Tuesday, August 05, 2003

Sins of the fathers

[Hutton Gibson, left, with Frederick Toben, director of the Holocaust-denial Adelaide Institute, based in Australia.]

A little more about Hutton Gibson, Mel's father ...

Turns out that Hutton was one of the featured speakers this past June at the annual conference of The Barnes Review, one of the leading Holocaust-denial publications. (Note their prominent blurb for David Duke's new book, Jewish Supremacism, as well.)

You can click here to listen to his speech, which was about "Declining influence of Roman Catholicism".

The Barnes Review, for those interested, is operated by the renowned anti-Semite Willis Carto, who used to run a conspiracist publication called The Spotlight. Carto was one of the co-founders of the similarly revisionist Institute for Historical Review, though they have feuded loudly since 1993, mostly as a matter of turf.

Besides Carto and Gibson, the conference featured such other renowned anti-Semites as Eustace Mullins, Frederick Toben and Russ Granata; and various other far-right figures, including Edgar Steele, the Aryan Nations' favorite attorney.

Toben is particularly noteworthy, because he and Gibson appear to have had a long relationship. Here is the Adelaide Institute's home page, which features large pictures of both Gibsons (including the one above).

Toben, 56, was born in Germany but left when he was 10 for Australia. He made headlines a couple of years ago for his conviction in Germany for violating that nation's anti-Nazi-propaganda laws. He served seven months of a 10-month sentence. (Here is another news account of that case.)

What does this have to do with Mel Gibson? Are sons responsible for their fathers' views?

No. But Mel Gibson, OTOH, has made plain (as in the Playboy interview I excerpted in my previous post) that Hutton Gibson was an important influence in his beliefs, and he remains so. Moreover, Mel Gibson has never at any time actually distanced himself from his father's beliefs nor repudiated them.

What he has said is this, in attacking the scholars and others who questioned the underpinnings of his forthcoming Christ-crucifixion film, The Passion:
"Neither I nor my film are anti-Semitic. Nor do I hate anyone, certainly not the Jews. They are my friends and associates, both in my work and my social life. Anti-semitism is not only contrary to my personal beliefs, it is also contrary to the core message of my movie."

But one of the core messages of the film, from all indications, is that "the Jews killed Jesus". This includes notably a panel of scholars who reviewed his shooting script and concluded that it not only clearly revives the hoary anti-Semitism of medieval Passion plays, but contrary to its defenders, it deviates from the text of the Scripture in numerous regards.

"Viewers without extensive knowledge of Catholic teaching about interpreting the New Testament will surely leave the theatre with the overriding impression that the bloodthirsty, vengeful and money-hungry Jews had an implacable hatred of Jesus," the scholars reported. They pointed to a number of scenes that are inconsistent with scriptural accounts, including one that shows Jews ordering the cross built in the temple at the direction of Jewish officials. The script, according to at least one member of the group (a leading Catholic theologian) was "one of the more anti-Semitic documents most of us have seen for a long time."

Why does this matter? Well, perhaps because these kinds of beliefs were responsible for the genocide of literally thousands of Jews in Europe and elsewhere.

Consider, for instance, the First Crusade, launched in 1096. Though the primary goal was to liberate Jerusalem from the Muslims, Jews were also a major target. As the armies passed through Europe on their way to the Holy Land, large numbers of Jews were challenged: "Christ-killers, embrace the Cross or die!" 12,000 Jews in the Rhine Valley alone were killed in the first Crusade, an event some writers have referred to as the "first Holocaust." (These attacks on European Jews en route continued for the next eight Crusades.) Meanwhile, when the armies reached Jerusalem in 1099 and broke through the city walls, they slaughtered every inhabitatant they could find, even newborns. Those Jews who survived the initial onslaught were forced into a central synagogue which was then set on fire. Some 6,000 people perished.

Ah, but it's only a movie, you say. Well, sure. The Birth of a Nation was also just a movie. But its release in 1915 inspired, a year later, the rebirth of the Ku Klux Klan and its night riders and a fresh wave of lynch-mob terror.

It's impossible to say, of course, whether The Passion could inspire a similar reaction, or would even be capable of it. The final version of the film has not yet been released, and it may be that Gibson has removed the problematic scenes and cleaned out the anti-Semitic subtexts. But judging from his defensiveness about it, and his refusal to let Jewish leaders view it, the signs are not encouraging.

Moreover, Gibson has defended the film in the context of his father's beliefs. "Whenever you take up a subject like [Christ's crucifixion] it does bring out a lot of enemies," he told Fox News Channel's Bill O'Reilly in January. "I'm a big boy. I can take care of myself, but when you start messing around with my 85-year-old father, watch out."

No one is trying to pick on an 85-year-old man. What they are concerned about, of course, is that this particular man is a vicious anti-Semite. He is also clearly a leading member of the far right. His age is no more relevant than Ayran Nations leader Richard Butler's.

What has been startlingly absent from Gibson's denials so far has been any kind of repudiation of his father's beliefs regarding the Jews and the Holocaust. Merely claiming that one is not anti-Semitic doesn't cut it -- because many, many Holocaust deniers likewise deny that they are anti-Semitic (just as many white supremacists deny that they hate blacks). They only want the truth, they claim -- when in reality, their entire purpose is to bury the truth.

If Gibson's film is so mainstream, so innocent, so purely Catholic and free of anti-Semitic taint, then why are some of its most vociferous defenders the Adelaide Institute and the neo-Nazi National Alliance?

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