Tongue Tied: A Report From the Front Line of the Culture Wars

In one of the most unusual editor's notes in the paper's history, The New York Times last week insisted that no slurs against gays were intended by a Sunday crossword puzzle titled "Homonames."

In the puzzle, the principal answers were homonyms of well-known names, or phrases pronounced like the names but spelled differently and carrying different meanings. The note said that some readers "perceived allusions to gay life among the puzzle clues" and that "no such allusions - nor any suggestions about anyone's sexual orientation - were intended."

Slurs involving sexual orientation would be a violation of The Times' standards, the note said.

No Ball for You 

The NCAA says it will not schedule championship events in South Carolina until at least 2004 because the Confederate flag is displayed on the Statehouse grounds, reports The Associated Press

The NCAA executive committee approved the two-year moratorium on selecting South Carolina sites for events such as men's basketball tournament games. The committee said that during the moratorium, it would study whether South Carolina could provide "an atmosphere of respect for and sensitivity to the dignity of every person."

South Carolina lawmakers, under pressure of a boycott by the NAACP, removed the Confederate flag last year from atop the Statehouse dome and House and Senate chambers. However, the Legislature raised a similar flag at the Confederate Soldier Monument on Statehouse grounds. 


Conservative Web site WorldNetDaily is so worked up over the presentation of witchcraft in J.K Rowling's Harry Potter books that it is selling a video to help parents better explain the evils of sorcery, Satanism and pagan mythology to their children.

Hosts Robert S. McGee and Caryl Matrisciana, described as authors and occult researchers, dissect the Rowling book for viewers and offer tips on how to counter the dark propaganda. 

"Because many don't recognize occult symbolism, or understand Witchcraft, thousands of young readers, by inference, are led to accept them as whimsical and harmless, aided by Rowling's repackaging of witchcraft in probably its most dangerous form - children's fantasy literature," the site says.

In Berkeley, Never a Dull Moment 

A city councilman in Berkeley, Calif., blackballed a group of scouts visiting from Japan, barring them from a meeting at City Hall to protest American scouts' policy on gays, reports the San Francisco Chronicle.

The City Hall meeting was to be the highlight of a weeklong visit to the United States for 38 scouts from Sakai, Berkeley's sister city in Japan. They had been scheduled to meet with Mayor Shirley Dean, where they were to present an official proclamation from the mayor of Sakai. 

Dean canceled the event after Kriss Worthington, a gay member of the council, said city property should not host an organization that discriminates.

Japanese scouts have no policy against gays.

Pushing the Limits of 'Profiling' 

Utah's Office of Hispanic Affairs is investigating allegations that the security officers who patrol the city's light-rail trains engage in "class profiling," ignoring well-dressed commuters and focusing on those who look less well off, reports the Deseret News

Security officers with Wackenhunt Corp., which are contracted by the Utah Transit Authority, are accused of leaving well-dressed business types alone when checking for fares but asking others if they have purchased tickets. 

"Right now we're taking a thorough look in respect to what our transit officers are doing in terms of giving out tickets," UTA spokesman Kris McBride said. "We've heard that there have been accusations that this is going on and right now we're reviewing all the evidence and data. It is completely against our policy to issue tickets based on racial or socio-economic criteria."

Profiles in Copy Desk Courage 

A columnist for The Virginian-Pilot complains that that paper's copy desk would not let her use the adjective "Bolivian" to describe a dysfunctional group of local politicians because it could be considered offensive by people from that country. 

Columnist Kerry Dougherty says she was describing the antics of the local Chesapeake City Council and wanted to use a word that connoted a political free-for-all. In 1997, the country was rated the second most corrupt in the world, and it has endured 200 coups in its 176-year history as a free republic. 

She writes that she thought it "pretty safe to say that what happened at the Chesapeake City Council meeting was, in fact, very like things that have happened from time to time at public meetings in Bolivia."

But an editor would have none of it. It wasn't fair, the editor told her, to offend millions of people and a whole country.

Confederate Yankee Cries Foul 

A man born and raised in Pennsylvania says he was discriminated against because of his national origin, which he describes as "Confederate Southern American," reports the AP. 

In a lawsuit filed Friday, 62-year-old Curt Storey, of Hunker, Pa., said Burns International Security Services fired him from his job as a security guard in May for refusing to remove Confederate flag and related stickers from his lunch bucket and pickup truck.

Storey wants to be reinstated to his $8-an-hour job along with back pay and damages. He considers his firing discrimination "because Burns Security specifically targeted Confederate symbols only ... Burns assumes, prejudicially, that the Confederate flag is a racist symbol and that therefore I am intentionally trying to offend other workers.",2933,31880,00.html

From the Central Servers: 

Tom W. in Austin, Texas, writes:

I shudder to think what the next generation will be like without exposure to books like To Kill A Mockingbird that have such a rich and powerful meaning. I envision rows and rows of school library shelves filled only with Barney the dinosaur.

Jason S. of San Diego writes:

To Kill a Mockingbird testifies to the damage done by public opinion. After all, it was nothing more then public opinion that Atticus Finch had to fight in that Maycomb court. Maybe Muskogee High is smarter then we think. By banning this book they not only suppress an illustration of discrimination, they perpetuate the mistakes of a fictitious southern town by suppressing an tale of early political correctness at it's core.

Marcus S. writes:

The values exemplified in Atticus Finch -- morality, honor, self-respect and tolerance for your fellow man -- are worth making a few students uncomfortable.

Lee N. writes in response to Zell Miller's complaint:

There are no mountains in Georgia. Georgia has hills. If Senator Miller wants to call himself a mountaineer. Then I would suggest he spend some time climbing real mountains. I can recommend some peaks for him if he likes, but until then he is a hillbilly. And he should just deal with it.

Paul B., Notre Dame class of '89, writes:

The letter by Larry K. stating that the University of Notre Dame changed its Victory March is simply incorrect. While there has been discussion of changing it for years, it has not happened.

Jerome M. of Los Angeles writes:

I have seen all of Kevin Smith's movies and consider myself a fan. Having said that, I would now like to say to GLAAD: lighten up. It's just a movie. At most it reflects our current society, at the least it is wasted film. Either way, if you disagree with it, don't go see it.

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