. It is nothing but arrogant and self-serving for editors, publishers, and reporters engaged in the commercial activity of journalism to hold themselves and their nonexistent privilege above the law in such cases.

Kinsley is also right about the groundless hysteria sparked by the Citizens United case, holding that political speech by corporations, not just corporations engaged in journalism, is protected under the First Amendment. People who are organized as a corporation and use it as a medium for political speech are still people (corporations being fictional entities that can neither read nor write).

Roger Baker
New Orleans, La.

A Lack of Taste

On the contents page of the April issue of The Atlantic, one finds the caption: “Cute, cuddly, and delicious with a Foster’s: Australia cooks up its furry friends.” The force of the English language, and of the word friends in particular, makes one feel the wrongness of what is being talked about. When George Bernard Shaw famously said, “Animals are my friends, and I don’t eat my friends,” he was in effect saying the same thing twice. The caption thus leads one to expect at least some discussion of humanitarian objections to the unregulated mass killing of wild kangaroos. In “Outback Steakhouse,” however, Marina Kamenev sees only the “sanitary” problems involved, and even they are quickly glossed over.

So what is that caption for? It is clearly not meant to draw a laugh or even a smile. The caption writer has merely lapsed into the callous frivolity that constitutes the default tone of Internet tabloids like TMZ.com. It is one thing if a contributor chooses to write like this, but captions are the voice of a magazine—in this case, a magazine generally known for a much more thoughtful use of language.

B. R. Myers
Atlantic Contributing Editor
Busan, South Korea

Just War

Thank you, Jon Zobenica (“Getting Their Guns Off,” May Atlantic), for stripping away more of the denial and romanticism about World War II and the “Greatest Generation.” Now you know why thousands of us veterans (I served in the Navy during the Vietnam era) have joined organizations like Veterans for Peace and similar groups. Honoring the warrior—as just another victim, reduced to committing violence for survival—but not the war, many of us treat our activities (providing safe water for Iraqis, giving away free phone cards to patients in VA hospitals, etc.) as necessary therapy for ourselves, making amends.

As a civilian substance-abuse counselor for the Army, I saw recruiters meet their quotas by raiding jails, rehabs, and homeless shelters, and helping kids lie about their legal histories and falsify drug tests. It’s obvious that only the poverty draft of this current Great Recession can provide enough blood for our endless energy wars. Zobenica is right to dismiss the myth of the Just War. It’s all just war.

Roland Van Deusen
Clayton, N.Y.


Corrections

The opening photo credit for the June travel story, “Board Games,” on page 26, should have been Victor Fraile/Corbis. Howard W. French’s “The Next Empire?” (May Atlantic) referred to Chongqing as a province in China. Chongqing is a municipality.

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