For the few people who don’t know, Gregg Easterbrook (brother of well-known and well-respected federal judge Frank Easterbrook) was fired by ESPN for the supposedly anti-semitic remarks he made on his New Republic blog. Easterbrook was lamenting the gratuitous violence exhibited by Quentin Tarantino in his recent movie: Kill Bill. Easterbrook took issue with Tarantino’s supposed skill as a script writer and movie director, saying that the relentless display of graphic violence is the only skill that Tarantino possesses. He then questioned why Disney, which owns ESPN, would back a violent movie like this, especially since Michael Eisner is Jewish. The implication of Easterbrook’s post was that a Jewish person might be less likely to want to glorify gratuitous violence. Why would Eisner and studio executives at Miramax want to give his backing to a violent Tarantino film? It’s so obvious that it doesn’t merit discussion.
Anyway, most of you already know what Easterbrook said. If you don’t then go read Bill Dyer’s post which has all of the important links relevant to this story. Incidentally, I agree with Bill Dyer. But I’ll add this: Easterbrook is being fired for speaking his mind. He admits that he should have made his point about violence in Hollywood films (which was clearly not anti-semitic) more explicitly. He screwed up, and he apologized for not making his point clearer.
I always find it interesting when a large media congolmorate, which never fails to make full and extensive use of its First Amendment rights (e.g. to make grotesquely violent movies with little artistic merit), fires an employee for exercising their 1st Amendment rights. Rush Limbaugh made some goofy off-the-wall comments recently and had 3 days to pack his bags, and then he resigned. Easterbrook clumsily discussed the connection between profits and violence in movie-making and was gone like a puff of smoke. Gone as in fired, not resigned. And Easterbrook didn’t even make his comments in his ESPN column; he made them in his own private space.
Coincidentally, I have been reading William Goldman’s book Which Lie Did I Tell? which, while mostly about the craft of script writing, is also an excellent –and depressing– description of the movie industry. I wonder what William Goldman –whom I have to believe would agree with the claim that Tarantino’s skill is completely false– would think of this flap? He certainly doesn’t think highly of most Hollywood moviemakers.
Frankly, I don’t either. But the Hollywood elite have a lot of power and it doesn’t matter much what I –or even William Goldman– think. Their power, and arrogance, will reign on. Jim Croce, whom Bill Dyer aptly quoted, said it best: “You don’t tug on Superman’s cape…”
Lastly, there is another lesson here that I hate to mention. Blogs are dangerous. I didn’t used to think that, but now I’m not sure. After all, if professional writers are getting in trouble for what they say on their weblogs, then what are the implications for amatuers?
Are you a young professional, excited that your blog gives you the freedom to speak out to a large audience? Well consider what a smaller and more powerful audience (i.e. your employer) might think about what you say, and how well you say it. And of course remember that while you blogging your innermost thoughts you are also creating the world’s most accessible databank of “stuff that can be used against you later.” By whom? By your opponent in an election; and –of course– by the press who will gladly publish anything sensational that your opponent happens to pass on to them. Your weblog will save your opponents so much time when they start doing their “negative research” that they will be giddy with joy.
I don’t plan on seeking a federal judgeship or running for political office, but if I thought I might then I wouldn’t blog. In fact, I’m not sure it is such a good idea even though I don’t plan to do those things. I’ve seen how words get twisted and used against people. Hell, even E-mail is dangerous. Weblogs? I don’t know anymore. Maybe they are –to use Ralph Nader’s term– “unsafe at any speed.”
More Update Easterbrook is going to return. Good news!