Times: Frank Rich Says a Premature Kaddish for Mel Gibson

Not so fast Frank Rich. Don't go saying Kaddish for Mel Gibson.

Rich wrote on Sunday recalling how Mel got away with so much in another era long ago - namely in 2004 - when he released his film on Jesus.

Aside: We loved the idea of a hit Hollywood movie in Aramaic. And we hated the anti-Semitic overtones that it had - but that was not Mel's fault. Blame all that on the Gospels themselves.

Rich nostalgically opines in his op-ed, "The Good News About Mel Gibson" (ha-ha, clever title):
...It was into that tinderbox of America 2004 that Gibson tossed his self-financed and self-directed movie about the crucifixion, “The Passion of the Christ.” The epic was timed to detonate in the nation’s multiplexes on Ash Wednesday, after one of the longest and most divisive promotional campaigns in Hollywood history.

Gibson is in such disgrace today that it’s hard to fathom all the fuss he and his biblical epic engendered back then. The commotion began with the revelation that his father, Hutton, was a prominent and vociferous Holocaust denier and that both father and son were proselytizers for a splinter sect of Roman Catholicism that rejected the reforms of the Second Vatican Council, including the lifting of the “Christ-killers” libel from the Jews. Jewish leaders and writers understandably worried that “The Passion” might be as anti-Semitic as the Passion plays of old. Gibson’s response was to hold publicity screenings for the right-wing media and political establishment, including a select Washington soiree attended by notables like Peggy Noonan, Kate O’Beirne and Linda Chavez. (The only nominal Jew admitted was Matt Drudge.) The attendees then used their various pulpits to assure the world that the movie was divine — and certainly nothing that should trouble Jews. “I can report it is free of anti-Semitism,” vouchsafed Robert Novak after his “private viewing.”

Uninvited Jewish writers (like me) who kept raising questions about the unreleased film and its exclusionary rollout were vilified for crucifying poor Mel. Bill O’Reilly of Fox News asked a reporter from Variety “respectfully” if Gibson was being victimized because “the major media in Hollywood and a lot of the secular press is controlled by Jewish people.” Such was the ugly atmosphere of the time that these attempts at intimidation were remarkably successful. Many mainstream media organizations did puff pieces on the star or his film, lest they be labeled “anti-Christian” when an ascendant religious right was increasingly flexing its muscles in the corridors of power in Washington. ...more...
That was then, this is now. Rich believes that Gibson has been disgraced and that the right wing cadre that supported him have imploded and are no longer influential. Yisgadal viyisqadash...

As they say in Hebrew, "Haleveye" -- if only that were true. We hope it is....but...

Unfortunately, we feel around us the simmering heat of right wing anger ready to boil over or explode. And that is within the Jewish community vis a vis Obama and the current administration. We can but wonder what kind of lava is waiting to erupt from the Christian right and where all that will end up when the rumbling volcano of animosity does blow. Don't say Kaddish for Mel just yet.

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