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Oliver Stone: the Mel Gibson of the Left?

July 29, 2010

Oliver Stone on the left, Mad Mel on the right.

Could Oliver Stone be an anti-Semite? Is he just Mel Gibson in progressive clothing? That was the raging question of the week after the eminent left-wing director and conspiracy buff uttered some choice bon mots regarding Jews, Hitler and the Holocaust.

Speaking to a reporter for London’s Sunday Times while promoting his film South of the Border, Stone ventured out on a brittle limb and ended up tumbling to the ground.

Gibson, Marlon Brando and Helen Thomas could have warned Stone about the dangers of sitting too far out on that particular limb. Those three renegades shot off their mouths about the Jews, a little too sincerely for comfort, and were forced to humble themselves by issuing contrite public apologies.

But what exactly did Stone say that inflamed the American Jewish Committee, the Anti-Defamation League and other Jewish groups around the world? How truthful or untruthful were his remarks? And how would a reasonable moderate (like me) interpret those remarks?

First, Stone suggested that people other than the Jews suffered as a result of Hitler’s depredations. Big tactical mistake.

“Hitler did far more damage to the Russians than [to] the Jewish people, 25 or 30 [million],” Stone insisted.

Well yes, that’s true if you consider the sheer numbers… not true if you measure by percentage of the population. Hitler destroyed more than half of Europe’s Jews and undoubtedly would have tried to finish the job if he had been given a few extra years. Even a Communist-friendly individual like Stone has to know that Russia’s casualties were the casualties of war, not genocide. Still, premature deaths are premature deaths, and Stone’s point was an effort to put those deaths into perspective. Now if only he’d tally up the deaths caused by Stalin’s purges and forced famines, we might gain even greater perspective.

Stone then uttered the two words that automatically demonize anyone who couples them in the same sentence: “Jewish” and “media.” He asserted that  “Jewish domination of the media” was responsible for highlighting the Holocaust at the expense of the millions of Russian deaths during World War II.

Stone stirred up two tempests with that one statement. First he reinforced the widespread suspicion (a demonstrable fact to some, a myth to others) that the mass media in the U.S. are controlled by Jews and Jewish interests.

So… are they or aren’t they?

The answer is far from simple. Yes, Jews are disproportionately represented in the media, as they are in nearly all prestigious professions. This is a fact, not a prejudice — and nobody should be excoriated simply for observing it. (If they start raving about a worldwide Jewish conspiracy to control the media, that’s another story.)

I attribute this Jewish media dominance to a combination of drive, intellect and an almost supernatural talent for discerning the desires and tastes of American audiences. Yes, several prominent news organizations (including the New York Times and Washington Post) are owned by Jewish families. Jews are prominent in the major TV networks, though less so than when “the Big Three” dominated the airwaves. Hollywood was essentially built by Jewish entrepreneurs and run by Jewish executives, and a certain amount of nepotism goes with the territory. 

Do those Jewish owners and executives influence the content of the media? Undoubtedly. But no reasonable person should assign nefarious motives to this influence. There’s no united Jewish front overseeing the content of books, magazines and radio shows.

But Oliver Stone implied something else, and his words struck deep: that the prominence of Jews in the media has warped our view of World War II. According to Stone, this vast multi-dimensional war has been reduced to a Holocaust drama, with Hitler in the leading role as the embodiment of pure evil.

Stone wasn’t just trying to be offensive here, although I’m sure he was out to ruffle some choice Jewish feathers. He’s absolutely justified in pointing out that Jews weren’t Hitler’s only victims. We continually hear about the six million Jewish Holocaust casualties — innocent people who were yanked from their homes to suffer and die under unspeakable conditions in Nazi concentration camps. All this is true, and it remains a permanent blot on human history.

But how many of us know that there were actually eleven million victims — if you count the Gypsies, Slavs, homosexuals, handicapped people and “undesirable” religious minorities who were deliberately targeted by Hitler for destruction? Why do we so rarely hear about these five million non-Jewish victims? Were they less important or innocent than the Jews? Must the Holocaust be cast as a uniquely Jewish tragedy, and if so… why? Stone raised a legitimate question, and he shouldn’t be punished for being reckless enough to ask it.

As for Stone’s remarks about Hitler himself, let me quote the maestro directly: “Hitler was a Frankenstein, but there was also a Dr. Frankenstein. German industrialists, the Americans and the British. He had a lot of support.”

Well, there he goes again. As a confirmed lefty, Stone will always blame capitalists for the various disasters that have befallen humankind. There’s a certain degree of truth to the notion that the military-industrial complex initially favored Hitler because, of course, Hitler’s raging territorial ambitions benefited the military-industrial complex. But Hitler was a big boy who could presumably think for himself; he was nobody’s puppet.

Stone went on to blame the Jewish interests for their disastrous influence on U.S. foreign policy. “There’s a major lobby in the United States,” Stone said. “They are hard workers. They stay on top of every comment, the most powerful lobby in Washington. Israel has [messed] up United States foreign policy for years.”

Yes, the “Jewish lobby” (actually a conglomeration of various Jewish and pro-Israel groups) exerts its influence in Congress and ultimately helps shape  U.S. foreign policy — which includes our traditionally ardent (though occasionally flagging) support for the Jewish state. But is it our most powerful lobby? More powerful than oil, guns, insurance, pharmaceuticals or the healthcare establishment? Let’s just call it “influential” and leave it at that.

