attempting critical thinking in an unthinking era is suicide . . . or, the mediators are the message
I’m working on a novel — Viva Pancho Villa Inside the Drawing Room of a Wild West Sanatorium.
It is an act of insanity. An act of desperation. Add to the mix the novel’s highly experimental overlay (not really): three main characters, a host of others, pinned to the same plot of trying to unload a Picasso and Kahlo. Starts in El Paso, and ends up in Chihuahua. Yeah, dead people talk, and so do horses, or at least they think. Then, the nagging narrator — the writer — coming into the plot, as he is culled by the shape of his world now, 2021, Love and Death in a Time of Covid. The storyline is set in the 1980s, and, well, the narrator is sort of me, but not, but is. The characters are ghosts from my past, and, who knows what the allure might be for people to stick to this short novel, when it’s done. Who knows in this world of Netflix and Hulu and to be truthful, the crap out there in literary circles, and this new normal of what is or is not acceptable writing.
At least I am having some fun, but like the narrator, I am being sucker punched daily with the news, and the news is more than Branch Covidian Central. The news is an unwinding squid from the depth with a thousand tentacles. Sure, that sea creature would be fascinating, for sure, but this concomitant contamination of the general discourse and the very specific economics of my world is as scary as it gets. Carcinogenic capitalism, and now the most bizarre Building Seven collapse seemingly every week.
This vaccine (sic) over that one, and, deaths in the millions, and co-morbities, and then really what is a variant, and who is controlling the fear and the needle? How many more dictums will be announced daily, in a nanny state, but one that is holding the purse strings. This or that Big Pharma bad guy with this or that makeover, but the problem is there are few seeing the problem with taxpayers paying for the research and the work, and then being triple tapped with billions thrown at the big drug pushers.
It is cognitive dissonance but also Stockholm Syndrome en mass, and Collective Anxiety Disorder. Baselines have shift, almost weekly, and the lack of questioning the narratives, the spiels, the mainstream and bizarre stream media, the empty calories of higher education, the faltering (quickly) K12 industrial school/prison system, and the entertaining and misdirection of the general populous to death is what I, and then that stinking narrator, the author, is concerned with in this process of writing about things 40 years ago.
We are not talking about historical times, but given 40 years passed, from my point of view — not just genealogically speaking — there have been huge shifts in the general mental and intellectual health of Americans. I mean, now, as opposed to 1980, there are fewer and fewer people who read, care about fiction, and, then today, there is a know-it-all, put-them-all-down, snarkiness that is obscene.
The paymasters have set out to have it this way, and I am not just speaking of psychological divide and conquer and triangulating out alternative voices. I am not just talking the straight news, or what a former journalist, me, might be getting out of newshounding. The entire mess in the media — print, social, digital, motion pictures, textbooks — has quickened the fractures.
Thusly, what seems like a misplaced wrongheaded rationale — blaming the reader for the lack of MY audience — has some interesting roots. The superstructure is, well, albeit, almost impenetrable.
It is observation, and research, sure, and personal experience in the literary and publishing worlds, and, well, I am not calling for some action, but the reality is, I am floating in between so many mistruths and realities — both groupings not my own.
Here, the canards, and it is an odd article, no:
The plot of Zach Braff’s new movie, Wish I Was Here, is indebted to the structure of the 1927 talkie sensation The Jazz Singer, which told the story of an entertainer (Al Jolson) choosing between the religious way of his father or secular life. The script also refers to an idea that dates back to the silent-movie era: the alleged Jewish control of Hollywood.
At one point in Wish I Was Here, the main character’s adolescent daughter Gracie is asked by a gentile neighbour why she had to drop out of private school, and she explains the family’s straitened means. “But I thought the Jews ran Hollywood?” says the boy. “Me too,” says Gracie mournfully. (The thought might have occurred to Braff, who is Jewish yet was compelled to finance his movie outside the studio system.)
That old “Jews control Hollywood” saw just won’t go away. It was a favourite theme of the ravingly anti-Semitic claims by the Henry Ford-owned Dearborn Independent back in the 1920s. Every few years, it pops up again. Just last month, English actor Gary Oldman was quoted in Playboy magazine saying that Mel Gibson was being punished “in a town that’s run by Jews” for his infamous anti-Semitic comments in 2006. Oldman has since apologized.
And last year, the Academy Awards and host Seth MacFarlane were criticized by the Anti-Defamation League (a century-old organization that was created to refute these kinds of attacks) and the Simon Wiesenthal Centre for the use of “Jews run Hollywood” jokes. Jokes about Jewish control and a “secret synagogue,” they said, perpetuated a dangerous negative stereotype about Jews in Hollywood for a global audience.
There was no Jewish media consensus on the risk of MacFarlane’s jokes. The columnist in the right-of-centre Commentary magazine was more offended by the appearance of the U.S. First Lady, Michelle Obama, on the show. The Jewish Journal dismissed the condemnations as missing the satiric point. In Jewish Daily Forward, J.J. Goldberg (author of Jewish Power: Inside the American Jewish Establishment) noted that with Jews occupying 84 per cent of the president and chairman jobs at the major studios, the controversy raised an interesting discussion.
What is agreed is that Jewish people hold many important jobs in Hollywood. The Anti-Defamation League website quotes a 1995 article by Steven G. Kellman, a professor at the University of Texas in San Antonio, who at one point writes: “Boosters and anti-Semites agree: Jews have been prominent and predominant in all phases of the [motion picture] business: production, distribution and exhibition.” Kellman’s conclusion was that “though individual Jews control Hollywood, Jewishness does not.”
