In light of recent national
and international events, REED magazine invited alumni, faculty
members, and students to share their thoughts about the future.
Preserving national security or secrecy?
By Mark Katkov 78
A couple of weeks ago I was invited
to one of those not-for-attribution get-acquainted lunches with a senior
Justice Department official. We met in his private conference room
beneath chandeliers and 20-foot ceilings ostensibly to reach a better
understanding of how he and his colleagues do their jobs postSeptember
What we found, however, was an almost complete reluctance to tell us journalists
much of anything about anything. The luncheon turned particularly absurd
when the senior Justice Department official flatly refused to tell us
the hour at which he and his staff hold their morning meeting. And he
went on to criticize the news media for reporting on civil libertarians
objections to the Department of Justice anti-terrorism effort, because
the objections, in his view, were without merit.
My intention here is not to imply anything one way or the other about
how the government is pursuing the war on terrorism. But as a reporter
working in Washington, it is impossible not to be concerned about what
may be a by-product of that war, an increasingly opaque government.
On my beat, the Department of Justice, the FBI is less and less willing
to share information of any kind with the press. Recently a special agent
assigned to the bureaus press office refused to take a question
from one of my colleagues. He said he would have to explain to his superior
the reason the question was being asked, and as it would almost certainly
be met with a refusal to answer, there was no point to pursuing the matter.
Last fall, as the anthrax crisis began to unfold, the Department of Health
and Human Services which includes the Centers for Disease Control
ordered the CDC to refer all reporter queries to the HHS press
office in Washington. But HHS wasnt answering questions either,
and when it did, we got a string of incoherent statements by HHS officials
who lacked expertise and were some distance removed from the investigation.
And finally, despite the appearance of candor in Secretary of Defense
Donald Rumsfelds almost daily Pentagon briefings, the fact remains
that journalists have been kept away from the battlefield and must rely
on the militarys version of events, which are sometimes at odds
with eyewitness reports on the ground.
I dont know whether this penchant for secrecy is peculiar to this
administration, or the inevitable result of a nation at war, or some sort
of combination. I do know that the information often denied to reporters
does not threaten national security and that the habit of secrecy, once
embraced, is a difficult one for bureaucracies to shake. And that should
be of concern to us all.
|Mark Katkov 78 is a producer for CBS
Evening News in Washington, D.C. Previously he worked for CBS in its
Respecting the role of artists
By Elizabeth Lauter Thompson 61
Is this the moment in the history
of our country for artists to become respected and valued citizens? The
time seems right. The nations heart is broken. The need to recover
on many levels to process the events and the aftermath of September
11 is obvious. And there have been a surprising number of voices
declaring how significant a role the arts can play in this process.
While the New York press recognizes the role of the arts, it paradoxically
offers homogenized representations of what has and is happening. However,
artists will continue to make work that helps us to experience and comprehend
viscerally and intellectually this complex and formidable event. Works
of art will be contentious, will challenge, and will offend. Yet they
will also soothe and transcend the sorrow, anger, pain, and loss. We need
the artists voice now more than ever as an essential element in
a self-conscious and questioning society.
Many ordinary citizens became artists in the days immediately following
September 11. Public art took on a new meaning as Union Square filled
with spontaneous memorials demonstrating the power of a poem, a
drawing, or an arrangement of objects.
At the Flea Theater, one of the many small theaters in the Liberty Zone
(the area declared a recovery zone in lower Manhattan), artistic director
Jim Simpson commissioned The Guys. This play about a firehouse captain
remembering the men he lost is profoundly affecting all who see it. Despite
grief counseling, I had not been able to deal with my miraculous escape
from Tower One. At the play, I cried and started to heal.
The Flea, like all of the arts and cultural organizations in the Liberty
Zone, is finding it difficult to continue its work. September 11, compounded
by a faltering economy, does not bode well for cultural and art organizations
and individual artists. But this time people are looking at the crisis
in the arts from a new perspective. I have asked, loudly and persistently,
Can we change this paradigm? Although the precise way in which
that can be done is still unclear, it is clear that this might be the
time for it to happen. Artists and cultural workers have reclaimed faltering
areas of many cities, only to be priced out when reclamation is complete.
I have proposed a number of ways that artists can be the catalyst for
change. This time they must be recognized and compensated for their contributions
that heal the damaged psyches and energize lower Manhattan.
I am working with a number of groups on the rebuilding of lower Manhattan.
Important discussions are taking place between individual artists and
leaders of organizations who have not historically found time or had an
inclination to meet. This dialogue could be the beginning of a sea change.
The recognition of the reasons for our marginal and often expendable position
in society is encouraging us to rethink the words we use and the tone
of our arguments about our relationship to and place in society.
|Liz Thompson 61 is executive director
of the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council (LMCC). Thompson was on what
was to be the last elevator down from the 107th floor in the north
tower of the World Trade Center; LMCC artist in residence Michael
Richards did not survive the attack. Since September 11, LMCC is collaborating
with other organizations to find new offices, artist studios, and
Finding a silver lining in the war
By Richard Crandall 69
The next time you listen to a CD,
transfix yourself with television, or microwave a tasty morsel, you should
also be thinking of war. Thats W-A-R, and make no mistake about
it. Indeed, a great deal of common technology is undeniably a product
of modern world war.
The minuscule laser device that irradiates a CD music disk is a not-so-distant
cousin of the gargantuan lasers that now guide pinpoint bombing. Yes,
CD music lasers merely entertain us, but laser research is liberally funded
by government (read military) grants. Leisure appliances like it
or not have coevolved with military gear.
Both AM and FM radio were invented by the same person a Major Edwin
H. Armstrong, who was in the Army Signal Corps in WW I. Armstrong later
got into an ill-fated patent litigation with RCA, ultimately in 1954 taking
a suicidal dive out of the 13th floor of a New York highrise.
The publicmilitary coevolution also holds true for cell phones.
Doesnt every WW II movie feature a tense walkie-talkie scene? And
what about moon landings? The great pioneers of missile propulsion had
an obvious agenda. And photography? It is one thing for the great Hubble
telescope to look outward, charting the cosmic galaxies; it is quite another
for similar machinery to be pointed downward, for surveillance. And dont
think for one second that life-saving radiation therapy has nothing to
do with nuclear weaponry.
It is a matter of record that the first computers, such as the 1940s ENIAC,
were focused on tasks such as weapon ballistics. For better or worse,
your desktop PC is a product of war. Another brand of computational war
technology is cryptography. The Nazis ENIGMA code machine, and the
Japanese Imperial Code, both eventually cracked by the Allies, did set
the scene for modern cryptography. The point is that your Visa card with
its secret PIN code is, yes, a war product. Study abstract mathematics
in college perhaps prime numbers and such and if serious
war looms, there is a job for you!
But now to this tomes title. We can still enjoy good technology,
regardless of violent underpinnings. Disparate fields such as psychology,
economics, and literature have gained from world war. Even biowarfare
development has some accidentally positive implications for pharmacology,
immunology, even health care. Technology as product of the current war
on terrorism may well provide your progeny with a healthy spectrum of
lucrative career choices.
But where the silver lining fairly gleams is in this: nonviolent people
everywhere will, we hope, finally learn how to bend technology more directly
to humane purposes. By understanding how all this has coevolved, perhaps
we can ladle the cream off the top of war, and once and for all discard
the frightful remainder.
We know what we have to do.
|Richard E. Crandall 69 is director
of the Center for Advanced Computation and Vollum Adjunct Professor
of Science at Reed. For his contributions to industry he was appointed
Distinguished Scientist at Apple Computer.