“The image of ‘gangs,’ perhaps the ultimate devil figure in late twentieth-century urban America, is one of the most powerfully distorting filters through which law-abiding middle-class citizens distance themselves from residents of the inner city,” Dwight Conquergood told a recent Northwestern University conference on race and media. “Labeling someone a gang member licenses the most rabid racism and class bias….A Chicago Police manual describes gang graffiti as ‘dog and fire hydrant’ marking of turf or ‘like a wild animal marking his boundaries.’…The consequence of this media demonology of gang youth is that they are…silenced in the most profound way, removed from the human community, through the linguistic violence of labeling them germs, animals, degenerates, and terrorists.”

“If firearms increased violence and crime, the crime rate should have increased throughout the 1980s, while the national stock of privately owned handguns increased by more than a million units in every year of the decade,” writes Northwestern University law professor Daniel Polsby in the Atlantic Monthly (March). “It did not. Nor should the rates of violence and crime in Switzerland, New Zealand, and Israel be as low as they are, since the number of firearms per civilian household is comparable to that in the United States. Conversely, gun-controlled Mexico and South Africa should be islands of peace instead of having murder rates more than twice as high as those here….But gun-control enthusiasts, who have made capital out of the low murder rate in England, which is largely disarmed, simply ignore the counterexamples that don’t fit their theory.”

I don’t want to know about the exceptions. A demographer quoted in an Associated Press story on population changes in Indiana (February 8): “Usually when Hoosiers leave Indiana they take their fertility with them.”

The forests and the trees. According to the Illinois Natural History Survey Reports (November/ December), Illinois forests cover only about one-eighth of the state. But they are growing: between 1962 and 1985 they increased by 10 percent in area and 40 percent in wood volume. And the kinds of trees are changing: Oak-hickory stands are down 14 percent, largely because wildfire suppression lets the forests get overgrown, which makes it difficult for their light-dependent seedlings to grow. Maple-beech forests are up more than 4,000 percent for the same reason–maple seedlings like shade. And elm-ash-cottonwood forests are down 50 percent, because of Dutch elm disease and the clearing of river bottomland for farming.

Cultural exchange? We’ll know the interest is real when they start stocking Salman Rushdie. U. of I. professor of library and information science Betsy Hearne was one of 32 international experts invited to Tehran last fall to discuss children’s literature, an invitation she says signals “a real and heartening interest in cultural interchange between Iran and the United States.”

Welfare as we know it. According to an Essential Information report, “Aid for Dependent Corporations,” summarized by Miles Harvey in In These Times (February 21), “Programs to prop up corporate America will cost taxpayers $104.3 billion this year, while programs for poor people will cost $75.1 billion.”

“In the hands of a good teacher, all methods are good; in the hands of a bad teacher, all methods are bad,” writes composition instructor David Cahill in Teaching at UIC (volume 2, number 1). “Two things are essential for effective teaching: the teacher must enjoy teaching and radiate enthusiasm, and he or she must respect the students.”

“It’s no wonder that the statue of liberty sits in New York facing Europe,” says Randall Robinson, quoted in the Chicago-based Afrique (February). “In 1980-90, we accepted 76 percent of the Soviet refugees who applied to this country for admission. In the same period of time, we accepted at the bottom of the list, 1.8 percent of the 22,940 Haitians who came on the seas, in rickety boats….We only allowed 11 to even apply for political asylum.”

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): Illustration/Carl Kock.