Frank Richs Persecution Complex - August 6, 2003

Times Watch for August 6, 2003

Frank Richs Persecution Complex

In his Sunday op-ed, Mel Gibsons Martyrdom Complex, Times associate editor Frank Rich hypocritically attacks the actor-directors upcoming movie The Passion, a document of the last 12 hours of the life of Christ. Richs story opens: The Jews didn't kill Christ, my stepfather was fond of saying. They just worried him to death. Nonetheless, there was palpable relief in my Jewish household when the Vatican officially absolved us of the crime in 1965. At the very least, that meant we could go back to fighting among ourselves. These days American Jews don't have to fret too much about the charge of deicide-or didn't, until Mel Gibson started directing a privately financed movie called The Passion, about Jesus' final 12 hours. Why worry now? The star himself has invited us to. Asked by Bill O'Reilly in January if his movie might upset any Jewish people, Mr. Gibson responded: It may. It's not meant to. I think it's meant to just tell the truth.Anybody who transgresses has to look at their own part or look at their own culpability. But Rich here is engaged in a bit of Maureen Dowdism - the dishonest deletion of quoted material for political gain. Heres the full exchange between host OReilly and Gibson: OReilly: Is it going to upset any Jewish people? Gibson: It may. It's not meant to. I think it's meant to just tell the truth. I want to be as truthful as possible. But you know, when you look at the reasons behind why Christ came, why he was crucified, he died for all mankind. He suffered for all mankind. So that really, anybody who transgresses has to look at their own part, or look at their own culpability. The full quote makes it clear Gibson is talking about the transgressions of all mankind, not just Jews. Supporting that interpretation is a March 7 Wall Street Journal piece on the making of the movie, where Gibson turns moral judgment upon himself: Looking at Christ's crucifixion, I look first at my own culpability in that. Rich hasnt seen the movie (or even read the script); what he knows is based on critical comments by a group of Jewish and Roman Catholic scholars with access to an early version of the script. He writes: Perhaps The Passion bears little resemblance to that script. Either way, however, damage has been done: Jews have already been libeled by Mr. Gibson's politicized rollout of his film. Before that, Rich claims the movies real tinder-box effect could be abroad, where anti-Semitism has metastasized since 9/11, and where Mr. Gibson is arguably more of an icon (as his production company is named) than he is at home. Its good that Rich has a healthy concern about anti-Semitism abroad, but has Rich ever before worried a movie would encourage violence? In the past, hes ridiculed the idea, as he did June 19, 1999: For even if Washington would or could clean up Hollywood without violating the First Amendment, there's scant evidence to suggest that doing so would prevent a single Columbine.In the sensible formulation of Jonathan Kellerman, a best-selling novelist and clinical child psychologist, Movies and videogames don't turn good kids bad, and bad kids are dangerous long before they watch their first gorefest..In fact school violence and juvenile arrests, as well as murder rates, have declined as movies have become bloodier. And his unrelenting criticism of what he thinks will be a flop movie seems hypocritical, considering what he wrote in 1995 about conservative criticism of another controversial movie: the pro-gay, anti-Catholic Church release Priest. On April 20, 1995, in Doles Moral Stand, Rich lamented how ugly it was when politicians (in this case, Republican presidential candidate Bob Dole) criticized movies they hadnt seen: It's when politicians enter the fray, exploiting a movie they haven't seen to impress voters with their own moral authority, that the Priest controversy turns ugly..In an interview, Harvey Weinstein, co-chairman of Miramax, the Disney subsidiary that is distributing Priestwas angry that Mr. Dole would be so intellectually dishonest as to demonize a movie he hadn't seen. (But Rich hasnt seen The Passion either.) Criticizing Doles reaction to Priest, Rich fumed: Its so much easier to blast a little English movie that only a limited audience of art-house patrons will see. Yet Rich is attacking Gibsons movie although he says it's hard to imagine the movie being anything other than a flop in America. It doesnt even have a distributor yet. So why criticize Dole for picking on Priest? Rich also accuses Gibson of Jew-baiting: His game from the start has been to foment the old-as-Hollywood canard that the entertainment elite (which just happens to be Jewish) is gunning for his Christian movie. But based on what? According to databank searches, not a single person, Jewish or otherwise, had criticized The Passion when Mr. Gibson went on Bill O'Reilly's show on Jan. 14 to defend himself against any Jewish people who might attack the film. Excuse me? Gibson was responding to a question from OReilly. The phrase any Jewish people came from OReilly, not Gibson. Yet Rich repeats his charge: Nor had anyone yet publicly criticized The Passion or Mr. Gibson by March 7, when The Wall Street Journal ran the interview in which the star again defended himself against Jewish critics who didn't yet exist. Again, Rich is misleading his readers. This is from the Wall Street Journal piece by Raymond Arroyo: Focusing on the trial and death of Christ will inevitably cause some controversy. This is dangerous territory we're in here, Mr. Gibson admits. As for the question of blame for Christ's crucifixion-a vexed subject that has fueled anti-Semitism over the centuries-Mr. Gibson says that this is not a Christian vs. Jewish thing-'He came into the world and it knew Him not.' Looking at Christ's crucifixion, I look first at my own culpability in that. Again, Gibson wasnt making a pre-emptive attack on Jews, but simply responding to a question posed by a reporter. Rich concludes: But the real question here is why Mr. Gibson and his minions would go out of their way to bait Jews and sow religious conflict, especially at this fragile historical moment. Rich seems quite happy to do that himself. For the rest of Frank Richs attack on Mel Gibsons The Passion, click here:

