Political Hay

Mel, But Not Jesse?

Nor Alec, or Spike, or George Clooney...

By 8.7.06

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So, Mel Gibson goes on a drunken anti-Semitic rant, and we're all supposed to boycott his movies and demand that Hollywood never work with him again -- but Jesse Jackson calls Jews "Hymies" and New York City "Hymietown," and all is forgiven and forgotten.

Jackson made those remarks to a black Washington Post reporter in 1984. According to the Post, Jackson thought the reporter would not print the remarks because they had a "racial bond." They were printed, and it caused a huge controversy. Jackson later apologized, and he has remained a power player on the Left. He has spoken at every Democratic National Convention since 1984. Gibson has apologized too (and Gibson was drunk, Jackson sober), but that has not pacified those who are demanding that his career be ended. Were the GOP to hand Gibson the mike at any future convention, the Democratic reaction would be entirely predictable, and entirely hypocritical.

Let's be clear, I am in no way excusing Gibson's horrible rant. Though his apologies were eloquent, he obviously has a serious, deeply embedded problem with anti-Semitism, and the apologies by themselves are not enough to bring forgiveness. Gibson is going to have to do some serious penance to prove that he neither believes nor endorses the terrible things he said. An hour with Barbara Walters would be a good start.

It is not that Gibson's remarks should be brushed aside. They should not be. But there should be balance in the calls for the public to shun an artist for his personal views. If we are to ruin Gibson's career because of his rant, why are we not supposed to do the same for the left-wingers who express similarly hateful views?

At the 1999 Cannes Film Festival, Spike Lee said of National Rifle Association President Charlton Heston, "Shoot him -- with a .44 caliber Bulldog." Lee did not have the excuse of being drunk. He advocated murdering a man with whom he disagreed politically, and the Left, in its pious oversight of all potentially offensive or inflammatory hate speech, found nothing objectionable.

In 2003, London's Independent newspaper (a liberal paper) reported that Michael Moore belittled the passengers on the airplanes that were hijacked on 9/11, saying that they didn't resist because they were chicken white people. Had they been black, they would've used their physical superiority to overpower the hijackers, Moore said. Even the Independent columnist who reported this rant called it "racist," but the American Left let it pass without comment.

In 1998, Alec Baldwin went on Late Night with Conan O'Brien and said, "And I have come back from Africa to stained dresses and cigars and this and impeachment. I am thinking to myself, in other countries they are laughing at us 24 hours a day and I'm thinking to myself, if we were in other countries, we would all right now, all of us together, [starts to shout] all of us together would go down to Washington and we would stone Henry Hyde to death! We would stone him to death! [crowd cheers] Wait! Shut up! Shut up! No shut up! I'm not finished. We would stone Henry Hyde to death and we would go to their homes and we'd kill their wives and their children. We would kill their families."

Another advocate of murdering conservatives (and their entire families!), and yet after that rant Baldwin went on to host Saturday Night Live more times than anyone not named Steve Martin (Baldwin is tied for second place with John Goodman).

In 1996, director Stacy Title released Last Supper, a film in which a group of liberal graduate students murder a series of caricatured conservative stereotypes because the world is "a better place" without all those non-liberals. Yet another advocate of murdering people with the "wrong" opinions, and again the Left yawns. Can you imagine if a conservative made a film advocating the murder of radical leftists?

In 2003, George Clooney made fun of Alzheimer's sufferers, saying "Charlton Heston announced again today that he is suffering from Alzheimer's." Not a peep from the Left.

In 2002, Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Tony Kushner said, "I don't really write plays for conservatives or reactionary people because I think they have a real problem. I think conservatism and other political movements to the right are forms of thought disorder. I think they can be pathologized. I don't believe that everybody has an equal point or an equally valid perspective."

Conservatives are not fully human, according to Kushner. This is just a step away from justifying the politically based murder advocated in Title's film, or the sort of "re-education" camps common in the former Soviet Union. But Kushner remains a left-wing hero.

In 1998, Jack Nicholson met Fidel Castro. He came away swooning, calling Castro a "genius" and a "humanist like President Clinton." Oliver Stone said of Castro, "We should look to [Castro] as one of the Earth's wisest people, one of the people we should consult." Never mind that Castro is personally responsible for the murder or imprisonment of thousands, stole and pocketed the wealth of his countrymen, and denies the Cuban people freedom of speech, the press, assembly or just about anything else. No comment from the Left.

Then, of course, there are the prison artists. The Left loves prison artists. Just last month the New York Times profiled convicted (and confessed) murderer Donny Johnson, serving three life terms for a series of offenses, including murdering a friend. Johnson's painting is of unusually high quality for a convicted killer sentenced to solitary confinement. And so he exhibits in galleries and gets profiled in the New York Times.

Convicted serial killer Arthur Shawcross, known as the Genessee River Killer, murdered and partially cannibalized at least 11 women. Several art dealers used to sell Shawcross's work on eBay before the prison revoked the killer's arts and crafts privileges. He later was allowed to work again, and his art has been exhibited and sold.

Forgiveness for actual killers, but a scarlet letter for a man who makes a drunken rant about Jews causing all the world's wars. That's hardly consistent.

Again, there is no excuse for Mel Gibson's rant. He deserves a thorough and sustained public rebuke by the entire country until he can demonstrate, rather than simply state, that he in no way believes the reprehensible things he said. But if we are going to hold Mel Gibson's art to account for his personal behavior, shouldn't we do the same for left-wingers and convicts?

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About the Author

Andrew Cline is editorial page editor of the New Hampshire Union Leader. You can follow him on Twitter at @Drewhampshire.