Mel Gibson and the Speed of Scandal
The Mel Gibson incident over the weekend demonstrates the incredibly fast pace of the news cycle in the Internet age.
Almost as stunning as Mel Gibson’s anti-Jewish tirade when arrested on suspicion of drunk driving in the early hours of last Friday was the speed at which the scandal unfolded, doing serious damage to one of Hollywood’s most valuable careers along the way.
In a little over 24 hours, Mr. Gibson’s arrest and subsequent behavior in Malibu had already prompted talk of a claimed cover-up, an exposé, worldwide news coverage, an apology and then a full-blown push for alcohol rehabilitation, even as his representatives and executives at the Walt Disney Company rushed to catch up with the event’s effect on the filmmaker’s movie and television projects with the company.
And this is a story that broke on a blog (albeit one owned by TimeWarner) on a Friday night. It is indeed breathtaking. And not entirely in a good way. While I’m pretty sure we’ve got the facts right in this case–Gibson’s camp isn’t really disputing the reports, merely the conclusions–the old saw that “a lie gets halfway around the world before the truth can get its boots on” has never been more true.
While Gibson’s anti-Semitic leanings have been suspected since the lead-up to his film “The Passion of the Christ,” with this incident lending instant credence to those preconceptions, the man has been a public figure for decades and generally well liked. Yet, within a couple of days we’re already getting major figures making statements about the incident more idiotic than those uttered by Gibson that night, all without the assistance of alcohol. We’ve had the Anti-Defamation League calling for criminal charges to be brought for “hate crimes” and now this:
“I don’t think he should be doing a film on the Holocaust,” said Rabbi Marvin Hier, founder of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, who had previously criticized what he saw as anti-Semitic overtones in Mr. Gibson’s hit, “The Passion of the Christ.” “It would be like asking someone associated with the K.K.K. to do a movie on the African-American experience.”
So far as I’m aware, Gibson’s only offense is to get drunk and say some mean-spirited things. He has not terrorized a single person, let alone participated in lychings. To equate him with the Ku Klux Klan is outrageous.
UPDATE: In a side discussion in the comments below, I replied, “Frankly, lots of entertainers believe some repugnant, idiotic nonsense. For the most part, that doesn’t impact my ability to enjoy their work if I were predisposed to like it. Indeed, aside from Jane Fonda and Woody Allen, I can’t think of any off the top of my head that I essentially won’t see because of their off-screen behavior.”
Ann Althouse disagrees. In a post yesterday evening, with the plainspoken title ” Mel Gibson, you are discredited forever,” she wrote, “What artist has ever crashed like this? Not Michael Jackson. Not Woody Allen. Not O.J. Simpson. You’ve shown an evil heart and it changes the meaning of all of your artistic work. How horrible! How painful!”
Likewise, Christopher Hitchens believes, “[T]here was another touch of in vino veritas when he tearfully told the cops that “my life is f—ed,” and this inadvertent truth ought to be remembered in all charity as the last words we ever want to hear from him.” In fairness, Hitchens previously thought Gibson a “bad actor and worse director,” a view I don’t share.
Have we reached the point where adherence to a warped religious mindset and some spewed words of idiocy are more vile than double homicide, pedophilia, and incest? That seems so bizarre to me. I find Tom Cruise’s views borderline insane but have no trouble enjoying his movies. I find things Alec Baldwin has said while stone cold sober knowing he was on national television as offensive as anything Gibson said at that police station, yet I’m not going to burn my DVD of “Hunt for Red October.”