Monday, October 20, 2003

Easterbrook

An old story by now, but the spasms caused by Gregg Easterbrook's blog on the responsibility of Jewish Hollywood executives for movie violence are still reverberating. If you haven't read it, do so here. It caused quite a stir and many of the bloggers I favor were on it quickly (Totten, Simon, Geras, Yourish....).

It initially put me into quite a tizzy as well, and I jumped into the fray early with this post to Michael Totten's comment site:
"I think Norm Geras put it correctly..."Shouldn't recent European history, to say nothing of much other history, cause everybody to have these second thoughts?" Why is a group singled out to be sensitive, as if a wrong is made more wrong by who committed it. Would it be any better to say that since the Holocaust was committed by non-jews (Catholics and Protestants), then all Christians should be more sensitive to promoting Hollywood violence. I mean some committed it so they all should be sensitive to anything that promotes violence. That is ridiculous. As human beings and what has transpired throughout the past century, we all should be sensitive. Bottom line, fucking leave the Jews alone...why are they being singled out? What does it matter what their background is? If Eisner and Weinstein were not jewish, would it be more understandable to Easterbrook that they distributed the movie? Someone in the comments section said that history dictates that jews should be more sensitive. All jews? Everyone of them? So two people distrbute a movie and their religion becomes an issue. For all we know, they weren't even raised jewish. Irrelevant... as jews, they should be castigated. Had they not been jewish, no big deal. Or at least their religion would not have been an issue or a point to discuss.

What anti-semtisim is about is just that. Beyond all the stereotypes (money-loving, yada yada yada) and other crap, it is the treatment of jews as something different for no other reason than that they are jewish. They are apart from all others and deserve (or should I say "history mandates"; why not start with Judas for that matter) unique inspection. They can't do things without their jewishness becoming a weighing factor in the analysis.

Sorry, but religion and collective history can't be binding or relevant to only one party.
That caused a response from Tom Perry that left me bewildered (I don't think I can link to it, so you will have to go to it if you care; it wasn't his best stuff to say the least.... he was all over this issue and said some outrageous things, but is a bit better and arguably thoughtful now at his site (isntapundit)). Having said all that, I have softened a bit ... at least as it relates to Easterbrook. In part that is due to the defense offered by Andrew Sullivan (he has been terrific on the issue of anti-semitism) and Wieseltier, as well as the conversations Easterbrook had with Simon and Yourish. But what really did it for me today was Taranto. I think he nailed it:
"Well, allow us to explain. Easterbrook's essay was an expression not of anti-Semitism but of a lesser, though still insidious, form of prejudice. Call it liberal condescension. This sentence from his apology reveals all: "How, I wondered, could anyone Jewish--members of a group who suffered the worst act of violence in all history, and who suffer today, in Israel, intolerable violence--seek profit from a movie that glamorizes violence as cool fun?"

"Members of a group": This is the language of liberal identity politics. And note that this is a philo-Semitic prejudice, not an anti-Semitic one. Easterbrook's premise is that the suffering of the Jewish people ennobles Jewish individuals--or should--even if those individuals have not themselves suffered. Thus he presumes to hold Jews to a higher moral standard by virtue of their Jewishness--though in fact all he's doing is asking them to agree with his highly debatable opinion (does it really make any sense to liken stylized Hollywood violence to the Holocaust?).

Ideologically, Easterbrook's earnest criticism of Jewish studio executives is of a piece with Maureen Dowd's racist rant against Clarence Thomas. Because Thomas is black, Dowd, like other liberals, expects him to conform to liberal orthodoxy and thus treats his conservatism as a far greater offense than that of, say, Antonin Scalia. This kind of prejudice may not lead to pogroms and lynchings, but it's divisive and often ugly all the same.
I don't think Easterbrook is anti-semitic. I have read him for years and always found him interesting. But I do think he is prejudiced...in the way many of the Left think about groups....it is usually a device used to bolster up disenfranchised group of peoples, which I understand, but it has unfortunate ramifications. It is not an explicitly rascist or prejudiced way of looking at society, but structurally, it can't help but be. The subservience of individual recognition in favor of group affiliation is a form of prejudice. And I think it is that orientation that Easterbrook suffered from. Anyway. perhaps I will expound on this sometime, but I thought Best of the Web was again the best today.

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