THE NATION goofs

Christopher Phelps crps at uhura.cc.rochester.edu
Fri Jan 20 14:33:16 MST 1995



I am posting this message far and wide and invite you to post it wherever
you wish.  Since the NATION has a 100,000 subscribers, I can't be very
effective in correcting its errors on my own, but perhaps at least I will
reach those I know personally with word of this error.

Back in September, I sent the NATION a letter regarding a column Alexander
Cockburn wrote about Bernie Sanders.  That letter is as follows:

	To the Editors:
		Alexander Cockburn will undoubtedly take a thumping from
	legions of Bernie Sanders supporters for his proposal to "throw the
	bum out."  I cannot go the distance with Cockburn, for I do not see
	Sanders' self-designation as an independent socialist as a mere
	smokescreen.  While cable surfing this summer, I happened upon
	Sanders on C-Span BLASTING a bill permitting increased corporate
	funding for public broadcasting in vigorous, uncompromising terms
	that would scarcely permit designating him a "coward" or "hack
	Democrat."  Need it be said that advocating socialism would hardly
	befit an opportunist who, "given half a chance, would like to be
	Dan Rostenkowski"?
		So that Cockburn's real point not get lost in the ensuing
	fury, however, I wish to agree that Sanders' vote for the repressive
	crime bill was a shameful violation of socialist principle.  Sanders
	requires serious pressure for the left lest the horse-trading world
	of Washington erode him further.  Here is further evidence why we
	need not mere independent CANDIDATES but a labor PARTY which holds
	its representatives accountable to a program set democratically by
	its rank and file.
						
To my surprise, I opened my NATION this week, five months later, to find
that they had printed my letter.  To my dismay, I found that they had
bowdlerized it by deleting two important sentences in the middle of it.
Here is how it now reads:

                Alexander Cockburn will undoubtedly take a thumping from
        legions of Bernie Sanders supporters for his proposal to "throw the
        bum out."  I cannot go the distance with Cockburn, for I do not see
        Sanders' self-designation as an independent socialist as a mere
	smokescreen. So that Cockburn's real point not get lost in the ensuing
        fury, however, I wish to agree that Sanders' vote for the repressive
        crime bill was a shameful violation of socialist principle.  Sanders
        requires serious pressure from the left lest the horse-trading world
        of Washington erode him further.  Here is fresh evidence why we
        need not mere independent CANDIDATES but a labor PARTY which holds
        its representatives accountable to a program set democratically by
        its rank and file.

I believe this changes the sensibility of the letter radically, from one
which dissents from Cockburn's wild characterizations of Sanders but agrees
with his immediate political criticism of Sanders' stance on the crime bill
to one which seems essentially to uphold Cockburn's position, with a very
mild and abstract dissent registered.

I was not consulted about these changes or asked to approve them.  The
deletions will probably be justified for reasons of space, although I've not
been able to get ahold of the editor in charge of the letters page, who is
out of the office until Tuesday.  However, the two pro-Sanders letters
printed along with mine are each twice as long as my letter.

In solidarity and frustration,

Christopher Phelps
crps at uhura.cc.rochester.edu
(716) 527-0454

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