Gibson’s Passion, shaken and stirred

With Mel Gibson in the news because of his arrest for drunken driving at high speed and his horrendous belligerent behavior and drunken tirade at the police, newer readers of VFR may be interested in my view of his movie of “The Passion,” which set off a huge debate at VFR about the film when it opened back in February 2004.

I disagree with Powerline and with Don Feder at FrontPage Magazine that Gibson’s anti-Semitic ravings while in a state of extreme intoxication are a fair indication of his real feelings about Jews. That is no more true than that his ravings and threats against the arresting officers indicate his “real” feelings about police. Yet we haven’t seen headlines scream, “The truth comes out! Gibson is a cop-hater!” So, blame Gibson for getting drunk out of his mind, and hold him to account for driving while drunk out of his mind. But don’t issue some final condemnation of him for things he said while drunk out of his mind.

Alcohol not only releases the unattractive and disorderly sides of ourselves that we normally keep in check, it may introduce aggressive and belligerent impulses that we normally don’t feel at all. To conclude that what a person says while in a state of extreme intoxication when his faculty of self-control has been suspended is what the person “really” believes is to cancel him out as a moral being. Judgment is part of what makes us human. It is wrong to judge a person for what he says when his judgment has been removed.

I say this as someone who has strongly criticized Gibson for his mealy-mouthed comments about the Holocaust and his failure to distance himself from the views of his Holocaust-denying father, which also triggered quite a debate at VFR.

Also, I am not saying that Gibson’s drunken rant that the Jews are the cause of all wars is not a legitimate topic. It would be perfectly fair for an interviewer now to ask him, “Do you believe what you said about the Jews? And if you don’t believe it, where was that comment coming from? Why did you say it?” If Gibson’s reply to those questions is as weak and evasive as his reply to the questions about his father and the Holocaust, then on that basis (not on the basis of what he said while drunk) we could fairly make conclusions about what he really thinks about Jews.

However, I am impressed by the fact that in Gibson’s statement released to the media today (which I read after posting the above), he is asking of himself the very question that I said ought to be asked of him, using the same words that I used:

I have begun an ongoing program of recovery and what I am now realizing is that I cannot do it alone. I am in the process of understanding where those vicious words came from during that drunken display [emphasis added], and I am asking the Jewish community, whom I have personally offended, to help me on my journey through recovery. Again, I am reaching out to the Jewish community for its help. I know there will be many in that community who will want nothing to do with me, and that would be understandable. But I pray that that door is not forever closed.

Notwithstanding the therapy-talk, of which there is much more in the rest of his statement, the italicized text strikes me as a sincere statement containing genuine remorse and even disgust at what he had said about the Jews. Some VFR readers think the whole issue is just another example of liberals and Jews wielding the PC club on Christians. I disagree. Gibson, on being arrested for drunken driving, immediately proceeded to rant about Jews being the cause of all wars. This was demented behavior in a public person who has made a highly controversial movie about the Crucifixion, and it is appropriate that Gibson should deal with it seriously.

Meanwhile, if you want to see a true bigot in action (an anti-Christian bigot who is nevertheless welcome at many conservative publications), read Christopher Hitchens’s column about Gibson in Slate.

- end of initial entry -

Ben writes:

I agree with where you are coming from when you just stated that these are serious statements from a man who made a Christian movie. Okay I’ll accept that because its true.

But now that he has asked the Jewish community for its forgiveness and asked them to help him, if they still go on and on about that he must renounce Christianity as a religion of bigotry against Jews and renounce the Passion as an anti-Semitic movie and go on and on about it like Foxman will be sure to do, then I will know this is nothing more then the PC liberal attack vs. Christianity.

If Foxman doesn’t accept his apology and other Jewish communities still go on and on about it, I will know this is nothing more then an attack on Christianity.

I was listening to talk radio last night and the callers who were Jewish were overreacting about this almost calling for hate speech laws. I have my doubts that they will accept his apology. If they do, I will be pleasantly surprised. It’s funny though, Foxman and men like him have never apologized to the Christian community for their vicious statements.