Historically, though, the studio owners’ Jewishness did influence movie content, though hardly in a pro-Jewish way. The argument of Neal Gabler’s 1988 book An Empire of Their Own: How the Jews Invented Hollywood (later made into a Canadian-produced documentary called Hollywoodism: Jews, Movies and the American Dream) is that the uneducated Eastern European merchants who came to California in the late-1910s and ’20s, and who established the major Hollywood studios, had an agenda. They wanted to excel in an unrestricted line of enterprise and keep the anti-Semites at bay. So they “created their own America,” that was much more tolerant, integrated and idealistic than the social reality. As a compromise, they largely effaced representations of Jewish life in America.
In the post-Second World War era, institutionalized anti-Semitism decreased and Jewish artists came out of hiding through the sixties and ’70s. Jewish directors (Woody Allen, Steven Spielberg) and stars (Elliot Gould, Barbra Streisand, Dustin Hoffman, George Segal) emerged into the spotlight, even as the movie business became departments of multinational conglomerates. And the “Jewish control of Hollywood” canard seemed to belong to the sort of conspiracy paranoia associated with people who wear tinfoil hats.
And of course there was Marlon Brando. In a 1996 interview with Larry King, Brando, a long-time supporter of Jewish causes, complained about how the studios perpetrated negative stereotypes of some minorities, and asserted once again that “Hollywood is run by Jews.” He then cried the next day when he apologized for his comment. To put the matter to rest, 60 Minutes even did an investigation on the subject of Jewish Hollywood stereotypes.
Screenwriter-actor and conservative Ben Stein wrote for E! Online about how he had been asked by 60 Minutes to refute the charges. The editor said their research showed that “only” about 60 per cent of the top positions in Hollywood were occupied by Jews, but Stein said that that if Jews, who represent about 2.5 per cent of the U.S. population had 60 per cent of the top movie jobs, that was certainly prominent. His comment, he says, was not politically correct enough for the program.
The more important question, Stein asked, was why does anyone care? “I marvel that when people criticize the auto industry for making trucks that catch fire when they are struck, and cars that turn over on a turn, no one ever says, ‘The gentile auto industry.'”
This point was made again, with more satirical bite, in 2008 by columnist Joel Stein (no relation), writing in the The Los Angeles Times (Who Runs Hollywood? C’Mon!). Stein begins by describing how upset he was by a poll that shows only 22 per cent of Americans now believe “the movie and television industries are pretty much run by Jews,” down from a lofty 50 per cent in 1964.
“As a proud Jew,” complains Stein, “I want America to know about our accomplishment. Yes, we control Hollywood. Without us, you’d be flipping between The 700 Club and Davey and Goliath on TV all day.”
After fencing with Anti-Defamation League head Abraham Foxman about why the phrase “Jews control Hollywood” is considered dangerous in a world where most Americans still view Hollywood “values” with deep suspicion, Stein ends his column with this mischievous flip of the bird.
“But I don’t care if Americans think we’re running the news media, Hollywood, Wall Street or the government. I just care that we get to keep running them.”
Well, well, the point of even bringing this up is the value of devaluing people, and the devaluing of discourse and, well, even characters who might not be PC, or Woke or whatever. The news feeds, and the Big Pharma feeds (oh, the drug companies DO control much of the media, and Bill Gates DOES fund a lot of media — Revealed: Documents Show Bill Gates Has Given $319 Million to Media Outlets
Now, of course, this is not a “Jewish” problem, but one of the elite, the supersaturated rich, the ones in the Top 100 Schools, or what have you. It is the concentration of publishers and media folk in limited places. It is their upbringing, their friends, their associations, their worldviews. It is not a Jewish thing, but also a rich and elite thing. The Faux Generosity of the Super-Wealthy: Why Bill Gates is a Menace to Society It is what you can write about, or how you write about it. It is an industry of pundits, media moguls, and reviewers. It is the tragically so so hip, or the tragically so so stuck in their ways.
It is making a dollar out of a penny. Or a fraction of a penny. It is about this or that set of awards, and the recognition. It is not about rag-tag, unruly, profane, oppositional people running in this field. Believe you me. And, it is about writers, who for the most part, are, well, warped on so many levels. Art for art’s sake. You ain’t in this for the money.
You understand. Or maybe you do not.
Just thinking out loud — until I have to face the page, the fiction, the long intervals on my own, in my head, and doubting. Oh the doubting. Cloistering myself is not an option. In fact, the story is about that uncloistered view, where the writer-narrator interjects, falls prey to his own meanderings. Will the book ultimately make it? Will anyone stand it?
Yah. Oh the optics of it all, no?
So, Tel Aviv is the most expensive city in the world, and, alas, rising costs of everything, including housing, booze and transportation. Imagine that, and yet, and yet, the US gives how much to “Israel” in direct welfare payments? During Fiscal Year 2020, the U.S. is providing Israel with at least $10.5 million per day in military aid and $0 in military aid to the Palestinians.
What does the USA taxpayer get in return?
Believe you me, that spying also is captured in who gets tenure, and who gets a Hollywood contract or Simon and Schuster book deal. That is the point of this rambling, really. What is publishing, what is entertainment, what are the literary arts? Who are the gatekeepers, and the sculptors of the discourse, and what is or what is not “in”?