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October 19, 2003 8:02 PM   Subscribe

Several people here are fans of Gregg Easterbrook's excellent column Tuesday Morning Quarterback, available (until this week) at ESPN.com. Unfortunately, in his side gig as a writer for the New Republic, in a blog entry savaging the movie Kill Bill, Easterbrook made comments that came across as perpetuating ugly stereotypes about Jewish people. He immediately claimed 100% responsibility for the ugliness, and apologized completely and without reservation. Within a week, he was fired by ESPN, all his archived columns (nearly two years worth) removed, and the search engine rigged such that searches for his name, the name of his former column, or the nickname for his column all return only the front page of ESPN, as though the search itself had never taken place. Many are beginning to suspect, however, that this isn't a case of political correctness, as much as corporate punishment, as ESPN is owned by Disney, which produced Kill Bill.
posted by jonson (80 comments total)

 
I just can't stop laughing at the idea of a TNR editor (apparently, all TNR writers are editors) being accused of anti-semitism -- which is about as likely as a member of the bush cabinet being exposed as a Maoist.
posted by kickingtheground at 8:07 PM on October 19, 2003


The apology isn't bad, but the sentiments and the taste in film stink. No form of human expression - much less movies - can exist without violence. Has Easterbrook ever seen Snow White? I've never read his football column but it's strange for someone who likes football to decry violence.

Besides, Tarantino is a genius.
posted by MiguelCardoso at 8:13 PM on October 19, 2003


Easterbrook complains about "promoting the adulation of violence".

Haven't seen Kill Bill yet, so I don't know whether it does or not. It seems a reasonable thing to be concerned about, if it does. Few stories retain their interest when shorn of violence, but promotion and adulation of violence is a more refined concern.

I don't know why Jews should be more concerned though. He does know what God told us to do to the Amalekites, doesn't he? Turning the other cheek is a Christian invention...

"Recent European history alone ought to cause Jewish executives to experience second thoughts about glorifying the killing of the helpless as a fun lifestyle choice." This is just muddle-headedness. Never mind confusing Jewish ethnicity with whatever moral imperatives Jewish religion might provide, he still draws a long bow. Why not ask whether the sufferings of Italians from organised crime should cause Tarantino himself second thoughts?

His whole piece reads like a deliberate attempt to be provocative and contrary that just got a little out of hand. Easterbrook was casting about for one more thing to be critical of and overreached himself.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 8:44 PM on October 19, 2003


When I was grocery shopping recently, I noticed that Kobe Bryant's picture had disappeared from all the Nutella jars.
posted by boaz at 8:52 PM on October 19, 2003


Wait, let me get this straight: He didn't like Kill Bill?
posted by botono9 at 8:57 PM on October 19, 2003


Kill Bill was middling. Very little sparkle. That the few inspired moments stood out so much was an indication of how flat the rest was.

And, yeah, it was padded.

School of Rock, on the other hand, overcame its scary-slow start to reach a triumphant ending. All hail Jack Black's eyebrows!

The Jew comments? Pointless.
posted by NortonDC at 8:57 PM on October 19, 2003


"Within a week, he was fired by ESPN, all his archived columns (nearly two years worth) removed, and the search engine rigged such that searches for his name, the name of his former column, or the nickname for his column all return only the front page of ESPN, as though the search itself had never taken place."

Someone criticized an ethnic minority in public and faced severe personal and professional consequences for it?! My how absolutely surprising and unexpected. This never happens.
posted by dgaicun at 9:02 PM on October 19, 2003


Not every search at ESPN pretends TMQ didn't exist there:

Tuesday Morning Quarterback

At least valid at the time of this post. All the links are there, and the summaries, but the pages at the URLs bring up ESPN.com's 404 page. Also note that one of them is out of order - before Easterbrook was fired, the one in question was called out on Atrios' weblog, and was subsequently removed, then reposted. Perhaps it was edited before they decided to chuck Easterbrook altogether.

His pre-ESPN columns from the 2001 season are still available at Slate, too. And if it's worth noting, this season he had used some bits both in TMQ and in his TNR Weblog, even though Disney and TNR presumably were not paying him for work published by the other. (This presumes payment for blogging, of course.)
posted by mdeatherage at 9:11 PM on October 19, 2003


Well, that bites. He was my favorite Page 2 columnist and I looked forward to his columns every Tuesday. I hope they appear somewhere else soon.

And for the record, I am Jewish.
posted by SisterHavana at 9:26 PM on October 19, 2003


I skimmed his posting that called all the brouhaha. I agreed completely with his comments about Hollywood and violence ... but when he brought Jews into it, I went whaaaaa?


Many are beginning to suspect, however, that this isn't a case of political correctness, as much as corporate punishment, as ESPN is owned by Disney, which produced Kill Bill.

