Sunday, June 27, 2004

The Right Says “Yes” To Mel and “No” To Michael

Throughout the late winter and early spring many pundits on the right exhorted their readers and listeners to see Mel Gibson’s interpretation of the death of Jesus. This was a movie almost entirely devoid of spiritual or historical context: simply two hours of graphic torture and the not so subtle condemnation of Jews (the irony that many of these same groups continually rail against violence in the media and support increased censorship is a topic for another day).

During these months hundreds of U.S. soldiers were being slaughtered in Iraq and I couldn’t help but find the sense of collective “death worship” occurring in movie theaters across the country profoundly disturbing. It is a historical truth that people are quick to unleash brutal violence and risk their lives (or the lives of others) when they are convinced God is on their side and that their actions are sanctioned by some notion of divine sacrifice. However, as I am a firm believer in both free speech and the freedom for people to spend their money as they see fit, I had no fundamental problem with the masses who plunked down their dollars to see "The Passion of Christ."

Fast-forward to June of this year and many of the same voices on the right who couldn’t rave enough about Gibson’s movie are now urging people not to go see Michael Moore’s “Fahrenheit 9/11.” They are even going one step further and imploring movie theaters not to show it at all. Again, irony reigns supreme since these groups are providing massive free publicity for Moore, which will most certainly increase ticket sales for his film. At the same time, think about this: the same groups who reveled in the violent depiction of a death that occurred 2,000 years ago are doing everything in their power to prevent people from seeing the bloodshed in Iraq today, and exploring more closely the behavior of an Administration that has embarked on a global "war on terrorism.”

Fortunately, both free speech and the free market are still alive and well and I am optimistic that Moore’s movie, regardless of its partisan biases, will ultimately promote a dialogue that is much more pertinent to our current state of affairs. Thanks, in good part, to some unintentional help from the right.

J.S.

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