Commentary Magazine


Topic: Mel Gibson

Blame Braveheart and Bonnie Prince Charlie

Tomorrow Scots will vote on independence from the United Kingdom in a historic referendum that looks right now as if it may actually lead to the division of Britain. The reasons for this have been debated ad nauseam in recent days, but though the critics of the independence movement have the far stronger arguments in terms of the interests of both Scotland and the UK, they seem, if polls are to be believed, to be failing to convince a majority of Scots to vote against independence. But the focus on economic arguments, however cogent, on the part of the measure’s opponents seems to miss the point about why the unthinkable may be about to happen.

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Tomorrow Scots will vote on independence from the United Kingdom in a historic referendum that looks right now as if it may actually lead to the division of Britain. The reasons for this have been debated ad nauseam in recent days, but though the critics of the independence movement have the far stronger arguments in terms of the interests of both Scotland and the UK, they seem, if polls are to be believed, to be failing to convince a majority of Scots to vote against independence. But the focus on economic arguments, however cogent, on the part of the measure’s opponents seems to miss the point about why the unthinkable may be about to happen.

Our Tom Wilson described independence as an idea that is “almost insane” in a recent piece. This movement similarly baffles historian Niall Ferguson. Writing earlier this week in the New York Times, Ferguson debunks the notion that Scotland is England’s last colony. The 1707 Act of Union was, he rightly notes, a merger of equals, not an act of English aggression. If anything, he says, the accession of James I (James VI of Scotland) as the successor of England’s Elizabeth I in 1603 can be seen as Scotland acquiring England, a transaction that was made formal a century later during the reign of his great-granddaughter Queen Anne. Lest anyone think that formulation became outdated when Anne was followed by the succession of Hanover (now Windsor) kings and queens, it should also be pointed out that 11 of the prime ministers of the UK have been Scots.

Scotland has benefited enormously from being part of the country that became Great Britain under the Scottish Stuart dynasty. Indeed, as Ferguson notes, the fact that he and liberal economist Paul Krugman both agree about the disastrous impact of independence amply illustrates the consensus across the political spectrum about its implications.

So why are they on the verge of doing it? Ferguson puts it down to an outbreak of petty nationalism that ought to be beneath the nation that produced a slew of enlightenment philosophers like David Hume and Adam Smith. Tom Wilson blames it largely on the ideology of the left. The left has eroded British identity and sought to break down a once great nation, as Tom notes, in which all too many of its citizens no longer believe. By contrast, British writer Tom Devine writes in the Guardian to blame it on Margaret Thatcher and the end of heavy manufacturing that is wrongly blamed on her government.

But these explanations don’t really answer the question of why a rational people would embrace such a mad leap in the dark. Thucydides diagnosed the reasons for waging war as being rooted in fear, honor, and interest. But those who argue against Scottish independence by only citing the fear that Scots should have of the consequences of going it alone and their obvious interest in remaining in a country that largely subsidizes them make a mistake by dismissing or ignoring the fact that the independence movement is largely rooted in a sense of national honor. Identity and the myths that build up around it will always be more powerful than the pound sterling or any other financial currency.

Though Ferguson is right to say that Scots have been, almost from the beginning of the union, net winners in their relationship with England, that has never been how most of his countrymen perceived the relationship. The romantic myths enshrined in music and literature about the 18th century Jacobite rebellions against the Hanover dynasty helped forge modern Scottish identity as being a separate people from the oppressive English even, as Tom notes, as their distinctive Celtic language died out. That is ancient history that is not even cited by the giddiest and least sensible of independence advocates—such as actor Alan Cummings who writes in today’s New York Times about the condescension of Queen Elizabeth and Prime Minister David Cameron as being good reasons to leave the UK. But to act as if the brutal suppression of the Highland clans and other English indignities, let alone the struggles of earlier generations of Scots immortalized in Mel Gibson’s hyperbolic Braveheart film, were not factors still rattling around the Scottish attic waiting to be brought out is myopic.

