Rightwing Film Geek

The P.R. lie

David Mamet, one of my favorite writer-directors, had a column in the Chicago Tribune where he bluntly states some ugly truths about the Middle East, including the irrationality of the focus on Mel Gibson, ugly though what he said was.

Many Jews are upset with Mel Gibson because they believe in something called “the public relations war.”

But Mamet says there is no such thing, because Israel and the Arabs pursue self-evidently morally different causes (“Israel wants peace, the Arabs want Israel gone”) without it making a dent on “world public opinion.” So, he concludes, we are dealing with an irrational animus toward Israel fostering such chimeric notions as “cycle of violence” and “disparity of force.”¹

He also says that attempts to “address root causes” are inherently anti-Semitic when dealing with what is simply an irrational hatred (and anyone who maintains that the Arabs are not irrational anti-Semitic haters, marinated to the bone, is deluded).

That the Western press consistently characterizes the Israeli actions as immoral is anti-Semitism. … The Jews are not the victims of bad PR. They are the victims of anti-Semitism. Europe has always been devoted to the destruction of the Jews. At times it is acute; it is always chronic. …
To ask “must there not be a cause for this anti-Semitism?” is an outrage, similar to asking the rape victim “how short a skirt were you wearing?” The question cannot be posited without, at least, the implication of the victim “having, somehow, at least in part, ‘brought it on yourself’.”

The column piqued my interest in what is easily the most significant gap in my “Mamet-seen” list — the film of HOMICIDE, where Jewish identity is obviously more central than in any of Mamet’s other work. In fact, I’m tempted to say, HOMICIDE is the only film where it’s a centrally and explicitly textual matter — certainly I don’t recall it anywhere else and I’m enough of a Mamet fanboy to have liked the films of OLEANNA and AMERICAN BUFFALO.
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¹ Hezbollah and other Islamists know what they are doing in playing The Victim Card to Western media. The contemporary West has so thoroughly turned away from the (distorted, BTW) notion that “might makes right” that we’ve de facto embraced the ludicrous proposition that therefore “might makes wrong” or “weakness makes right” (the “oppressed” are somehow more authentic and honest, doncha know). So Israel must be being a bully because it has overwhelming military superiority.

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August 10, 2006 Posted by | anti-Semitism, David Mamet, Middle East | , , | Leave a comment

Hollywood rallies behind Gibson … mostly

The LA Times has a good piece on celebrity friends coming to Mel Gibson’s defense, including Jodie Foster and several producers who have worked with Gibson. Other outlets reported support for Patrick Swayze, and I especially liked this remark from Dean Devlin:

I consider Mel one of my best friends in Hollywood. The day this happened, my wife had gotten this long letter from Mel full of congratulations [for the birth of the Devlins’ first child] and talking about the joys of being a parent. She’s Jewish. I’m Jewish. If Mel is an anti-Semite, then he spends a lot of time with us, which makes no sense. But he is an alcoholic, and while that makes no excuse for what he said, because there is no excuse, I believe it was the disease speaking, not the man.”

And the LA Times notes a good sign for his career:

“There have always been stars, like Sean Penn or Russell Crowe and before that Kirk Douglas or Frank Sinatra, whose tough-guy personas on screen allowed them to survive bad behavior off screen,” says one longtime publicist. “It’s not like he’s ever been Mr. Nice Guy.”

Apart from one producer, the most prominent named “I’ll never work with Gibson”-declaration came from comedian Rob Schneider. And I’m not sure it’s 100 percent serious. Not simply because Schneider is a comedian, but because the specific language contained in the ad sounds like there’s a subtext of sarcasm running through it. Also, there’s the pomposity of the very concept of *Schneider* taking out a Variety ad to say he’s never work with *Gibson.* I mean, without at the time knowing any of the specifics, my immediate reaction when I heard that Schneider was saying he’d never work with Gibson, was “durn it … that ruins my hopes for seeing THE PASSION OF DEUCE BIGALOW.” Check out the language of Schneider’s at the right.

southpark1.jpgIs it not at least as plausible that Schneider is making fun of the repetitively-named Bernie Brillstein? And can any reference¹ to THE PASSION OF THE CHRIST 2 or hypotheticals involving a time machine or speaking ancient Mayan be taken completely seriously?