What was the moral of that Harlan Ellison piece about his one-day career with Disney? "Don't f*** with the mouse"?
posted by pmurray63 at 9:43 PM on October 19, 2003


His take on KILL BILL is wrong, and I can forgive him that. His writing is overwrought, and I can forgive him that. He pillories Michael Eisner, in name, in print and manages to leave the impression that either Eisner's evil because he's Jewish, or, Eisner has failed the entire Jewish race by not preventing KILL BILL from making it into the local multiplex, but regardless, Jewish is linked with evil. And Easterbrook expected... what? Sorry, that's not in my power to forgive and as is well known, Eisner never forgives... Eloquent apology, but in a situation where an apology is required, Eisner's reputation should have lead us all to the conclusion that Easterbrook's firing was already in the can.
posted by JollyWanker at 10:04 PM on October 19, 2003


It's a badly worded paragraph to say the least, but I accept Easterbrook's apology and think that his explanation does makes sense. The problem with blogging, or any kind of instant publication at that, is at least 90% of writing becomes better with a day's reflection and a professional detachment.
posted by PrinceValium at 10:37 PM on October 19, 2003


I hear there's another job opening up soon, provided he's willing to relocate.
posted by boaz at 11:23 PM on October 19, 2003


blah, blah, Kill Bill violent, blah, Hollywood liberals, blah blah, inspiring terrorism, blah, blah, Jews should know better (!?!), blah, don't like/understand Tarrantino.

And now we have Republican-types bleating about a big company allegedly using its big company influence? Now my head hurts...

My better half & I saw Kill Bill on Sat eve. & even tho' she hates gore in films my g/f was transfixed the whole way thru. We're with Miggy on QT's genius.

This guy needs to grow a sense of humour...outrage like his is just tedious but far too common these days.
posted by i_cola at 12:40 AM on October 20, 2003


I'm a big fan of on-screen violence, and I've generally enjoyed Tarantino's work in the past, but Kill Bill (Part 1, eesh) was complete wank. There was one nice visual touch in the anime sequence, and the girl from Battle Royale was pretty good, but the rest was worth missing. (more analysis deleted because nobody cares.)

Also, I see how it could be misinterpreted, but I read the original column as "profiting from violence is bad, and the Jews should know better, because they've been victims of violence on a massive scale recently." Eh. Seems like a bit of an overreaction, to me.
posted by majcher at 12:55 AM on October 20, 2003


How interesting, this corporate attempt at history revision. It's semi scary when history is erased, much like Bush and the different removals from the governmental web sites.

Oh, well, I guess I will welcome our new overlords and willingly submit.

Under the spreading chestnut tree...
posted by damnitkage at 4:45 AM on October 20, 2003


Besides, Tarantino is a genius.

That's debatable, as is my opinion that although I've liked some of his previous stuff, somewhat, Kill Bill is a flatulent, self-indulgent, embarrassing piece of shit.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 6:01 AM on October 20, 2003


severe personal and professional consequences

the corporate revision of history and the rigging of a computer to lie? just exactly WHO are the consequences falling on here?
posted by quonsar at 6:16 AM on October 20, 2003


throw in the immediate diversion of discussion to the merits of a piece of entertainment, and there's your explanation of the success of the bush cabal.
posted by quonsar at 6:17 AM on October 20, 2003


All hail Jack Black's eyebrows!

I still find it hard to believe that anyone would willingly go see a Jack Black movie, much less pay for it.
posted by rushmc at 6:19 AM on October 20, 2003


throw in the immediate diversion of discussion to the merits of a piece of entertainment, and there's your explanation of the success of the bush cabal.

Good point. Still, a chance to shit on Tarantino must be taken, when it appears.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 6:23 AM on October 20, 2003


To call Tarantino a genius is a stretch, in my opinion. I liked Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction, because they were clever and appealed to my base appreciation of violence in funny and nicely recycled ways. But I can't for the life of me understand why some think he is a genius. Really.

As far as the article. I had the same reaction as somebody in an earlier post, the criticism of Kill Bill was interesting, but when I got to the Jewish part I felt like I had just banged my head against a wall because it came out of nowhere. The Jewish presence in the media, as well as that of other homogenous groups, is a topic worthy of discussion, but the connection he makes between violence, movie executives and the Jewish religion strikes me as bizarre nonsense.

But erasing all of Easterbrook's writing, in essence, erasing him, wether you agree with his firing or not, is just creepy. What's the point? Is it to protect us from other possibly racist remarks coded into his football columns of the last two years? Or is is just to a way to impress upon us the complete control over certain aspects of reality that a few powerful (and apparently spiteful) people have?
posted by sic at 6:29 AM on October 20, 2003


Maybe he can go back to Slate.
posted by smackfu at 6:52 AM on October 20, 2003


You'd think the fact that he was one of the founders of Beliefnet.com --- a website devoted to exploring issues of religion and spirituality from a decidedly pluralistic perspective --- would allow ESPN to give him the benefit of the doubt with regard to his remarks (which, while insensetively worded, are clearly not anti-Semetic).

I will definitely miss TMQ.
posted by boltman at 8:15 AM on October 20, 2003


But Tarantino is a hack. A huge right on to all of Easterbrook's Tarantino criticisms, but a big WTF? for that odd comment about Jews.

Too bad, the TMQ weekly is brilliant stuff.
posted by xmutex at 8:26 AM on October 20, 2003


Disney touted as "mouseschwitz". Paints an ugly picture.
posted by harja at 9:09 AM on October 20, 2003


A hack brought down by other hacks for reviewing the work of an uber-hack.

