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Mel Gibson…defensive much?

March 4, 2010

Christopher Hitchens decries anti-Semitism in lecture at UCLA

By Cynthia Lee (UCLA) March 04, 2010

Christopher Hitchens, an internationally known columnist, intellectual and author whose provocative books and essays in Slate, Vanity Fair, the Atlantic and other publications have hammered at organized religion, the Clintons, Winston Churchill and Mother Teresa alike, appeared Wednesday, March 3, before a packed audience at UCLA to portray anti-Semitism as “the godfather of all other forms of racism” and “the gateway to the tyranny of fascism and war.”

Alternating between black humor, biting sarcasm and insightful analysis, Hitchens took over the podium at Korn Convocation Hall to deliver the eighth annual Daniel Pearl Memorial Lecture at UCLA to an audience of more than 400 people, including Pearl’s father, Judea Pearl, an emeritus professor of computer science at UCLA and president of a foundation formed to continue his son’s mission of promoting cross-cultural understanding through journalism and music.

Daniel Pearl, a prominent Wall Street Journal reporter and the paper’s South Asia bureau chief, was kidnapped and murdered by terrorists in Pakistan in 2002.

Hitchens joined a distinguished list of prominent journalists who have delivered the annual lecture, including Anderson Cooper, David Brooks, Ted Koppel, Larry King, Jeff Greenfield, Daniel Schorr and Thomas Friedman.

Before Hitchens began his remarks, Judea Pearl explained that in the initial years following his son’s death, the family had not wanted to dwell on the “negative, deranged mindset behind the ideology of his murderers,” but instead had concentrated on the positive aspects of Daniel’s legacy.

“But recently, we came to recognize that if we want to be true to our mission of rolling back the tsunami of hatred that is currently sweeping our planet, we must first map its undercurrents, analyze its anatomy and understand its circuitry in full scientific detail,” Pearl said.

Hitchens opened with a clip of a recent KTLA interview with an unapologetic Mel Gibson nearly four years after his infamous anti-Semitic tirade during a drunk-driving arrest, and urged his listeners to be vigilant against a hatred that cannot be eradicated, to “fight it without pity,” but also to be discerning in picking out the real enemies and toxic forms of anti-Semitism, such as that posed by Islamic jihad.

Citing liberally from the writings of historians, intellectuals and literary authors, Hitchens illustrated how difficult it can be to characterize anti-Semitism. Are all anti-Zionists, Holocaust deniers and far right-wingers anti-Semites? Not necessarily, he said. But neither are all liberals immune from such hatred. For example, he pointed out, “I would have not expected to see the day when supposedly liberal websites … would [carry] stories about Israel stealing body parts,” he said, referring to an article published in a leftist Swedish newspaper in August 2009 that spread across the Internet and created an international firestorm.

He also noted that the massive Ponzi scheme perpetrated by Bernard Madoff did not trigger a wave of anti-Semitism in the U.S. “There was a time when something like that would have,” he said. “But almost everyone in the United States has a Jewish friend. They know not to generalize. I have a feeling that in the U.S., it’s well-controlled,” although he added, “I’m not going to say this is the promised land.”

Ranked the 11th most influential print/online columnist by the website Mediaite, Hitchens has elicited both praise and criticism for his acerbic observations on Beltway politics, world affairs, and contemporary thought and culture. His no-holds-barred style of journalism and analysis has earned him many honors, including a National Magazine Award in 2007 and a spot as a finalist for the 2007 National Book Award.

A classically trained graduate of Cambridge and Balliol College, Oxford, with an honors degree in philosophy, politics and economics, Hitchens has penned more than a dozen books, including the New York Times bestseller “God is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything.” He emigrated from England in 1981 and became a naturalized U.S. citizen in 2007.

Established at UCLA in 2002, the lecture series honors the life and work of Daniel Pearl. The Hitchens lecture was presented by the UCLA Burkle Center for International Relations, the Daniel Pearl Foundation and the Yitzhak Rabin Hillel Center for Jewish Life at UCLA.