UPDATE: Looks like my bud Bilge Ebiri had the same wtf-is-this-a-joke? reaction to the Rob Schneider ad.

But as always, SOUTH PARK gets the best line, though Comedy Central insists it was a coincidence. At the Daily Texan when I was in college, a fellow conservative columnist named Corey Birenbaum proudly took the “of course we run the world”-attitude.

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¹ Ali G once mused aloud to Pat Buchanan’s endorsement of THE PASSION OF THE CHRIST that they’d just bring that character back to life for a sequel.

August 7, 2006 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , | Leave a comment

Mel, Mel, Mel …

I spent a few trillion 0’s and 1’s a couple of years ago defending Mel Gibson against the anti-Semitism charges over THE PASSION OF THE CHRIST. I love the taste of egg on the face. Gibson was officially charged Wednesday on three counts — including an open-container charge.

Obviously, as a religious and purely-moral matter, Gibson has apologized for his anti-Semitic remarks — “Fucking Jews … The Jews are responsible for all the wars in the world … Are you a Jew?” Gibson knows how to apologize properly (i.e., without any “if I offended” conditionality) and with due deference given to the need to make amends — best comment-field post is at Beliefnet: “Mel ranted like a maniac but is repenting like a mensch.”

And many Jews have responded well. The ADL accepted the apology (Gibson’s second). Gibson has been asked to speak at a synagogue on Yom Kippur — a good idea if it’s consistent with Jewish liturgical rules; and I have to assume the Rabbi in question knows them.

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My bud Rod Dreher already has noted that the Jew Michael Medved, while speaking from within Judaism, has a sounder grasp of Christian teaching on grace and forgiveness than the Catholic Andrew Sullivan, who has acted like an opportunistic little git. (The Photoshop above is the work of Allahpundit). Sullivan says: “I’m not interested in hounding human beings for their personal demons. We all have them. We have all behaved in ways we regret at times. I sure have.” More on that below, but Sullivan has an odd way of showing it. Eleven of his 12 post-noon posts on Tuesday were about Gibson, (Ace of Spades said his “true feelings for Andrew Sullivan would be better expressed by Elton John’s The Bitch Is Back.”) And the left more generally has taken to the story like catnip — check out the commenter runninute noting that the story is taking up half of the Huffington Post). Some of the parodies produced have been funny, some lame and others downright wicked (I won’t link to the one called “Mel Gibson resigns from the Nazi party”; that’s enough info for the curious to Google.

But some earthly consequences will happen — ABC has put the kabosh on a Holocaust miniseries it had been planning with Gibson’s company, although the stated reason wasn’t the arrest. Nevertheless …

ABC spokeswoman Hope C. Hartman … wouldn’t comment further or say whether the decision was related to Gibson’s remarks.

A “no comment” is often a comment.

There’s also talk in the industry about Gibson’s future career (though there’s obviously double standards galore here). The word is still that APOCALYPTO will be released on schedule in December, and Hollywood always forgives you if you make enough money. But if the film flops, Gibson might not get another chance. There’s no point in pussyfooting around here. There is no Vast Jewish Conspiracy, but Jews (note: not “the Jews”) do have a “disproportionate”¹ amount of influence in the film industry. The way I would put it is that in the film industry, the kulturkampf bias finds its currency in the reaction to flops. If you’re one of the good guys, your failures will be forgiven; if not, you’d better bat 1.000.

