Condescending Commentary

Francine Prose's Aug. 22 Outlook article, "What Do You Think She Was Thinking?" was incredibly condescending not only to Dina Matos McGreevey but to your readers.

Prose may believe herself unusually insightful and sophisticated, you know, like the Europeans. But the truth is that pretty much everyone is more focused on New Jersey Gov. Jim McGreevey's behavior in putting his unqualified lover on the public payroll -- in charge of homeland security, no less -- than on his sex life or the future of his marriage.

The notion that female submissiveness and lack of ambition is increasingly popular in an increasingly conservative culture would surely come as news to, say, Margaret Thatcher or Ann Coulter. And while Prose is free to prefer "the high-spirited, multilingual" Teresa Heinz Kerry, I suspect that what "commentators mean when they say that the reserved Laura Bush is more of a campaign asset" is simply that the American people aren't that impressed with a woman who tells people who ask her questions she doesn't want to answer to "shove it" -- no matter how many languages she can say it in.

-- Anne Folan


Disparaging a Disorder

Those of us suffering with the crushing disease of bipolar disorder applaud Jane Pauley's courage in coming out about her illness. Consequently, Style's Aug. 20 "Names and Faces" column, by deeming Pauley's public stance a marketing ploy for her new show, belittles the enormity of the disease and the extraordinary difficulties we face in overcoming the stigma attached to it.

Any instance of someone of such public stature coming forward to talk openly about his or her battles with this chronic disease should be welcomed by the media and not cheapened by allegations of ulterior motives. As a 51-year-old D.C. attorney only recently diagnosed with the illness, I admire Pauley and strongly urge your paper to publish more in-depth articles regarding bipolar disease without the snide remarks and innuendos evidenced in the aforementioned "Names and Faces" column.

-- Patrick J. Hurd


More Basis for the Bias

For the second time, Howard Kurtz has written an article ["Ultimately, Newspapers Can't Move the Earth," Outlook, Aug. 22] that has failed to exonerate your paper in, as Kurtz put it, "having aided and abetted President Bush in his march to war."

It is not just the pro-war bias of your editorial page that makes your paper appear suspect -- with or without the wall of separation from the news. Is there a comparable wall between news stories and their headlines? Often the headline is slanted in a way that differs from the content of the article.

The lead story on your Aug. 22 front page, "Swift Boat Accounts Incomplete; Critics Fail to Disprove Kerry's Version of Vietnam War Episode," implies that John Kerry's "version" is suspect, but that the accounts are not complete enough to prove that yet. The article, and others preceding it, carefully show instead that his attackers are misrepresenting the record. Yet your headline contorts both the truth and grammar with its double negative.

-- Bonnie Garrett


What About All That Jazz?

In his Aug. 22 Sunday Arts article, "No Girls Allowed?" David Segal evidently assumes that nothing of importance happened in the music world before rock-and-roll. Some old-time jazz fans might disagree. I always thought that Emily Remler and Mary Osborne, to name just two, were considered pretty fair guitarists.

-- Bill Wright


Selling Democracy in Russia

In their August 24 op-ed column, Theodore P. Gerber, Sarah E. Mendelson and Grigory Shvedov pose as open-minded well-wishers to Russian democracy but instead adopt a strikingly patronizing tone and approach. The problem, as they see it, with the progress of democratic reforms in Russia centers on the question of salesmanship. What they propose is better "social marketing."

The Russians do not need to be "sold" progressive values. They are pragmatic enough to distinguish ideas that work from ideas that perpetuate the problems and delusions of the past. The didactic approach offered by the authors presents the Russian people once more as an object of a social experiment.

Russians are cynical about abstract and Utopian promises of democracy and freedom. If Western officials are to regain a modicum of credibility, they must abandon the pretense that a change in marketing strategy can reorient Russia's political system.

-- Paul Abelsky

St. Petersburg, Russia