Notes from Underground


"The Passion" and the furor

Jews behaving badly


Actor, director, and former "Sexiest Man in the World" Mel Gibson recently gave an interview to Diane Sawyer on ABC to defend his upcoming movie, "The Passion of the Christ," which has been accused of fomenting anti-Semitism, essentially because it portrays the scourging and crucifixion of Christ as depicted in the Christian Gospels, which undeniably means that the audience is exposed to some striking examples of Jews behaving badly.

Of course, there are good Jews in the Christian account as well, including but not limited to Jesus Himself. Still, as Gibson pointed out in the interview, those who are against his movie really have a problem with the four Gospels, and, thus, with Christianity itself. After all, to be a Christian means to believe that Jesus is the Son of God, and to believe that Jesus is the Son of God means that you think the Jews, who reject the notion of Jesus as the Son of God, are (gasp) wrong. Ergo, to be a Christian is to be "anti-Semitic," or at least anti-Judaic, since if you take your religion seriously, you hold it to be the truth and those who disagree with it (in this case, Jews) to be in error. And that, of course, shows — let's all say it together — "bigotry," "intolerance," and, worst of all, "HATE."

Yet some of Gibson's critics are more subtle with their allegations — as an example, there's Abe Foxman, president of the Anti-Defamation League. Perhaps sensing that the all-out assault method might have backfired, creating resentment from devout Christians who can smell an overt double standard (when was the last time a director came under such fire for portraying Christians negatively in a movie?), Foxman has taken a more clever tack. No, he says, of course Gibson is no anti-Semite, and by no means is his movie anti-Semitic in content. But, Foxman adds, "The Passion" could spark anti-Semitic violence from those who might wrongly interpret its subject matter and themes.

Well, it's a nice try on Foxman's part, but the problem of double standards still applies. Gibson, who was less combative in the Sawyer interview than on earlier occasions, still found a memorable way to make that point, although in an effort to keep his rhetoric civil, he made sure not to belabor it. In answer to the charge that "The Passion" could cause people to hate Jews in spite of Gibson's best intentions, Gibson offhandedly replied that watching "Schindler's List" hadn't inspired people to hate Germans.

Of course, it cannot be said that "Schindler's List" did much to cause people to like Germans. Nor can it be said that "Mississippi Burning" made anyone like Southern whites, or that any of the movies directed by Spike Lee or John Singleton have caused anyone to like whites in general. But, strangely, at no point during the making of any of those movies did any "concerned" group abscond with an early version of the script and then issue news releases expressing their fears that some might interpret the content of such films as advocating anti-German, anti-Southern, or anti-white mayhem. If any group had done any such thing, we all know that they would be crossly dismissed by the "respectable" media as would-be censors with a probable racist and Nazi agenda.

After all, as we have been well-trained to believe, groups such as Germans and Southerners and (more broadly) whites, especially those of Christian heritage, have no right to complain about being treated unfairly. People such as those ought to just shut up and take their medicine, whatever medicine the powers-that-be may prescribe. For Reginald Denney, the white truck driver beaten by a black mob in the aftermath of the Rodney King trial in 1991, the medicine was particularly strong, consisting of repeated blows to the face with a brick. For people of German descent living in post World War II Yugoslavia, it was genocidal ethnic cleansing at the hands of the Communist Tito regime, which could not have gone down well. For thousands of German women and girls near the end of that same war, the medicine, stiff indeed, involved getting gang-raped by soldiers of Stalin's advancing Red Army. For thousands of Russian Christians with the misfortune to live in the 20th century after 1917, the medicine was martyrdom at the hands of a repressive Soviet regime that at the same time — mark well! — stigmatized anti-Semitism as an unforgivable, "counter-revolutionary" transgression.

For most of us, to be sure, the medicine is not quite so bitter. It consists more in such commonplace but still aggravating occurrences as being turned down for a job or for admission to a university because of the (white) color of our skin. Or being hit with a "hate speech" charge for expressing an opinion that violates the sensitivity of a particular, protected (that is, nonwhite) group. Or being relentlessly mocked as "lily-white" or "white-bread," in other words as having no true soul, spirit, or culture because we are white.

Gibson is the latest in a long line of public figures who have caught flak for the crime of Thinking Wrongly. John Rocker was perhaps the last such high-profile case, and the popular backlash against his persecution took the form of standing ovations from hometown fans and a proliferation of "John Rocker for President" T-shirts. Similarly, the backlash against those who are attacking "The Passion" is likely to trigger a hugely successful run for the movie.

Such are the unintentional side-effects of the medicine our masters make us swallow. I guess they'll have to work on all that. One of these days, maybe they'll perfect the formula, and everyone will finally fall into step. May the God who died on the cross for our redemption keep us from that day!

February 23, 2004

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