But there’s also the matter of those of us, like myself, who defended Gibson back in 2003 and 2004 against the anti-Semitism charges, saying among other things, that it was unfair to quote Hutton Gibson’s (nutburger) opinions against his son, that no way exists to make a film of the Gospels that doesn’t engage in what liberal theologians and liberal Jews construct as “anti-Semitism.” Or as some asshat put it:

In any faithful adaptation of the Gospels, almost all the characters, on both sides of the crucifixion, would be Jews. Only the deranged, looking to stroke a pre-existing prejudice (and they can’t set the standard), could see a Jew being killed, to the grief of His Jewish mother and His Jewish followers, by Romans at the behest of a different group of Jews — and come away blaming the Jews.

and

[I]f I were Gibson, I’d see no point to cooperating with [Paula Fredriksen] or the ADL, since they’re coming from a theological perspective that’s not mine and one I want no part of. But that perspective also has the gall and presumption to claim to be the arbiter of reason and to claim at least a moral right to be my editor and script doctor. (Is it necessary to do anything more than laugh at an essay in A.D. 2003 that claims to know, in some dispositive sense, about Pontius Pilate’s thought process, while slagging the Gospels as unreliable historical documents because their [disputed] date of authorship [supposedly] lags several decades behind the depicted events?)

In other words, we said there was no or flimsy evidence Gibson was an anti-Semite. That kind of statement can no longer be operative, though obviously, this has nothing to do with THE PASSION OF THE CHRIST as an artistic text and thus all considerations of quality (I have thought it a marvelous film through five viewings).

Now while “anti-Semite” is obviously not an ontological status, it now becomes reasonable to infer that anti-Semitism is part of the ragout of Mel Gibson’s personality, in a way that was not reasonable merely because he had made a film that the ADL and modern biblical scholars didn’t like. Someone on a Catholic site (I forget which one) said “Gibson is an anti-Semite who knows that anti-Semitism is wrong.” Which now, paradoxical as it seems, strikes me as about right. In fact one of my closest Church friends is, to use the same formulation, “a homosexual who knows that homosexuality is wrong.”² As I said above, this doesn’t mean that Gibson (or David) should be hounded to the ends of the Earth for the sin of anti-Semitic words/actions (or homosexual acts). And Gibson has done everything that can be publicly required of him, according to the Church’s teaching and correctly.

But what cannot be inferred is that Gibson’s anti-Semitic words say nothing at all about him. That they are as accidental as eye color. That reasonable suspicion will not rightly attach to anything he says having to do with Jews for quite some time. Or that drunkenness is an excuse, or a mitigating factor. Indeed, some Gibson critics (like the ADL’s first response) have gone so far as to suggest the opposite of this latter — that the fact that Gibson made his anti-Semitic comments while drunk prove what he “really” thinks (“in vino veritas” and all that).

Ironically, two Catholic bloggers with whom I drank frosted malt beverages in the past week have both posted on this latter point in reference to past sins (Rich Leonardi in somewhat vague terms,³ Dale Price much more specifically). Indeed, a commenter on Rich’s site denounced the “static and simplistic view of human nature” that “anti-semitism — among other demons — is something that one is, rather than a malign influence that one can yield to or not, or struggle with.” Contra Sullivan, denouncing someone vigorously for words of drunkenness very much could be “hounding human beings for their personal demons.” Particularly if, as is obviously the case, Mel Gibson was raised by a raving anti-Semitic loon. Who knows what thoughts about The Perfidious Jews were pounded into Mel’s head as a boy?

I would certainly also agree largely with Dale, that “in vino veritas” as an unqualified statement, leaves much to be desired. The American Spectator essay by Clinton Taylor that he links to is very good, and places the whole fight in the context of political philosophy and the implicit anthropology that underlie any such set of ideas deserving of the term “political philosophy”:

There’s a larger question underneath this controversy: let’s assume there does exist an “inhibited” version of us, and also a chemically uninhibited version. Which one is the “real” person, and which is the artifice? … As both a Christian and a conservative, I believe all men are fallen and flawed. The institutions of civilization — Church, family, the law, civil society — help us steer away from our hearts’ jagged shoals. Each of us struggle with our own foibles, and our much more sinister demons — the impulses or attitudes we know to be wrong but cannot exorcise. But out of self-interested careerism, out of love for our families, out of religious obligation, or simply out of a fear of looking at ourselves in the mirror if we fail, we learn, most of the time, to work around the baser angels of our nature.

