Letters to the Editor: October 2006

To the Editor,

After viewing the film Obsession (see review, P5) I’m struck by the unintentional irony of the title.  This “film” (if the compilation of readily available stock footage and a few talking heads constitutes one) attempts to suggest a generalized obsession on the part of Muslims (“cough, cough, uh, we mean only EXTREMISTS, cough, cough”) everywhere with the destruction of all Jews and the totality of the West.  That is not hyperbole.  The film overtly states that the attitude of Muslims in Chechnya, Somalia, Palestine, Iran, Iraq, and Saudi Arabia is universal.  So, pretty much, if you’re carbon-based and read the Koran, you’re in the same pot.

Another irony of the film is the clumsy link it tries to make between Nazi Germany and current attitudes of alleged Muslim extremists.  Here’s a hint to all would-be hate-mongers worldwide: If you say this is “just like Nazi Germany,” it is probably NOT “just like Nazi Germany.” If one feels the need to play the institutionalized evil card, one might use a little less beaten dead horse (Pol Pot, anyone?).

In any case, the film acknowledges the decentralized and unorthodox nature of terrorism.  The irony is that fascism in the Second World War represented possibly the most centralized form of government and orthodoxy in history.  To suggest that there is a similar shared set of values in the billion Muslims worldwide seems the height of simple-mindedness.  Like the film’s explanation:  “Jihad” means struggle and “Mein Kampf” ALSO means struggle.

And Lincoln was shot in a theater while Kennedy’s assassin escaped to a theater.  If you’re going to turn sacred cows into filet mignon, you’ll simply have to do better than that.

In my professional life, I’ve had the privilege of working with international organizations in a variety of predominantly Muslim countries.  In my cursory experience, it is crystal clear that Islam means something dramatically different in Saudi than it does in Kosovo, Azerbaijan, Pakistan, or Jordan.  Do they have grievances with the West in a number of these countries?  Sure (hint: some of these grievances might actually be legit).  But in each case, the grievances are unique.  And the first response from everyone in those countries I’ve met is hardly as barbaric as those suggested by the film.

And perhaps most telling were the unconscious messages. In a section on the pervasiveness of hate speech in the Muslim world, they play a rap song exonerating and Osama Bin Laden and threatening George Bush.  This is supposed to make us say “ooohhh… how evil…”  Unfortunately, the beat for the song is lifted directly from that Lumidee song that was huge last summer (the one where she says “Uh… Ohhhhh…. Uh… Ohhhh… a lot).  For a group that allegedly “doesn’t want to integrate” and “rejects all things Western,” it seems curious that they would be comfortable pilfering our beats for “their” pop.

And therein lies the rub- hidden beneath the “Clash of Civilizations” the film is fixated on. There is a lot mingling, hand-holding, singing, dancing, and kissing between these supposedly “warring” Civilizations.  Sure, there’s enough hate, blame, anger, fear, Dark Side of the Force, etc. to go around.  But in my experiences, there are lots of decent folks of all faiths, who mostly want to listen to good hip-hop, eat some tasty burgers or a little Khabsa, get to know each other  and try to fix things, without blowing things up.

A pity that 90 Webster students were subjected to a film that ignores that fact.


Bond Benton

Prof. of Humanities

Webster University Vienna



To the Editor, 

Today´s Viennese, it seems, care more about dog excrement than preserving Vienna´s heritage.  From Parliament to the Stadtpark the company Gewista has torn out the city’s historical Litfaß columns and replaced them with characterless advertising cylinders, that even Karl Javourek, the manager of Gewista told Der Standard were “intentionally created to be simple and sober, and not historical.”

Since the time of the Kaiser, the Litfaß columns have stood as noble witnesses to Vienna city life.  These are works of art!  The column crown resembles the onion-shaped tops of the most elegant Austrian church towers.  Its curved surface is adorned with fine rounded shingles.  The elaborate column crown proudly presents Vienna´s city emblem, a red shield with a white cross.  An ornately decorated lance shoots out of the column crown´s peak and is rounded off by a small orb.

These columns are cultural treasures, comparable to London´s red telephone booths that original or replicas, give Vienna a special flair. Why not a compromise between old and new?

Retain the historical Litfaß column crown and base, and install the new rotating, lighted, glass advertising cylinders in the middle.  Vienna´s historical Litfaß columns are as valuable and worth keeping as the traditional Viennese and Austrian culture they advertise.


Jeff Crowder

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