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Monday, October 20, 2003

Easterbrook is Easterbanished: TMQ cut from ESPN roster over "anti-Semitic" blogpost

Gregg Easterbrook is a senior editor at The New Republic, whose online edition sponsors his new blog, too-cutely named Easterblogg.  ("Gregg" with two g's at the end, ya get it — huh? huh?)  Easterbrook has a quick mind and broad tastes that include professional football in all its gory glory, so until now he's also contributed a weekly column to ESPN's website, writing as the "Tuesday Morning Quarterback."  I'd link you to one of his TMQ columns, except — it seems that Michael Eisner and his minions have zapped them all.  Yeah, it appears that they've fired Easterbrook — and not just fired him, they've disappeared him — or at least his name from the masthead and all traces of his columns from the ESPN website!  Nacht und nebel!

Why?  Well, they didn't say, but one presumes it's because of this blogpost he wrote about Miramax's new picture, "Kill Bill." 

Easterbrook expressed a pretty pointed opinion that that "Kill Bill" stinks, that its director Quentin Tarantino stinks, and that Miramax stinks for sponsoring Tarantino's mindless über-violence, and that Harvey Weinstein and Michael Eisner — respectively the CEOs of Miramax and its corporate parent, The Walt Disney Company — stink for letting Miramax sponsor Tarantino's über-violence. 

Easterbrook didn't just pan the movie, its director, its studio, the studio's corporate parent, and their respective CEOs, though — he managed at the same time to point out that (gasp) Weinstein and Eisner are both 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.

With these sentences, Easterbrook has generated The Perfect Scandal for Our Times™!  I can tell it's perfect because when I try to figure out which of my regular archival categories to select for this post, I could pick just about any of them except "Texas Redistricting"!

Oh, glorious potential for mixed metaphors!  Armchair quarterback, political pundit, and corporate blogger — slain on the swift sword of politico-religious (or religio-political?) correctness, his prompt and conspicuous apology notwithstanding.  We know Easterbrook must be guilty and evil because the Los Angeles Times tells us if he walks like an anti-Semite, talks like an anti-Semite, and quacks like an anti-Semite, Disney can fire his ducktailed ass from its ESPN subsidiary's website in the proverbial Los Angeles minute (which is really shorter than a New York minute, except that it's done in film-school slow-motion so you can see the blood splatters more clearly).

Andrew Sullivan bemoans this as an assault on blogging, and links an online petition protesting Easterbrook's firing from ESPN.  Along with some other far more notable bloggers, I duly signed the petition — I enjoyed reading the TMQ column, especially the bits about the NFL cheerleaders.  But I'm having second thoughts about having done so — ummm, about signing the petition, that is (not reading about NFL cheerleaders).  In fact, I may start a petition to force the petiononline.com folks to institute a delete feature!

Easterbrook's apology suggests that in another medium — one less instantaneous than blogging-without-a-net (no editors! it's the nature of the beast!) — he'd have managed to avoid any anti-Semitic clichés:

Where I failed most is in the two sentences about adoration of money. I noted that many Christian executives adore money above all else, and in the 20-minute reality of blog composition, that seemed to me, writing it, fairness and fair spreading of blame. But accusing a Christian of adoring money above all else does not engage any history of ugly stereotypes. Accuse a Jewish person of this and you invoke a thousand years of stereotypes about that which Jews have specific historical reasons to fear. What I wrote here was simply wrong, and for being wrong, I apologize.

Eh.  I've seen worse.  In the days when I, a Texas gentile, was a partner in a largely Jewish New York-based law firm, I've probably said worse myself (although the Texas-New York culture clash was a far bigger problem than the gentile-Jewish one). 

Mr. Easterbrook, if I may play Wednesday Morning Quarterback (although it's a Monday today):   Do you think it's an accident that Disney keeps Miramax as a separate brand so it can channel its sex-and-violence content to the viewing public of the world without tarnishing Mickey's image?  We all know better. 

But you don't tug on Superman's cape, and you don't dis the Mouse{*} — not if you're eating at the Mouse's training table, anyway.  Mike Eisner and Harvey Weinstein are indeed loathsome individuals, but that has nothing to do with their being Jewish, or religious, or even male — their greed and their pandering to feed it has entirely to do with their being human, and by injecting religion into an area where it doesn't really fit, you gave them an excuse to whack you.