Then there is the alternative view of Jean-Jacques Rousseau, perhaps the ultimate progenitor of modern leftism. … Rousseau believed that man’s true character manifests itself in a state of nature — a pre-civilizational state. He wanted to get back to that authentic, primitive expression of our true selves and rejected the constraints and conventions of civilization as impediments to this goal. Hence the modern left’s emphasis on the virtue of “authenticity,” and on the need to escape from the cruel expectations of society in order to liberate our true being.

While some inhibitions are damaging or irrational, most of them are there for a reason. Our inhibitions are part of us and we ignore them — and suppress them, chemically or otherwise — at great peril. Me, I like my inhibitions. They’re part of me, and they usually keep the rest of me out of trouble.

There’s also two different things to consider specifically about drunken behavior, and they tend to pull in opposite directions. On the one hand, if one were sufficiently drunk, and ill-tempered or nasty in general, one might see that an arresting officer has a Jewish name or otherwise infer that he is Jewish, and, sensing a target, proceed to call him a kike or an effing heeb or say “you lot are the problem with the world today.” And to do so without harboring any general animus toward Jews. It’s not a matter of sobriety exactly, it’s just that you’re handed at that moment a convenient club to wield at that moment against someone whom you have relatively good reason not to like at that moment, i.e., an arresting cop. Such a person could be denounced as a contemptible asshole, but not as an anti-Semite.

But there’s a more-telling detail for me, and it pulls in the other direction: Gibson’s blood-alcohol count was .12. Now I know a thing or two about the effects of alcohol. (See Father Martin Fox for the All The Scandalous Details. And I’ve been told that I can drink my weight in Heineken without losing articulateness.) At .12 BAC, you’re legally intoxicated (which is retarded, but that’s another matter), but you’re not fit-shaced. I know, I know … alcohol affects people differently and sometimes unpredictably, as Taylor notes. But .12, which is the approximate equivalent of three beers, is not a close call. Not for an experienced drinker. It won’t turn him into a frothing incoherent maniac who doesn’t know what he’s doing or saying. And Dale stipulates that on the night he’s describing, he was “blind, stinking drunk.” A .12 BAC will lower one’s inhibitions, tact and “social self.” Relevant to driving, it’ll slow reflexes. But he’s just “buzzed.” He’s still himself — a lower and uglier self, to be sure. But not out of control or blind, stinking drunk.

Point being that only if somewhere in the darkest recesses of his mind, Gibson harbors anti-Semitic thoughts, which he struggles against when sober, would his drunkenness express itself in THIS particular way rather than invitations to fight or a torrent of obscenity. In fact, what has not been noted since the earliest news reports is that Gibson was tossing around the F-bomb as liberally as … well … some drunken Aussie. And yet Gibson can give TV interviews and red-carpet appearances without … um … “fucking” it up. Which makes the same point, by analogy, as I think needs to be made about Gibson and anti-Semitism. It’s part of the specific shape that the “uninhibited personality” and “baser angels of his nature” take in his case. But Gibson seems to recognizes that and so deserves both the prayers of all, the forgiveness of the Jews, while recognizing that sins have temporal consequences, including loss of trust, that cannot be apologized away.
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¹ I hate that word, BTW, but no very good alternative comes to me. The reason I oppose any and all racialist “diversity” efforts, including affirmative action, is that I reject the notion that a just society will have every potentially identifiable group represented “proportionately” in every institution in society. I don’t care whether Jews (or Hottentots) have “disproportionate” influence in the film (or any other industry) because I reject the notion in the first place that there is such a thing, morally speaking, as “proportionate” influence.
² David would object to my use of that noun, for reasons I well understand and sympathize with. But please indulge me for the sake of the parallellism. In fact, David’s objections that the use of “homosexual” as a noun is reductive (well-grounded in Church teaching) even reinforce the similarity between calling someone “an anti-Semite” as simply and reductively as referring to someone as “a homosexual.” Neither is an ontological category.
³ Which is certainly Rich’s reasonable privilege, lest I come across as saying otherwise. Speaking personally, my worst alcohol moment was being given a field sobriety test after having been pulled over for speeding, when I was unquestionably legally intoxicated. I kept my poise and passed it easily — I would have spent at least the night in jail (for starters) if I had not.