If Easterbrook's right and his "20-minute" editing process couldn't discern HUGE problems with his "the Jews are greedy money-worshipping people who should know better than to push this violence", maybe he needs to step away from the Internet connection. Oh, and seek therapy.
posted by solistrato at 10:54 AM on October 20, 2003


I am utterly shocked at all these people who are defending Easterbrook. Especially the ones who are doing so since they "like his Page 2 column." Well, you know what? I like Hitler's landscape paintings, but that doesn't mean I go out of my way to be an apologist for his anti-semitism! And see, the sad part is, I didn't just envoke Godwin's Law--Easterbrook did that himSELF!

Disney had every right to fire him. And since they did, they have every right to delete his archives, so they don't waste any more bandwidth promoting the thoughts of a man who obviously has serious problems with bigotry.

Let me get this straight. Easterbrook looks at Miramax and Disney, and instead of seeing one of America's top film studios, he sees one of America's top Jewish film studios. He sees Eisner and the Wiensteins, and that makes the company Jewish. Furthermore, he implies that Jews have a responsibility innate in our genetics--not religion, obviously, since all Easterbrook is working off is last names, he doesn't know if Eisner is a praciticing Jew. And what is the responsibility, innate in Jewish genes? To keep violence out of civilization.

I guess that girl Kobe Bryant raped has a responsibility to keep women from being objectified?

Does ANY victim incur any responsibility for what happened to them, outside of the twisted minds of fucks like Greg Easterbrook?

Of course, there's a difference between blaming the victim, and blaming the victim's whole bloodline. One's just wrong, the other's racist.

I'm not even going to touch the way he links Jewish approval of media violence, and cash. You people defending Gregg are sick.
posted by jbrjake at 11:30 AM on October 20, 2003


Woah, jbrjake, isn't that just a little strong?
posted by kickingtheground at 11:52 AM on October 20, 2003


seriously, jbrjake. did you read the apology?

i'd be curious to see if anyone found anything anti-Semitic in the apology/explanation. i found nothing offensive in any of these pieces, just a guy talking (rather awkwardly through that Jewish part, but ...)

"hopefully clumsy"? yes. offensive? not as i see it. (i don't agree with his anti-Tarentino, anti-violence rant, either. RD was a great film, as was JB (in its own special way). i haven't seen Kill Bill yet (i'm not hopeful, however))

i didn't think Easterbrook's comments were any more offensive that this lame Alternet article, which offended my intelligence more than i expected it to.

also, i don't think any "victims" (aren't we all victims of something, as small as it may be?) "incur responsibility for what happened to them," but i don't think it's offensive to think that they should be involved in (or silently support) efforts to prevent other victims of enduring the same abuse.

if Kobe Bryant's alleged victim took $1 million from Hustler to re-enact a rape scene with a professional black athlete, i think she would catch plenty of heat.

and oh yeah, i like his Page 2 column a lot. i'm very sorry to see it (and all prior evidence of it!) go. and i will write ESPN a letter.
posted by mrgrimm at 12:11 PM on October 20, 2003


also, i do think he was fired b/c he criticized Disney, i.e. not just criticizing one movie, but rather the company's prioritization of money over "morals."

yech. bad argument, bad response from Disney. life goes on (but without TMQ!)
posted by mrgrimm at 12:14 PM on October 20, 2003


jbrjake: slow down a mintue and consider the situation before you start calling people sick, because trying to blow this up into an anti-semitic scandal (did you really compare Easterbrook to Hitler?) does a disservice to the cause of fighting real anti-semitism.

As to Eisner's reaction of firing the writer, from ESPN not Disney, if he did in fact have a hand in that, it is pretty lame, but deleting his archives "so they don't waste any more bandwidth promoting the thoughts of a man..." is just over the top and reminiscent of Stalin era terror politics. In fact, it reminds me of a Milan Kundera book, I can't remember which, maybe The Book of Laughter and Forgetting, where he talks about how a former party member is erased from an official picture after he falls out of favor. Where the party member once stood proudly alongside Breshnev only a levitating hat is left behind. You need to ask yourself what the archive of his football column has to do with anything and what eradicating history to avoid listening to it will gain you and what it will lose you.
posted by sic at 12:28 PM on October 20, 2003


To sum up:posted by boaz at 12:41 PM on October 20, 2003


Yes, I read Easterbrook's apology. It's lame. Blogging is no different from any other kind of writing. Idiots don't get a special pass for their comments if they're in a medium without editors. Would anyone believe this apology if the comment was made on live TV, and not the Web? Really. Would his excuse--that he had no editors and didn't doublecheck the material before posting--make any sense if he was on live TV? No. Then there's no reason it should be acceptable for a comment made online. At least online, you have the OPTION to check what you say before sharing it, unlike real life. Easterbrook turned down that option. He thinks the medium mitigates the message AND IT DOESN'T.

The other part of his argument--that he condemned Chistians for violence just days earlier, also doesn't fly. The earlier comment was about Mel Gibson's new Jesus flick. Easterbrook's comment then was a hope that the "transformational power" of Jesus Christ will have redeemed Gibson's soul and made his new film a spiritual movie and not a gore-fest. I am not exaggerating in the least. So why, in his apology, does he say he both were "exactly" the same context? This is far different from saying "Christians have a responsibility to make non-violent movies because of the martyrs who died in the Roman arenas." And that is the only comparable situation. Easterbrook questioned how strong Gibson's faith was--for Miramax, he asked why the things that had happened to the managers' ancestors didn't keep them from watching what they themselves produce.

