The Anti-Semitic Sword
Another apparent weapon in the arsenal of the Hollywood insiders against those from the outside who sought and seek to participate in their insider's game was (and continues to be) to falsely label such persons as anti-Semitic, either openly or through so-called whispering campaigns. As Neal Gabler points out, "[c]alling someone an anti-Semite was one of the surest ways of blackening him among the Hollywood executives. At one time or another that label was attached to Joseph P. Kennedy, Howard Hughes, George Schaefer, Joseph Breen and Y. Frank Freeman, among others.
For example, "[w]hen RKO production head George Schaefer refused Louis Mayer's offer to buy the negative of Orson Welles' masterpiece Citizen Kane (Mayer made the offer to destroy the movie, which was loosely and unflatteringly based on the life of his friend William Randolph Hearst), Schaefer suddenly found himself the victim of a whispering campaign accusing him of anti-Semitism. Determined to find the source, Schaefer later traced the rumors to a close associate of Mayer's." As Gabler reports, nothing " . . . prevented the Hollywood Jews from practicing a reverse discrimination--'Those goyim!' Harry Warner would yell in derision, or 'He's a nice fellow for a goy,' a Jew might say--but only in their inner sanctums, when they were safe among fellow Jews, and only verbally."
Joseph P. Kennedy is described by biographers Collier and Horowitz as "Cheerfully anti- Semitic". Gabler called Kennedy a " . . . suspected . . . nazi sympathizer . . . " Ronald Brownstein reports that Joseph Kennedy was remembered in Hollywood for several things including "his anti-Semitism." As an example of Joseph Kennedy's anti-Semitism, author Brownstein cites the " . . . 1940 meeting where he warned studio executives that they would incite anger against the Jews if they continued producing films hostile to the Nazis." Collier and Horowitz go on to say that "Kennedy was at least a casual anti-Semite . . . " again without citing authority for such a harsh judgment and with only a brief discussion (provided as an end note some 500 pages later in their book), it would appear that Collier and Horowitz are at least casually prejudiced against their biographical subject themselves. In their endnote the writers not only state that Kennedy and his sons "vigorously" denied any such accusations, but the authors merely offered conflicting hearsay evidence of Kennedy's attitudes towards Jews. They also suggest that "Kennedy's anti-Semitism . . . was real but reflexive, part of the ideology of the melting pot which he devoted his life to climbing out of." In any event, they do not show that Joe Kennedy was any more prejudice toward the Jews of Hollywood than they were towards him. In addition, isolated instances of hostility directed toward a small, but unrepresentative group of Jewish males and primarily based on the actual conduct of those Jewish males, does not really rise to the level of anti-Semitism.
With respect to Kennedy's position on World War II, it would appear to be more fair to assert that Joe Kennedy was primarily motivated by a desire to protect the lives of his own family (particularly his own sons) and his great fortune. Ultimately, Joe Kennedy lost his eldest son (Joe) in the war, his eldest daughter's husband (Billy Hartington) and his second son (Jack) was injured. He had reason to be concerned about war. Those legitimate concerns of a father provide no justification for bringing the issue of anti-Semitism into such a discussion. Part of the charge of anti-Semitism against Joe Kennedy was also apparently based on the written impressions of the German ambassador to England of conversations he had with Kennedy prior to the war. Not only were those cables written by a Nazi, looking for any kind of support wherever he could get it, why would anyone choose to believe a Nazi over Kennedy who flatly denied the press' interpretation of the Nazi's characterization of Joe Kennedy's remarks? It appears that some people in this country were simply trying to do great damage to Joe Kennedy's reputation by suggesting that he was prejudice against Jews and that was the reason he was opposed to the U.S. entry into the war. In other words, if a person like Joseph Kennedy has an honest disagreement regarding important national policy matters with some segments of the Jewish community in America, there is always a possibility that such a person will be labeled anti-Semitic.
