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Blog Rules

The influence of bloggers and their weblogs, already growing by leaps and bounds thanks to such polarizing controversies as the war in Iraq and such Internet-driven phenomena as the Howard Dean presidential campaign, reached new heights in October with the Gregg Easterbrook affair.

Easterbrook, who writes on a remarkable range of subjects for an equally remarkable number of publications, was fired by ESPN (he had a regular column on the sports network’s website) for something he’d written on the website of The New Republic (TNR).

The brouhaha over Easterbrook’s allegedly anti-Semitic attack on Jewish Hollywood executives was confined almost entirely to the blogosphere, with some belated and largely ineffectual notice from a few print organs, notably the New York Times on Oct. 17 and the Los Angeles Times a day later.

Easterbrook eventually apologized for what he called his ‘poor wording,’ and his ‘Easterblogg’ column on TNR appears to have survived the deluge of criticism. But for about ten days he was vilified, in terms befitting a David Duke or a Louis Farrakhan, by several influential bloggers and the thousands of readers who left comments on their sites.

Ironically, once word spread that Easterbrook’s column had been terminated by the spineless suits at ESPN, the very bloggers who beat him to a pulp suddenly turned remorseful and decided that he wasn’t anti-Semitic after all and certainly didn’t deserve his punishment.

For the record, what Easterbrook said that so many found offensive comprised a small part of a column on the increasingly graphic violence peddled to the public by the film industry. After naming several Jewish Hollywood honchos, he wrote: “Yes, there are plenty of Christian and other Hollywood executives who worship money above all else, promoting for profit the adulation of violence. Does that make it right for Jewish executives to worship money above all else, by promoting for profit the adulation of violence?”

Easterbrook’s point about greedy and morally anesthetized movie moguls is well taken, but it was his lunge at Jewish executives – in a column that up to that point had made no mention of ethnicity or religion – that left him exposed for the flaying that followed.

(For readers interested in a thoughtful and well-written overview of the Easterbrook controversy, Steven Weiss, a contributor to the Forward and other publications, has just the article over at Jewsweek.com.)

Of course, a writer as intelligent as Easterbrook should have known that writing about Hollywood and Jews is always a risky proposition. Back in 1994, William Cash was mercilessly attacked by Jews on both sides of the Atlantic for his article in the British magazine The Spectator called ‘Kings of the Deal.’ Cash may have been a bit injudicious in some of his phraseology, but it was difficult to argue with the thrust of his piece.

Cash traced Hollywood back to its Jewish roots and argued that the industry hadn’t changed much in 60 years in terms of Jewish dominance. ‘George Steiner,’ he wrote, “once famously said that to be Jewish is to be a member of a club from which you cannot resign. In Hollywood, the most obvious examples of the Jewish Club are in the side-shows, the lawyers, talent agencies and management and production offices.”

Cash wrote rather sympathetically of how the early Jewish movie moguls strove to become part of the ruling WASP establishment and how different were the attitudes of the new generation of Hollywood Jews. It was a tough piece, one devoid of rose-colored spectacles, but from the reaction to it one would have thought it had been penned by a Nazi propagandist.

Typical was the response by media writer Neal Gabler, who wrote that Cash’s “article might be dismissed as an anti-Semitic bleat from a reactionary crackpot if it didn’t have a respectable platform.” Gabler also accused Cash of  “[i]gnoring the facts to suit his myth of Jewish control [of Hollywood].”

To Gabler, apparently, it’s anti-Semitic mythmaking to ascribe control of Hollywood to Jews – unless one does so in the safe and distant past. He is, after all, the author of the acclaimed book An Empire of Their Own: How the Jews Invented Hollywood.

About the Author: Jason Maoz is the Senior Editor of The Jewish Press. He can be contacted at jmaoz@jewishpress.com.

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