As soon as Stone’s interview hit the press, the aging director was body-slammed by Jewish groups and individuals for his alleged anti-Semitism. In America, the charge of anti-Semitism can destroy a career. It requires no proof, no trial, no judge or jury. The charge itself is enough evidence for conviction in the minds of the public.

Among cranky celebrities like Oliver Stone, remarks branded as anti-Semitic always demand a prompt (and preferably tearful) public apology. Stone was no exception, though I don’t know if any tears trickled down his cheeks. Here’s what he told the world one day after his interview appeared:

 “In trying to make a broader historical point about the range of atrocities the Germans committed against many people, I made a clumsy association about the Holocaust, for which I am sorry and I regret. Jews obviously do not control media or any other industry. The fact… that the Holocaust is still a very important, vivid and current matter today is, in fact, a great credit to the very hard work of a broad coalition of people committed to the remembrance of this atrocity — and it was an atrocity.”

Excuse me for thinking that Stone’s apology sounds as if it was personally scripted by Abe Foxman of the ADL. “Jews obviously do not control media or any other industry”? Obviously?C’mon, folks! The wholesale diamond trade, anyone? New York’s garment industry, perhaps? Maybe the movie business?

Are we supposed to believe that Oliver Stone changed his views on Jewish media dominance literally overnight? I suppose so. But how can we honestly refute the “myth” of Jewish media control when virtually every rogue celebrity with something to say about the Jews is forced to issue a retraction? Can’t the Jewish establishment see that such tactics only play into the hands of bigots who suspect Jews of controlling public opinion? 

If I were Jewish, I’d be proud that my kinsmen had the skill and chutzpah to gain influence in any field despite their minuscule numbers and their history of persecution at the hands of gentiles. I wouldn’t brag about it, but I would glow inwardly with satisfaction.

Apparently Oliver Stone doesn’t glow. In fact, one little-known fact was omitted, whether deliberately or not, from nearly all accounts of the Stone controversy. It turns out that Oliver Stone is half Jewish.

Can a Jew be anti-Semitic? Definitely: Karl Marx and chess wizard Bobby Fischer are just two prime examples of the breed. Do I believe that Oliver Stone is anti-Semitic? No, I don’t. He simply used his admittedly leftist (and conspiracy-loving) world-view to challenge our assumptions about Jews, the Holocaust and the tiny Jewish-American power elite, without an iota of malice toward the Jewish people themselves.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. valdobiade permalink
    July 29, 2010 2:41 pm

    Rick wrote: Well yes, that’s true if you consider the sheer numbers… not true if you measure by percentage of the population.

    It looks like a statistic where the police in a city lowered the criminality 50% this year compared with the last year. Last year there were two crimes.

    • July 29, 2010 3:03 pm

      Valdo: It’s amazing what people can do with “creative statistics.”

  2. Priscilla permalink
    July 30, 2010 8:07 am

    Let me begin by saying that I think Oliver Stone is a despicable person, and a far less talented filmmaker than his overblown reputation. I do believe that he may be an anti-semite, of the “self-hating Jew” variety, but I don’t know enough about him to be sure.

    What is interesting here is that that he created a syllogistic statement, based on two, relatively accurate, generalizations: 1) that the media is controlled by liberals, and 2) that most Jews are liberals. Hence, in Stone’s conspiracy-theory controlled mind, the media is controlled by Jews.

    The anti-semitism in this goes to the inference that Jews control and manipulate the narrative of history in order to make themselves seem like greater victims that they were/are. Jewish “control” of things – whether it be banking or media – has been the argument used by anti-semites since biblical times and it has remained a remarkably potent one.

  3. July 30, 2010 10:24 am

    Priscilla: I think a lot of people use the syllogism you suggested (though they probably don’t know what a syllogism is) to conclude that the media are controlled by Jews. Oliver Stone wasn’t doing that, though. His argument was more like this: 1) Media presentations of the Holocaust give us the impression that Jews were the only victims; 2) Jews are dominant in the media; 3) Jews are controlling the presentation of the Holocaust to give us the impression that Jews were the only victims.

    I have to agree that there’s some truth to Oliver Stone’s reasoning. During the big 2007 controversy over whether the U.S. should officially recognize the Armenian genocide, I was active on a Jewish site called (believe it or not) Jewcy. The webmaster was properly appalled that the ADL and other Jewish groups were fighting to suppress recognition of the Armenian genocide, and there were a lot of Jewish commentators who were sympathetic to the Armenians. But the issue came up (and a few Jewish commentators admitted this) that Jews essentially want the Holocaust all to themselves, and that they’re reluctant to “share” it with other groups because in their minds it’s a uniquely Jewish tragedy. I can understand their feelings, but it’s still wrong to exclude the other groups. It gives the impression that the Jews believe they’re more important than the other victims.

    This is the viewpoint that comes across in media depictions of the WWII genocides. Do we ever hear about the Slavs, Gypsies and others who were targeted by Hitler? It’s always the “6 million,” never the 11 million. Stone was just trying to remind us that the Holocaust wasn’t a uniquely Jewish tragedy. (Of course, he was wrong to bring up the 20-25 million Russian casualties, because they were simply at war with Germany and died as a direct result of that war. And of course he never mentioned the tens of millions murdered or starved by Stalin.)

    All that said, I don’t think the Jews in the media (why does it sound so taboo to say that?) are deliberately distorting the truth. Naturally they think about their own victims first, because many of them lost family members. So let’s just say we’re getting a Jewish slant on events. But it takes an occasional gadfly like Oliver Stone, nutty as he can be sometimes, to point out the larger truth that the Nazis victimized more than Jews in their drive to remake Europe in their image.

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