anti-semitism or anti-disney?

Gregg Easterbrook wrote something on his blog that Roger Simon criticized for being anti-Semitic. It was also, as Glenn Reynolds points out, anti-Disney. The consequence of his writing was that Easterbrook was fired from ESPN (which is owned by The Mouse). Was the cause the anti-Semitism or the anti-Disney-ism?

As one of Easterbrook’s self-described “harshest critics” says, the firing was an over-reaction. I agree, though more because of the place than the substance of what Easterbrook said. Had Easterbrook been the announcer at a football game and made similar comments, I could well understand (and defend) ESPN’s decision to fire him. But a post in a blog is not a blast to 20 million people. No one would hold ESPN responsible; no one, so far as I can see, was even drawing a link to ESPN.

This leads Glenn Reynolds to suggest that it is another example of the consequences of the MediaCon.

Glenn has a point. ESPN’s actions are ambiguous, at least if you agree with Roger Simon that firing Easterbrook was an over-reaction. ESPN should resolve the ambiguity.

If ESPN fired Easterbrook because it overreacted to his comment, then that’s an injustice to Easterbrook, and a slight to society.

But it it fired Easterbrook because Easterbrook criticized the owner, that’s an offense to society, whatever the injustice to Easterbrook — at least when fewer and fewer control access to media. No doubt, anti-semitism has done infinitely greater harm than misused media mogul power. But if firing your critics becomes the norm in American media, then there will be much more than insensitivity to anti-semitism to worry about in the future.

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35 Responses to anti-semitism or anti-disney?

  1. Anti-semitism? Where? Easterbrook brought up the fact of Eisner and Weinstein’s heritage, it seems to me, to call them to do better than comparable Christian execs – he wasn’t saying they were greedy because they were Jewish, he was saying they should be more aware of over-violence because of the Jewish heritage of oppression. As a Jew, that doesn’t strike me as anti-Semetic – insulting to Eisner and Weinstein and a arguably a stupid thing to say, but not anti-Semetic.

    As far as the place goes, the only media organization entitled to care in any way about this story would be the New Republic – it’s their webspace.

  2. Thad says:

    You can say that what Easterbrook said in his blog shouldn’t affect his football anaylsis gig, but the reality is that the blogoshpere is wide. Another example is Senator Bond (R, Mo), who had an intern with a website with the numbers of the late Sen. Carnahan as the address. It was crude and, of course, the intern was let go. Now it may be true that ESPN didn’t have as clear-cut a case with Easterbrook’s blog comments, but Easterbrook did say them in a public forum, and as such, they can be used against him. Add in ESPN’s heightened sensitivity due to the Limbaugh affair, and it’s understandable how Easterbrook got booted. Ultimately, I think this is less about media concentration then ESPN looking to defuse a potentially embarassing situation quickly.

  3. Matthew,

    I have to disagree with you on the “no sign of antisemitism”. Singling out any group for special treatment/expectations is a problem, even if the current statement is not overtly “bad” to the reader at that time.

    In this case, the article seems to state that Jews are “responsible” for the violent movies and they should know better. (Although I suppose there are there are also Christian exectives and I suppose they also could have something to do with it.)

    Never mind that if these “Jewish Executives” stopped selling the violent movies that the public buys, loves and eats up they would be out of a job faster than Easterbrook was.

    However, my original reason for coming down to the comments was,to discuss the firing. I would think that allowing him to post a retraction/appology/clarification would be the best measure for the paper and in general. If he refused to write said retraction/appology/clarification then, the New Republic/ESPN should write a statement appologizing. Otherwise this looks like either:

    1) He was fired for being anti-Disney


    2) There was some other issue and he was about to be fired anyway and this was just bad timing.

    I agree that it is wrong if he was fired for criticizing his boss, this is not all that uncommon a reason. People have been fired for criticizing their boss in forums outside of work, much less publicly lambasting them.

    Does the frequency make it right. No. But the question is what do we do? Is it enough to point out the injustice, or is there more action that can/should be done? Or do we just chose not to patronize those that do such evil? (With megacorporations that becomes pretty hard.) Or should we be writing to ESPN for an explanation to get them to react?

    Pointing out the injustice (if that is what was done) is the first step, and an important one. But is that all that should be done?

  4. Matthew Saroff says:

    It’s clearly anti-semitic.

    If he had said, “If I were a Jew, I would be embarrased the fact by Eisner and Weinstein are behind this stuff,” it would pass the smell test.

    He didn’t write that, he wrote that they were “Jewish executives” who “worship money above all else.”

    In his apology, he says that no one “made a peep” over his statements regarding Mel Gibson’s violent films juxtaposed with his fervent Catholocism, and follows it up with a throw away about writing too quickly.

    In his article about Gibson, his primary point was that the concerns regarding anti-semitic overtones in his film depicting the last hours of Jesus were overblown.

