Calculated Insult

[Letter to the Editor, in response to Steve Neal's attack on Studs Terkel. A current search of the Chicago Sun-Times website indicates that the newspaper has removed the Sept. 21, 2001 Steve Neal article.] But thank you LexisNexis

egular readers know that Steve Neal has no use for Studs Terkel's gift for speaking truth to power. As journalists and chroniclers, Steve and Studs are working different sides of the street. The "more reliable sources" Neal relies on are the spinners and media manipulators that Studs disdains. Chicago is all about differences of opinion, but Neal [column, Sept. 21] goes beyond the rules. Taking advantage of the loosened standards of war hysteria, Neal uses the opportunity to dismiss Studs as a "simple-minded, melodramatic ... silly old man."

Neal sets the belittling tone at the beginning of the article when he identifies the Pulitzer Prize-winning Studs, a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters, as "Studs, a noted tape recordist." But the truly outrageous accusation that follows is that Studs, whose writing has always celebrated America in all its contradictions, has made his career "running down our country."

Neal's evidence: the claim that on a Sept. 14 radio program, Studs was "quick to blame America" for the terrorist attacks. First, he says, Studs "suggested that U.S. militarism had turned much of the world against this country." Second, Studs "alleged that the United States is responsible for the slaughter of innocents."

I heard that program on WBEZ-FM. Studs was not "quick to blame America." He made it clear (as Neal admits) that he condemned the terrorists, without equivocation. And then, like the rest of us, he proceeded to try to make sense of what had happened.

Sorry, Steve – ever since Vietnam, no aware American can deny either statement, which is why we so readily acknowledge the resentment of much of the Third World, and so frequently find ourselves apologizing for the "collateral damage."

Of course, the greatest calculated insult is in Neal's pairing of Studs Terkel and Jerry Falwell – two more different approaches to the dilemmas and challenges of 21st century America can hardly be imagined.

Alton Miller,
Columbia College Chicago