It might therefore be more relevant to inquire into whether there is any connection between the fact that Joseph Kennedy owned a movie studio in Hollywood at one time and his later appearance in Hollywood discouraging Hollywood Jews from making anti-Nazi films just prior to World War II. Is it not possible that Kennedy was merely opposed to American intervention in what he perceived to be a European war? If that is the case, then Kennedy may have been wrongfully labeled an anti-Semite by the Hollywood Jews not because he was really anti-Semitic but as part of a campaign to discredit him or simply because he opposed to their efforts to produce movie shorts, newsreels and feature films that ultimately might help involve the U.S. more directly in the war (see A Study in Motion Picture Propaganda).
The only difference between the attitude of Joseph Kennedy (who expressed his alleged anti-Semitism through occasional inappropriate language) and those who dominate the Hollywood film industry then and now, is that those in the film industry express their deep felt prejudices through their films; the sentiment is the same (see the related discussions in Patterns of Bias in Motion Picture Content, Motion Picture Biographies and Who Really Controls Hollywood).
In another instance, biographer Charles Higham claims Howard Hughes was grossly anti- Semitic. At the point in the Higham book, at which the charge is made, (page 39 of the Charles Higham book Howard Hughes--The Secret Life), the author has only made one reference to anything closely resembling even a sympathy toward anti-Semitism, (i.e., the hiring of a poet who had allegedly written an anti-Semitic poem). It would seem that if Hughes was anti-Semitic and Higham thought that Hughes' alleged prejudice had something to do with his relationship with the heads of the major Hollywood studios, Higham would spend a little more time developing the theme or setting forth some objective evidence of the alleged anti-Semitism. Here again we seem to have an example of the way some writers carelessly throw around charges of anti-Semitism. It may be that this illustrates a pattern among the film studio heads, (i.e., some of the people they don't like or don't want to succeed in the film business, they label anti-Semitic.) This Hughes incident, also again raises the question, if Hughes was prejudice, was he more prejudice than the Jewish males who dominated Hollywood at the time? This is not to say that the previously- referred to poem was not anti-Semitic, it may have been. This book also does not take the position that Howard Hughes was not anti-Semitic. It is only being stated here that if anyone wants to label someone else "anti-Semitic" then they ought to have the courtesy of setting forth their evidence so that others can make their own reasoned judgment.
According to Higham, Hughes' great sin against the Hollywood studio moguls of the day was to call them "king kikes" Even though author Higham places the supposed Hughes quote "king kikes" within quotation marks, as if quoting from some source, there is no note in the book's endnotes for that chapter supporting such a quote. The term "kike" is defined by the American Heritage dictionary as offensive slang, used as a disparaging term for a Jew. Its Yiddish counterpart is "goy", another offensive term used as a disparaging term for one who is not a Jew. David McClintick, for example, reports that studio executive Dennis Stanfill was " . . . known around Hollywood as the town goy . . . " Thus, the question may be asked, "Are those Hollywood people who provided the above information to McClintick any more or less prejudice than Hughes?"
Temple University professor David Bradley, was an African-American student at the University of Pennsylvania in 1968. As Bradley writes in David Rosenbergs' book The Movie That Changed My Life, that college experience gave him an opportunity to observe " . . . the odd traditions of the university's major tribes, upper-class White Anglo-Saxon Protestants and Jews." Bradley states that " . . . they were at their most tribal when gathered in fraternities . . . There were Christian houses and there were Jewish houses, or 'goy' houses and 'kike' houses, depending on whom you were talking to." Bradley provides an example of the kind of racist humor of the period relating that " . . . the goyim said a kike was a Jew who'd left the room, the kikes said a goy was an Anglo-Saxon putz who was still in the room but didn't know any Yiddish." On the other hand, Bradley referred to them all as " . . . a bunch of honkies . . . " Who is being the more offensive here? Does the use of such terms by Bradley mean he is prejudice?
The following questions should be asked: Is one of these terms more offensive than the other? If someone who uses the term "kike" is anti-Semitic, does that make anyone who uses the term "goy" (including Harry Warner as cited above) equally prejudice against non-Jews? And is the use of the term "kike" or "goy" all that is required to label someone as a prejudice person? And, would that also make Temple University professor David Bradley a racist merely because he refers to white folk as "honkies"?
