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Holy hypocrites,

Holy hypocrites,


Talk about casting stones: The same forces in Hollywood that are now condemning Mel Gibson are guilty of their own bigotry. And can you say you've never crossed that line?

Many years ago, I attended a dinner party that also included a prominent television producer who was then producing one of Norman Lear's popular sitcoms. He was there with his politically active wife. Both were prominently involved in Democratic circles and liberal causes.

Midway through the meal, discussing the controversial themes he dealt with on his TV show, the producer said, "Of course, we try to do one fag show every season." He laughed, winking. "I guess the fags deserve to have a sympathetic script now and then, just like the blacks."

As a gay man, my response was to declare my sexual orientation, bid my host good evening, and abruptly depart, leaving the diners to do some soul-searching, if they could find the humility and self-awareness.

This incident came to mind as I read Bob Hofler's angry commentary in the September 12 issue of The Advocate, ripping into Mel Gibson for his hateful remarks about Jews, among them: "The Jews are responsible for all the wars in the world." In the same piece, Hofler reminded us of Gibson's previous anti-Semitic history, as well as nasty remarks he's made about gays.

I've got little sympathy for Gibson. His remarks, blurted during a drunk driving arrest after booze had loosened his tongue, were stupid and shameful. But it's also worth noting--which Hofler didn't--that Gibson's outburst came at a time when Israel was waging a brutal military action against Lebanon, killing hundreds of civilians, generating heated debate, and stirring up emotions on both sides of the issue. None of this excuses the alcoholic Gibson's reprehensible behavior, but it's all part of the larger context.

Also part of a much bigger picture is the hypocrisy of those in certain Hollywood circles who are so thoroughly and sanctimoniously condemning Gibson as if they have never uttered remarks or taken actions that disparage, dehumanize, or marginalize one minority group or another. According to the media, which have feasted voraciously on Gibson like the easy meal that he is, there's been talk of his permanent boycott by the Hollywood establishment. Hey, if every producer or studio executive who had ever uttered a despicable remark that was racist, homophobic, or sexist were similarly ostracized, Hollywood would close down overnight.

Yes, I know, the horror of the Holocaust makes anti-Semitism a particularly charged issue. I couldn't agree more. But what about the experience of African-Americans in this country, going back to slavery and lynching, and all that has followed? What about queers, who were also rounded up and slaughtered during Hitler's genocide and have suffered endless persecution in countless other ways? What about women, who have had to endure immeasurable discrimination and degradation, inside and outside Hollywood? (I explore all of these issues, in different ways, in my latest mystery novel, Rhapsody in Blood.) Human rights are human rights.

Yet over several decades reporting on or working within the entertainment industry, I have witnessed pervasive racism, homophobia, and sexism at high levels, in both word and deed. This bigotry is often subtle, masked behind polite smiles or committed behind closed doors. But make no mistake: It's there, as it is in the world at large. And Hollywood liberals, a group that includes so many of its movers and shakers, are as guilty of it as anyone, if only because they wield so much of the power.

How many of us have never had a thought or uttered a remark that denigrated another person based on his or her ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender, or religion? And, yes, let's include those offhand remarks that ridicule or disparage Christians in general, without respecting the individual. I don't know about you, but I can't count myself among the saints who are as pure as the driven snow. I'm as human as the next guy, maybe just not as loud and boorish as Gibson after he's tipped a few, or famous enough to be caught in the glare of the public spotlight.

Just as human--and fallible--are those who would crucify Gibson for making the mistake of shooting off his mouth in public and revealing the kind of ingrained prejudice that many of us privately harbor toward one group or another, even as we count individuals from those groups among our friends and colleagues.

OK, don't watch his movies if you don't want to. Personally, I haven't paid to see a Mel Gibson film in at least a decade. Call him a jerk, an anti-Semite, a sad drunk. But let's not beat our chests or pound the pulpit too self-righteously.

Who are we to judge, unless we are also willing to judge ourselves? Maybe all of us, and not just Gibson, need to reflect on his behavior and do some soul-searching.

Advocate Channel - The Pride StoreOut / Advocate Magazine - Fellow Travelers & Jamie Lee Curtis

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John Morgan Wilson