Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Oliver Stone, scraping his shoe

Well, after getting caught with saying something horribly racist, Oliver Stone has now said,
“In trying to make a broader historical point about the range of atrocities the Germans committed against many people, I made a clumsy association about the Holocaust, for which I am sorry and I regret. Jews obviously do not control media or any other industry. The fact that the Holocaust is still a very important, vivid and current matter today is, in fact, a great credit to the very hard work of a broad coalition of people committed to the remembrance of this atrocity – and it was an atrocity.”
I don't doubt he saw the Holocaust as an atrocity, but critics were right that he was oafish in discussing the other atrocities that also happened. As for Hitler having had help, that was Pat Buchanan's contention when he said that it was American Jews who forced Hitler's hand, but I think Stone is still on shaky ground with that one. As for Jewish control of the media, I'm not sure what to think about Stone. Here's how it was reported in the Sunday Times (of London):
He also seeks to put his atrocities in proportion: "Hitler did far more damage to the Russians than the Jewish people, 25 or 30m."

Why such a focus on the Holocaust then? "The Jewish domination of the media," he says. "There's a major lobby in the United States. They are hard workers. They stay on top of every comment, the most powerful lobby in Washington. Israel has f***** up United States foreign policy for years."
(It's behind a paywall, but you can get an even fuller version of the quote here.) One day, it's the Jewish domination of the media. The next day, no Jewish domination of the media. What could explain this sudden dramatic shift? Not a clumsy association, that's for sure. There are only two possible explanations: (1) They got to him, or (2) You know Oliver Stone is Jewish right? So this must be clever propaganda, elaborately planned from the start.

Or, who knows. Maybe it's just a cheap apology. I'd kinda like to think someone gave him some facts and he realized he was wrong, but it's not clear what exactly changed. What I quoted above is the complete statement. Note to Stone's PR hack: I wish I had a fuller picture. Perhaps even something that talked about Stone's love of conspiracy theories.

UPDATE: ADL accepts second apology. At least he's a bit more specific. But, now the apology comes down to acknowleging it was a mistake to be "glib." Interesting... Whether it's right or wrong to accept that apology, I feel confident Michael Richards would never have had his apology accepted (not that it was accepted anyway, or that I'm commenting on whether it should have been) had he said he was wrong to be so "glib." However, Paul Mooney (of all people) said Michael Richards was out of character when he did that. This seems entirely in character for Oliver Stone. Let me be clear about something, for anyone who doesn't understand: I consider Stone's remarks to be every bit as bad as standing on stage shouting "Nigger" at a Black audience member and talking about lynching them. I don't think many anti-racists understand that this idea of Jewish control of the media or government, of Jewish power generally -- these words that Stone used are the words that have been used before, repeatedly, to justify the mass murder of Jews. It is not "controversial." It is antisemitism.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Yup, Oliver Stone stepped in it

Hard to believe it's a one off. I guess now all the conspiracism he's always dealt with has a little more context. This is unabashed antisemitism. No getting around it.

Gentile privilege in a global world

Sometime ago, Julie tried to create a gentile privilege checklist. Good stuff, and a good idea. As she said,
But I think it’s clear here that if you’re not acknowledging the existence of gentile privilege, then you’re not acknowledging the existence of anti-Semitism. Oppression cannot exist without corresponding privilege.
As she also said, there are still questions about what constitutes gentile privilege. Strange as it may be, antisemitism is still undertheorized. And one of the most ignored aspects is its global nature. Going back to this picture, an important example of Nazi propaganda:

It was a German propaganda poster, but note how it depicts a Jew as controlling the UK, Soviet Union and US. With the bowler hat, it's a particularly English Jew, associated with "Manchester" (or "free market") Capitalism, even though the physical depiction is stereotypically Jewish. Why were the Germans so concerned with the power of Jews outside their own country? Because they saw Jews as part of "international Jewry." The perception of Jews was as a global force, associated with capitalism and communism and the big isms of the day that determined world events. If the Germans had been more strictly concerned with German Jews, they would have found they could effectively oppress Jews locally and they wouldn't have needed a world war to eradicate Jewishness from the world. But, of course, that's not what happeneed, because that's not how antisemitism works.

Today, half of Venezuela's Jews have fled to escape state-sponsored antisemitism, including two police raids on the largest synagogue in Caracas. But, of course, what scares Venezuela's antisemites isn't the power of Jews in Venezuela as much as it's the power of Jews in the US. Also, many Jews have fled Sweden, antisemitism there taking the superficial disguise of criticism of Israel. In many places, like Malaysia, antisemitism is a significant force even though there are few (if any) Jews. Throughout the world, there is a pressing need for a new way to talk about the oppression of local Jews in a global world as well as the privileges located inside the local community.