August 1, 2006 Posted by | Uncategorized | , | Leave a comment

Passion updates

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A bunch of news on THE PASSION OF THE CHRIST these past few days (while I struggle over my Top 10 post), not including the latest words from Abraham Foxman and Marvin Heir, on whom I will waste no more bandwidth as their latest words (especially the former’s) are inexplicable except as an unadulterated blood libel from anti-Christian bigots.

ITEM! I’m surprised I haven’t seen more about this at St. Blogs. A Texas theater chain is refusing to run a pre-film ad, timed to coincide with THE PASSION, from the state Baptist Convention. According to the church spokesman, AMC Theaters has said the 30-second ad is, among other things, “too Christian.” Um, yeah. The Pepsi ads are too capitalist too, I guess.

This is a common demand made of Christians — that our speech (in this case commercial speech) and access to public forums is conditional, second-class or somehow suspect. As a college student, I once distributed fliers at some University of Texas academic departments and student/professor boxes for a speech being given at a Christian off-campus ministry. I had to assure several of the department secretaries, whose permission I needed, that the speech would not be religious, as though that mattered.

ITEM! While the response by Heir to this interview was contemptible, I don’t think Gibson does himself any favors by engaging in the relative martyrdom game, defensible though it may be in itself.

The filial devotion aside, he has enough to do to defend THE PASSION from the (apparently absurd) anti-Semitism charges and really shouldn’t be a soldier on these historians’ wars. It raises eyebrows and is really hardly better than having to listen to the Dixie Chicks, Michael Moore, Martin Sheen, Susan Sarandon, Sean Penn, Ed Asner, Alan Alda, Gwyneth Paltrow, Danny Glover, Rosie O’Donnell … (NOTICE FROM BLOGGER: List too long and an abuse of free bandwidth. Cease forthwith.) Yes, people can debate the uniqueness of the Holocaust, and I suspect Gibson and I would have a lot to agree on about the shameful relative whitewashing of Communist genocides (not the plural).

But Mel … choose your fights.

morgenstern1.jpgITEM! Maia Morgenstern, a Romanian Jew whose father died in the Holocaust, defended Gibson and THE PASSION, in which she plays Mary. Interview is here.

ITEM! The New York Times reports that Gibson decided to delete a scene that tested poorly — the “his blood be upon us and our children” line, from Matthew 27:25. This is probably the Gospel verse that Jews consider the most anti-Semitic, and defenses of Gibson from Christians who had seen earlier cuts of the film had specified that this notorious verse was not in the movie. So he was tinkering. Again, bad move in adding, Mel. Though maybe this was the old bargaining technique of putting in something you don’t care about in order to get praise for relenting on it later. A tactic not unfamiliar here inside the Beltway.

February 4, 2004 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Once more, with passion …

In his book “Natural Right and History,” Leo Strauss, who taught many of the men who taught me political philosophy, coined the phrase “reductio ad Hitlerum” meaning that a view is not “refuted by the fact that it happens to have been shared by Hitler.” One of my pet peeves about American political discourse is the popularity of this fallacy, one result of which is the cheap and disproportionate (in several ways) use of the Third Reich and the Holocaust in the making of simple points about the much-lower stakes of American and Western politics (see also Godwin’s Law on the Internet). I’m more liable to take the invocation of the Third Reich or the Holocaust as proof that the invoker has lost his mind or has no point to make.

