In a clever career move, Mel Gibson's Jewish-conspiracy spew during his drunk-driving arrest may solidify his standing with millions of potential moviegoers: the vast ignorant underbelly of America. Our country is dumb and it's getting dumber, and its ears are open to any number of half-baked thoughts, from anti-Semitic beliefs to "War on Terror" talking points.
Certainly, he will find kindred spirits among those who blame Jews for things going back a long way. A March, 2004 Pew Research Center national survey found that 26% of Americans believe that Jews were responsible for Christ's death, up from the 19% who felt that way when surveyed in 1997 by ABC News. Of those who attended Gibson's "The Passion Of The Christ," 36% felt that Jews were responsible for Christ's death (I guess the Romans took a few days off). I would wager that most of those 36% would not take issue with what Gibson muttered in the back of the squad car, although they might be upset about his DUI.
The "Jews killed Christ" belief is often shared by those who think evolution is a myth (a 2005 Harris poll found that 54% of U.S. adults do not think human beings developed from earlier species, up from 46 percent in 1994). And there is a correlation with how many Americans also think that AIDS is God's punishment for gays (thank you, Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell), that Saddam Hussein was personally involved in the 9/11 attacks, the holocaust never happened, that 4,000 Israelis had advance warnings of the attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon, and that dinosaurs walked with man.
Oh yeah, and Jews are out to create one world religion and one world government, with the connivance of the U.S. Federal Reserve and the Vatican (thank you, Hutton Gibson). Who's been covering these things up? Jewish bankers, atheist academics, the liberal-media establishment and "America haters" are all in on it, I tell you. Meanwhile, keep an eye out for those black U.N. helicopters coming to round you up!
Half of the U.S. would mock such beliefs, but the other half is a hell of a big audience for Gibson's next blockbuster that doesn't involve Mayan culture.
When Mel said that "Jews are responsible for all the wars in the world," it could have been the booze talking. The more you drink, the less you think (Winston Churchill and George W. Bush notwithstanding). It could have been too many boozy chats with dad Hutton. It probably was the grasping of simple answers in a complex world. Conspiracies, stereotypes and urban legends require less mental effort and are fun to share over drinks with your buddies. And blaming the Jews for nearly everything is an ancient tradition all over the world (though I have to admit I've never heard them blamed for all wars before).
Gibson is not alone in his stupidity, especially in the United States, where he has lived much of his life. Anti-Semitism is a sad undercurrent of the profound ignorance that is undermining our country. Our educational system is in decline and many Americans now get their history and current events instruction from talk radio, fundamentalist pulpits, blowhard TV commentators, irresponsible politicians and/or Jay Leno. That's not good.
The answer is education, education, education. And the separation of science and religion in the classroom, and church and state in politics.
As for Mel, I believe that he probably has a good heart, and should be allowed to make amends.
But think of that fan base!