Monday, February 02, 2004

Push-polling The Passion

As predicted, Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ is turning out to be not just another religious movie -- it's being transformed into a major front in the Culture Wars by a coalescence of the religious right, conservative-movement ideologues and right-wing extremists. They evidently see it as a major event in promoting hardline fundamentalist beliefs, but most of all see it as an opportunity to crush rampant liberalism for its alleged "persecution" of the film.

You see, anyone who hates this film is "anti-Christian." This of course includes all the Jewish leaders and Christian theologians and Catholic scholars who have raised doubts about its content.

The latest evidence of this is an online poll being run by the far-right transmitter Web site NewsMax, in a classic case of push-polling that rather closely resembles the American Family Association's phony online poll on gay marriage:

1) Do you support Mel Gibson in producing "The Passion of Christ"?

I support Mel / I don't support Mel

2) Do you believe Mel Gibson is an anti-Semite?

Anti-Semite / Not an anti-Semite

3) Should Mel Gibson have portrayed Jesus' death so accurately?

Should have / Should not have

4) Do you believe Gibsons' "Passion of Christ" should be shown in theaters?

Yes, it should be shown / No, it should not be shown

5) Will you go to see this movie if it is in your local movie theater?

Yes, I would like to see it / No, I would not see it

For anyone needing clues, here's the handy Orcinus Guide to Phony Mel Gibson Polls:
1) Gibson of course has the right to make any damned movie he wants -- though one wonders when he transformed from action-flick hunk to theologian -- but he doesn't have the right to expect it to be immune from criticism -- especially if it turns out to be a piece of violent anti-Semitic propaganda disguised as "art."

2) For background on the question of the film's anti-Semitic elements, as well as the likelihood that Gibson harbors anti-Semitic beliefs, see the posts here, here and here.

3) The film's "accuracy" -- or that of any Passion Play -- was recently assessed in this Los Angeles Times op-ed. All we can add to this is that we have scanned the Gospels, and are still looking for those scenes in which A) Jewish leaders pass out bribes to assure Jesus' execution, B) the cross is constructed in the Jewish temple, C) Jesus' shoulder is yanked out of its socket, and D) his cross is dragged face-down through the streets after he has been nailed onto it.

4) Well, we just don't believe in censorship. But neither do we believe in patronizing theaters that condone anti-Semitic propaganda.

5) Some of us are forced to attend this film in order to report back to our readers. But otherwise, we'd have a tough time seeing why anyone would want to endure two-plus hours of gruesome sado-masochism disguised as a religious experience.

Hope this helps.

In the meantime, be sure to check out the collection of reviews of the film compiled by that icon of religious patriotism, Jesus' General. You'll observe, of course, that its supporters run precisely the gamut described above: religious-right fundamentalists, movement conservatives, and right-wing extremists. (And this rundown even manages to overlook the gushing reviews from such fine organs of intellectual and religious probity as the anti-Semitic La Voz de Aztlan and the Australian Holocaust-denial outfit The Adelaide Institute.)

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