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. ni09 permalink
    March 6, 2010 6:03 am

    For the record: Many Jewish people in general support Mel Gibson and many of Mel Gibson’s close friends are in fact Jewish – they in other words do not have a dog in this fight, they accepted his apology. Many non-Jewish people on the other hand have a preconceived notion that he is anti-Semitic and don’t like it. Mel Gibson is well aware of all of this, he is not asking the man: Are you Jewish. He is asking: Are you impartial, do you have an open mind or have you in fact already decided that I am guilty and is your agenda to lead the discussion that way and spread that preconceived notion further? Many Jewish and non-Jewish people keep revisiting this 2006 incident and Mel Gibson has every right to call them on partiality. He has every right in other words to ask people if they have a dog in this fight, or if they are willing to be open minded. And although some suggest it is shameful of him to defend himself or get irritated with THEM, he actually does not have an obligation to keep bowing his head and take beatings – just because they are shocked or irritated that he does not take on that role.
    Mel Gibson gets interviewed about 250 times during the promotion of this film, more than 99 % of the interviews are average, they don’t get mentioned, the few (literally) in which there is some irritation get re-run and re-run, with accompanying comments that lead us to believe he is acting “as a mad man” when he defends himself or gets irritated (like no-one else ever defends themselves, gets irritated or mutters a one-word profanity). This unbalanced reporting leads to a heavy misrepresentation of how he behaves in general and what he is like to be with. And that has been going on for a long time now. Everybody would get irritated by that at some point, whether they had misbehaved at one point or not. If they ask you to be fair and balanced, so should they. One incident in over 50 years of life for which he apologized is no match for the repeated hostility he gets met with, the demeaning and hurtful remarks he continually has to deal with, often delivered as so-called neutral remarks or just a joke. It is not Mel Gibson who is out of control, but the people who go on and on and show no remorse what so ever for doing so. And these people should not misrepresent their personal opinion that he is a bigot as a rational fact. If alcohol were a truth serum we could use it in court. It is not.

  2. imperialistscum permalink
    March 7, 2010 12:49 am

    The only response I can give you is: read anything written or listen to anything said by his father. The apple does not fall far from the tree in this case.

  3. ni09 permalink
    March 7, 2010 1:43 pm

    Some people do things their parents way, others mature and form their own opinions and ways, as you acknowledge when you add ‘in his case’. It is presumptuous to presume to know which is which in Gibson’s case. If people want to speculate that Mel Gibson thinks like his father in these particular respects, that is their business, it is not an established fact however. And Hitchens presumption that he knows what the Church is about that Gibson attends, is actually in reality also just speculation, theorizing. Further, when Hitchens implies that Gibson exposes himself as an anti-Semite when he says that his father never lied to him, he is falsely assuming to know what discussions did and didn’t take place at Gibson’s home – or how specific matters were discussed – while he was growing up.
    Gibson himslef actually states that Antisemitism is a sin according to the tenet of his faith. To be racist in any form is a sin. He has also indicated on several occasions that he does not support the concept of the Jews as a group being cursed by God for the killing of Jesus. He in fact says that we are ALL to blame, HE himself is to blame, for the simple reason that, as he sees it, we all have the same dormant abilities. That is a theory of equality, not the opposite – and indeed, he produces and directs films that each time show different groups of people succumbing to hatred, including blue eyed gentiles. The common theme here is not a specific group, but brutality itself and the devastating effects it has on all occasions. Now, if people want to interpret his above mentioned statements as a lie, they are free to, but they should not either pretend it wasn’t said or present a picture that leaves it out of the equation. And that actually often happens. And again, people should also not present their personal opinion that Gibson is an anti-Semite as an established fact just because of what took place in 2006 during that drunken arrest. If alcohol were a truth serum we could use it in court. It is not. There are different plausible ways to interpret what happened that night.

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