Furthermore, while it is fairly common to see Hollywood outsiders accused of being anti- Semitic, it is not as common to see commentary about the prejudices of Hollywood insiders, even though it appears that some in Hollywood are just as guilty of prejudice. For Example, " . . . Al Ruddy, the producer assigned to oversee The Godfather . . . " reported to Robert Evans during the shooting of the film that (referring to Francis Ford Coppola) the " . . . guinea shoots a great scene . . . " but it " . . . doesn't cut together." Evans refers in his own book to Steven McQueen's attorney Bill Thompson as a "redneck" Evans also refers to Gilley's, the night club outside Houston which was the inspiration for the film Urban Cowboy, as " . . . 100 percent prime redneck . . . " Does he really think the term "redneck" is not extremely offensive to a segment of our population? In another instance, when Robert Evans was looking for money to produce The Cotton Club he claims he was offered financing by Adnan Khashoggi, but he turned it down because he was " . . . [f]amiliar with Arab mentality . . . " and Khashoggi, even though " . . . labeled the richest man in the world . . . " was Arab. Instead, Evans preferred to get financing from Menachem Ricklis, " . . . also a millionaire many times over . . . (and a) Jew . . . " At one point, in negotiations with Khashoggi, Evans reports that he didn't " . . . like being Arabed down." In another incident appearing in the Evans book, " . . . Charlie Einfeld, the . . . marketing and distribution genius at Fox . . . " predicted that " . . . both audiences--the rednecks who go for oaters and the horror freaks . . . " would like Evan's new film The Fiend Who Walked the West. Another incident which Higham uses to support his charge that Hughes was anti-Semitic, is that "Hughes bought a viciously anti-Semitic novel, Queer People, for immediate production following Scarface." According to Higham, "[I]t is the story of a reporter who invades the Hollywood of 1931 and finds the community run by squalid Jewish executives . . . " Unfortunately, for Hughes, " . . . no actor would appear in the picture; they knew they would never work again if they did. Anonymous phone callers threatened Hughes' life; studio chiefs offered him fortunes to desist . . . On August 22, 1931, after Hughes had cast . . . William Haines in the lead, borrowing him from Louis B. Mayer, who was grossly caricatured in the script, Hughes was forced to announce that Queer People was suspended indefinitely . . . " His press release at the time said the film " . . . would have taken the public behind the scenes of Hollywood . . . Not a single American newspaper commented on the suppression; but the London Daily Mail printed a startling series of articles giving the insider story on the matter. As a result, Will Hays, head of the Motion Picture Producers Association and the chief arbiter of movie morals, a close friend of Louis B. Mayer, turned on Hughes with anger, definitively and for good. Despite the fact that Warner Bros. had made the bloodily violent Little Caesar, which Hays had given kid-glove treatment, Hays set out, implacably, to wreck Scarface."
Notwithstanding the fact that it would be a very dangerous precedent for the Hollywood film community itself to assume or conclude that a person who produced a single movie on a given topic believes some or all of the specific ideas contained in that movie, it appears that in this incident, Hughes was in fact the victim of malicious censors who refused to allow him the same right to pick and choose the kind of movie he wanted to make that the rest of the Hollywood film community has always demanded.
Clayton Koppes and Gregory Black also report that the head of the film industry's Production Code Administration was considered "anti-Semitic" apparently because he was politically conservative and vigorously fought to prevent Hollywood films from being used to disseminate liberal propaganda or similar views of international politics just prior to World War II.
Michael Medved reports that over the years, he has received " . . . mail from viewers and readers in all regions of the country who suspect that the disproportionate number of Jews in Hollywood leadership positions might somehow account for the alienation of the industry elite from the American mainstream. Some of these letters . . . " Medved writes, " . . . appear to be sincere attempts by basically well-meaning people to understand what's gone wrong with the popular culture. Others reflect anti-Semitic attitudes of the most poisonous and pernicious variety." Without really discussing what is or what isn't "anti-Semitism", Medved raised the issue and thus by implication seemed to try to make any discussion of who controls Hollywood and includes mention of Jews, possible grounds for charges of anti-Semitism. Did he do so purposefully? Medved rationalizes that "[n]o business in the world is so firmly associated in the public mind with the Jewish people as the American entertainment industry; when substantial segments of society begin to view Hollywood as some hostile, heedless force, (he says) it's unavoidable that some of those who hold this attitude will try to explain the situation with reference to the Jews." Medved goes on to state, however, that " . . . questions about Jewish influence on Hollywood . . . " have in fact moved " . . . well beyond extremists groups."
