Letters to the Editors



Dear Steven G. Kellman,

Thank you for your review of my new book Guilty (“Arab Bashing on the Big Screen,” Nov. 28).

Kindly allow me to clarify some of your unfair and inaccurate comments.

One: I am not the “leading scourge of anti-Arab media bias”; rather I am the leading authority on anti-Arab media bias.

Two: You say I offer “no statistical evidence to support [my] claim.” Not so. The 1,000-plus films I discussed more than support my “claim.”

Three: I do not ignore the Western genre, nor the demonization of other groups, especially American Indians. To support my claim, I suggest your re-read Guilty and my Reel Bad Arabs book.

Four: In Guilty, I state, up front, that a few of the discussed films that merit attention did not feature Arabs. Why did you not mention this?

Five: You mention a topic that has nothing whatsoever to do with my book: that Egyptians stereotype Israelis. But you fail to say how Israeli filmmakers, such as Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus, stereotype Arabs.

Six: You tag me “a commissar in residence demanding Arab heroes.” Had you taken the time to check with Syriana’s Stephen Gaghan he would have pinned your ears back, explaining that my expertise was a welcome addition.

Finally, you write that I betray “a blindness to comedy and context, as if the mere presence of racist characters or comments automatically makes a film racist.” (Have you really seen Looking for Comedy in the Muslim World?) You add that my “single-minded campaign” against what I call “films that bear a single-minded vitriol” sometimes bears “more piss than vinegar.”

Really? More piss than vinegar?! A commissar in residence?!

Such language sums up your review, but hopefully not your character.

Respectfully yours,

Jack G. ShaheenPosted at www.texasobserver.org

Steven G. Kellman replies:

One: Since bigotry of any sort deserves to be scourged, Jack G. Shaheen ought to accept with pride the title “leading scourge of anti-Arab media bias.”

Two and Three: I questioned only Mr. Shaheen’s narrower assertion that “Arabs remain the most maligned group in the history of Hollywood.” He in fact offers no statistical or any other sort of evidence to demonstrate that Arabs have been more maligned than Indians, blacks, Latinos, Asians or gays. The fact that another group may or may not be more maligned does not of course justify bias against Arabs, but Mr. Shaheen’s crucial work in exposing bigotry is undermined by careless statements about films, and reviews.

Four: My review states “up front” that “Shaheen reminds us that not all Arabs are Muslim and not all Muslims are Arab.” That makes it all the more puzzling that he would squander so much space in a book about anti-Arab bias on films that do not feature Arabs.

Five: Bias by Arabs against others is as pernicious as bias against Arabs. It is particularly disturbing if stereotyping and censorship are the policy of Arab governments. Since Golan and Globus, who operate in Hollywood, are acting as individual entrepreneurs, not as officials of the Israeli government, I am not sure what point Mr. Shaheen wanted me to make about them, beyond the point we both stress: that Hollywood productions have exploited Arab stereotypes.

Six: In his book, Mr. Shaheen complains that directors other than Stephen Gaghan have not been eager to avail themselves of his services. One might wonder why.

Seven: Mr. Shaheen’s metaphorically mixed reference to “films that bear a single-minded vitriol” suggests limited expertise in chemistry, but one does not need to be a Nobel laureate to distinguish between piss and vinegar. As for the claim that Mr. Shaheen betrays “a blindness to comedy and context,” readers of his book and his letter can judge for themselves.


What you ought to be ashamed of is hating someone for holding different views, which you say is the reason you hate Pat Buchanan. (“Hell No, They Won’t Go,” Nov. 28.) Personalizing philosophical viewpoints is what’s wrong, and lack of civility.

You should have long ago realized that even people with whom you disagree can be right, at least sometimes.

You should have learned long ago that people can be wrong without being bad, or even wrong all the time.

It’s also possible that Pat Buchanan has learned something. Perhaps even other people you hate are capable of learning.

Perhaps, we shall hope, even you are capable of learning that people are very much what they believe and what they profess, but they are also people, and therefore deserving of something more than hate.

Michael MorrisonPosted at www.texasobserver.org


Mickey Leland was killed in a plane crash August 7, 1989 (“Junkyard Jim,” Dec. 12). There was a double rainbow over the cathedral during his funeral.

Mary AleshirePosted at www.texasobserver.org

Editor’s note: Our remembrance of Jim Mattox inadvertently conflated the redistricting sessions of 1981 and 1991, and misstated the date of Congressman Mickey Leland’s 1989 death and Craig Washington’s special election to Leland’s seat that year. The Observer regrets the errors.