A recent attack against Harvey Weinstein in a Jewish publication reminds us that, when it comes to antisemitism, America’s Jews are overachievers.
Almost three years ago, I wrote a post entitled Some of America’s ugliest antisemitism comes from young Hollywood Jews (language warning). I wrote after I had watched a comedy roast of James Franco and was appalled by the way in which the other guests slung about gross insults, all of which reeked of antisemitism. It’s no exaggeration to say that they tied into the worst kind of anti-Jewish propaganda, whether emanating from the Tsar or the Nazis.
As I noted in my post, the insults weren’t the pointed, but still loving, insults that so enrich the Yiddish language and Jewish jokes. Certainly Jews have never been under any illusions about certain cultural features that arose in ghetto and shtetl, but there is no self-loathing in these jokes or in the rich Yiddish words. Instead, they wittily acknowledge the human condition without dehumanizing the human. There is no antisemitism in this traditional Jewish self-analysis.
The same cannot be said for what came out of such well-known Hollywood Jews as Sarah Silverman, Jonah Hill, Seth Rogen, Andy Samberg, and James Franco. Their jokes were hideous, oozing self-referential antisemitism. Here are some examples of those jokes, along with my comments about what they reveal (language warning):
King of Hollywood: [about The Guilt Trip] Listen, if I wanted to watch two ugly Jews weaving through traffic, I’d watch Seinfeld’s web series.
Nick Kroll: Many of you might not know that Seth has a writing and directing partner named Evan Goldberg. What does this other guy look like that you’re the face of the operation? I assume he’s like a sweaty Orthodox Jew eating a pastrami sandwich, and he said [scrunching up his face and using a thick Yiddish accent] “I did nine dick jokes on page four, and I was thinking that the guys are friends, and then they’re not friends, and at the end of the movie, they’re friends again.”
Sarah Silverman: I can’t tell if this is the dais or the line to suck Judd Apatow’s balls. This dais is so Jewey. What is this, the Comedy Central audit of James Franco?
Sarah Silverman: Jonah is such a Jewy dick, you have to watch his movies through a hole in a sheet.
Nick Kroll: “James Franco is truly our generation’s James Dean. So handsome that you forget he’s only been in two good movies. Dean, of course, died at the tender age of 24 sparing himself the embarrassment of writing self-indulgent short stories and getting roasted by a bunch of jealous Jew monsters.
Nick Kroll: “Seth Rogen is so Jewish.”
Crowd: “How Jewish is he?”
Nick Kroll: “Seth Rogen is so f***ing Jewish… Anyway, it’s great to be here.”
These awful “jokes” are just the ones that internet publications deemed amongst the funniest things the assembled “comedians” said. There were more, and they were all in the same vein, saying horrible things about Jews. None of them gently laugh at the human condition. None offer insight into human foibles or human decency. All play into the most vile stereotypes about Jews: Jews are ugly, Jews sweat and stink, Jews are obsessed with sex, Jews are eaten by jealousy, and Jews are simply “f***ing.”
These jokes are a primer in self-loathing. They perfectly reflect the Stockholm Syndrome that has overtaken America’s Progressives Jews. These young Jews — who are amongst the most recognizable people in America, and have become power brokers in Hollywood — have internalized all of the worst stereotypes about Jews. They believe this of themselves.
Moreover, as is often the case with people who perceive themselves as defective, they’re trying desperately to be the first to insult themselves, relieving the “normal” person with nothing left to say. (Sarah Silverman’s stories of her horrific childhood bear out this theory about beating yourself first, before someone else does it.)
Watching these young Jews spew antisemitism at themselves was painful, so you must be wondering why I’m revisiting the subject. I’m revisiting it because of a truly terrible post at Tablet Magazine, a slightly Left, but generally very high quality, Jewish publication. Indeed, any magazine that routinely publishes Lee Smith, a writer with whom I don’t always agree, but whom I always respect, has its good points.
Those good points, however, were not on display when the magazine’s blog published Mark Oppenheimer’s article rejoicing under this title: The Specifically Jewy Perviness of Harvey Weinstein : The disgraced film producer is a character straight out of Philip Roth, playing out his revenge fantasies on the Goyim. As the title indicates, Oppenheimer has a point to make:
As a boy, Portnoy fantasized about attaining a mythical shiksa goddess whom he nicknamed Thereal McCoy (get it?), who ice-skates “in her blue parka and her red earmuffs and her big white mittens—Miss America, on blades! With her mistletoe and her plum pudding (whatever that may be),” but as a grown-up he graduates to the real woman he nicknames The Monkey. And what does he do to abase her? He has her perform with an Italian whore. Yes, he eventually joins in, but not before they enact a bad movie—not Hollywood, but San Fernando Valley triple-X. And his nickname for her, The Monkey? That comes from an episode in her life, from before Portnoy met her, when a couple swingers picked her up and wanted her to eat a banana while she watched them copulate. For having a past that gets him hot, she gets degraded with an animalistic nickname. Her history as an actor is what he wants her for.