On the other hand, as already noted, O'Donnell and McDougal severely criticized Hollywood without ever raising the issues of religion or culture in relation to the question of who is responsible. Their solution, which appears to be specifically designed to evade the possible charge of anti-Semitism, was to say Hollywood is controlled by two dozen white males. These two white male authors thus avoid the possible charge of anti-Semitism while leaving open the possibility that they are racist.
At times, it does seem though that some in the Hollywood Jewish community appear to be fairly quick to label critics who raise the question of any level of Jewish control of Hollywood as anti-Semitic. It would appear from the record that the allegation of anti-Semitism is often raised irresponsibly and as an affirmative weapon designed not to ferret out the truth, but as an attack on the credibility of the Hollywood critic (i.e., by alleging that the critic is prejudiced, and the prejudice is the real reason for the criticism not any observations founded in reason or fact). It would appear that under such circumstances, people like Joseph P. Kennedy, Howard Hughes, George Schaefer, Dennis Stanfill and Joseph Breen, may have all been wrongfully labeled anti- Semitic (or in the alternative, none of the authors who reported the allegations, made an adequate case to support and accompany their allegations).
This is an important point. It would seem that if a person is going to make an accusation that someone is anti-Semitic, or as an author, pass along such allegations, the very least that society should require of the accusing party, is that he or she provide some credible evidence that supports such allegations. This book takes the position that none of the above authors, Higham, Koppes, Black, Brownstein or Gabler met any minimum burden of persuasion with regard to this issue, although, at least Gabler's report on George Schaefer suggests that Schaefer was in fact the victim of a "whispering campaign" which in turn implies that the original charge is not true. All of the rest, repeated the allegation and provided little if any credible evidence to support the charge. That seems to fall within the scope of "the sword of anti-Semitism" in that these authors have participated in repeating a false allegation or have repeated an allegation that may be true, without providing sufficient evidence that would allow reasonable people to make their own informed judgment. It would appear then, that such behavior is either negligent, or that the clear and intended result of such behavior is to inhibit criticism of any Jews or the behavior of Jews generally, thus, making the charge of anti-Semitism, an offensive (as opposed to defensive) weapon in the debate and discussion arsenal.
In any event, some persons of Jewish heritage who were privy to discussions about the writing of this book during its draft stages cautioned about being as straightforward with regard to the problems in Hollywood as this book has sought to be. They suggested that some of the more radical elements in the Jewish Community would mis-interpret this writing as anti-Semitic, since, the book, is very critical of a small group of people who are in fact Jewish, or have a Jewish background. These well-meaning associates were also concerned that they would have to defend these writings, and ultimately the author, among family and friends, particularly if such people did not read the book and only heard others misrepresent what these books actually say. Thus, it is important to pause for a moment and examine anti-Semitism, so that all who read this book or become involved in a discussion of it, can conveniently and quickly find assistance in dealing with the possible false allegation of anti-Semitism. In other words, this book series on Hollywood presents us with a good opportunity to gain a better understanding of what anti-Semitism is and what it is not.
Some effort should first be made to define what it means to be anti-Semitic. According to the American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, for example, an anti-Semite is "[o]ne who discriminates against or who is hostile toward or prejudiced against Jews." Unfortunately, there are at least a couple of problems with this definition. It does not provide any quantitative limits on the number of Jews (minimum or maximum) that are required to fall within the scope of anti-Semitism, nor does it distinguish between hostility based on good cause. In other words, this definition would permit hostile behavior or language directed toward two Jews who have in fact committed horrible acts to be considered anti-Semitic. Thus, that dictionary definition of anti-Semitism seems too vague and overly broad. It is not workable in a practical sense.