LA replies:

I think Gibson’s critics should focus on my point, which everyone seems to have missed. Gibson was committing a whole set of extreme destructive behaviors. Driving drunk. Driving drunk at apparently very high speed (which is criminal, murderous, and suicidal behavior). Cursing out cops and threatening them. Walking away from the cops. Banging himself against the car seat. And in the midst of all this insane behavior, making a couple of extreme statements about Jews. Since his overall behavior was insane, why don’t Gibson’s critics at least admit the possibility that his statements about Jews were insane too, and not the expression of something he really believes?

I don’t think you were reading VFR in early 2004 when we discussed “The Passion.” You may find those threads interesting. I took a view that many Christians disagreed with. I attacked the film, not because it was anti-Semitic (I didn’t think it was), but because I thought it was a dreadful, vulgar, coarse, and coarsening film. Many Christians thought it was a great film.

Ben replies:

I agree with everything you’re saying, I have no love for Gibson, to me he is just another Hollywood guy who made a Christian movie, he is not a Christian leader at all. I don’t get my Christian teachings from Gibson.

I read what you said about “The Passion” and I agree 100 percent. I couldn’t stand “The Passion.” It was just a movie about violence and didn’t really show the message of the Christian religion. The movie however wasn’t anti-Semitic as you said but the Jewish community has been persistent that it was and this is what it’s really all about for them, payback for a movie they despised.

David B. writes:

Allow me to weigh in, if I may. When someone is drunk, he is very unpredictable. A multi-millionaire celebrity, accustomed to deference from those he encounters, is likely to react with hostile behavior and language when a deputy sheriff tries to arrest him. It is not too surprising that the arrested celebrity would say the most outrageous things he could come up with.

You say that, “Some VFR readers think the whole issue is just another example of liberals and Jews wielding the PC club on Christians. I disagree.” Well, plenty of left-wing Hollywood types say some very hostile things and never get the slightest criticism.

Michael Moore wrote a best-seller several years ago with a theme that “White people cause all the evil in the world.” I glanced at the book one day and a sober Moore wrote things about white people in general pretty close to what a drunken Gibson said about Jews. Has Moore paid any penalty? A few years ago, Spike Lee said that Charleton Heston should be shot for his actions as NRA President. When Heston (a real hate object to liberals) was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, George Clooney said, “Good. He deserves it.” Clooney is probably the most loved figure in Hollywood. Where was the ADL?

I don’t hold the opinions that Gibson is supposed to have spouted. I don’t drink, either. But I am waiting for liberal celebrities to get hammered when they say similar, if not worse things.


My starting point is not, “Here we go again with another leftist double standard being wielded against conservatives.” My starting point is, “What should we should think about Gibson’s behavior?” Maybe that sounds pie-in-the-sky. But I think it is the only way we can stand on firm ground and not have our judgments of things driven by our reactions to the viciousness of the left.

At the same time, of course, the double standard is one of the main weapons of the liberal order, and we must expose it and fight it continually, but not at the expense of suspending or lessening our own judgments when Christians or conservatives do something blameworthy.

[See later entry where I amend what I said above.]

Mark P. writes:

I was listening to the Michael Medved show’s discussion about Gibson’s anti-Semitism when a caller (a police officer) offered an interesting explanation. He said, basically, that the course of the whole discussion about Gibson (what he said, why he said it, what he really believes, and what should be done about it) was wrong, including Medved’s take.

He explained that alcoholics caught up in a DUI run through typical emotional states like anger at the arrest, self-pity, fear, crying, embarrassment, worry, etc., often culminating in harassment and verbal abuse of the arresting officer, since the officer is perceived by the alcoholic as the cause of the DUI. Typically, the verbal abuse fixates on particular features of the officer as a way of getting under the officer’s skin. For example, this caller stated he is bald so when he arrests someone for DUI, he gets a lots of cracks about his baldness. Gibson, he asserted, was simply going through these states, fixated on his officer’s apparent Jewishness and made a crack likely to irritate a Jewish police officer.

No harm, no foul.

Posted by Lawrence Auster at August 01, 2006 09:37 AM | Send

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