Monday, October 20, 2003

Blogged Down

Tuesday Morning Quarterback, lauded here as the best football writing on the Web, is no longer online at TMQ writer Gregg Easterbrook was sacked after a really stupid post on his New Republic blog concerning the new Quentin Tarantino film Kill Bill: Vol. 1:

Set aside what it says about Hollywood that today even Disney thinks what the public needs is ever-more-graphic depictions of killing the innocent as cool amusement. Disney's CEO, Michael Eisner, is Jewish; the chief of Miramax, Harvey Weinstein, is Jewish. Yes, there are plenty of Christian and other Hollywood executives who worship money above all else, promoting for profit the adulation of violence. Does that make it right for Jewish executives to worship money above all else, by promoting for profit the adulation of violence? Recent European history alone ought to cause Jewish executives to experience second thoughts about glorifying the killing of the helpless as a fun lifestyle choice. But history is hardly the only concern. Films made in Hollywood are now shown all over the world, to audiences that may not understand the dialogue or even look at the subtitles, but can't possibly miss the message -- now Disney's message -- that hearing the screams of the innocent is a really fun way to express yourself.

Easterbrook apologized, acknowledging "poor wording" in his efforts to condemn Hollywood's glorification of violence, but the damage was done. yanked TMQ about as swiftly as its parent network cashiered Rush Limbaugh for his similarly woeful comments concerning Donovan McNabb.

A pair of former colleagues at Slate, where TMQ was launched, slam Easterbrook's posting while defending his character and staunchly denying that he is anti-Semitic. Mickey Kaus, himself a provocative and interesting blogger, notes that while Easterbrook is very smart and very funny, "he also has a slightly clumsy, emotional, well-meaning earnestness about him." Years ago, recalls Kaus, after making a similar "moral error" of his own in TNR, "I was busted and I learned something. That's what's supposed to happen. . . . That's what should have happened with Easterbrook." Writing in Slate's Press Box column, Jack Shafer discusses the perils of writing "without the safety net of an editor" and says that Easterbrook's scolding criticism of Weinstein and Eisner was "unimaginative, hackneyed, and trite," not to mention wrong. (The real Harvey Weinstein, he points out, is less Reservoir Dogs and more Shakespeare in Love.) He concludes, "By blogging so recklessly, Easterbrook deserves a day's damnation for mental tardiness, but anybody who wants to convict him of anti-Semitism will have to cross pens with me."

Disney's ownership of both Miramax and ESPN is a fact noted by many who believe ESPN acted way too harshly toward Easterbrook. Still, while I take Easterbrook's apology sincerely, it doesn't absolve him -- or anyone else who makes a living offering opinions -- from the responsibility of careful thought. Challenging viewpoints are vastly different from offensive viewpoints, as I'm sure Easterbrook well knows. Perhaps ESPN should have cut him a little slack, but given the network's speed in dumping Limbaugh, it really didn't have much choice in the matter.

And don't weep for Easterbrook. He surely wasn't getting rich from the ESPN gig, and, besides, TMQ is too well-liked, and too damn good, not to find a home somewhere else. I'll seek it out and happily continue to read his weekly NFL reports -- and hope that he leaves the idiotic posts to the idiots.


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