October 20, 2003

Overkill

It is clear to me that Gregg Easterbrook was hoping to get some sort of a reaction from Disney when he wrote:

The New Republic Online: Easterbrook: ...Disney's CEO, Michael Eisner, is Jewish; the chief of Miramax, Harvey Weinstein, is Jewish. Yes, there are plenty of... other Hollywood executives who worship money above all else.... Does that make it right for Jewish executives to worship money above all else, by promoting for profit the adulation of violence? Recent European history alone ought to cause Jewish executives to experience second thoughts about glorifying the killing of the helpless as a fun lifestyle choice. But history is hardly the only concern. Films made in Hollywood are now shown all over the world, to audiences that may not understand the dialogue or even look at the subtitles, but can't possibly miss the message--now Disney's message--that hearing the screams of the innocent is a really fun way to express yourself.

I mean, you don't accuse anybody of worshipping Mammon rather than The One Who Is, of desecrating the graves of their murdered relatives, and of moral complicity in suicide bombings in Israel--not unless you are hoping that something will come out of the hole into which you are poking your stick, do you?

Nevertheless, it is clear that Easterbrook did not expect what has emerged: I certainly think that firing Gregg Easterbrook from his ESPN job is vast overkill, and unworthy of Michael Eisner's dignity.


UPDATE: They don't call it the Net of a Million Lies for Nothing! Dan Drezner's quote of the Power Line's quote purportedly by Gregg Easterbrook is not repeat not genuine:

Daniel Drezner: Finally, The Power Line reprints an e-mail from Easterbrook that is making the rounds.... Some of the disconcerting sections:

Yesterday I was told to expect to be fired by ESPN. It hasn't happened yet, but seems likely [he has since been fired by ESPN]. Friday the top officers of ESPN refused several orders from Michael Eisner, the head of Disney, that I be fired. By the end of the day it seemed likely they would give in....

Yesterday I was told by an ally within Disney corporate that Eisner has assigned people to try to destroy the book [The Progress Paradox: How Life Gets Better While People Feel Worse] -- to get Time to drop the serial, to keep me off interview shows, even to get Random House to kill the book. In a published body of work that now extends to millions of words, I have written three foolish and wrong sentences. Now I've not only lost reputation and half my income (ESPN): what matters to me most in all the world, my book writing, is in jeopardy at the worst possible time. And I'm up against one of the richest, most vindictive men in the world. (emphasis added)

Posted by DeLong at October 20, 2003 10:19 PM | TrackBack

Comments

Kaus has a good speculative explication of Easterbrook's thinking.

I hadn't been aware of this controversy at all until today. I'm ambivalent. In Easterbrook's defense, there seems to be a lot of evidence that he's not antisemitic and that he was simply being foolish. Additionally, to my mind there's something subtly very honest about his apology and that inclines me to accept that it's earnest and thus deserving of acceptance. Completely unreserved apologies and disavowalls seem to me to be more about p.r. and strategic capitulation than about soul-searching and honesty. Easterbrook in his apology is trying to defend what he thinks was his basic point, while completely owning up to some collosally stupid miscalculations in its presentation. In that context, it hardly seems fair the extreme reaction against him.

On the other hand, I really despise the commentary culture that revels in more-rhetoric-than-substance habits as ad hominems, provocative hyperbole, provocative contrarianism, etc. People don't interact with each other, in person, in this manner (much) because its essential dishonesty is more apparent and, more to the point, there are usually immediate unpleasant consequences. The commentary and Internet culture—which are in conjunction in this instance (and here!)—too often takes for granted that there are no personal consequences for one's words. I think it's a good thing that everyone be reminded that this isn't necessarily true.

By the way, this is why I *always* use my real, full name and/or include my email address in everything I write on the Internet. I've done this for eight years. Potential employers, mates, or whoever can look up my words on Usenet, the web, and elsewhere. This *hasn't* always tempered my rhetoric as it should, but at least I am directly held responsible for my words. This is as it should be.

Easterbrook's fate very much should be a warning to bloggers, and I think that's a good thing.

Posted by: Keith M Ellis on October 20, 2003 11:02 PM

I wouldn't write everything I think under my real name, because, alas, there are a lot of employers like Eisner out there. The Mouse is infamous for malevolent vindictiveness; massive retaliation sounds very much in character.

as for Easterbrook, even if it was just an unthinking stupidity, he should have known better.

Posted by: wcw on October 20, 2003 11:16 PM

"And I'm up against one of the richest, most vindictive men in the world"

How can someone seriously write THIS and then expect a letter writing campaign to get his job back? That's f*cking goofy! (old mouse joke).

Easterbrook's letter sounds much more like an Ollie North fundraising campaign pitting the nasty traitourous libs against Ollie and asking the conservatives for their dollars.

When I feel badly about wronging someone, I don't take to the metaverse, I usually find that person and apologize face to face.

If he had really wanted his job back, I'm guessing that between Kaus and Roger Simon, they know someone that knows someone that could get a phone call from Easterbrook answered by Eisner.

Posted by: jerry on October 21, 2003 12:05 AM

The simple explanation for why Easterbrook didn't grovel is because he believes he's telling the truth. Good for him. What exactly is more important for a writer than telling the truth?

Of course, if he had stuck up for Rush Limbaugh at ESPN for telling the truth about media bias over NFL racial issues, instead of attacking him, he might not have been in this pickle.

Posted by: Steve Sailer on October 21, 2003 12:29 AM

" One would expect self-preservation alone to elicit some kind of abject personal apology from somebody who has just grossly and personally insulted one of the most vindictive people in the world"

shorter above: One would expect cowardice. also sniveling would be good.

sorry but if I said something like what he said, which I doubt I ever would, I would of course apologize, but once I got fired for my stupidity, and a campaign of retribution began, the time for apologies would clearly be over.


Posted by: bryan on October 21, 2003 02:06 AM

The economic impact of biting the hand that feeds you is not so hard to predict.

Easterbrook walked into this door all by himself. He needs to suck it up and accept the consequences.

Posted by: PT on October 21, 2003 02:25 AM

OT, but every time any partisan repeats a counterfactual the truth bears reiterating: Limbaugh may have believed what he said, but as with Easterbrook, what Limbaugh said was a racist lie.

the John Lott study on which I assume Mr. Sailer is basing his throwaway comment is yet another nail in the intellectual coffin of that lying, cherrypicking, data-mining fraud. his data actually show that if there is a media bias over NFL quarterbacks' race -- and there probably isn't -- it probably favors white QBs.

I think it's time for another round of why-does-the-New-Right-lie-so-much posts.

Posted by: wcw on October 21, 2003 07:13 AM

On the lighter side (if a little OT):
Our hosts refers to the "The One Who Is." It should be noted that the Hebrew version is preposterously ambiguous. Besides "I am what I am" it can be read "I am what I will be" or "I will be what I am" or even "I will be what I was."
When dealing with the definition of the devine, perhaps a certain amount of fuzz is inevitable.

Posted by: Jonathan Goldberg on October 21, 2003 07:32 AM

I've read what Gregg wrote about ten times, and each time it reads the same to me: "Two wrongs don't make a right.", and "Given history, shouldn't Jewish people lead by example?".

I cannot for the life of me see the anti-semitism in that.

Oh -- I forgot. Somewhere within five sentences of each other were the words "Jewish" and "Money", even though they were clearly separated. The rest of you must have forgotten to read the entire paragraph.

Posted by: Ross Judson on October 21, 2003 08:17 AM

I've read what Gregg wrote about ten times, and each time it reads the same to me: "Two wrongs don't make a right.", and "Given history, shouldn't Jewish people lead by example?".

I cannot for the life of me see the anti-semitism in that.

Oh -- I forgot. Somewhere within five sentences of each other were the words "Jewish" and "Money", even though they were clearly separated...

Posted by: Ross Judson on October 21, 2003 08:38 AM

Ross writes: "I cannot for the life of me see the anti-semitism in that."

I think I know what you mean, Ross, but I think what some people are objecting to is (to use your concise version of Easterbrook) the part that says "Given history, shouldn't Jewish people ... ?" No, say (some of) the critics, stop adding to the burden of being Jewish (especially if you aren't going to expect equal conscience from non-Jews).

That, plus those who know more about today's movies than I do tell me that it's ridiculous to compare (in any way) the Holocaust to the kind of violence one sees on the screen nowadays. Not knowing much about the latter, I can't comment on this.

Then there are the folks who object because (they say) Eisner isn't a "religious" Jew, only an "ethnic" one. (Don't ask me; I can't explain it.)

In any case, the accusation of -- and the fact of -- anti-Semitism are both serious, and deserve to be thought and written about carefully.
.

Posted by: Cervantes on October 21, 2003 08:50 AM

If Easterbrook were Jewish, would there still be a problem?

Posted by: goethean on October 21, 2003 09:05 AM

The comments were needlessly offensive to the leaders of Disney and Miramax and the film-maker, and to Jews. Whether the writer was Jewish or not is not the issue. The comments were offensive. Why should anyone tolerate such absurd personal and ethnic insults from an employee? Perhaps an abject apology might suffice, but there was none. So, "bye bye."

Posted by: jd on October 21, 2003 11:00 AM

Easterbrook personally insulted his boss and smeared the parent company. He paid the price. End of story.

Posted by: nameless on October 21, 2003 11:02 AM

Well, if easterbrook were jewish his POV would be different, and his fate (to the extent that Jews consider themselves at risk from anti-semitism) would be tied up with the fate of the people he was criticizing, so the entire media storm would look different. but it all depends on what you mean by "a problem" because the question is always: a problem for who? (or do I mean whom?). The media storm might have looked different--but Easterbrook has received a well deserved thrashing for everything from his environmental views, his whitewashing of bush, and his recent "no doesn't mean no" column on rape, as well as the unbelievable lecture to sensitive black males in the DC area that explains that since he, a well dressed white guy, sometimes can't get a cab probably the black guys being stood up day after day have no complaint either. Easterbrook's real problem (his problem qua writer) was insisting that he could be in everyone's shoes at every moment, and explain everything to everyone regardless of his own ignorance: of sports, women, rape, being black, movies or whatever. There had been lots of complaint about all these essays, but the one that "caught fire" or perhaps we should call it the penultimate one was the accusation of anti-semitism. If Easterbrook had been Jewish it might have taken some of the heat off him for his comments, but he might still have been fired for all his other egregious sins as a writer. And Eisner probably would have fired a jewish easterbrook for dissing Disney and its movies, or for calling Eisner out by name and fingering him as responsible for "bad movies."

Posted by: Kate Gilbert on October 21, 2003 11:03 AM

"Michael Eisner's dignity"??? C'mon, this person who pays himself a hundred million while his company is shrinking, who Business Week characterizes as having the worst ratio of pay to performance (for stockholders) and others note has the attitude toward workers of a sweat shop slavemaster -- again, see the pay ratio, this person has "dignity"? Michael Eisner is the biggest corporate crook to still have a job, and he continues to milk it for everything he can. Whether or not his leadership is successful.

Posted by: paul on October 21, 2003 12:16 PM

paul, I hope you don't work for Disney.

Posted by: goethean on October 21, 2003 02:29 PM

Given Eisner's background, you might expect Disney employees not to be hassled for taking Yom Kippur as a vacation day.

But you would be wrong.

Which is why the cases of Eisner, the non-religious Jew, and Gibson, the heretical Catholic, are totally dissimilar, and why Eisner's "Jewishness" is totally irrelevant to a discussion of his filmmaking career, just as, say, Rubin's religion is irrelevant to a discussion of the Clinton Administration's economic policy.

Posted by: Larry Yudelson on October 21, 2003 03:13 PM

Easterbrook's tirade about Eisner loving money over all else reads even more ironic in light of this piece from him over at Beliefnet -- Does Affluence Fuel Spirituality.

Posted by: Sterling on October 21, 2003 04:35 PM

Easterbrook's tirade about Eisner loving money over all else reads even more ironic in light of this piece from him over at Beliefnet -- Does Affluence Fuel Spirituality.

Posted by: Sterling on October 21, 2003 04:47 PM

Easterbrook's tirade about Eisner loving money over all else reads even more ironic in light of this piece from him over at Beliefnet -- Does Affluence Fuel Spirituality.

Posted by: Sterling on October 21, 2003 04:57 PM

Easterbrook's tirade about Eisner loving money over all else reads even more ironic in light of this piece from him over at Beliefnet -- Does Affluence Fuel Spirituality. http://www.beliefnet.com/frameset.asp?pageLoc=/story/1/story_118_1.html&boardID=294

Posted by: Sterling on October 21, 2003 05:09 PM

Easterbrook's tirade about Eisner loving money over all else reads even more ironic in light of this piece from him over at Beliefnet -- Does Affluence Fuel Spirituality. http://www.beliefnet.com/frameset.asp?pageLoc=/story/1/story_118_1.html&boardID=294

Posted by: Sterling on October 21, 2003 05:14 PM

But Larry, wouldn't Easterbrook agree with you that the degree to which Eisner practises "his" religion is not relevant, in the sense that, "given recent history," all Jews, religious or not, "ought to" object strenuously to the glorification of violence?

(Of course I think everyone ought to object to the latter, but my own views are not relevant here.)

Posted by: Cervantes on October 21, 2003 05:44 PM

Well, I know now to not just hit repost when the site times-out.

Posted by: SterlingNorth on October 21, 2003 05:55 PM

Dear Dr. DeLong:

You should delete that excerpt, not put lines through it. It was a private message.

Posted by: joe blow on October 21, 2003 09:20 PM
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