Saturday, February 21, 2004

Max's Mad Dad: Beyond the facade

Just in time for Wednesday's release of The Passion of the Christ, who should hit the headlines again but Hutton Gibson, father of Mel:
Gibson father: Holocaust mostly 'fiction'

... According to a transcript released by the network, Hutton Gibson said, "It's all -- maybe not all fiction -- but most of it is,'' when asked about his views on the Holocaust.

He added: "They claimed that there were 6.2 million (Jews) in Poland before the war and after the war there were 200,000, therefore he (Hitler) must have killed 6 million of them. They simply got up and left. They were all over the Bronx and Brooklyn and Sydney and Los Angeles.''

... In this latest interview, Gibson said Jews want to take over the world. He did not know why Jews would want to achieve that, but said "it's all about control. They're after one world religion and one world government.''

The New York Daily News version of the story contains even more details:
"They're after one world religion and one world government," Hutton Gibson, 85, said in a radio interview that will air Monday night.

"That's why they've attacked the Catholic Church so strongly, to ultimately take control over it by their doctrine."

... "They claimed that there were 6.2 million in Poland before the war, and they claimed after the war there were 200,000 - therefore he must have killed 6 million of them," he said. "They simply got up and left! They were all over the Bronx and Brooklyn and Sydney, Australia, and Los Angeles."

He said the Germans did not have enough gas to cremate 6 million people and that the concentration camps were just "work camps."

"It's all -- maybe not all fiction -- but most of it is," he said.

Gibson repeatedly smeared prominent Jews as money-grubbing power-mongers.

"Greenspan tells us what to do. Someone should take him out and hang him."

He even belittled the Pope's reported endorsement of "The Passion," recounting how Mel referred to the pontiff as an "ass."

Gibson reserved most of his vitriol for Judaism, asking: "Is the Jew still actively anti-Christian? He is, for by being a Jew, he is anti-everyone else."

I don't think Mel's denials that his father is an anti-Semitic Holocaust denier will leave anyone convinced any longer. Not that they should have in the first place.

Indeed, it's not really so clear any longer that Mel's own denials that he is anti-Semitic are very credible.

There's one thing to keep in mind when talking about racists, anti-Semites and white supremacists: They nearly all deny those characterizations of themselves. The denials typically run like this:
-- "I'm not a racist. I don't hate other races. I just don't like to be around them."

-- "I'm not an anti-Semite. I don't hate Jews. I have many Jewish friends. I just think there are some rich Jews who secretly conspire to rule all of society."

-- "I'm not a white supremacist. I think other races are fine. I just think they should be separate."

Some of you who've read In God's Country may remember David Trochmann, co-leader of the Militia of Montana and one of the people responsible for the Ruby Ridge fiasco. (Trochmann was believed to have been smuggling guns over the Canadian border, and ATF was trying to get a bead on him, so they tried putting the squeeze on Trochmann's good friend Randy Weaver.) He's something of a well-known Christian Identity adherent as well, and when I met him -- at a militia meeting in Maltby, Washington, in February 1995 -- I wanted to ask him about rumors that the Trochmanns were setting up Identity Bible studies in western Montana.
Dave Trochmann has the same kind of intense demeanor as his brother, but there's something vaguely unsettling about him. I've known men like him, that hard-eyed working-class kind of man, and they are not people you want to mess with. If you do, they'll fix you and anybody close to you. It's hard to believe that Randy is his son. Randy, a skinny, dark-haired twentysomething, is doe-eyed and easygoing, a little jittery like all the Trochmanns, but you get the feeling he'd find it possible to like you even if you were a liberal.

I asked Dave about the Identity Bible studies. Any truth to that?

"Well," he said, looking about before answering, "you know, we're not white supremacists. We just think the races should be separate."

I'd heard the distinction made before.

"We just don't believe in race mixing," Trochmann said. "It's the laws of Nature. You don't see robins and sparrows mating, do you? We don't have a bunch of spobbins flying around."

I started explaining the genetic distinction between race and species, but realized it was a useless argument here.

"We don't hate other races," Randy said. "We just don?t think they should mix. That's all Identity means to us." I let it go at that, and we wandered off to other topics, and eventually back into the meeting hall.

Later, Trochmann's brother John -- the real force behind MOM -- gave the same kind of evasions:
"What the hell does Identity mean? To identify your ancestry? Blacks can have their 'Roots' on television, and have a whole series about it. But a white man can't find out what his ancestry is? That's all it means to me. It doesn't tie anything with anything.

"I know where I came from, I know my ancestry. That's all it means to me. It shouldn't be Identity anyway. I mean, Jewish people have their identity, everybody has their identity. Yet certain people -- it's taken so out of context it's absolutely ridiculous. Including those that claim this word Identity and take it for something that it isn't. It may be that's what they think it means. But it doesn't mean that to us. At least to me."

Of course, Identity beliefs have a great deal more than mere racial separation or white heritage going on. At their core, as many of you already know, is the belief that white people are the true children of Israel (having descended from the lost tribes, you see). Today's Jews are mere pretenders to the title and are in fact directly descended from Satan himself, while worshiping a Satanic religion. Nonwhite minorities are soulless "mud people."

If you spend enough time with these folks, eventually it becomes clear that these are in fact their beliefs. But then they heatedly deny that these beliefs constitute racism or anti-Semitism -- they are just what they are.

Which is why Mel Gibson's own responses to questions about his father's beliefs have been very interesting so far. Mel denies that he's an anti-Semite -- and then turns around and parrots Holocaust-denial rhetoric. He not only defends his relationship to his father -- as the AP story above notes: "Asked in media interviews whether he shares his father's views, Mel Gibson has said that he loves his father and will not speak against him" -- but says his faith is based on what his father taught him:
"My dad taught me my faith, and I believe what he taught me. The man never lied to me in his life."

