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October 20, 2003

Uh oh... Gregg Easterbrook's new

Daniel Radosh

Uh oh... Gregg Easterbrook's new complaint: The Jews are trying to destroy me!. OK, in fairness, he doesn't say "all the Jews," just Michael Eisner -- the "richest, most vindictive" of them all. Here's the e-mail GE reportedly sent to his remaining friends, urging them to start an astroturf campaign on his behalf:

[Update: PowerLine has removed all traces of this e-mail from its site. Perhaps they only belatedly realized that Easterbrook has good reason for not wanting it made public. Perhaps Easterbrook now wishes it would just go away. Perhaps that's one more thing Easterbrook doesn't understand about the Blogosphere. The original PowerLine page doesn't seem to be in Google's cache yet, but this is the complete accurate text of Easterbrook's letter, as it appeared on PowerLine with this intro: "Over the weekend Steve Hayward wrote about Easterbrook and his current ordeal on No Left Turns. Steve has now forwarded a message from Easterbrook that we pass along below. "]

['Nother update: Easterbrook denies writing the e-mail, but a PowerLiner sticks to his story.]

"I am in trouble and need your help. Most of you know that last week I wrote, in New Republic's unedited blog, three foolish and wrong sentences that sound anti-Semitic, especially out of context. I was wrong to have done this, and quickly apologized -- if you have not seen my apology, it is at tnr.com. And if you have seen the apology called in print half-hearted, please read it. I did not just apologize for careless wording, I said what I wrote was 'simply wrong.'

"Friday the New York Times ran a brief story, and I thought at the time that to apologize and then be slammed in the Times was a fitting punishment for my offense. But it's now getting much worse. Late yesterday the Anti-Defamation League issued a statement calling me 'totally bigoted.' This morning the Los Angeles Times contains an article extensively accusing me of anti-Semitism. The headline could be a parody of McCarthyism, if this were funny: 'If It Sounds Anti-Semitic, Maybe It Is.' The article asserts that the fact that I have for years belonged to one of the country's few joint Christian-Jewish congregations is -- proof of anti-Semitism.

"Yesterday I was told to expect to be fired by ESPN. It hasn't happened yet, but seems likely [he has since been fired by ESPN]. Friday the top officers of ESPN refused several orders from Michael Eisner, the head of Disney, that I be fired. By the end of the day it seemed likely they would give in.

"Yesterday I got from Frank Rich a set of emailed questions that reads like the prosecutor's indictment in the Kobe Bryant case. Rich dislikes New Republic for reasons unrelated to me. He may plan to take out his dislike for New Republic on me. Yesterday Fox News was running a crawl that said, 'New Repblic writer Gregg Easterbrook accused of anti-Semitism.' Saying only that I was accused.

"All this I can deal with, but here is the bad part. My next book, The Progress Paradox, is due out in six weeks. (This book says nothing about religion.) I've sold the serial to Time magazine, and the early publicity reaction has been very favorable. There's a fighting chance this will be the first thing I've ever written that actually sells copies.

"Yesterday I was told by an ally within Disney corporate that Eisner has assigned people to try to destroy the book -- to get Time to drop the serial, to keep me off interview shows, even to get Random House to kill the book. In a published body of work that now extends to millions of words, I have written three foolish and wrong sentences. Now I've not only lost reputation and half my income (ESPN): what matters to me most in all the world, my book writing, is in jeopardy at the worst possible time. And I'm up against one of the richest, most vindictive men in the world.

"Someone who is accused like this cannot proclaim his own innocence. How can I be the witness to my own character? But you can. I appeal to all of you as friends and colleagues to come to my aid. This is my sole hope.

"Contact anyone you know whom you think you can influence, and move fast because the attack against me is moving fast. All I have right now is friends, and all my hopes reside with you. Gregg"

This is too rich for me to parse completely right now, but I wanted to get it out there (no one's ever gotten in trouble for blogging too quickly). Update: It's now parsed above in a new post.

Meanwhile, Josh Ozersky e-mails: "It's amazing to me that so many people have latched on to this business about greed as being the most offensive or incendiary piece of jew-baiting in the Easterbrook piece. (Which I thought was worse for being so stupid and uninformed about movies). No, the real message wasn't that Jews are greedy, but rather than Jews have a separate moral culture from Christians, and that "greed" is just a code word for "corrosive secular amorality." This has been the rap on the Jews for centuries, really taking off with the advent of modernity thanks to mssrs. Freud, Marx, and Einstein. Easterbrook resurrects (so to speak) the idea of the Jew as a moral cancer in the culture, and that's much, much worse that calling us greedy."

Josh is on to something, though I think he's inverted GE a bit. What Easterbrook said is actually more like "Jews, by virtue of their history, should not be part of corrosive secular amorality, yet they often are." It's not irrelevent that GE has also said, in the context of Mel Gibson, that Christians, by virtue of their faith, should also not be part of CSA. So regardless of whether his comments are offensive to Jews, they're outrageously offensive to secularists, like myself, since it basically shrugs all of us off as amoral violence freaks by our very nature (unless we happen to be Jewish).

Meanwhile, Glenn Reynolds has some thoughtful comments, especially regarding a quote I also noted from Leon Wieseltier: "Insofar as Gregg's comments impute Jewish motives for everything that Jews do, insofar as they suggest that everything any Jew does is intrinsically a Jewish thing, they are objectively anti-Semitic." That to me is more persuasive than the attempt to say that GE thinks Jews are greedy or amoral or anything else. And this time the fact that he holds devout Christians to the same standard is meaningless. Religious Christians are supposed to behave a certain way, Jews are, in this respect, no more obligated to behave any particular way than any other national/ethnic group.

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