So is Mel Gibson's drunken anti-Semitic spew really headline news -- or is it just another celebrity DUI? Another high-profile addition to The Smoking Gun's mug shot gallery (Nick and Glen, meet your new buddy Mel)? Monologue fodder for Leno, Letterman, Conan, and Kimmel? Nothing but a tempest in a tequila bottle?
Maybe that would be the case if these were ordinary times. But, with extremists gaining power and garnering sympathy all across the world, there is nothing ordinary about these times.
And that is why this could prove to be a seminal moment in our cultural history. Particularly in the cultural history of Hollywood.
Taking a page from our president, I see the Gibson story as "a moment of opportunity," a chance for reasonable people to stand up and be counted. For the sane among us to identify, separate, and condemn the extremists, the fanatics, the fundamentalists, the bigots, the hate-mongers and say 'no more.'
In the same way that ordinary Muslims need to separate themselves from the blood-drenched ideology of Hezbollah, Hollywood needs to separate itself from the odious racism of Gibson. And I don't make that connection lightly. Remember, during his DUI tirade, Gibson claimed, "The Jews are responsible for all the wars in the world." That kind of thinking makes him psychological soul mates with Hezbollah leader Sheik Hassan Nasrallah, who has said, "If we searched the entire world for a person more cowardly, despicable, weak, and feeble in psyche, mind, ideology, and religion, we would not find anyone like the Jew."
Gibson's no-longer-deniable brand of bigotry has led to the extermination of millions -- and continues to fuel much of the strife and suffering in the world today. Which is why Hollywood cannot sit this one out and wait for the reviews to come in.
For years, social conservatives have questioned the morals and ethics of the entertainment community -- tossing around the shibboleth of "Hollywood values" as an oxymoronic grenade in the culture wars. Well, now is the time for Hollywood to show what those values really are by making Gibson pay the price for his bigotry and intolerance.
For starters, the town's power players need to step up and publicly condemn Gibson's vile comments (in effect, saying in public what they are already saying in private conversations I and many others have had). I mean, it shouldn't be so hard to publicly denounce someone -- even an Oscar-winner -- for being a raging anti-Semite.
But that's not happening. From this morning's Los Angeles Times:
Although many of the town's senior executives are Jewish and Hollywood has a long history of supporting Israel and Jewish causes, there was no widespread public condemnation of Gibson's comments over the weekend. Although some high-level executives privately expressed dismay at the statements attributed to Gibson after his arrest, none of those contacted would speak on the record.
Talk about lacking the courage of their convictions. Which makes Ari Emanuel's no-holds-barred post all the more praise-worthy. But is Ari the only high-profile figure willing to publicly draw a line in the Malibu sand? How disgusting and disappointing is that?
I know this is, at its heart, a very cautious town -- a place that always likes to keep one eye on the bottom line -- but this is no time to play it safe or to put dollars ahead of doing the unquestionably right thing.
Which is why Gibson's agent, Ed Limato, should immediately drop him as a client. And not because his boss at ICM, Jeff Berg, is Jewish, nor because so many of his clients, including Billy Crystal, are Jewish. This isn't a matter of Jews sticking together or non-Jews showing solidarity. It's about choosing sides in the real battle being fought all across the globe -- the fight between extremism and rationality, between hatred and common decency.
And Bob Iger at Disney needs to pull the plug on two Gibson projects that are in the works. The company is slated to distribute Gibson's latest directorial project, Apocalypto, opening on December 8. They should refuse to do so. And ABC, which is owned by Disney, should, without delay, scrap its head-scratching plan to develop a miniseries about the Holocaust with Gibson's company (yep, you read that right).
Yet when asked about the status of the still-in-development miniseries, an ABC spokeswoman said, "It is not at the point where you would make those determinations. There is no script."
Question for ABC: Do you really need to see a script to know that the idea of having a Holocaust-set miniseries produced by a guy who thinks "the Jews are responsible for all the wars in the world" is a god-awful one?
Reading the horror stories of the survivors of the Qana bombing, any rational person's instinct is to criticize the tactics Israel is using to take on Hezbollah. Then a thought arises: will this criticism come across as part and parcel of the anti-Semitic worldview of the Gibson crowd?
Which is yet another reason Gibson needs to be ostracized: his lunatic ravings make it all-the-harder for legitimate criticisms of Israel's methods to be expressed and to be heard with uncluttered ears.