Of course, on previous occasions, such as his 1995 interview in Playboy, Gibson has indicated a belief in conspiracy theories clearly based on his father's beliefs:
PLAYBOY: How do you feel about Bill Clinton?

GIBSON: He's a low-level opportunist. Somebody's telling him what to do.


GIBSON: The guy who's in charge isn't going to be the front man, ever. If I were going to be calling the shots I wouldn't make an appearance. Would you? You'd end up losing your head. It happens all the time. All those monarchs. If he's the leader, he's getting shafted. What's keeping him in there? Why would you stay for that kind of abuse? Except that he has to stay for some reason. He was meant to be the president 30 years ago, if you ask me.

PLAYBOY: He was just 18 then.

GIBSON: Somebody knew then that he would be president now.

PLAYBOY: You really believe that?

GIBSON: I really believe that. He was a Rhodes scholar, right? Just like Bob Hawke. Do you know what a Rhodes scholar is? Cecil Rhodes established the Rhodes scholarship for those young men and women who want to strive for a new world order. Have you heard that before? George Bush? CIA? Really, it's Marxism, but it just doesn't want to call itself that. Karl had the right idea, but he was too forward about saying what it was. Get power but don't admit to it. Do it by stealth. There's a whole trend of Rhodes scholars who will be politicians around the world.

PLAYBOY: This certainly sounds like a paranoid sense of world history. You must be quite an assassination buff.

GIBSON: Oh, fuck. A lot of those guys pulled a boner. There's something to do with the Federal Reserve that Lincoln did, Kennedy did and Reagan tried. I can't remember what it was, my dad told me about it. Everyone who did this particular thing that would have fixed the economy got undone. Anyway, I'll end up dead if I keep talking shit.

And then there was his response when pressed, by Peggy Noonan, about the Holocaust. First, Gibson denied that his father was a Holocaust denier. Then he went on:
"I have friends and parents of friends who have numbers on their arms. The guy who taught me Spanish was a Holocaust survivor. He worked in a concentration camp in France. Yes, of course. Atrocities happened. War is horrible. The Second World War killed tens of millions of people. Some of them were Jews in concentration camps. Many people lost their lives. In the Ukraine, several million starved to death between 1932 and 1933. During the last century, 20 million people died in the Soviet Union."

As I mentioned previously, the strange thing about this recitation is how closely it mirrors the rhetoric of Holocaust deniers, especially when they're trying to soft-pedal thenature of their arguments.

Indeed, most Holocaust revisionists, like their fellow right-wing extremists, heatedly deny that they are "denying the Holocaust." They just don't believe that six million Jews were killed -- the numbers were more like 500,000, they say -- and the gas chambers were a hoax. And gee, when you put it in the larger context of the war in which millions more died, the Jews' losses were not particularly greater than anyone else's. They falsely equate the Holocaust roundups and exterminations with war casualties, which obfuscates the reason why the Holocaust was in so many ways a more horrific event than the war itself.

That is the standard David Irving line of reasoning. And to hear Mel Gibson uttering it -- while using his mainstream image for the kind of cover that makes this thinking sound reasonable -- does not exactly encourage anyone hoping that he proves not to be an extremist.

So while it's fine for Gibson to claim vehemently he is not anti-Semitic, that isn't persuasive evidence in itself, given the wealth of evidence suggesting that he is in fact. What's been strange about Gibson's denials hasn't so much been what he has said, though that's problematic enough. It's what he hasn't said. At no point has he ever actually explained his own thoughts regarding these controversies. His spokesmen have simply said that he and his father "don't agree on everything." And Gibson has warned interviewers away from interfering with his relationship with his dad.

Of course, the problem here is not merely the innate anti-Semitism of Hutton Gibson's belief system, and potentially Mel's as well. It is its overarching extremism -- which, as I've explained previously, is popularly called "traditionalist" Catholicism, but in fact is a strange, very narrow and very radical brand of specifically heretical Catholicism.

Among these beliefs, incidentally, is the notion that all popes since Vatican II have been heretics and "anti-popes." (This is one of Hutton Gibson's primary theses.) And it's worth noting that in this latest interview, the elder Gibson claims that Mel -- after seeking the pope's blessing for his film, and failing to get it -- called the pope an "ass."

The problem isn't the latent anti-Semitism in the film. The problem is its radical Catholicism, of which the anti-Semitism is only a small part.

The next time a reporter sits down with Mel Gibson -- and hopefully, it will be someone more astute than Diane Sawyer or Peggy Noonan -- they need to skip the anti-Semitism questions and ask Mel himself:
-- "Mel, do you believe the current pope is a legitimate authority?"

-- "Mel, is the Roman Catholic Church true to its origins?"

-- "Mel, how many Jewish people do you believe died in the Holocaust?"

-- "Mel, you've mentioned that you're up against 'forces of evil' with this film. Can you identify who the 'evil' ones are?"

-- "And while we're at it, Mel, do you believe that a small cabal of wealthy people is trying to control the world? If so, who are they?"

Somehow, though, I get the feeling that Gibson won't allow himself to be interviewed by anyone who might ask these kinds of questions. He's too cagey to let himself be cornered on this. Not when he can just get away with hiding behind his "son's respect for his father" facade.

In the meantime, it's becoming much clearer that The Passion is going to be a huge hit with the evangelical set when it's released Wednesday. You have to wonder how many of them will realize they're being exposed to an extremist Catholic version of the meaning of Christ's crucifixion.

Probably not many -- since it happens to correspond with their own increasingly Manichean brand of Christianity.

UPDATE: Here's a transcript of the Hutton Gibson interview.

No comments: