The psychodrama involving Mel Gibson’s admitted anti-Semitic and sexist outbursts during a DUI arrest is one of those few occasions wherein celebrity antics reveal something a bit deeper than the fatuousness of Celebrity Culture generally.Gibson has owned up to what he said to arresting officers during the bust, including a plenary indictment of Jews for being “responsible for all the the wars in the world,” and at least one nasty comment about a female officer on the scene. He’s abjectly apologized and all. But his suggestion that his bigoted remarks were attributable to Demon Rum, and to a “struggle with alcoholism,” are a bit strange, and represent an appeal to the Therapeutic Culture in whichno one is responsible for what they say or do Under the Influence of anything.It’s a well-established truism, based on millennia of human experience with hootch, that the kiss o’ the hops tends to peel back inhibitions and expose the true feelings of inebriants. Some would even say that up to a point (and Gibson’s blood-alcohol rating during the bust did not indicate black-out levels of drunkenness at all), inebriation tends to cultivate a certain clarity and honesty about Life in the Big Picture. So it’s not at all clear to me how taking the cure for booze-o-holia is going to cure Gibson of atavistic attitudes towards Jews or women.The whole issue, of course, stems from the well-founded concerns of Jews and Christians alike that Gibson’s self-proclaimed cinematic masterpiece, The Passion of the Christ, played into anti-Semitic stereotypes of the relationship between Jesus Christ and his fellow Jews–the very sterotypes that fed many centuries of Christian persecution of Jews, culminating in the Holocaust.It wouldn’t surprise anyone if Gibson decided to interpret the rejection of The Passion of the Christ by mainstream Hollywood as motivated by Jewish hostility to the lurid associations reinforced by his film. But given the vast profits he made, and the pervasive influence he’s had on the conservative Christians who flocked to the cineplexes to see the flick and held showings in their sanctuaries, he’s hardly in a position to pose as a victim.So: fine, let’s all accept Gibson’s apologies for what he said, and give him a chance to make amends. But it would be nice if ol’ Mel would stop blaming John Barleycorn for his issues, and maybe admit his ongoing complicity in the most ancient and horrific of Christian heresies: anti-Semitism. It comes out of an entirely un-Christlike heart, not out of a bottle.
TDS Strategy Memos
Latest Research from:
By Ed Kilgore
Watching an intra-Democratic argument on voting rights strategy intensify in Washington, I offered some advice to both sides at New York:
There has been an underlying disagreement within the mostly Democratic coalition favoring voting rights that was nicely captured in this New York Times report on Friday:
“A quiet divide between President Biden and the leaders of the voting rights movement burst into the open on Thursday, as 150 organizations urged him to use his political mettle to push for two expansive federal voting rights bills that would combat a Republican wave of balloting restrictions … In private calls with voting rights groups and civil rights leaders, White House officials and close allies of the president have expressed confidence that it is possible to ‘out-organize voter suppression,’ according to multiple people familiar with the conversations.”
Both sides in this argument are partly wrong. Those who expect Joe Biden to force the For the People Act or the John Lewis Voting Rights Act through the Senate via some major revision in the ability to filibuster are probably expecting the impossible. Yes, perhaps if Biden personally and insistently and abrasively lobbied Arizona’s Kyrsten Sinema to abandon her very consistent defense of the filibuster, up to and including encouragement of a primary challenge to her when she is up for reelection in 2024, she might decide her current and very insistent independent-maverick “branding” isn’t going to keep working for her. But Joe Manchin? He would be thrilled to get attacked by a Democratic president or Democratic advocacy groups for insisting that he won’t support voting-rights measures unless at least some Republicans support them. His state is so very red that the threat of a primary challenge to the sole remaining successful West Virginia Democrat is a laugher.
Short of a nuclear attack on West Virginia, it’s hard to identify anything Biden might do to Manchin that wouldn’t run a high risk of backfiring. And he does need Manchin on the reconciliation bills Democrats are using to get around the filibuster to enact Biden’s social and economic agenda. It’s just too bad voting-rights bills don’t qualify for reconciliation.
Yes, it is intensely frustrating that Biden cannot bring himself to come out forthrightly for filibuster reform, but it probably doesn’t matter since it is not happening unless the Democratic Senate Conference gets bigger, making senators like Manchin and Sinema irrelevant on the subject. So at some point voting-rights advocates need to focus on that goal.
At the same time, White House claims that Democrats can “out-organize voter suppression” are partially wrong as well. Yes, restrictive provisions like voter-ID requirements, limits on voting by mail, and even voter-roll purges can be countered and perhaps overcome by intensive efforts to educate and energize the voters Republicans are trying to keep from the polls. But you cannot out-organize a partisan gerrymander, or a law that lets election officials or state legislators overturn the outcome of an election after votes are cast.
Voting-rights advocates will eventually have to play the cards dealt to them by the system as it currently exists. That means refraining from too much anger aimed at Democratic pols who have little choice but to concede defeat on some legislation and concentrate on legislation (i.e., those reconciliation bills with many items vital to the people whose voting rights are also under attack) they can enact with no margin for error in the Senate and little in the House. At the same time, Biden and his staff and Democratic “pragmatists” in Congress should never for a moment be cavalier about the legislative obstacles they face in defending democracy itself. They may have to accept a tactical defeat on voting rights in this Congress. But they should never, ever, give up on making it happen later if not sooner.