Checking another dictionary, Webster's Seventh New Collegiate Dictionary also defines "anti-Semite" as "one who is hostile to or discriminates against Jews." This definition is pretty much the same (after all, discrimination is based on prejudice) and it has the same inadequacy (i.e., it does not distinguish between the person who is hostile toward Jews generally, as opposed to the person who may be hostile toward a few Jewish individuals who happen to be Jewish, but the hostility is not related to their Jewishness, instead, for example, because of their actual bad behavior). In other words, these first two dictionary definitions of anti-Semitism actually suggest that if anyone is hostile toward any number of Jewish people, regardless of the behavior of those particular Jewish people, the hostile individual may be fairly called anti-Semitic.
Maybe it would be more helpful to use a definition by someone who holds himself out as a scholar on the subject and who wrote a very contemporary book entitled Anti-Semitism in America. Leonard Dinnerstein, a professor of history at the University of Arizona, for example, defines anti-Semitism in his recent book as " . . . hostile expressions toward, or negative behavior against, individuals or groups because of their Jewish faith or heritage." Dinnerstein goes on to point out that "[p]rejudice reflects antagonistic thoughts but when those ideas are put into actions that restrict or condemn Jews (or others, we might add) they become forces of discrimination."
Note, however, that Dinnerstein's definition adds an essential element, omitted by the dictionaries. He states that in order for hostile expressions or negative behavior directed toward Jews to be fairly considered anti-Semitic, it must be made because the targets are Jewish, or it must stem from a belief that Jewish persons behave the way they do because they are Jewish. In other words, Dinnerstein's definition adds the requirement that the alleged anti-Semite's motives must be considered. Demonstrating someone's motives for negative behavior or hostile expressions clearly requires a much higher level of evidence, certainly much higher than that demonstrated by any of the above cited authors. Since, the charge of anti-Semitism is a serious charge, this book takes the reasonable position that it should not be taken lightly, and should not be made without good reason. In addition, the better practice is that no such charge be made unless it is accompanied by evidence regarding the motivation of the alleged anti-Semite, not just another allegation regarding such person's motivations.
One other semantical problem occurs with both Dinnerstein's and the dictionary definitions of anti-Semites, and that relates to the meaning of Semite itself. On the one hand, the American Heritage dictionary's preferred definition of a Semite is "[a] member of a group of Semitic- speaking peoples of the Near East and northern Africa, including the Arabs, Arameans, Babylonians, Carthaginians, Ethiopians, Hebrews and Phoenicians." Its secondary meaning is "Jew". Also, Webster defines "Semite" as "a member of any of the peoples descended from Shem; a member of any of a group of peoples of southwestern Asia chiefly represented now by the Jews and Arabs but in ancient times also by the Babylonians, Assyrians, Arameans, Canaanites, and Phoenicians. It also defines Semitic as "of, relating to, or characteristic of the Semites; specifically Jewish" or "of, relating to, or constituting a branch of the Afro-Asiatic language family that includes Hebrew, Aramaic, Arabic and Ethiopic." Webster further defines Semitic as "any or all of the Semitic languages".
Thus, the word "Semite" is not synonymous with the term "Jewish" and Jews only represent a part of the Semitic peoples. Consequently, it is not specifically accurate to say that a person who is anti-Jewish is necessarily anti-Semitic. And it is understandable that many of the other Semitic peoples of the world may be offended by the Jewish usurpation of the term "Semitic" in place of "Jewish" when used to describe someone who is anti-Jewish but not anti- Semitic in the broader sense. Even if the argument is made that dictionaries report usage, and are therefore justified in saying anti-Semitic means anti-Jewish because it is commonly used that way, all of the non-Jewish Semitic peoples still have a right to complain about the inherent ambiguity in the use of such term, and it may be a more useful and worthy purpose for the people who write and publish dictionaries to help clear up such ambiguities in the language instead of contributing to the confusion.