So we need to understand gentile privilege in a global perspective. I offer this addition:

If my group is widely recognized as a national group,
If my group is the dominant group in my country,
If my group is dominant in multiple UN member states,
then these things translate to real political power in the world.

Jews are widely dismissed as a national group. Often, we are told we are just a religion, and not entitled to the political powers that come with nationhood. We are the dominant group in Israel, which, of course, is the idea. At the same time, Israel is discriminated against within the UN. Since many members of what would be Israel's regional group do not recognize it, Israel is not permitted to participate in much of the work of the UN, which is organized by region. So, for example, Israel was not involved in any of the planning meetings for either the Durban conference or its follow up.

I think that's particularly relevant for those discussions which blamed Jews for sabotaging the discussion of reparations that was supposed to go on at those conferences. For instance, in discussing Mahmoud Amadinejad's speech at the Durban Review conference, which was toned down but still incredibly antisemitic, Naomi Klein presented it as a matter of protocol that he was allowed to speak. All heads of state would be allowed to speak (it's not clear if an Israeli head of state would actually have been allowed to speak), so it shouldn't be seen as a big deal. And Klein used this to shift blame for the conference's failures from Ahmadinejad to those who protested his speech. Not only was Klein wrong, I think she was grotesque in that article. I think this offers a better language for discussing why.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

A little bit of this...

Recent facebook stuff.

For a good background article, read this from POZ (a magazine for HIV+ people). There are a lot of issues involved, but Williams had sex with multiple partners while infected with HIV and apparently in some state of denial about his status. Being young, black, poor, and HIV positive, media spun the story as a "sex monster" who intentionally infected women. Now, the news:
A [NY] State Supreme Court Judge ruled this morning that Nushawn Williams will stay in jail as a dangerous sex offender even though he already served his 12-year prison term.
Thich Nhat Hanh:
Without suffering, you cannot grow. ... The Buddha called suffering a Holy Truth, because our suffering has the capacity of showing us the path to liberation. Embrace your suffering, and let it reveal to you the way to peace.
Good luck to some friends with this.
An Adjunct Associate Professor of Religion at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign has been fired for sending this email out to students. A friend comments:
At first I was dubious of the idea that he should be fired. You know, because academic freedom is sort of important for someone with a post-Marxist foundation for theory. But, OMG.
I note, however, that other professors have not been fired when behaving similarly. Kevin MacDonald, though never accused of teaching his beliefs to students is a white supremacist. His university removed him from teaching and his department distanced itself from him, but he kept his job. The university received support in not firing him from some perhaps-unlikely places. When William Robinson sent out emails to students comparing Gaza to the Warsaw Ghetto and Israel to Nazi Germany, his university never got past a preliminay investigation. I guess tenure is a powerful thing.
This is kafka-esque.
This article on Mike Huckabee made me cringe in a few places. Especially at the word pharisaical and at the suggestion that there's no such thing as a Palestinian. But my friend is right, I think, that Huckabee's simply a better sort of Republican than many.
And a novelist comes forward:
Apropos of nothing, the author [that would be me - Matt] evokes Marx and the working class, who in all frankness, remain largely absent from my tale of fallen petite bourgeoisie. Unlike the brief morality play Ida and I enjoyed within the context of Leverage, the means of production here are not quite so quantifiable as tapes. Moreover, there is a merger of capital and worker that I daresay Marx might never have envisioned. The dilemma then is merely in methods of distribution. The media, like the tapes on that television morality play, becomes central to the conundrum.
There's a question of whether a writer is working class. It's a good question, and it think it can change depending on what the writer is writing --perhaps technical specs-- but I'm more sympathetic to it than this novelist, apparently. (Although I'm not sure I ever gave an answer to that, and I'm sure whatever answer was not apropros of nothing.) Perhaps I should say "allied to the working classes," but whenever someone is "selling out" to keep from losing their house, I think Marx's ghost is already present.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Climate change

Eve Garrard, posting at Normblog:
I don't think this would have happened 10 years ago. There certainly was anti-Semitism (of a relatively mild kind) around the place, among academics as elsewhere, but they used to know that there was something wrong with it, and hence restrained themselves, at least in public. I haven't met anything quite as nakedly direct as this in the universities before now, not even in the UCU during the boycott debates: venomous though those debates were, the fig-leaf of anti-Zionism was usually kept more or less in place.
I'll leave you to go there to read about the actual incident. Aside from actually challenging antisemites, I wonder how it would have gone if she had said she was a Zionist.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Things Jews are not resposible for

If you live in NYC, you'll see t-shirts all over the place that say "zogsports." Just a guess, but I don't think it was a Jew who came up with that. For that matter, I also doubt it was a Jew who founded Independant Truck's "Iron Cross" logo. For that matter, the Iron Cross seems to have had a resurgence in fasion, which I doubt was the fault of any Jew. I'm sure there are more examples.

