Celebrity gaffes can seem fairly meaningless. Celebrity behavior is normal human behavior: from pistol whipping (Eminem) to drug addiction (Robert Downey Jr.) to weird familial marriage (Woody Allen), the sort of human transgressions that would be at most private gossip among civilians becomes the world’s top news.
Given that, I think there is an underlying political importance to Mel Gibson’s continued episodes of hate. I don’t think Mel Gibson is just an eccentric, angry actor in the way Russell Crowe is. I think he and his father follow a continuous line of political thought that starts as far back as the Middle Age persecutions, moves toward Adolf Hitler and his stateside apologists and ends up at the like of David Duke, Pat Buchanan (coincidentally, or perhaps not, a Traditionalist Catholic fellow traveler of Hutton Gibson and his son who continues to appear on MSNBC despite having published a pro-Hitler revisionist screed), the Muslim Brotherhood and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. (Lines of political thought are a really good way of assessing your own political beliefs and making sense of the chaotic political spectrum. Generally speaking mine follow the line of Leon Trotsky, George Orwell and on toward Christopher Hitchens.)
It would be one thing if Gibson’s rough rhetoric were a personal problem. Unfortunately his father shares it:
In his interview on WSNR radio’s Speak Your Piece, to be broadcast on Monday, Hutton Gibson, argued that many European Jews counted as death camp victims of the Nazi regime had in fact fled to countries like Australia and the United States.
“It’s all — maybe not all fiction — but most of it is,” he said, adding that the gas chambers and crematoria at camps like Auschwitz would not have been capable of exterminating so many people.
“Do you know what it takes to get rid of a dead body? To cremate it?” he said. “It takes a litre of petrol and 20 minutes. Now, six million of them? They (the Germans) did not have the gas to do it. That’s why they lost the war.”
Gibson’s homoerotic sadomasochistic torture flick The Passion of the Christ can be found in evangelical households across America, watched as frequently as geeks re-watch Star Wars. Watching Gibson’s film is a constant reinforcement of anti-Semitism; the film portrays the Romans as a helpless bureaucratic body that is forced in to crucifying Jesus Christ in order to appease bloodthirsty Jews. Gibson’s portrayal of the Jews is a narrative as old as Christianity itself and played no small role in their historical persecution.
In that film, Gibson wasn’t just channelling his own madness. Despite the pretty overwhelming support of the worst elements of Israeli messianism, American evangelicals, devout Catholics and other stringent followers of Jesus of Nazareth are not without strong shades of anti-Semitism. (After all, they don’t believe in the savior!) Jerry Falwell was known for making crass jokes about the fiscal habits of Jews while plopping out gems like “The Jews are returning to their land of unbelief. They are spiritually blind and desperately in need of their Messiah and Savior.” In a public spat with his friend and the very intelligent religious/political commentator Dennis Prager (who is also Jewish, as it happens), Little Green Footballs blogger Charles Johnson was able to get Prager (who has done no small act in addressing anti-Semitism) to admit that Pat Buchanan and other elements of the Right are anti-Jewish.
When you hear about Gibson accosting a Jewish police officer or hear a tape of him ranting about how his wife will get “raped by a bunch of niggers” or rallying against “wetbacks,” you’re not just hearing a crazy person. You’re hearing the sick, intolerant, tribal and morally vacant core of Christianity.