MrGrimm--you say there's nothing wrong with victims helping the causes that prevent what happened to them happening to others, and I totally agree. But that's not what Easterbrook said, and it's intellectually dishonest to portray his comments that way. "Does that make it right for Jewish executives to worship money above all else, by promoting for profit the adulation of violence? Recent European history alone ought to cause Jewish executives to experience second thoughts about glorifying the killing of the helpless as a fun lifestyle choice." He brings in morality: "does that make it right." And he says that these Jews should "experience second thoughts"--or regret--because of the Holocaust. The implication is that what these Jews are doing is going to cause more genocide, no? So what these Jews are doing is not "right" and they "ought to" "experience second thoughts" because of the "recent European history" of the Holocaust. Easterbrook wants a world where Jews think twice before doing anything because they better consider the Holocaust first. Write a book? A play? A film? A song? Well, you better think about how that reflects the Holocaust, first. And why does Easterbrook think these Jews aren't considering the Holocaust first? Because they're too busy worshipping Mammon. Those damn Jews.

There is NO EXCUSE for saying something like that. None at all. And his apology--wherein he says he stands by everything he said but not the way he said it. And, he adds, hell, maybe those Jews didn't even know what their underlings were doing. To me, Easterbrook is saying that he still stands by the idea that Jews have a special responsibility and extra things they have to do and think about because they were victims of an atrocity. Inexcusable.


On preview: First. Wow. I reread what I said. That was SO TOUGH. No wonder an important person like Easterbrook couldn't be bothered to do the same. /sarcasm.

Everything boaz said.

And I'm getting really pissed at people comparing private companies firing employees for stupid comments to Stalinism. First Rush, now Gregg. Listen, people. Corporations aren't the State. Not yet.
posted by jbrjake at 1:12 PM on October 20, 2003


I'm sick of people making Easterbrook out to be some sort of martyr. He didn't "make comments that came across as perpetuating ugly stereotypes about Jewish people" -- he went right out and said Jews are Evil and Will Do Anything for a Buck, Not Even Caring About Their Own Recent History! (and, oh, some Christians do too, but somehow they're not at all representative)
posted by dagnyscott at 1:47 PM on October 20, 2003


Easterbrook may not be a Bad Man, but that was certainly Bad Journalism.
posted by Sidhedevil at 1:57 PM on October 20, 2003


And I'm getting really pissed at people comparing private companies firing employees for stupid comments to Stalinism.

What was compared to Eastern Bloc communist politics is the need not just to fire Easterbrook, but the desire, which you share, to eradicate him totally from history by blocking all access to his previous work on a totally unrelated subject. There is a difference and it's an important one. If we can put aside the histrionics (I shouldn't have mentioned Stalin's name, although the historical analogy is far more valid than comparing Easterbrook's comments to Hitler's Holocaust) perhaps we can at least be honest about what we are saying here.
posted by sic at 2:01 PM on October 20, 2003


dagny, I don't think he's a martyr. He cocked-up and deserves a good slapping. He is not, however, Julius Streicher, either.

Can you tell me where he said Jews are evil? Isn't "Jews ought to know better" an equally valid, and rather less offensive reading?

Personally, I think we could be a bit thicker-skinned and save the heavy artillery for bona-fide Jew haters.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 2:04 PM on October 20, 2003


TNR has now apologized.

I understand TNR needs to cover its ass on this, but they are obfuscating when saying the controversy is just over the phrase 'Jewish executives [who] worship money above all else." His comment went beyond that. But if anyone cares what I think, I've already added enough scrolling-time to the thread.

TNR doesn't really need to defend itself. I don't think there's anyone who blames TNR, is there? I don't agree with them not punishing him in any way--it seems like it would be reasonable to force him to get editorial approval before anything of his is published--but I don't find TNR culpable. As for their claim that Easterbrook is tolerant and open-minded--maybe he is. But tolerant and open-minded people can still say anti-semitic things and do all the time. Tolerance just means you don't actively try to hurt or eradicate others. Open-mindedness just means you're willing to consider other people's point of view. They also say Easterbrook is a man of "integrity" and "character." Again, none of those qualities were called into question...

On preview: Sic, uh...I never said Easterbrook's words should be erased from history. Just that it's not in the interest of the company that fired him for what he was saying and for attacking the Boss to continue to invest money in publishing his work. I fail to see how this is putting Easterbrook's work in The Memory Hole. And even if someone tried, that's why we have TheMemoryHole.org. And Google cache. And the wayback machine. As for accusing me of "histrionics"....Easterbrook's the one who brought the Holocaust in, not me. I was just reaching for an analogy that had some connection to the issue at hand. Thus, no violation of Godwin's law. If you can't bring in Hitler in a discussion about anti-semitic comments concerning how Jews need to "think twice" because of the Holocaust, when can you?
posted by jbrjake at 2:08 PM on October 20, 2003


I found this article from Nov. 2001 googling for background:

A November 5 comment in the Wall Street Journal by Gregg Easterbrook, senior editor of the New Republic, supports the witch-hunting of academics critical of US foreign policy. The piece, titled “Free speech doesn’t come without a cost,” cites the case of Robert Jensen, a professor at the University of Texas, who has faced attacks by the press and the campus administration for his antiwar views. Easterbrook advances a twisted concept of freedom of speech to try to make the case that calls for the firing of Jensen and other left-wing academics are just and legitimate expressions of free speech.