Friday, July 9, 2010

What the debate over Israel means

David links to this article in the Forward. His comments are well worth reading. I'd like to add my comments on one particular line, and put that one line more clearly in context.
“Malmo reminds me of the anti-Semitism I felt as a child in Poland before the war,” she [Judith Popinski] told the Forward
Frightening, and I don't doubt it's entirely true. In part, I don't doubt it because I know something about how people described Poland before the war when they actually described it before the war. (Not quite the same as after.) But consider this:
During an interview in his office, Imam Saeed Azams said it was wrong to blame Swedish Jews for Israel’s actions. The wheelchair-bound Azams stressed the importance of teaching young Muslims to stop equating the Jews of Malmo with Israel. But this seemed to include an assumption that Jews, in turn, should not permit themselves to be seen as pro-Israel.

“Because Jewish society in Sweden does not condemn the clearly illegal actions of Israel,” he said, “then ordinary people think the Jews here are allied to Israel, but this is not true.”
I am pro-Israel because I care about having a place to go if things get as bad as Poland before the war. Won't happen here in the Good Ol' US of A? No one would think it would have happened in Sweden. By coincidence, I was born in Lund, according to Google Maps only about 20 minutes away from Malmo.

And I am pro-Israel because I care about having the right to speak out in defense of my life, a right which has been traduced and effectively if not formally restricted in every other society but Israel. That doesn't mean I support every action of the Israeli government or that I am anti-Palestinian, but I certainly support Israel's existence and Israel's right (see David's point about supporting a two-state solution) to provide for it's own defense against very real threats even when I disagree with the decision (as I often do).

Consider if I disagree with this imam on what actions of Israel's are "clearly illegal"? I've seen almost everything Israel does described as illegal and often disagreed. I've seen changes to road signs described as "ethnic cleansing." But should that mean it's a simple and understandable mistake for people to try to kill me, because I was insufficiently rabid in my hatred of Israel? That's certainly a recipe for silencing me and making it easy for various people to falsely claim, "but this is not true" that "the Jews here are allied to Israel." I'm guessing most of the Jews of Sweden, and particularly those fleeing Sweden for Israel, are like most other Jews in the world and see themselves very clearly as "allied" (whatever that means) to Israel. At least every bit as much as anti-Israel activists who attempt to murder Swedish Jews are "allied" to Palestine.

But this conflation, wherein people who support Israel in any visible fashion are responsible for everything Israel does, is not just the framing of one Swedish imam. I won't say who, except that this person will surely have a much bigger effect on the progression of antisemitism in America than that Swedish imam, but I will quote something from a recent Racialicious conversation:
Maybe you would like to elaborate on how arguing that the term “Israeli Apartheid” bars Israeli people from participating? The only way I can see it barring people from participating is if they themselves identify entirely with the Israeli government, something that you yourself go to a great extent to point out is a dangerous assumption about Israeli people.
Of course, the very point of the word Apartheid is to destroy the middle ground on which peace can be built. It is a word about which one is not allowed to have moderate feelings. The word entirely in that quote is entirely meaningless. One is not allowed to have the tiniest positive feelings about Apartheid anything. That's not just the fact of how people understand the word, but it is explicitly the point and argument of the BDS movement that pushes the use of the word and openly declares the aim of making "pariahs" of those who support Israel. Including those who support Israel by living or visiting there. Or performing music or accepting literary awards there. Or even trying to bring Jewish and Palestinian children together to learn conflict resolution skills at summer camp. Think I'm exaggerating on that last one? Sadly, no.

So, of course, one is not allowed to defend Israel from even the tiniest of slanders. One is simply not allowed to disagree. To do so would be to present oneself as allied with ethnic cleansing, as a fair target for hatred and discrimination. Perhaps as a target for murder. (And we're accused of bullying tactics and silencing debate!)

