Thursday, October 25, 2007

Coulter Clash

For the past few months there have been a number public and highly visible Anti-Semitic spectacles where the microphone has been handed over to a mean-spirited clown whereupon nonsensical rhetoric gets uttered followed by listeners scratching their heads wondering why the hate-mongers were ever given a platform in the first place.

To combat this warped reality, writers like me rant about them and end up giving them even more ink than they deserve. Yet, to ignore it and pretend it didn’t happen, to turn away, is morally irresponsible.

Last month it was Ahmadinejad at Columbia. This month’s Coulterclash was between famed ad man and CNBC’s host of The Big Idea, Donny Deutsch and blonde Aryan fire-starter Ann Coulter. What it hopefully revealed once and for all (though I doubt it), is the deeply disturbing vitriol at the heart of the vapid harpy and bloviating bombshell. If you didn’t catch it, it went like this.

DEUTSCH: You said -- your exact words were, "Jews need to be perfected." Those are the words out of your mouth.
COULTER: No, I'm saying that's what a Christian is.
DEUTSCH: But that's what you said -- don't you see how hateful, how anti-Semitic --
DEUTSCH: How do you not see? You're an educated woman. How do you not see that?
COULTER: That isn't hateful at all.
DEUTSCH: But that's even a scarier thought

There was a time when such comments would brand one a pariah and an outcast.
Remember Jimmy The Greek? No? Well, that’s because he was tossed out of the NFL ring of gab due to a comment he made back in 1988 (that and he’s been dead for ten years) about the superiority of African-American football players and how they were bred to produce strong offspring dating back to the Civil War. It’s a wonder Coulter isn’t treated the same.

Here’s what’s different. While Coulter is a joke, her ability to draw controversy for statements like the one on Deutsch’s show lands her more ink and ratings so that she becomes like one of those unstoppable monsters from a horror movie, she feeds off of the ammo aimed her way. She’s mastered the media’s own obsession with scream-fests hosted by loudmouths posing as talkshow hosts.

Brazenly, she manipulates this very boomerang effect by knowing the media will echo her words and image, hence giving her even more airtime. While playing into her trap is not the answer, to let her go unscathed is also not only completely unsatisfying, but it sends a signal that her style is acceptable.

I’m reminded of the Army-McCarthy Hearings when the army’s attorney, Joseph Welch says to the Senator, “You’ve done enough. Have you no sense of decency, sir, at long last? Have you left no sense of decency?”

Ironically, Coulter authored a book praising McCarthy, actually trying to exhume his rep called “Treason: Liberal Treachery from the Cold War to the War on Terror.” In it she argues that the U.S. Senator was unfairly portrayed by the media and is the deceased person she admires the most. That right there should have given everyone a reason to disown her. But she’s still alive. She keeps on returning!

Finding the right antidote is usually contained within the virus. So take a page out of history and apply it to her.

One of her own, a leading, well respected conservative should have the decency to confront her. No one doubted Welch’s credentials.

Likewise, when Patrick Buchanan uttered extremist Anti-Semitic rhetoric some years back, it was George Will who concluded that Buchanan exhibits a “fascist sensibility”.

Where is the courage in the Conservative press and in the Republican Party?

When McCarthy tried to continue his attack, Welch cut him off and demanded the chairman “call the next witness.” At that point, the gallery erupted in applause.

Likewise, Coulter needs to be laughed at, shamed off the airwaves.

Monday, October 1, 2007

Lady Madonna

The last time the Madonna was spotted in Jerusalem, time split with a line marking "Before" and "After." Now, splicing Hollywood and the Holy Land together last week, the modern mega pop icon was celebrating Rosh Hashanah with Israeli President Shimon Peres and declaring herself an "ambassador for Judaism."

OK, so this Madonna, unlike the other, is not Jewish. But she is real big on kabbalah, an esoteric corner of learning that like, a slice of Levi’s bread, is wide enough that you shouldn’t have to be Jewish to like it.

But because she’s not stamped kosher, she’s gotten a lot of flack for dipping into a plate of Jewish mysticism that for some is sacred and not just another New Age fad. In fact, rabbis have criticized both her and other celebs’ fascination with the subject, claiming only bona fide students can understand the mysteries. Pouring milk on their meat, she got them kvetching with her song, "Isaac," which they claim is about the 16th-century kabbalist Yitzhak Luria and which she says isn’t.

Say what you will, Madonna has got chutzpah and unlike her younger protégé, Britney, who can’t gain any respect these days, Madonna has remained a lasting figure. While consistently ticking off the religious community, from the time she set foot on the world’s stage, through "Like a Virgin" to recently presenting herself on the cross in concert, she has always danced at the edge of the borderline.

She’s stumbled without totally wiping out, consistently remaining in control of her brand, even while re- inventing it. Her dare has always been part of her act. That thin borderline today is known as the TMZ line and while strutting on it, she’s paradoxically created for herself an iconic status that aspires toward the spiritual.

TMZ, a popular Web site and now nationally syndicated half-hour show on Fox, puts the "oi" in tabloid. It’s the site that publicized Mel Gibson’s anti-Semitic tirade, Michael Richards’ onstage meltdown and an up-to-the-minute skinny on a chubby O.J. While more and more celebrities get engulfed in it and drown in the swamp of Hollywood, she’s a survivor.

That show’s host happens to be a Jewish boy, Harvey Levin, who covers the strange fascination we have with fantasyland. On the site he writes, "I know a lot about Hollywood, in no small part because I’ve lived here almost my whole life and I’m pretty much older than dirt." Interesting description, since he peddles it, too. Meanwhile, in the past decade overall production has increased to mud slide levels.

Since the Juice in the Bronco, how far off has mainstream news been from the same feeding trough? O.J. was when it all shifted and the polluted tributary became the contaminated river. You don’t have to read the tabloids to know Rosie’s wacko, Eminem’s a misogynist and Mel’s a psycho. Their stains are all part of the same washload now. Madonna just lifted the underwear out, wore them as outerwear, pranced on the catwalk and made them hip.

Along the way, she’s rocked the books. "The Guinness Book of Records" lists her as the most successful female recording artist ever; she holds the record for the top-grossing concert tour by a female artist and has an estimated net worth of $325 million.

Fame can be nasty, brutish and short. Like our people, she has lasted. And like us, with more branches than a burning bush, stretching in various directions all pointed up, she digs our eretz, recently claiming, "I wouldn’t say studying kabbalah for eight years goes under the category or falls under the category of being a fad or a trend."

While the material girl from Michigan has her feet planted in the mud, she’s also always reached for the stars.