Let’s see: In the last 72 hours, we’ve seen a tiny amount of news coverage for the Malaysian politician who said "Jews run the world" (nothing about this in the LA Times for example), and the pillorying of a general for expressing his religious views in church. What is making news instead is a tempest about Gregg Easterbrook.
Easterbrook is genuine, independent-minded writer and thinker. I once embarrassed him slightly by comparing him favorably to George Orwell; like Orwell, his political orientation leans slightly to the left, but his clarity and hard-headedness incline many of his judgments to the right. His 1995 book, A Moment on the Earth, is in my mind the most sensible book ever written about the environment. For this good deed he was relentlessly attacked by the politicized wing of the environmental movement.
On his New Republic weblog (see here), he attacked the violent content of the new Tarantino movie, Kill Bill, and went on to criticize movie studio executives for putting money-making above moral considerations. He then went on to reflect that that Jewish movie producers behind Kill Bill ought to know better, as they belong to the ethnic group that has suffered such extraordinary violence in recent history.
Trouble is, that’s not how it came out as he originally worded it. It sounded like he was recycling the old stereotype of Jewish money-mongering. For this Gregg has profusely apologized and said that what he wrote was "simply wrong."
This is not the end of the story. It seems no apology can be direct or profuse enough. There is a campaign under way to ruin Gregg, get him fired from his gig as a football analyst on ESPN’s website, and undermine his forthcoming book, The Progress Paradox, which I know will be a terrific book. (I saw him preview some of it last spring, and it is good stuff.) Undoubtedly his enemies and critics will use this recent episode as a means of discrediting his book, and his other work. (He has, for example, defended the Bush administration’s environmental record in Time and the LA Times.)
One small thing we call can do as a show of support is go on to amazon.com and pre-order Gregg’s book here.
It looks as if ESPN has canned him. I really hate ESPN for a whole host of reasons. I used to get cable and thus ESPN was part of the package. In 2002, Cox Cable significantly upped the monthly rate for cable and we decided to do without cable. One of the reasons was that ESPN was costing Cox a lot more money. I also started to realize how terrible ESPN is for all sports. Sportscenter is the MTV of sports with smarmy anchors and flashy split-second editing. It is absolutely dreadful and dimishes sports. The only bright spots on ESPN are Joe Morgan and the other guy who does the Game of the Week (John Miller?).
As someone who has been utterly indifferent to both Easterbrook and TNR (so theres no "axe to grind" here - a favorite palliative of the caught-with-their-pants-down set) its just staggering to see the number of people suggesting there was nothing wrong or overtly anti-semitic in the now-infamous post.
I would suggest to all concerned that they take a nice, long visit back through some history books and acquaint themselves with the forms that anti-semitism has taken over the years. Easterbrook hits every button square, and its made even more insidious by this series of defenses - "Im not anti-semitic at all just because these guys HAPPEN to be Jews and HAPPEN to be trying to profit." Just calling a spade a spade, eh?
Is Easterbrook an anti-semite in the extreme eliminationist sense? Certainly not. But have we so reduced the dialogue that thats the only form of anti-semitism we recognize? He played - unthinkingly, and reflexively (motivated out of anger, it sounded from the tenor of his post, which makes it even worse and more telling) - into age old stereotypes. Lashing out, finding comfort in poisonous stereotypes, well that counts for anti-semitism in my book.
Frankly, I think TNR is the outlet that should dump him, given thats where the offending words were found. But Eisner - if he is in fact the "dark controlling force" behind his firing (another favorite canard of those who feel the Jews Rule The World) - has every right to fire an employ who, in effect, called him Jewboy.
Pay close attention to history, people, before you get all worked up about another privileged white guy whos lost a plum gig. Im not crying for Eisner OR Easterbrook - but rather for all you who think theres nothing here to get worked up about.
"Then they came for me--and by that time no one was left to speak up. "
- Martin Niemoller
I think Mark is completely and totally wrong.
Easterbrooks comments were wrong, but it wasnt ANTI-semitism that was on display, but a weird sort of PHILO-semitism. The idea being that Eisner et. al. should be MORE senstive to these sorts of celebrations of violence because of their place in culture (for the record, I think Easterbrook is being silly about the effect of movies like Kill Bill).