Harvey is cut from the same cloth. Growing up in Queens, he fantasized of fame and fortune, and, once he got them, he struggled to maintain them by building himself into a larger-than-life figure. He yelled at employees like he was a studio boss from the 1920s—the only thing missing was a riding crop. He ran Oscars campaigns like they used to in Old Hollywood. And he harassed women not necessarily to use them as instruments of his pleasure, but to use them as instruments of his power.
It goes without saying that nearly every one of these women—Rose McGowan, Ambra Batillana, Laura Madden, Ashley Judd, etc.—was a Gentile, all the better to feed Weinstein’s revenge-tinged fantasy of having risen above his outer-borough, bridge-and-tunnel Semitic origins. But it turns out there was a Jew(ess) in the bunch, none other than Lauren Sivan, of the potted-plant episode. In that small way, he inadvertently broke out of the Portnoy mold, performing his inadequacies not for the great all-American odeon but for a woman who could be his cousin. Harvey can run from who he is, but he can’t hide.
Reader reaction was so horrified by Oppenheimer’s post that he later published an apology, which I include here in its entirety:
Yesterday I published a piece on Harvey Weinstein that many found offensive. The analysis I offered was hasty and ill-considered, especially in light of the even graver accusations that were published by the New Yorker this morning. I take this as a lesson in the importance of knowing as much as one can about a given story, and in taking the time to think and feel things completely through before opining. I apologize for not doing so in this case.
It’s not a bad apology, because Oppenheimer seems to have figured out something: No matter what some edgy Jewish writer wrote in the 1960s and 1970s about fictional Jewish sexual angst, it’s wrong to use that as a template to define a powerful man who has been accused of serious sexual misbehavior — not in the fictional world, but in the real world, with real people, and real consequences. Indeed, to take Roth as a template for anything is a mistake. Roth’s is an in-joke successfully told to the whole world, but that doesn’t mean it’s a parable for contemporary behavior, especially bad behavior.
I do believe that Jews should acknowledge when Jews commit serious offensives against the law or morality. That’s part of Biblical justice. However, in a world rife with deadly antisemitism, to go out of your way to emblazon someone’s wrongful acts as stereotypically Jewish is dangerously wrong.
It would be one thing if the Bible countenanced this behavior, if rabbis encouraged it, and if Jews routinely practiced it. But that’s not the case. Oppenheimer is extrapolating one neurotic writer’s fantasy and generalizing it to all Jews. That’s antisemitism, plain and simple.
What’s really ironic about this is that one of the few good things that can be said about Weinstein is that he’s proud of being Jewish and proud of Israel. Indeed, Rabbi Aryeh Spiro suggests that it’s not just the collapse of Clinton & Co. or The Weinstein Company’s problems its finances that led to the NYT’s finally, after a 13 year hiatus, outing one of Hollywood’s many sexual predators. Instead, Spiro thinks that the Left is afraid that Weinstein was going to do something pro-Israel:
At the annual Algemeiner Dinner in NYC, Weinstein openly praised the Israelis and how they are willing to fight. He said he loves Israel…and admires how the Israelis use weapons to protect themselves. He contrasted the Israelis with the misfortune of the Jews in the Warsaw Ghetto who did not, unfortunately, he said, have guns. Indeed, he announced, as he had a few months previously, that he was in the midst of preparing and making a movie about the Warsaw Ghetto. He loved fighting Jews, he said.
Nothing irks and riles the N.Y. Times more than someone who is a proud, vocal supporter of Israel, believes in Jews fighting in their own defense, physically and with guns…especially if that person is a liberal and Democrat.
The NYT’s defense to this speculation, of course, will be that the Sulzberger family is Jewish. How can they be antisemitic, they demand, if they’re Jewish? It turns out that it’s sadly easy to be both Jewish and antisemitic. My post from three years ago certainly demonstrates that fact.
The worst thing, then, about Oppenheimer’s post is that he’s not unique. For whatever bizarre psychological or sociological reasons, America’s young Jews, the GenXers and the Millennials, have abandoned the polite pose that the NYT, a publication remarkably hostile to Israel, adopts when it comes to all things Jewish.
With the younger generation, plausible deniability is gone. Instead, these Jews have internalized antisemitic hatred and display it openly as a badge of honor. Sadly, if you’re looking for Jewish perversity, you won’t find it in sex; you’ll find it in young Jews’ loudly proclaimed self-loathing.
Photo credit: Harvey Weinstein, Chairman, The Weinstein Company, by Thomas Hawk. Creative Commons license; some rights reserved.