It has now officially happened with THE PASSION — Mel Gibson is the Hitler Youth. At the end of the article is this truly deranged quote: “This is how it began in Germany,” she said, “with the Hitler youth venom.” At the rally in question, the instigator was hardly more serious, saying that THE PASSION “really takes us back to the Dark Ages, plain and simple … Mel Gibson is turning the clock back to the Dark Ages.”

How does one respond to tripe like that? Can 1,000 years of history really be undone “plain and simple” by one movie. Does Ms. Moskowits really believe that the Americans she lives among are just itching for the right excuse to kill all the Jews? There are such people in the world, but they are generally virulently anti-American too, and they will likely not see THE PASSION (since it contradicts the Koran on the fate of Jesus).

passion4.jpgAs I’ve noted here before, based on what one can know outside the movie, I’m not persuaded by arguments made thus far that the film is anti-Semitic. But I recognize the possibility that I could be wrong, or even that I am not, but the film will be misinterpreted. It is possible, I suppose, that some yobbo will misunderstand the film and go beat up a yeshiva student as they leave the theater. But ask yourself, “what would happen after that?” Is there any doubt that said hypothetical incident will be widely reported, and the ADL et al will even take the lead in publicizing it and commenting upon it? That Mel Gibson and his distributors will denounce the perpetrator unequivocally? That police will spare no effort to track down the attacker in this high-profile case? That, in many if not most jurisdictions, the attacker would risk *extra* jail time for attacking a Jew-qua-Jew, rather than the wrist-slap or less that Jim Crow-era Southern juries gave lynchers?

Now, this course of events would be unfortunate, but hardly a Holocaust (or even a Kristallnacht, a Nuremberg law, or the routine of an American country club, circa 1920). The Holocaust didn’t just happen in a fit of absent-mindedness and desensitization from too many readings of the MERCHANT OF VENICE. It happened because Germany put into power a totalitarian government with genocidal plans which it then carried out. Get some sense of proportion, people. The United States in 2003 is not Weimar or Nazi Germany, no matter what one woman’s memories might be or how many times “Hitler” is invoked. Nor is the Dark Ages one anti-Semitic filmmaker away. Some anti-Semitism exists, of course, but it has no political or cultural cachet. And a few dementos will always exist.

August 28, 2003 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , | Leave a comment

Knives already out for Mel

Some film critics in a major metropolitan area have the leads already written on Mel Gibson’s THE PASSION, even though they haven’t seen it. They just *know* it’s anti-Semitic tripe from someone whose not *our* type of people, dearie. A member of a private film-discussion group posted about a critics’ screening which he attended and at which THE PASSION was a topic of conversation.

I cite that post here, with his permission and on the condition of anonymity. I cleaned up some spelling and took out one potentially-revealing detail. Remember this post next spring for what it says about the critical establishment’s prior attitudes toward Gibson’s film.
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Dude, your post was ringing loud in my ears this afternoon as I sat in a [city] Screening Room surrounded by so-called “Professionals” who were getting their rocks off ranting and raving about how Anti-Semitic THE PASSION is.

Never mind the fact that none of these folks had even seen so much as the fucking Trailer for MAD MAX’S JESUS CHRIST, YOU’RE BLEEDING! After all, somebody somewhere said that Riggs hates Jews so much he staked $25 million of his own cash to ruin his career by exposing his kike-loathing ways to the entire universe — and that was good enough for my (ahem) colleagues to run with for at least half-an-hour.

