Monday, October 20, 2003
On the other hand, I have to add that I wish Wieseltier would be more vocal in defending his friend Gregg Easterbrook.
Let's take a look at Easterbrook's supposed sin. What he said is roughly the following. Tarantino's new movie is very violent, and the violence is amoral - cool spectacle, with no moral consequence. That's just a fact. Then, he posits that this cinema violence surely has a deleterious social consequence, and encourages actual violence (and an amoral attitude towards it) in the real world. A debatable proposition, but no one is offended by that part of his claim. Finally, he notes that Jews were in the past and are again primary victims of a cult that worships violence, and that it's particularly disgusting, therefore, that Jewish executives should promote such filth for monetary gain.
What, precisely, is anti-Semitic about that last statement? If he said that Jewish executives were promoting violence because of their Jewishness, that would clearly be anti-Semitic. If he said that Jewish executives were promoting violence that afflicted non-Jews because they didn't care about outsiders, that would clearly be anti-Semitic. If he said that they cared about money above their own interests because of their Jewishness, that would be anti-Semitic.
That's not what he said. What he said was: you Jews of all people should be ashamed to make violent films like this, because you suffer and have suffered the most from movements that glorified violence.
How is that anti-Semitic?
I know, I know, there's a bit of a tone problem in his post. He singles people out for their Jewishness. He talks about these particular Jews loving money above all else. But I chalk up this tone problem entirely to Easterbrook's obvious *comfort* with Jews. He said the kind of thing in a blog that no one who already knew him and trusted him would have considered remotely anti-Semitic; they would have seen the comments as motivated by an outrage that springs from affinity and friendship, not from alienation and hatred. But they were made in a public forum, where misinterpretation is easy. Here's my bottom line: if Easterbrook had made these comments to Wieseltier over coffee, Wieseltier would never have considered them anti-Semitic; indeed, he might even have agreed with them.
So I hope he's writing to ESPN to have Easterbrook reinstated. Easterbrook's apology was entirely on-point: he intended to make a valid point that was in no way anti-Semitic, but he used language that was sufficiently loaded and ambiguous that he could see how someone could misinterpret him. That should be enough for all of us.