In a brief supporting the blacklisting of such anti-war academics, Easterbrook writes, “When the Bill of Rights was enacted the First Amendment was construed mainly to shield speakers from imprisonment for antigovernment views. That expression could have other costs—denunciation, ostracism, loss of employment—was assumed.”


--link
posted by cell divide at 2:32 PM on October 20, 2003


And since they did, they have every right to delete his archives, so they don't waste any more bandwidth promoting the thoughts of a man who obviously has serious problems with bigotry.

I think you can understand why the above comment, embedded in a post that mentions Hitler, a rape case and calls people defending a point of view "sick" can be called histrionic.

Although as you point out it is impossible to erase Easterbrook from History, thanks to the amorphous nature of the internet, Eisner (again, if he really had a hand in it), by reaching over from Disney to ESPN to have him fired and then, presumably, making sure that they erased all traces of his work on a totally unrelated subject, goes beyond mere spite and brushes up against the realm of the sick and twisted. I mean isn't having him fired enough to satisfy his vengence?

Ignoring the "mouseschwitz" context described by former Disney employees is a mistake. Eisner sounds like a fucked up but unfortunately very powerful individual.
posted by sic at 2:37 PM on October 20, 2003


Listen, people. Corporations aren't the State.

However, their negotiations to buy it are proceeding nicely.
posted by rushmc at 2:50 PM on October 20, 2003


Ignoring the "mouseschwitz" context described by former Disney employees is a mistake.

Right, because it's not like that statement could be viewed as a historically inaccurate, over-the-top allusion to the holocaust.
posted by boaz at 2:59 PM on October 20, 2003


sic, I'm not being histrionic. Are you Jewish, or any minority? When someone says that because of your ancestry, you have to "think twice" before doing anything and that you can never escape the shadow of what some people did to your ancestors, it is incendiary.

Eisner did not have to "reach over from Disney to ESPN." ESPN is a Disney property. Eisner, as Easterbrook's employer, was neither "sick" nor "twisted" in his decision to no longer support Gregg or his work. This is not "spite." If you go to the National Review's website, Ann Coulter is not listed on their author list, despite the fact that at one point she had a column there. Since she said something stupid and lost her job, they no longer have a requirement to display her work. The same holds for Easterbrook. Why is this so difficult for you to understand, sic? And caling Eisner "fucked up." Jesus. He's "fucked up" because he doesn't like having a website he runs saying he's a money-worshipping Jew?

On preview: what boaz said is much clearer and concise.
posted by jbrjake at 3:07 PM on October 20, 2003


Right, because it's not like that statement could be viewed as a historically inaccurate, over-the-top allusion to the holocaust.

It could, if you wanted to ignore the over the top ("creative sadism" was another expression used) situation the ex-employees of Disney were talking about.
posted by sic at 3:08 PM on October 20, 2003


"What was compared to Eastern Bloc communist politics is the need not just to fire Easterbrook, but the desire ... to eradicate him totally from history...."

The Commentator Vanishes.
posted by nickmark at 3:14 PM on October 20, 2003


Why is this so difficult for you to understand, sic?

It's not difficult to understand, I just don't agree with you.

Although ESPN is a Disney property I imagine that it has its own management and only in special instances would the CEO of Disney make decisions that the CEO of ESPN could make. You know, like petty vengance firings. Anyway, what does my ancestry have to do with my point? And your orignal two posts were histrionic and you did violate Godwin's law, repeatedly denying it doesn't change that fact.

Anyway I'm tired of this conversation, it's pointless, so you win.
posted by sic at 3:20 PM on October 20, 2003


nickmark: That's a great book.

jbrjake: I can see where you're coming from, but I'm not sure I can agree that the idea of Jews having some special obligations to prevent another holocaust is offensive.

Many commentators have suggested (sorry, no links) that, as the victims of the greatest crime in history, Jews have an even greater moral obligation to prevent its repitions. I'm not sure I agree with them, but I certainly don't see such a belief as offensive.
posted by kickingtheground at 3:22 PM on October 20, 2003


I see sic, a bad job is just like a death camp; How silly of me not to realize that. *cough*histrionics*cough*
posted by boaz at 3:22 PM on October 20, 2003


Internet culture review:
Godwin's Law comes into play the second Nazis are brought into the debate. That was when Gregg Easterbrook warned Jews to remember "European history." Not when I named Hitler in reaction to those comments.

Petty vengeance firings are like, when someone gets fired for stealing the boss' parking space. Not when one of your employees condemns you and your Mammon-worshipping for putting out one of the best movies of 2003 because revenge killings of fictional gangsters are somehow the same as the actual killings of innocent Jews.

sic, maybe I could get some satisfaction out of you having better things to do and giving up the debate if it wasn't for the fact that everything you said is being parotted by every journalist in Easterbrook's social circle, like Nick Confessore at TAPped. Right down to the bogus analogy to Stalinism.
posted by jbrjake at 3:34 PM on October 20, 2003


I see sic, a bad job is just like a death camp; How silly of me not to realize that.