After all, why bother to actually WAIT TO SEE THE FUCKING MOVIE AND DECIDE FOR YOURSELF when it’s so much easier to just parrot something you read somewhere and score points with your peers. Especially when the gossip regards a filthy homophobic, sexist, meat-eating, conservative Catholic like Mel. (Oh yeah — and he smokes, too.)

August 25, 2003 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , | 1 Comment

Not-so-brave heart

Well, Mel Gibson knuckled under. At least somewhat.

Easy for me to be brave about Gibson’s movie, obviously, and for all I know these changes might be for the better. But I can’t say I’m not disappointed. This is starting to resemble (in a much lower-stakes field, it cannot be said often enough) some Union of Soviet Cinematographers self-criticism sessions for artists whose work was considered “bourgeois formalism” or whatever made Stalin’s colon clench that week.

I hope this report is accurate and the only changes Mel makes merely emphasize the Jewishness of Jesus and His disciples — in which case, not only is it theologically unobjectionable, but I’d applaud it as the greatest antidote to Christian anti-Semitism (of which, though any amount is too much, there is blessedly very little today compared to 100 years ago). Though I do wonder what “clearly labeling” Simon as a Jew would mean, since nearly everybody not in a Roman soldier’s outfit will be a Jew. In fact, I wished I’d emphasized this point more the last time I blogged about THE PASSION. In any faithful adaptation of the Gospels, almost all the characters, on both sides of the crucifixion, would be Jews. Only the deranged, looking to stroke a pre-existing prejudice (and they can’t set the standard), could see a Jew being killed, to the grief of His Jewish mother and His Jewish followers, by Romans at the behest of a different group of Jews — and come away blaming the Jews. (By the way, what about the risk of this movie stoking other prejudices? Have the Sons of Italy taken some sort of omerta … oops.)

Still I’m not optimistic. It’s just hard to read these complaints for very long and not come to the conclusion that the ADL, Wiesenthal Center et al, just believe that Christianity is simply anti-Semitic as such. And indeed the Jewish lobby groups aren’t backing off in the slightest (like in the quote from Foxman: “with creative rights come the responsibility to tell history as we see it” or something very close to that). Plus the Reuters article has this delicious bit of “please stop me before I refute myself”:

“Rabbis who have screened the film say it threatens to undo decades of progress between Christians and Jews after the Vatican refuted the deicide charges in the Second Vatican Council from 1962 to 1965.”

Say what? I suppose if Gibson got a papal imprimatur for his 32-part TV adaptation of THE PROTOCOLS OF THE ELDERS OF ZION for family Ramadan hour, there’d be a problem. But a Gospel film made by a Catholic artist in dubious communion with the Vatican and over which the church has no more control than it does over THE MATRIX movies — that can have THAT much of an effect? I hope that’s not true, but if it is true, then let’s just pack in interreligious dialogue and go home. Those “decades of progress between Christians and Jews” then would have produced nothing of value if it’s so superficial and fragile as to be threatened by THE PASSION.

And Gibson knuckling under came shortly after this piece in which a rabbi says his group has gotten more anti-Semitic letters than customary. But then goes ahead and blames … THE PASSION. Is there any oxygen in the house? For one thing, this article does not cite any of the hate mail as citing THE PASSION (and on the “dog not barking” theory, that probably means there hasn’t been any). But there’s an even more fundamental problem in blaming Gibson’s movie. For practical purposes, nobody has seen it. All that people have done is hear the discussions in the press, on discussion boards, blogs and whatnot. Therefore, by definition, unless Rabbi Heir thinks the letters are coming from the goyish putzheads Matt Drudge, David Horowitz or Michael Medved, the film THE PASSION cannot be the cause of anything. The only thing people know of it is the discussion surrounding THE PASSION. And is it not possible, Mr. Hier, that people are reacting (in a contemptible way, certainly) against your self-righteous bawling? And that maybe, just maybe, this is an example of being the cause of one’s own misery (that is possible, isn’t it?)