It's not just my life which is potentially at stake in this conversation. It's my right to live, my right to have my life protected by something other than lesser antisemites, my right to speak out in defense of my life. Somehow, dying does not frighten me nearly so much as having these rights taken away. No wonder, when so many people think they can tell me what I'm allowed to think, that the debate over Israel is so emotional and difficult and scary. And when "anti-racists" try to spin that as privilege because my skin is white, fuck that.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Recent search terms

  • is judd apatow jewish
  • jew apatow
  • judd apatow public relations israel
I figure two of these to be antisemitic. As google explains,
If you use Google to search for “Judaism,” “Jewish” or “Jewish people,” the results are informative and relevant. So why is a search for “Jew” different? One reason is that the word “Jew” is often used in an anti-Semitic context. Jewish organizations are more likely to use the word “Jewish” when talking about members of their faith.
And, if the idea that Apatow is Jewish immediately sends someone searching for his thoughts on Israel, well, that's a problem.

As for the first, I imagine anyone who needed to know that would easily find the answer in his films. But, the knowledge is pretty crucial to avoid erasing his Jewishness from his films. So that, I don't mind at all.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Commerce will set the workers free?

“Let the readers choose. Whoever pays the most on a given day can leave a comment with plot details or characters.”
“Or product placements?”
“Why not?”
“The Great American Cybernovel.”
“Or at least an interesting experiment.”
“I love you.”
“Not tonight, sweetheart.”
Colin, for a moment, believed it might work. Generosity. Commercialism. Sex. Violence. Americana in a digital age, but what would he call it?
“Commercial Novel.”
“Get out of my head, Sylvia.”
The luster of clouds dimmed. Summer mosquitoes swarmed. Colin and Sylvia took their dogs inside, and Colin, facing the blank page, buoyed by his wife’s faith, began to type the first line of a serialized behemoth that could be quite good, career suicide, or a minor lark. But at the very least it had the potential to save his house and provide antidepressants for his dog.
-from Commercial Novel
There's an interesting point (or two) in Marxism that's usually overlooked by Marxists. Capitalism is not the worst way to organize an economy; it was an improvement over the feudal systems it replaced. And it will end when the people come to understand what will replace it; the workers will bring into effect their own liberation. That's the basis between a rift between some Cultural Studies Marxists, who see progress and an in-between-ness, and some "Manichean" Marxists who see only evil in capitalism.

Personally, I have a great deal of sympathy for someone like the Reverend Billy Talen, founder of the Church of Stop Shopping. He's funny, which a person taking on such a project ought to be. Plus, I was best man at a wedding he performed in Union Square, where his sermon was truly touching. He wasn't aware he'd be performing a ceremony, so he gave an impromptu sermon on the history of Union Square and the role of public space in society. According to Wikipedia, the square wasn't named for the labor unions that formed there, but I'm pretty safe imagining myself walking in the footsteps of Emma Goldman whenever I pass through. But, however emotionally satisfying I sometimes find anti-consumerism, I also come across criticism of "culture jamming" and countercultural posturing that are intellectually quite satisfying. I know, in the end, that the in-between-ness of capitalism means a lot of critiques are going to be in-between. In the end, we have to trust the workers or any other group to know and act in their own best interest, and we ought to be respectful of their understanding of their own perspective even when we disagree. The point there is to persuade rather than disempower, while countercultures instead aim to shock.

And sometimes rank consumerism is a progressive force. Sure, it leads to the abuse of sexuality and horrible mysogyny on primetime tv. But that mysogyny, even if tv can be a force for perpetuating the ideology (and I believe it can), was not created by tv. And it also leads to lesbians on tv (and, very slowly coming around, gay men portrayed as something other than fodder for straight, male fantasies) and challenges to heteronormativity. Like it or not, crass consumerism can be (in-between) empowering. At the very least, we can use pop culture to talk about what people want rather than telling them what they want and why it's not what they ought to want. That's why I'm fascinated by this project, the polar opposite of Rev. Billy. It contravenes many of the basic assumptions I'm not sure I realized I hold, but at least it's funny, which a project of this sort ought to be. And if you want Colin to create "a lasting memorial to the conservative socialist agenda of [his] latent Christian atheism," go for it!
Commercial Novel is a novel that's for sale, but not in the traditional sense.

Instead, the very fabric of the novel is for sale. You can change the plot, change the characters, add your own details. All you have to do to participate in literary history is donate the most on a day when we post.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Comments working

I know I don't get a lot, except for spam from Chinese dating services (I think that's what they are), but hang on with me. So I wonder how often this happens. But I couldn't moderate comments last night. Now I can. And, there's actually one that wasn't a Chinese dating site. The problem didn't last long enough, I think, to necessitate pulling out so that no one misses it. But thanks for the comment!