A sad day for black humour.
posted by inpHilltr8r at 6:31 PM on October 20, 2003


jbrjake: I think there is medication available for whatever is clearly and seriously afflicting you.
posted by xmutex at 8:52 PM on October 20, 2003


I'm not much of a reader of Mickey Kaus, but I stumbled across his column tonight and I think its likely that he hits the nail on the head with regard to this controversy:

My hunch about what happened is this: Easterbrook hated the violence in Kill Bill. He's frustrated that all the appeals to Hollywood to stop this sort of thing haven't worked . . . .

Trying to come up with some new weapon for his side, Easterbrook has the religion writer's idea--did I mention he also wrote a book about God?--of trying to shame studio executives Michael Eisner and Harvey Weinstein for betraying their faiths, the way he'd tried to shame Mel Gibson a week earlier. . . . But Weinstein and Eisner are Jewish--and you can't just assume that they are especially religious Jews, the way Gibson is openly religious. Nor, perhaps, does Easterbrook have at his fingertips the particular Jewish teachings he might want to charge the two executives with flouting. . . . He toys with arguing that they have some special obligation to avoid living up to the anti-Semitic 'money-obsessed' stereotype, but doesn't actually make this argument because he realizes it's offensive. . . . He winds up arguing that Jews ought to be especially reluctant to "[glorify] the killing of the helpless" because of the killings during the Holocaust ("recent European history")--and he doesn't realize that this too is offensive, for reasons thoroughly ventilated in the comments section of Simon's blog . . .

Easterbrook's mistake, then, was more than just "poor wording" and less than bigotry. Eugene Volokh comes up with the right category, I think, when he says "Easterbrook's espousal of this theory did not suggest any real hatred, hostility, or bigotry, only moral error."

What was he thinking when he made this moral error? I suspect he was thinking, "Hey, here's a neat argument. This will work."

posted by boltman at 10:45 PM on October 20, 2003


Thank you for finding that, boltman. That is pretty much along the lines of what I was thinking, but put far better.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 12:30 AM on October 21, 2003


This whole affair is just more of the same bullshit. Everything Easterbrook said was perfectly defensible.

God, what is it with the way minorities must be handled in America? The whole atmosphere of the issue is poisoned with taboo and oversensitivity. It's total Orwell.

I just hope I'm not held accountable for writing this. As an atheist I am a rare and precious minority specimen, and cannot be scrutinized under strict penalty of law.
posted by dgaicun at 2:59 AM on October 21, 2003


Let's imagine for a second that Eisner and Weinstein were instead, oh, I don't know, 80 year old or so, German immigrants happily producing this kind of pornographic sadism for cultural consumption. You think maybe then their ethnic identities would be fair game for comment?

It's not even a question.
posted by dgaicun at 3:08 AM on October 21, 2003


Ok, this is fun. Everybody journey with me now up Analogy River to the Land of Hypothetical. Let's pretend, since we're already so desensitized to it, that the ultra-violence and sadism of box-office fare is replaced by a new genre of film, let's call them "rape flix". The basic plot line of these newly mass-marketed and highly popular films is guys running around cities tackling underage women and raping them in an explicit and (highly polished) Hollywood manner. The rapes are made to seem highly glamorized.

Pretty sick huh? Now let's pretend in this hypothetical universe, there's like a bizarro-Easterbrook ranting about how distasteful and socially harmful he finds this genre and more specifically about a newly released popular film belonging in this genre (and directed by a guy named Anton Barbarino). Now let's pretend (get ready for the analogy) the company that financed and released this movie was owned by a woman. Would it be "off-limits" for our bizzaro-Easterbrook to draw this potential irony into his moral lecture?

What if the film was about (the "good" guys of course) raping slaves, and the owner and financier was black? Would it be out of bounds to use his ethnicity to point out a possible conflict of interest?

Back to the real world now. Easterbrook is not an anti-Semite. All indications are his ecumenical record looks pretty solid. Easterbrook committed no socially or professionally unforgivable crime by pointing out a possible contradiction between the ethnicity of two specific men and the entertainment they finance (just as women should seemingly have a stake in promoting a social climate in which men respect the women's ownership of her body, Jew's would seemingly have a stake in promoting a cultural climate that abhors the glorification of violence. I'm sure most Jews would probably agree. Perhaps [Easterbrook may have thought] Eisner would too, if he thought about it from that POV).
posted by dgaicun at 4:16 AM on October 21, 2003


dgaicun, why use someone's ethnicity (or religion or race or gender) to make a point, any point? what's the need?

It seems that according to your reasoning, Black people shouldn't become cops because they have a history of being mistreated by cops.
posted by amberglow at 5:26 AM on October 21, 2003


Also, why should us Jews have to act according to how other people think we should because they're seeing us thru a prism of the Holocaust? Am I supposed to judge Irish people through the actions of the IRA or the Potato Famine? Native Americans through our government and military's resettlement and reservations?

This paring of an entire group of people down to events in their history can't possibly be a good idea, ever.
posted by amberglow at 5:33 AM on October 21, 2003


why should us Jews have to act according to how other people think we should because they're seeing us thru a prism of the Holocaust?