The point isn’t that modern Scots are oppressed or looked down upon by English masters, as Cummings seems to think. Though it was, at best, a mixed blessing for Scots in the 18th century, the Act of Union was the best thing that could have happened to their 20th and 21st century descendants. But though Marxists continue to believe that money can explain everything, that was proved false a long time ago. Whether it is true or not, a great many Scots believe themselves to have been oppressed by the English and to have had their nation stolen from them. They may not be mad enough to wish to bring back a descendant of the Stuarts, but the longing for the return of Bonnie Prince Charlie, the last Stuart Pretender who led the Scots to disaster at Culloden in 1746 and then was forced to flee to European exile, left its mark on the country’s national consciousness. That fueled the romance of a separate Scots identity that was never entirely extinguished even during the heyday of Scottish involvement in the enterprise of the British Empire. So long as these myths are influential and can be buttressed by modern grievances, however insubstantial, independence will always have a constituency that will consider it worth a great deal of inconvenience if not hardship.

Friends of Britain may look on this with dismay and hope that in the end the “no” forces prevail. But as any student of the Greek historians could tell you, honor will trump interest every time.

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Mel Gibson’s Innovative Anti-Semitism

Lest you thought that you’d heard everything bad you could have heard about Mel Gibson and his views of Jews — from his rant to the Malibu cop that “Jews are responsible for all the wars in the world” and asking a reporter who asked him about that, “I take it you have a dog in that fight” — comes this detail from the actress Winona Ryder (née Winona Horowitz):

“Fifteen years ago, I was at one of those big Hollywood parties. And he was really drunk,” Ryder tells the January issue of GQ. “I was with my friend, who’s gay. [Gibson] made a really horrible gay joke. And somehow it came up that I was Jewish. He said something about ‘oven dodgers,’ but I didn’t get it. I’d never heard that before.”

Oven dodgers. Maybe Ms. Ryder had never heard that before because the formulation might have simply arrived in her ear fully formed from the inside of Gibson’s own vicious, repugnant, evil brain.

Lest you thought that you’d heard everything bad you could have heard about Mel Gibson and his views of Jews — from his rant to the Malibu cop that “Jews are responsible for all the wars in the world” and asking a reporter who asked him about that, “I take it you have a dog in that fight” — comes this detail from the actress Winona Ryder (née Winona Horowitz):

“Fifteen years ago, I was at one of those big Hollywood parties. And he was really drunk,” Ryder tells the January issue of GQ. “I was with my friend, who’s gay. [Gibson] made a really horrible gay joke. And somehow it came up that I was Jewish. He said something about ‘oven dodgers,’ but I didn’t get it. I’d never heard that before.”

Oven dodgers. Maybe Ms. Ryder had never heard that before because the formulation might have simply arrived in her ear fully formed from the inside of Gibson’s own vicious, repugnant, evil brain.

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Why No Outrage Over Oliver Stone?

Oliver Stone’s outburst of rank anti-Semitism in an interview last weekend with the Sunday Times of London has barely created a ripple in the mainstream media. Just as the sophisticates in liberal media outlets and the Hollywood elite gave a collective shrug of indifference when Mel Gibson issued his original anti-Semitic rantings, we have heard not much at all from the trend setters (too busy with their Roman Polanski victory celebrations?). The ADL issued a statement that nicely sums up what others prefer to ignore:

Oliver Stone has once again shown his conspiratorial colors with his comments about ‘Jewish domination of the media’ and control over U.S. foreign policy. His words conjure up some of the most stereotypical and conspiratorial notions of undue Jewish power and influence.

The myth of Jewish control is an old stereotype that persists to this day. Stone uses it in a particularly egregious fashion by suggesting that Hitler has gotten an unfair shake because of Jewish influence.

This is the most absurd kind of analysis and shows the extent to which Oliver Stone is willing to propound his anti-Semitic and conspiratorial views.

Israel’s Diaspora Affairs and Public Diplomacy Minister Yuli Edelstein blasted Stone:

“Beyond the ignorance he proves with his comments, his demonization of the Jewish people could be a sequel to the Protocols of the Elders of Zion,” the minister said. “When a man of Stone’s stature says such things, it could lead to a new wave of anti-Semitism and anti-Israelism, and it may even cause real harm to Jewish communities and individuals.”