Anyway, even if Gibson makes no further cuts and the film plays to a firestorm of anti-Semitism charges next spring (that will happen unless the ADL gets final-cut approval — mark my words), the chill will be felt down the line. If one of the most famous stars in the world gets this much grief trying to self-finance and self-distribute a Christ movie without the approval of Jewish pressure groups, what’s a mere studio owned by a conglomerate with 30 other boycottworthy irons in the fire to do? Even if the Jewish groups lose, they win, because the cultural word is out: no more Jesus movies henceforth without the imprimatur of organized Jewry.

August 16, 2003 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , | Leave a comment

Mel ruled as not kosher

Well, one day after I advise Mel Gibson not to let the Anti-Defamation League see THE PASSION, the ADL weighs in and the secular media picks it up, both the Associated Press and Reuters. Someone should send Mel a link to my site, though I should inform him that there is a Consulting Fee For Fabulously Wealthy Film Stars.

I obviously haven’t seen the film, so maybe I should hold my fire, but I can’t say I’m impressed with the ADL’s arguments, as presented in its press release. Any reasonably faithful adaptation of the Gospels will show Jesus’s blood being sought by the Jewish authorities and the Jerusalem mob. Whatever the subtle details of what body did what at what hour, where the accounts do differ in minor ways, all four Gospels are united in proclaiming what the ADL is clearly constructing in its first, second and fifth bullets as anti-Semitism. If the argument is that any portrayal of any Jew demanding Jesus’ blood is anti-Semitic, then Christianity as such is anti-Semitic. At this point, I throw up my hands and go home, concluding that ADL wants Christians to apologize ourselves out of existence.

I can understand the historical discomfort of the ADL and reasonable Jews with the deicide charge and its link to passion plays, given what it has “justified” in the past. But the execution of Jesus of Nazareth, whatever its theological meanings, is a historical event, as much a historical event as the execution of, say, Socrates. And the peoples and certain leaders in 1st century Jerusalem and 5th century Athens played significant roles, according to the primary historical documents we have of those events. Blaming contemporary Jews for deicide is absurd and makes no more sense than blaming the execution of Socrates on contemporary Greeks. It is also, in the light of eternity, bad theology — the execution of Jesus, whatever the role certain historical personages played, was required in the economy of salvation by the sins of all men (a point Gibson has made, along with some people who have seen the film). Catholic congregations are reminded of this every year by playing the part of the crowd demanding Jesus’ death. I would definitely agree that Christians, especially Catholics, have an obligation not to repeat past crimes against God’s people. But truth is truth, and at some point, Judaism and Christianity have to part ways on who Jesus of Nazareth was, and that has moral and historical implications that I don’t think the ADL is grasping, and which explains Gibson’s stubbornness and (at least my) skepticism about the ADL’s charges.

As a strictly theological matter, why shouldn’t those Jews of 1st-century Jerusalem not taken in by this new heresy led by this Nazarene nobody (is it necessary to emphasize that Christians generally realize Jesus and all his disciples were Jews), those “Jews who adhere to their Jewish faith” in the ADL’s words, have wanted Jesus’ death? Is ADL speaking from the perspective of Judaism? Jesus was claiming to be the prophesied Messiah, the Son of God and all that. If these claims are not true, and every Jew has to believe they are not true (otherwise, he’s just become a Christian), then the mere man making them is the rankest blasphemer, surely worthy of death under the Law. In addition, God’s people turning away, rejecting Him for this or that false idol — the golden calf, the Egyptian and Babylonian deities during the exiles — is a constant theme throughout the Torah. Caiaphas bloody well should have been concerned about his people following for this latest heretic, and stamping it out as blasphemy. Speaking theologically, some amount of anti-Christianity is inherent in Judaism, and some amount of anti-Judaism is inherent in Christianity. We just have to live with that until God calls a halt to history, and calling any and every reminder of any of the bases for the latter a form of hate doesn’t change that.

August 12, 2003 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , | Leave a comment