Letters

And for whatever my impressions may be worth to you, I'll tell you that my original perception of your motivations in publishing your unnecessarily detailed account of Mr. [Henry] Tatum's indiscretions [BeloWatch, July 27] did not jibe with your most recent plea that you "did not write about this matter with a sense of glee--nor out of a vendetta against the News" [BeloWatch, August 10]. In fact, that quote describes very well the inference I derived from reading your July 27 account, and judging by the letters published on August 10, I was not alone in that perception.

I felt that one indicator which gave away your inordinate chortling (beneath the surface of an oh-so-carefully contrived ostensible objectivity) was the way in which you drew word pictures of the minute details of the incident, describing the state of his male organ, and the manual stimulation method. That was uncalled for.

Very few men have not, at some time in their lives, succumbed to the temptation of a surreptitious, opportune sexual encounter. Any man reading this need only recall the details of such an episode in his own life to understand how devastating to his social, family, and professional life would be a thorough recounting, in a newspaper, of the titillating details.

Of course, Aunt Matilda and the homophobes will be predictably scandalized, but you can also expect that a significant percentage of your readership will privately feel a sense of "There, but for the grace of God, go I," and will identify and sympathize sufficiently with Mr. Tatum's plight to feel personally betrayed by the Observer. You would have done better to have left it alone.

Time was when journalists did not feel compelled to expose the peccadillos of everybody who happened to find themselves in the public eye. I'm not at all sure that the current tell-all fad is in the public interest. Does the public have "a right to know," or "a need to know"--or even a desire to know all the intimate details of the sexual gratification extremities to which a person might be driven, just because they happen, as you put it, to "hold a position of public influence and trust"?

Frankly, I think that, for instance, Mr. Tatum's embarrassing private sexual needs, if left private, could be expected to have absolutely no detrimental influence upon his proven ability to function as an effective public informant. Oh, if a trusted public official goes berserk and masturbates in the middle of Main Street, that's news properly reported; but when a man performs his sexual gratification act in an enclosed ambiance which he has been led to believe is private, to put that act on "Candid Camera," so to speak, and reveal the intimate details to the world at large, to me, represents a despicable, hypocritical, unwarranted character assassination.

The fact that the News and other media sources have long been doing such things, and apparently refrained, in this instance, only because one of their own is involved does not, in my view, give you carte blanche to tell all.

Would the public have been better off--did we have some sort of "right to know"--about the sexual dalliances of FDR, JFK, and MLK at the time they were making their social contributions? Would wide circulation of detailed descriptions of their sexual indiscretions have helped anybody? Certainly not! We'd simply have been deprived of their contributions.

Thomas Griffin
Dallas

Wasted vice: cops belong on the street
Your Belowatch columns on Mr. [Henry] Tatum [BeloWatch, July 27 and August 10] should call everyone's attention to the need to prioritize. Should we use taxpayer finances to continue [the Dallas police's] active role [in] entrapping citizens for the purpose of collecting additional revenues?

I grant you there is a law prohibiting public lewdness. There is also a law prohibiting spitting on the sidewalk, etc. If this were a perfect world--and God, how many times has that phrase been uttered?--businesses that serve in the exploration of one's sexual fantasies and desires may have no need to exist. Human beings would be blessed with better sense. And everything would be perfect.

But sadly, it's not. And to remind us all, Mr. Tatum was charged with nothing more than a misdemeanor crime, a public nuisance. Some threat to society.

Our law enforcement agencies have far greater responsibilities. That's what this should bring our attention to. Had that vice officer been assigned to the streets instead of hidden inside a safe establishment, watching adult videos while in wait for a victim, perhaps there wouldn't be such a desperate cry for new recruits.

Name withheld by request
Dallas

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