It’s not like Stone’s interview didn’t have newsworthy remarks:

In the interview, Stone said America’s focus on the Holocaust was a product of the “Jewish domination of the media.” He said his upcoming Showtime documentary series Secret History of America would put Hitler and Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin “in context.” “Hitler did far more damage to the Russians than the Jewish people, 25 or 30 [million killed],” Stone said … Stone, who recently met with Ahmadinejad, said American policy toward Iran was “horrible.”

“Iran isn’t necessarily the good guy,” he said. “But we don’t know the full story!”

By contrast, Stone praised Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez as “a brave, blunt, earthy” man, who does not censor the Internet in his country.

Stone also raised an uproar when he defended Hitler at a press conference in January.

“Hitler is an easy scapegoat throughout history and it’s been used cheaply,” he said at the time. “He’s the product of a series of actions. It’s cause and effect.”

Maybe it’s Stone’s long leftist track record — who can forget his glowing biopic of Fidel Castro? — that has earned him a pass from the liberal U.S. media.

But maybe there is something else at work. Stone’s venomous rant against “Jewish domination of the media” and his assertion about the “Israel lobby” (“They stay on top of every comment, the most powerful lobby in Washington. Israel has f***** up United States foreign policy for years”) are not so different from what comes from the lips of Stephen Walt and John Mearsheimer, the writings of the Israel-hating left, and the bile-drenched blogs of those who, for example, claimed John McCain was surrounded by Jewish neocon advisers.

It’s reasonable to conclude that Oliver Stone hasn’t been called out by the liberals — those who advertise themselves as experts on diversity and bigotry — because a great deal of what he said doesn’t sound all that objectionable to far too many of them. And of course, it’s rather embarrassing for those seeking respectability (the “tough love for Israel” gang) to illuminate that anti-Israel venom is, when you scratch the surface, nothing more than old-fashioned Jew-hating.

Oliver Stone’s outburst of rank anti-Semitism in an interview last weekend with the Sunday Times of London has barely created a ripple in the mainstream media. Just as the sophisticates in liberal media outlets and the Hollywood elite gave a collective shrug of indifference when Mel Gibson issued his original anti-Semitic rantings, we have heard not much at all from the trend setters (too busy with their Roman Polanski victory celebrations?). The ADL issued a statement that nicely sums up what others prefer to ignore:

Oliver Stone has once again shown his conspiratorial colors with his comments about ‘Jewish domination of the media’ and control over U.S. foreign policy. His words conjure up some of the most stereotypical and conspiratorial notions of undue Jewish power and influence.

The myth of Jewish control is an old stereotype that persists to this day. Stone uses it in a particularly egregious fashion by suggesting that Hitler has gotten an unfair shake because of Jewish influence.

This is the most absurd kind of analysis and shows the extent to which Oliver Stone is willing to propound his anti-Semitic and conspiratorial views.

Israel’s Diaspora Affairs and Public Diplomacy Minister Yuli Edelstein blasted Stone:

“Beyond the ignorance he proves with his comments, his demonization of the Jewish people could be a sequel to the Protocols of the Elders of Zion,” the minister said. “When a man of Stone’s stature says such things, it could lead to a new wave of anti-Semitism and anti-Israelism, and it may even cause real harm to Jewish communities and individuals.”

It’s not like Stone’s interview didn’t have newsworthy remarks:

In the interview, Stone said America’s focus on the Holocaust was a product of the “Jewish domination of the media.” He said his upcoming Showtime documentary series Secret History of America would put Hitler and Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin “in context.” “Hitler did far more damage to the Russians than the Jewish people, 25 or 30 [million killed],” Stone said … Stone, who recently met with Ahmadinejad, said American policy toward Iran was “horrible.”

“Iran isn’t necessarily the good guy,” he said. “But we don’t know the full story!”

By contrast, Stone praised Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez as “a brave, blunt, earthy” man, who does not censor the Internet in his country.