I think what some here are suggesting is less that it's a valid criticism than that it's one undeserving of calumny and knee-jerk hoots of "racism." There is, or should be, a clear difference between this kind of comment and this kind. Surely it is possible to question someone's logic without attacking their character, their motives, and their livelihod? If not, then any criticism of Israel, for example, would be impossible due to those who will immediately attribute it to anti-Semitism.

In any case, is it better to immediately silence true bigots, thus forcing bigotry underground and leaving it to fester unaddressed, or to engage them in open forum, allowing them to self-identify themselves to the public and conceivably even to benefit from the ensuing dialogue?
posted by rushmc at 6:27 AM on October 21, 2003


amberglow,

"why use someone's ethnicity (or religion or race or gender) to make a point,"

To demonstrate a point using a historical analogy that relates to and resonates with that (religious, gender, ethnic) identity.

Maybe I would be more convinced by such a question if I didn't know that religious/gender/ethnic groups do this as a matter of course.

If Easterbrook were Jewish and said the same thing would we be having this conversation?
posted by dgaicun at 6:38 AM on October 21, 2003


Easterbrook's comments are hardly defensible . Think about these studios for a second: Miramax is a "studio independent" with a history of making cerebral, artsy (but commercially accessible) flicks; Disney is a studio with a 75+ year history of making animated movies suitable for the whole family. The fact is, these studios act far better than most on exactly the issue he's complaining about. But that's not good enough for Easterbrook; the existence of a single offensive (to him) movie in their stable of hundreds is enough to tar them as "Jewish executives [who] worship money above all else, by promoting for profit the adulation of violence"* That's not anti-semitic, but it's still slanderous. And anyone who thinks that you have some god-given right to slander your boss and keep your job doesn't need to consider bizarro-worlds; they're already living in one.

*Of course, once called on the propriety of mentioning their Judaism, he quickly realized the value of putting single works in context, pointing out that he wrote only "three sentences" wrong out of a "publishing career that runs to several million words." So I guess he did benefit from the ensuing dialogue ;)
posted by boaz at 7:58 AM on October 21, 2003


If Easterbrook were Jewish and said the same thing would we be having this conversation?
A Jewish person wouldn't have said the same thing, i don't think--nor would they have used what was done in WW2 by the Nazis as any kind of valid basis for criticizing violent movies, or the people who make/greenlight them, unless it was a movie about that era.

Some Jewish people do use a Holocaust analogy to criticize Israel's treatment of the Palestinians, but using what a government did to criticize what a government does is far more apropos than what this guy did.
posted by amberglow at 8:36 AM on October 21, 2003


boaz,

You're just picking at nits. If what Easterbrook said is "not anti-Semitic" then case closed. That is the mantel piece of this controversy, and all the peripheral issues (Is movie violence a problem? Does miramax distribute socially irresponsible films? Should a man get fired from a job for criticizing his boss? Did Kill Bill really suck that bad?) . . .are pure garnish. Absolutely trivial.

When I said everything Easterbrook said was "defensible", that does not mean that I agree with any, or even most, of what he said that day (in fact the art I produce is probably less socially responsible than Tarantino's . . .yet far less influential). What I mean is that the opinions that he expressed in that blog entry were fit for polite society, and are in the normal range of, what I consider, sane, well-intentioned, good conscience beliefs. Is Tarantino bad for American society? I would say 'no'. At the same time I concede that such a belief is politically, ethically and intellectually defensible. I also feel the same about all that other stuff he said.
posted by dgaicun at 8:42 AM on October 21, 2003


Some Jewish people do use a Holocaust analogy to criticize Israel's treatment of the Palestinians, but using what a government did to criticize what a government does is far more apropos than what this guy did.


Amberglow, don't feed me this absolute hogwash. The Holocaust is invoked, by jews and gentiles alike, for a far broader range of issues than "treatment of Palestinians". In fact "Godwin's Rule" has become the ultimate Internet cliche. If anything Easterbrook's comments were so banal as to be invisible (Oh my God, someone invoked the Holocaust to make an opportunistic political point! *Gasp*), certainly not worthy of any embarrassing controversy, much less all this.

My original point stands, your quibbling fails to prove anything.
posted by dgaicun at 8:56 AM on October 21, 2003


Surely it is possible to question someone's logic without attacking their character, their motives, and their livelihood?
Rush, isn't that just what Easterbrook was doing to Eisner? And no one is silencing his bigotry--he got fired.

boaz has it exactly right in my book--except it really is anti-semitic. If it would have ever possibly occurred to this guy to talk of Muslim executives or Catholic executives worshipping money, then i'll take it back, but it obviously didn't.

on preview: godwin's rule and/or calling people nazis is in no way the same as what this guy did. Even when Rush Limbaugh used "feminazis" all the time it wasn't the same as what this guy did.
posted by amberglow at 9:03 AM on October 21, 2003


Rush, isn't that just what Easterbrook was doing to Eisner?