If people like Eisner are in fact chasing nothing but dollars, then they deserve to get called on it. Being Jewish should not be a get out of jail free card for that sort of thing, which is what Markl implies.
And while were playing victim cards here, I lost relatives in the Holocaust too, so Im not indifferent to real anti-semitism.
Im not sure how you can say a sentence like:
"Does that make it right for Jewish executives to worship money above all else" --
-- smacks of anything less than rank anti-Semitism.
Sorry, this one passes the "if it looks like/smells like/tastes like" test.
I bet Prime Minister Mahathir will chuckle knowingly when he hears how Mr. Eisners minions broke the Easterbrook butterfly upon a wheel.
Have you never made a comment which inadvertenly insulted someone?
Easterbrooks line about profit-worshiping Jews is as bad as you say. I have read few, if any, who defend the statement itself, including Easterbrook, who has admitted that it repeats an old anti-Semitic libel and has openly appologized and denied any such intention.
There are very bad people out there, both in violent genocidal sense, as well as those who conciously, repeatedly, and unappolgeticly use anti-Semitic canards. Easterbrook is not one of them. He works for the New Republic, the formost pro-Zionist publication on the American left. When his Jewish, Zionist collegues who have known him for years and have read not one but thousands of his sentences, attest that he is a decent, non-racist, non-anti-Semitic person, how can you be so presumptuous to doubt them?
Point out his mistake, condemn it with strong language, let it be a lesson for others.
But lets also let the punishment fit the crime.
nothing about this in the LA Times for example
On October 17, the LA Times condemned Mahathir Mohamad in an editorial, and on October 18 -- the same day you said there was nothing about this -- they ran an AP story about Mahathir standing by his statement.
During that same 72 hours, they ran one story on Easterbrook.
Im confused. What are you accusing the Times of ignoring?
Here is a letter I wrote to Mr. Easterbrook in the aftermath of his Tuesday Morning Quarterback firing. The emphasis was more on defending free speech than on calling Easterbrook on the carpet for allegedly anti-semitic comments. To wit:
Dear Mr. Easterbrook,
I was dismayed to hear of the repercussions you suffered as a result of your Eisner/Weinstein comments. Flak over Bill Maher, Michael Savage, Rush Limbaugh et al affected me similarly. The notion that free speech needs to be consistently reined in to satisfy political correctness, making us all considerate human beings by social force rather than personal choice, is anathema to me.
I fantasize about gathering together all those who have suffered at the
hands of PC for the purpose of allowing them a totally unfettered forum--a
place where the freedom to be raw or racist if one so chooses is not
restricted in any way or allowed any corporate interference. (This is not
to say I am accusing you of racism--only that there would be reasonable
leeway built in for a faux pas that is obviously now considered a fireable
offense.) My motivation in such an endeavor would not be to promote
regression in social policy but to counterbalance the ridiculous excesses
of the insidious PC movement. PC has done America lots of harm, especially
to the traditional and fiercely patriotic concept of free speech, in the
dubious guise of enlightenment. True enlightenment would be for Americans
to hold varied and even heinous opinions, to be able to express them
freely, and to have them absorbed or rejected on an individual basis but treated always with tolerance. THAT is enlightenment.
In a nutshell, the problem lies in treating words as actions. There
should be a clear and resounding dichotomy between the two with actions seen as, well, actionable, and words, written or spoken, seen as protected always.
In spite of precedent to the contrary, I do not subscribe to the idea that
even yelling "Fire" in a crowded theatre is in any way actionable in the
legal arena (although I would give my blessing to any theatre manager to
remove such an individual for disturbing a show). Anyone within earshot of such a warning who starts running for the exits and climbing over people without first discerning with his or her own senses the validity of the claim and the direction of the imminent threat deserves to be trampled by like-minded individuals anyway--thats just natural selection at work.
And if theres any lesson to be learned from the tragedy at the infamous Great
White inferno, its that even if there is a legitimate fire and youre
trying to save lives, the best way to go about it is to keep your trap
shut and remove yourself first. Start a stampede and youre likely to be a
victim yourself, able to help no one. Get out of the way quietly and
theres more room for the next guy.