Dinnerstein, meanwhile, (writing in 1994) goes on to state that "[a]ntisemitism has existed throughout American history." This is no doubt an accurate statement. On the other hand, it is just as accurate to say that some Jewish prejudice against some non-Jews has also existed throughout Jewish and American history. Dinnerstein does not say that, however. He like Medved makes a very important omission from his discussion. As you may recall, Medved reported in his book Hollywood vs America said, " . . . Jewish 'control' of American entertainment now stands at an all-time low . . . " while omitting to state the other side of that same truthful statement, (i.e., but a small group of politically liberal and not very religious Jewish males of European heritage still retain more control in Hollywood than any other readily identifiable religious, racial, ethnic or cultural group).
It may be fair, considering these two examples, to raise the question as to whether Dinnerstein and Medved are actually trying to help us see the whole truth, or just the part they want us to see. After all, based on the studies and collection of anecdotal reports contained in this book, it may be just as accurate and fair to report that the politically liberal and not very religious Jewish males of European heritage who control Hollywood are, as a group, just as prejudiced against non-Jews, if not more so, than most Americans who are considered anti-Jewish. Thus, anyone concerned about prejudice directed toward one particular group, must also be concerned about the prejudices of that group directed at others. If not, such persons may be considered unfair and hypocritical in their analysis and suffer a loss of credibility. It must also be remembered that people who are regularly and wrongfully accused of being prejudice may become very resentful of such allegations and in the long- term become prejudice against those who make such allegations, thus generating a self-fulfilling prophesy.
Another, presumably, even more authoritative definition, of anti-semitism comes from The New Standard Jewish Encyclopedia (7th Edition) That publication " . . . acknowledged as the authoritative source book of information about all aspects of Jewish life . . . " provides an even more conservative definition of anti-Semitism, saying it is a " . . . term . . . used . . . to designate the organized movement or other manifestations against the Jews; more loosely, hatred of the Jews generally." Wigoder's definition seems to require that in order for something to rise to the level of anti-Semitism, it must either be part of an "organized movement" or at least directed at Jews generally. Thus, under such a definition, it would be inappropriate to label an individual as anti-Semitic unless that individual was part of a larger movement against Jews, or was at least guilty of an expression of hatred (which is even stronger than "hostility") toward all Jews or, at least, a broad cross-section of Jews.
Author Patricia Erens chose a similar approach in defending Jewish filmmakers who provide negative or stereotypical portrayals of Jews in American films. Erens stated that the " . . . fact that most of the works (reviewed in her book The Jew in American Cinema) were written or scripted by Jewish writers and produced by Jewish businessmen and actors classifies them as a form of self-examination." And she points out that this Jewish self-examination is different " . . . from an attack from without." However, in determining whether such Jewish self-examination in film actually rises to the level of Jewish anti-Semitism, Erens quotes Robert Alter's definition of anti-Semitism, which holds that "Anti-Semitism implies an active hostility towards Jews as a group and an active intention to vilify them". Thus, Erens takes the position that " . . . one must make a distinction between a negative character or even an unlikable family and a slur aimed at the entire Jewish community. Using this criterion . . . " Erens reports that " . . . very few films are genuinely anti-Semitic works, despite the outcry and rage of overly sensitive, defensive, and protective Jewish critics."
In any case, the good news from Dinnerstein's published analysis of anti-Semitism in America is that " . . . prejudice (in the United States) toward all groups (has) declined since 1945 . . . " and that " . . . Jews, more than any other identifiable group, have been the major beneficiaries as educational, employment, housing, resort, and recreational opportunities opened up for them." Thus, it is fair to observe that if those who write about Hollywood and who make accusations about the anti-Semitic beliefs or behavior of non-Jews, such accusers have an affirmative obligation to support such accusations with credible evidence. That evidence must show that the person accused either was "hostile" toward Jews generally or was "hostile" toward one or more Jews because they were Jewish. Otherwise, these accusers should be considered not credible, and even worse, someone who maliciously wields the sword of anti-Semitism, a blatantly dishonest debate and discussion tactic.
The above discussion was excerpted from John Cones' book: How the Movie Wars Were Won.