Stone also raised an uproar when he defended Hitler at a press conference in January.

“Hitler is an easy scapegoat throughout history and it’s been used cheaply,” he said at the time. “He’s the product of a series of actions. It’s cause and effect.”

Maybe it’s Stone’s long leftist track record — who can forget his glowing biopic of Fidel Castro? — that has earned him a pass from the liberal U.S. media.

But maybe there is something else at work. Stone’s venomous rant against “Jewish domination of the media” and his assertion about the “Israel lobby” (“They stay on top of every comment, the most powerful lobby in Washington. Israel has f***** up United States foreign policy for years”) are not so different from what comes from the lips of Stephen Walt and John Mearsheimer, the writings of the Israel-hating left, and the bile-drenched blogs of those who, for example, claimed John McCain was surrounded by Jewish neocon advisers.

It’s reasonable to conclude that Oliver Stone hasn’t been called out by the liberals — those who advertise themselves as experts on diversity and bigotry — because a great deal of what he said doesn’t sound all that objectionable to far too many of them. And of course, it’s rather embarrassing for those seeking respectability (the “tough love for Israel” gang) to illuminate that anti-Israel venom is, when you scratch the surface, nothing more than old-fashioned Jew-hating.

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What Mel Gibson’s Anti-Semitism Should Have Told Us

A friend writes:

In all of this Mel Gibson hoo-ha, we are reminded, yet again, that those who start with anti-Jewish slurs rarely stop there.  Anti-Semitism is a manifestation of a pathological personality or ideology.  When Gibson was making loony comments about Jews and Jewish dominance a few years ago, no one applauded him, but he was given something of a free pass. It was booze. He was misunderstood. And anyway, he had a great box office record. Now it turns out that he is misogynistic, racist, violent. Not a shocker to anyone who knows that an anti-Semitic worldview rarely ends with merely impolite comments.

A friend writes:

In all of this Mel Gibson hoo-ha, we are reminded, yet again, that those who start with anti-Jewish slurs rarely stop there.  Anti-Semitism is a manifestation of a pathological personality or ideology.  When Gibson was making loony comments about Jews and Jewish dominance a few years ago, no one applauded him, but he was given something of a free pass. It was booze. He was misunderstood. And anyway, he had a great box office record. Now it turns out that he is misogynistic, racist, violent. Not a shocker to anyone who knows that an anti-Semitic worldview rarely ends with merely impolite comments.

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Brooks: We Have a Narcissism Problem

David Brooks writes:

The narcissistic person is marked by a grandiose self-image, a constant need for admiration, and a general lack of empathy for others. He is the keeper of a sacred flame, which is the flame he holds to celebrate himself. … His self-love is his most precious possession. It is the holy center of all that is sacred and right. He is hypersensitive about anybody who might splatter or disregard his greatness. If someone treats him slightingly, he perceives that as a deliberate and heinous attack. If someone threatens his reputation, he regards this as an act of blasphemy. He feels justified in punishing the attacker for this moral outrage.

OK, Brooks is working his way around to discussing Mel Gibson, but, by golly, it sounds like… well, Obama. Now, stop. I’m not comparing the president to an abusive spouse. (Obama’s one indisputably good quality is that he seems to be a good husband and dad.) But the personality — super-sensitive and so very self-absorbed – is unmistakably familiar to those who have watched Obama in action.

Brooks’s description of our times (“we’ve entered an era where self-branding is on the ascent and the culture of self-effacement is on the decline”) beautifully sums up the Obama campaign. A man with virtually no public accomplishments (other than writing about himself) branded himself as a political messiah and entered office with the expectation that he would remodel not only America but the entire world.

Once in office, Obama has continued on his narcissism jaunt. The speeches are littered with “I,” and his tolerance for criticism, whether from voters or political opponents, is nonexistent. You don’t get to be president without a whole lot of self-confidence, but Obama stands out, and not in a good way.

I don’t think Brooks intended his column as an indictment of the president who was supposed to have such a superior temperament. Still.