Unfortunately, I see you as a proponent of PC rather than freedom on the
basis of your article. The idea that Quentin Tarantinos and all other
Hollywood violence needs to be restricted because it makes our youth
homicidal and makes other countries see us as godless is post-Columbine
claptrap. Ill use myself to illustrate.
When I was an impressionable teenager of thirteen, Dirty Harry and The
French Connection were my favorite movies. I was indifferent to the
violence in them and just saw them as a visceral experience that I enjoyed
at the time--so much so that I saw each of them at least a dozen times
during first and second runs.
A few years later, during what should have been a routine re-viewing, the
violence in Dirty Harry got to me. I found I was appalled by it and I
found myself confused and depressed by the realization that sadists such as the
Scorpio character actually existed. I didnt want to be reminded of that
I found. Where Dirty Harry once seemed to be an exciting action pic with a
message that was pertinent at the time (still is in fact), the excess of
violence appeared to me then to be wholly gratuitous, especially the scene
where Scorpio pays a couple hundred bucks to get himself beat up so he can
pin the brutality rap on Harry. My little mind had a pretty hard time getting wrapped around that motivation I recall.
I continued to catch Dirty Harry on TV or video from time to time after that,
mostly because I thought the difference between my first and later impressions needed careful analysis. I wound up coming full circle to the point where I found myself sufficiently insulated emotionally from on-screen violence.
I was then able to engage the willing suspension of disbelief and the
underlying core realization that "Its only a movie." I still dislike
gratuitous sex and violence when I perceive a ratings grab, but if it
constitutes an essential part of a story or is given a highly stylized
treatment (as in Tarantinos case) Im no longer put off by it.
My points are:
1. At no time did I ever consider duplicating on-screen violence in real
2. At no time did I ever become desensitized to violence by virtue of
many viewings of same. I witnessed one teenage girl savagely beat and kick
another at the gaming arcade in the local mall a couple of years ago and
the experience was horrific. It affected me deeply without seeing so much as a drop of blood. I found my grip on real vs. imagined or portrayed violence remains intact.
3. The movies have actually helped me come to some firm conclusions about
who I am and what I think by putting my emotional reactions under my own
introspective microscope. As such, violent movies have been beneficial
and made me a stronger person.
When I was a kid, the psychobabble at the time was that violence in
children was directly attributable to the Three Stooges. Surely the decades since have borne out that this was a patently false idea, one perpetuated by
social scientists interested more in their own reputations or book sales
than in really getting to the core of the problem. Studies and polls that
get bandied about willy-nilly as gospel are so easily manipulated by the
intent of sponsors that I give them little credence as a matter of course.
Kids (and adults for that matter), are always smarter than we like to give
them credit for--they do not need to be protected from themselves ad nauseum.
Drilling in a little common sense and riding with it is always far preferable.
In taking Tarantino to task for excessive violence, you miss his appeal
entirely. For one thing, I have always preferred his hip and often
realistic dialogue to the violence--Tarantino has a good ear for the way
people really speak. For another, Tarantinos last film before Kill
Bill--Vol 1, Jackie Brown, was a well-constructed character study and
heist film. As such, it is the exception to the rule you cited about all of Tarantinos films being excuses for violence unto themselves. Yet another point is that action films are hard to do well, and Tarantino has
demonstrated an admirable finesse for cinematic rhythms and unique, visually
attractive points of view punctuated by the outrageous. Lastly, he has
never pretended to be more than he is--a long time aficionado of violent
martial-arts, low-budget, and blaxploitation flicks to which he
intentionally pays homage.
Naturally, I am not disputing your right to dissent from singing
Tarantinos praises or to make your opinion widely known. Rather, I am availing myself of my own right to address your comments, and I respectfully differ from them. If you are making a plea to the hearts of Americans to reconsider what they watch with an eye toward good taste, thats one thing. But if your agenda is to lobby the film industry to produce only milquetoast fare to keep from offending you and others, that is quite another and I then see you, Sir, as an enemy of free speech and the right of this adult American to decide for himself whether to view violent films or not.
I say once again that I do lament the loss of your TMQ gig because you
exercised free speech, and I support you in taking the bastards who
skinned you to task.
Brian K. Mitchell
Santa Fe, NM