Which, of course, is their absolute commercial right to do, First Amendment notwithstanding (and having absolutely nothing to do with this).  I don't doubt that leading blogospheric expressers of Jewish outrage like Roger Simon (here, here, and here) and Meryl Yourish (here, here, here, here, and here) were sincere in feeling offended, and are now sincere in their regret that ESPN has knocked TMQ out of its lineup.  (Prof. Reynolds, of course, has a wide variety of pertinent links on InstaPundit, along with some commentary.)  But one would have to be naïve indeed to think that to the powers-that-be at Disney, the religious issue was anything more than a pretext for what was actually a reaction to Easterbrook-as-film-critic.  It doesn't have to be about Eisner personally.  No, Easterbrook had it right the first time, if he'd just omitted the religious references — it's all about profits.  The Mouse is ruthless.

So, TMQ, you screwed up; you threw a pick into double coverage, they ran it back for a score to win the Super Bowl.  Yes, blogging is like speaking into an open mike on national television, and you of course knew that — but then again, that excitement, that danger was part of the attraction that caused you to chose a career that has you walking on tightropes, dealing with hot topics like politics and race and religion and NFL cheerleaders with or without breast implants.  If you'd wanted dull and secure, you'd be a judge like the Official Easter-Brother.

So twist your jock back into position, locate your helmet, and trot off the field with dignity, sir.  Disney is damn near boycott-proof, Eisner and Weinstein will get another bajillion despite running the stock price into the ground; tain't nuthin' to be done with, to, or about them. 

You still have your day job.  And Mr. Easterbrook, you ought to find a better outlet for Tuesday Morning Quarterback.  TNR probably isn't the place.  But then, neither was the ESPN website.  "Go.com"?  How very Nineties; how entirely pre-blogospheric.  Stop apologizing (not to say you shouldn't have, but just that you've apologized enough already), shrug off the hit, and play the free agent market, man!


{*}    "Don't dis the Mouse" is a much politer version of the conventional wisdom supposedly imparted to all employees of The Walt Disney Company's famous theme parks, when they're warned that their public and private conduct must be above reproach.  And while looking for the corporate website for Disney — not the "view the latest trailer/play the latest game/here's our flash animation and oh by the way we gave up and hired HP to run our website for us" stuff — I found one lovely page with a lovely quote from the company founder, whose spin-in-his-grave rate doubtless gained another 1000 rpm when "Kill Bill" came out:

"I only hope that we don't lose sight of one thing — that it was all started by a mouse." - Walt Disney

Sorry, Walt.

Posted by Beldar at 07:10 AM in Current Affairs, Film/TV/Stage, Humor, Law (2006 & earlier), Mainstream Media, Sports, Weblogs | Permalink


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(1) mark made the following comment | Oct 22, 2003 2:12:17 PM | Permalink

Here is my open letter to the Page 2 editors at ESPN.COM

To whom it may concern:

I was shocked to find out that my favorite column will no longer be printed on ESPN.COM,i was shocked even more when i learned why i will not be able to read TMQ.For a Co. as a whole, who failed to fire one of their employees who flat out dogged African Americans on the Airwaves, has fired an employeee for something he published in another outlet,seems to me that is a double standard.Your very own Bob Ryan wasnt fired from The Boston Globe or ESPN for the remarks he made on your Air Waves,but i guess Domestic Violence is of lesser consequence for a reputation than being labeled a Biggot.Perhaps if Mr.Ryan was hired by lets say Mrs.Eisner he would've been fired.In fact both Ryan and Limbaugh were given an oppurtunity to retract the statements that were made.Most Commentary's are given a direct warning to the viewing public that in no way shape or form do the views of the commentator reflect the views of the affiliate.I personally have read the article,and i see the point that Mr.Easterbrook was trying to make,i still til this day have no idea what point Limbaugh and Ryan were trying to make and probably never will,and i will probably never understand why you fired Mr.Easterbrook.And in all fairness it seems to me that this Country was based on Freedoms and Liberties,and one of the most sacred is,Freedom of Speech,and all three parties are entitled to thier Freedom and are subject to objection when and where that Freedom is misused.But it doesnt seem in ESPN's case"whats good for the Goose is good good for the Gander",if your an employee of ESPN.It's 2003 and i thought all companies were Equal Oppurtunity Employers.I am a faithful viewer and reader of most ESPN outlets,but i think i will be trimming my viewing back,i'll watch your telecast of games,but will turn my volume down,but i probably wont be logging onto ESPN.com anymore i can get my scores from other outlets.

Mark Lukoski

(2) ytjk made the following comment | Oct 22, 2003 4:09:12 PM | Permalink

Dumb open letter.

Spell words correctly, learn to capitalize, and write in full sentences-- that might help you get noticed.

(3) MARK made the following comment | Oct 23, 2003 9:30:09 AM | Permalink

Im not here to be noticed,and im not here for spellin lessons either.If you have enough time to check for spelling errors,you need ahobby or possibly even a life.....But i do believe i got my point across..........

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