David Brooks writes:

The narcissistic person is marked by a grandiose self-image, a constant need for admiration, and a general lack of empathy for others. He is the keeper of a sacred flame, which is the flame he holds to celebrate himself. … His self-love is his most precious possession. It is the holy center of all that is sacred and right. He is hypersensitive about anybody who might splatter or disregard his greatness. If someone treats him slightingly, he perceives that as a deliberate and heinous attack. If someone threatens his reputation, he regards this as an act of blasphemy. He feels justified in punishing the attacker for this moral outrage.

OK, Brooks is working his way around to discussing Mel Gibson, but, by golly, it sounds like… well, Obama. Now, stop. I’m not comparing the president to an abusive spouse. (Obama’s one indisputably good quality is that he seems to be a good husband and dad.) But the personality — super-sensitive and so very self-absorbed – is unmistakably familiar to those who have watched Obama in action.

Brooks’s description of our times (“we’ve entered an era where self-branding is on the ascent and the culture of self-effacement is on the decline”) beautifully sums up the Obama campaign. A man with virtually no public accomplishments (other than writing about himself) branded himself as a political messiah and entered office with the expectation that he would remodel not only America but the entire world.

Once in office, Obama has continued on his narcissism jaunt. The speeches are littered with “I,” and his tolerance for criticism, whether from voters or political opponents, is nonexistent. You don’t get to be president without a whole lot of self-confidence, but Obama stands out, and not in a good way.

I don’t think Brooks intended his column as an indictment of the president who was supposed to have such a superior temperament. Still.

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Sorry about my anti-Semitic remarks, now let me tell you about Zionist baby-killing

Great Britain is awash in anti-Semitism and Israel-hysteria, ho-hum. But this particular story has more entertainment value than most. A Labor Party MP and chairman of the “Labor Friends of Palestine,” Martin Linton, has been pounding away at Israel, declaring after the UK expelled an Israeli diplomat:

May I urge my right honorable friend [Foreign Secretary David Miliband] to take similar action every time Israel disregards the law, whether it is by building settlements, building the wall in occupied territory, the annexation of east Jerusalem, targeting civilians in Gaza or the use of human shields?

A couple of days ago, he said that “There are long tentacles of Israel in this country who are funding election campaigns and putting money into the British political system for their own ends.” In Great Britain circa 2010, accusing Israel of intentionally killing civilians is a matter of routine and acceptable political discourse, but accusing Israel of trying to influence the British political system is over the line.

So Linton set a new record for weaselly non-apology apologies by saying he was “sorry if a word I used caused unintended offence because of connotations of which I was unaware.” I mean, don’t get carried away in contrition or anything. Remember the scene in Family Guy where Mel Gibson apologizes to the Jews? That’s exactly what’s going on here.

Great Britain is awash in anti-Semitism and Israel-hysteria, ho-hum. But this particular story has more entertainment value than most. A Labor Party MP and chairman of the “Labor Friends of Palestine,” Martin Linton, has been pounding away at Israel, declaring after the UK expelled an Israeli diplomat:

May I urge my right honorable friend [Foreign Secretary David Miliband] to take similar action every time Israel disregards the law, whether it is by building settlements, building the wall in occupied territory, the annexation of east Jerusalem, targeting civilians in Gaza or the use of human shields?

A couple of days ago, he said that “There are long tentacles of Israel in this country who are funding election campaigns and putting money into the British political system for their own ends.” In Great Britain circa 2010, accusing Israel of intentionally killing civilians is a matter of routine and acceptable political discourse, but accusing Israel of trying to influence the British political system is over the line.

So Linton set a new record for weaselly non-apology apologies by saying he was “sorry if a word I used caused unintended offence because of connotations of which I was unaware.” I mean, don’t get carried away in contrition or anything. Remember the scene in Family Guy where Mel Gibson apologizes to the Jews? That’s exactly what’s going on here.

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In case you were worried…

Isaiah Washington is in attendance. Hopefully the camera will catch a glimpse of Mel Gibson and Michael Richards shortly…

Isaiah Washington is in attendance. Hopefully the camera will catch a glimpse of Mel Gibson and Michael Richards shortly…

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