I suppose I am relieved to hear that people are dropping Mel Gibson right and left. His vile rant would be enough to bury any career. Not only did he abuse another human being, but the admixture of rank sexism was enough for any canny watcher of the media to know that this was a cooked goose.
Still, why is it that anti-Semitism alone was not enough to sink his career? Why was it not the end when he told the New Yorker that the Jews controlled Hollywood? Or when he made a movie with enough anti-Semitic stereotypes to satisfy Der Sturmer? Or when he asked the arresting cop on PCH if he was Jewish? Or, or or.
Is anti-Semitism the lesser crime? There are two ways to spin this: first, perhaps those in Hollywood who are Jews felt abashed to ban him forever because of anti-Semitism (with honorable exceptions.) It smacked of special pleading. Or maybe it just didn't rise to the societal level of noxiousness that sexism does. I fear both are true. And both are despicable.
At this late date in politically correct America, we all know that charges of racism, sexism, anti-Semitism, homophobia and on and on can be used as weapons, and can be deployed illegitimately. We also know that at times they are real, even frighteningly real. That Gibson's aggressive, unhidden anti-Semitism was not enough to end his career -- not here and assuredly not in Europe -- says an awful lot about our unwillingness to see the continuing danger of hatred of Jews.
Twice I was approached by representatives of Gibson to meet with him, as did a number of Rabbis and other Jewish leaders. Twice I insisted that I would be happy to, if and only if he first read the piece I wrote about The Passion of the Christ on Huffington Post. I believed him to be a hater and did not want to go into the meeting with false pretenses. Both times I never heard back.
Like most bigots, Gibson wishes not to be challenged, but to be fawned over. Contravene his will and you hear what happens: it is all over the tape.
The evidence was clear to anyone with eyes. The question remains: Why is it that to rage against a woman is enough to end a career, but to rage against an entire people, a people with a long and also recent history of being persecuted, is not?
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