Anti-Semitism | Catholicism | Maureen Dowd | Entertainment | Mel Gibson | Movies | Frank Rich

Times Bias Takes To the Air

The Times picked the wrong guy to review "Nuclear Nightmare, their co-production (with the Discovery Channel) on North Koreas nuclear program. Michael Mazarr, a professor at the National War College, reviews the documentary for the Wednesday Arts section and takes it to task for being liberal with a veneer of objectivity. (A pretty good description of a lot of Times-associated journalism, actually.) Mazarr writes: Watching its portrait of the Korean nuclear issue, I kept thinking Frontline Lite. In format (hourlong documentary), tone (urgent crises breathlessly described by bass-voiced narrator) and political slant (liberal with a veneer of objectivity, to judge by this example), Spotlight emulates the veteran PBS series right down to the look and feel of its opening credits. He goes on to call it a workmanlike slog through what might best be described as the centrist/left-of-center conventional wisdom about North Korea, mischaracterizing key events in the process. The program's political slant emerges slowly, but grips tighter as the hour unfolds: through its portrayal of events and choice of expert commentary, the program firmly endorses the Clinton administration's policy of engagement.All of this might be correct- this reviewer sympathizes with each of these arguments-but in a program presumably aiming at objectivity, the bias strikes a jarring note. Then Mazarr really twists the knife: It is inevitable to compare Spotlight to its apparent model. The PBS program in fact recently showed its own North Korea profile; the scenes, the interviews, the overall presentation of Kim's Nuclear Gamble"are of a notably higher caliber than Nuclear Nightmare and the program is more balanced to boot. Frontline talks to an ideologically wider range of experts and presents a real debate on the Korean issue, even if it does perceptibly endorse an engagement policy. Wow. When youre outclassed by the PBS series Frontline documentary in the balance department, something is very wrong. For the rest of Michael Mazarrs review of "Nuclear Nightmare, click here:

Discovery Channel | Documentary | Frontline | Liberal Bias | Michael Mazarr | North Korea

Times Promises Warm Liberian Welcome for U.S. Troops

Wednesdays Times continues trying to coax the U.S. into Liberia, with visions of welcoming natives. In addition to the usual front-page story by Somini Sengupta comes Steven Weisman on Liberia. Weismans story, Officials Say U.S. Troops Role Will Be Small, leans heavily on unnamed State Department and U.N. sources: [Defense Secretary Donald] Rumsfeld and his aides have cited another reason for opposing a larger American involvement. The political situation is too unstable, they say, for outsiders to enforce a peace among warring factions. But that worry is being answered, in the view of diplomats at the State Department and the United Nations, by urgent negotiations toward a political arrangement in which a caretaker government would run Liberia while plans are made for power-sharing among various groups. As usual, Among diplomats in the administration, there is some embarrassment that President Bush's promise to be helpful to Liberia, made at the beginning of his trip to Africa last month, has not been followed by an introduction of troops.Some impatience is rising. A Western diplomat involved in the issue said today that the cheering in Liberia for the Nigerian force that entered Monrovia on Monday showed that American forces would be welcomed and not have to worry about becoming enmeshed in an endless civil war. You saw the picture in the paper today of Liberians carrying a Nigerian peacekeeper on their shoulders, said the diplomat. That should have been an American peacekeeper they were carrying. The newly minted interventionists at the Times portray U.S. intervention in Liberia as a cakewalk, freely predicting the natives will welcome U.S. troops with open arms. Of course, the Times mocked U.S. officials who advanced similar arguments about intervention in Iraq. Whats changed? Perhaps that the U.S. has no national security interest in Liberia, so the Times can indulge in liberal interventionism without the apparently dangerous possibility that doing so could advance U.S. interests. For the rest of Stephen Weismans story on possible U.S. intervention in Liberia, click here: Africa | Liberia | Iraq War | Stephen Weisman