Perhaps, but that doesn't mean that turnabout is fair play. I'd rather see people engage the misguided, confronting their assumptions with facts and reason, than to shut them down in a pointless moral outrage. The reason so many unfounded biases, confused understandings, and preposterous superstitions persist in society is because they are not sufficiently exposed to light and air.
posted by rushmc at 9:22 AM on October 21, 2003


Go back and read the original post dgaicun; the mantel piece of the controversy is that the guy said something stupid that "came across as perpetuating ugly stereotypes about Jewish people" and got fired for it. Now if I said something slanderous about the president of my company in which his ethnicity figured prominently, I wouldn't consider it a scandal if I got kicked to the curb. So perhaps, dgaicun, you can start by explaining precisely why you think what happened here is somehow controversial. It all seems perfectly logical to me, just like Kobe disappearing from those Nutella jars.
posted by boaz at 9:26 AM on October 21, 2003


To those who find it acceptable (primarily jbrjake) that Eisner had a columnist in a media outlet fired for criticizing his product, ask yourself, what does that mean in a world where media power is consolidated to a degree it never before has been. Between Eisner, Murdoch, Redstone & Time/Warner, that's an awful lot of sports commentators, movie & art critics, news writers and editorialists across radio, television, newspaper & online whose firing you are condoning should they ever write anything critical of their boss. You (jbrjake) imply that love of Easterbrook's column is a vapid reason to defend him (it is), but then you later profess Kill Bill to be "one of the best movies of 2003". This argument isn't about whether Kill Bill is good, whether violence in film in general is morally indefensible or whether Tuesday Morning Quarterback is a good column. This argument is about supression of free speech. Before you leap out and claim that no one has an obligation to publish another's work, and therefore it's not truly free speech, let me clarify: by making it known to writers in your employ that anything they do or say in ANY public outlet that their employer finds fault with (say, criticizing him, his work, etc) will lead to their termination, is likely dramatically going to curtail the writers free speech, not only in the avenues where they are being published, but on their own blogs, through other outlets, etc.
posted by jonson at 11:34 AM on October 21, 2003


You're just picking at nits. If what Easterbrook said is "not anti-Semitic" then case closed. That is the mantel piece of this controversy, and all the peripheral issues . . . are pure garnish.

dgaicun has this exactly right. Many of the posts here and some of the blogging elsewhere suggests to me that many of Easterbrook's most vociferous critics are more pissed off by his underlying argument (that gratuitous violence in film is socially irresponsible) than by the appearance of anti-Semetic bias. I guess accusing him of bigotry is a far more convenient way to discredit his argument than to actually take on its merits.

He made a mistake. Yes, it was offensive. But he's clearly not a bigot and he shouldn't have been fired for it, especially after he apologized (something Limbaugh never did, I might add).
posted by boltman at 11:40 AM on October 21, 2003


but jonson, those workplaces have editors who oversee and determine what gets published, infringing on the free speech of the writers too. Should they all be eliminated? If you work in corporate media, your speech is always filtered and altered, for a variety of reasons, not least of which is not biting the hand that feeds. Those same workplaces have codes of conduct, i'm sure, stating that expressions or actions of hatred or discrimination that may create a hostile workplace are forbidden as well.
posted by amberglow at 11:48 AM on October 21, 2003


here's the ADL's take.
posted by amberglow at 11:51 AM on October 21, 2003


Easterbrook himself shouldn't have a problem with his firing, based on the column I linked excerpts of above. Or does he think that only people who write anti-war materials should be subjected to that kind of treatment?
posted by cell divide at 12:50 PM on October 21, 2003


I also have to say that the New Republic firing someone for making insensitive comments based on religion/race is pretty rich, considering they publish Daniel Pipes and any number of others whose published attitudes towards Arabs and Muslims is at least as bad as Easterbrook's single comment, if not worse.
posted by cell divide at 12:53 PM on October 21, 2003


Umm, cell divide, the New Republic didn't fire him. ESPN did.
posted by kickingtheground at 1:36 PM on October 21, 2003


Oh yeah. Oops. Never mind then.
posted by cell divide at 2:01 PM on October 21, 2003


I can't imagine how anyone could read Easterbrook's comments as anything but anti-Semitic. Really, the Holocaust thing is an afterthought, he's saying Eisner et al are OK with making violent movies because they're not Christian, insinuates that other religions don't consider avarice a sin, and then gets on to the claim that they should be obligated to prevent violent movies because of their racial histories, which is not only a dubious social point, but also contains the fallacy that assumes violent movies cause violence. There are a lot of dubious arguments in this review, which was clearly a review of a movie that Easterbrook hadn't really seen, or he'd know that it wasn't about killing anyone innocent or killing for fun -- it was all about revenge. Anyone who'd seen the film WOULD NOT MISS THAT. That in and of itself is deceiving the American public. Also, I'd like to see any substantiation that Scream was the favorite movie of the Columbine killers. The whole article was frankly shit.
posted by dagnyscott at 7:08 PM on October 21, 2003


Also, I'd like to see any substantiation that Scream was the favorite movie of the Columbine killers.

I remember hearing at the time that their favorite movie was Natural Born Killers, but, then, I don't have any substantiation for that either. Also, that movie was produced by Warner Bros., so that's probably not it.
posted by boaz at 7:49 PM on October 21, 2003


Actually, turns out they were just mad for the Sound of Music.* Funny old world, ain't it?

_______________
*I just made that up.
posted by rushmc at 8:49 PM on October 21, 2003


jewsweek has an interesting analysis of the response to the comments by Easterbrook.
posted by amberglow at 10:16 AM on October 24, 2003


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