It has been said that Mel Gibson should be eternally punished, in some unspecified way, for having on several drugged or drunk occasions, said, or shouted, several anti-Semitic things, for having said or shouted several Jew-hating and Jew-baiting things, while working on a screenplay about some Jewish heroes, with a man with a Jewish wife and son.
It has been said he had no right to say or feel these things, and he shouldn’t be allowed near the subject he is making, or was making, a film about.
As a descendant of twenty million Jews I have a problem with this. I’m not sure we should punish anyone for what is after all, in Orwell’s expression, Thoughtcrime. If we can do this we surely have to go on to the next stage, which is burning Mein Kampf, and the books of David Irving, in the public square. And the poems of TS Eliot and Ezra Pound.
And the novels of Charles Dickens.
Freedom of speech is not just the freedom to say acceptable things. It is absolute, and covers Moonies, Greenies, Jehovah’s Witnesses who rail against blood transfusions, Mormons who used to believe in twelve-year-old brides, and Cardinal Pell who hopes Hell is empty and even Hitler, I guess, is out on day-leave now. It includes the freedom to hate, and hate as a generality.
Does a Changi survivor who saw his best mate beheaded have the right to hate the Japanese, as a generality? Does a Jewish woman, like one I know (her name, absurdly, Eva Braun), who saw the smoke that used to be her parents go up in the sky over Auschwitz have a right to hate the Germans, as a generality? Do Carlton supporters have a right to hate, whatever that means, Collingwood supporters, as a generality? Do their victims have a right to hate, as a generality, the Scientologists who against their protests aborted them for having insufficient thetans? As a generality?
Will somebody answer this please.
Because if the answer is, in any of these cases, yes, it must then mean that a Gazan man whose wife and infant daughter were killed by an IDF helicopter-gunship at midnight in mistake for someone else, has the right to hate Jews as a generality.
I need arguments against this proposition.
I do not say Mel Gibson has just cause for his intermittent hatred of Jews, or that his father does. I only suggest it is within his human rights to have, and express, such feelings.
He was not so anti-Semitic in the past. He played Biff in Death of a Salesman, a play by a Jew, with a Jewish co-star, Warren Mitchell. He made four Lethal Weapons, whose director of photography was called Goldblatt, and whose producer was called Joel Silver. He made The Passion of the Christ, a story of a heroic Jew, in the languages he actually spoke, Aramaic and Latin, with Maia Morgenstern, a practising Jew from Romania, as the Virgin Mary. He has striven for eight years to make a Maccabees film, about a family one might describe as the Jewish Castros of their day.
But he may believe, like a hundred million Protestant and Catholic Americans, that the Jews will burn a billion years in Hell if they do not convert, and still have a trillion years to go. It seems wrong to me, a sort of Jew, and likewise bound as an atheist for infinite burning, that he should be singled out for vilification when a hundred million others, a hundred and fifty million others, perhaps, and a billion more in the Middle East and Africa, are by this definition as anti-Semitic as he. Why not go after Billy Graham? Why not go after George Bush, who likewise believes the Jews must be converted, or fry in Hell?
What does this bizarre Tinseltown vendetta add up to? To the idea, simply, that the punishment of Mel Gibson must be henceforth without end.
In medieval times, he would have been put in the stocks for two days and pelted with rotten vegetables, and then let go about his business.
But, for some of us, alas, the thirteenth century has not yet dawned, and the unstrained mercy Christ and Shakespeare spoke of — you must love even those who revile and persecute you — is a hundred years away.
And it’s a pity.