    And then he has the obligitory “I’m sorry if you were offended” non-apology.

    It’s BS.

    He called people who are at best marginally observant, money grubbing Jews.

    It’s no different from Jimmy the Greek’s interview on black atheletes.

    It was right to fire Jimmy, and it is right to fire him.

  5. diana says:

    This whole situation is getting crazier & crazier.

    Prof. Lessig: How is it “an offense to society” when you get fired for (allegedly) criticizing your boss?

    Bosses have a right to fire employees for good reason, bad reason–or no reason.

    That’s the free market system, isn’t it?

  6. Michael Last says:

    Its an offense to society when, becaue of media consolidation, certain groups/individuals can no longer be crticized (i.e. Disney or AOL/TW).

    I read the apology – I thought it was a good apology. Easterbrook explained that what people had read in his article wasn’t what he had meant to say, and apologized for having written so poorly that a reasonable person could read it as saying less than flattering things about jews. He apologized promptly, explained what he meant to say, and realized that wasn’t what he had said – I don’t think more should be expected from somebody.

  7. Adam says:

    I don’t understand why Easterbrook needs ESPN/Disney’s subsidies — if he wants to continue to write on football, he can start a blog like the rest of us. (More here.)

    Media concentration has nothing to do with this — it’s not tv or radio or print, where barriers to entry are high. It’s the Intenet. Get a blog.

  8. Aaron says:

    I just went and read this this morning so I don’t know if it’s been altered, but if the following text is what the debate is over, I think this is being massively overblown on the anti-Judaic angle.

    “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….”

    It seems to me the author meant for this to be parsed something like:

    plenty of hollywood executives worship money above all else and plenty of them are Christian

    is it right for these executives to worship money above all else?

    especially given that the ones in question Jewish and given the brutal European history still in living memory which featured a lot of killing the helpless where most of the helpless were Jews, one wonders why they don’t have second thoughts or aren’t more sensitive to this naked celebration of violence

    Which I think is a cruder way of saying something like “dude, these directors are Jewish and their movies revel in and seem to worship senseless violence, often perpetrated against the helpless, as a form of entertainment. A lot of movie makers place the almighty dollar above all else but it’s surprising that these Jewish ones are apparently no more sensitive to glorifying killing the innocent as cool amusement.”

    Now, I don’t think the passage is well written. But also (and this shouldn’t matter but unfortunately it seems to so I’ll say it anyway) I’m Jewish and I’m able with a little effort to reconstruct what the author was apprently trying to say without flying into a hypersensitive fit and crying for attention and comfort from the bad, bad man.

    It’s one thing to respond with offense to an anti- screed. It’s one thing to take a moment and challenge stereotypes, subtle or otherwise, promulgated knowingly or not by others. But it’s another thing to willingly misinterpret poorly crafted prose to wrongly bring them under the umbrella of invidious stereotype (interpreting Easterbrook’s work as ‘jews worship money!’) in order to get self-righteous. Life is too short for such silly sanctimonious posturing.

  9. Michael Last says:

    Aaron’s parsing is what was meant by Easterbrook (according to his apology note). Many people reacted to the ‘jews worship money!’ element (I’m amongst them). People are sensitive to stereotypes – if it looks like a stereotype, or if it sounds like a stereotype, then people will react to it as a stereotype.

    Which is why I felt Easterbrook’s apology was well written – he explained what he meant, and apologized for writing something which could be construed to mean something else.

  10. Thanks Aaron – everything you said was what I was trying to say earlier, only you said it better.

  11. Patrick Carroll says:

    While I don’t think Easterbrook’s remarks demonstrate anti-Semitism, it is racist to for a Gentile to hold a Jew to a different standard on the basis of his religion, even if his intention was well-meaning.

    And Eisner was within his rights to fire Easterbrook, whether it was for making racist remarks, or for criticizing Eisner. Easterbrook was an “at will” employee of ESPN, which means that he can be dismissed any time and for any reason.

  12. Manu says:

    I don’t believe the major gripe about Easterbrook’s dismissal is legal. Being in the right about something doesn’t make it right.

  13. Matthew Saroff says:

    I think that the person who put this best so far is Steve Gilliard (his blog is at

    Gilliard, who is black, had the following comment,:

    “If I wrote a piece which described all white men as tools of the devil and despoilers of the black race, most of you would be pissed. You’d wonder why you supported my site if I could write something like that. Or you would think I was crazy. Either way, you’d be embarrassed for me.

    When Gregg Easterbrook wrote a review of Kill Bill, the new Tarantino move, he wrote that Harvey Weinstein and Michael Eisner were “Jewish executives [who] worship money above all else”. He was then shocked to find out that ESPN fired him.”

    What most disgusts me about all this is all the people who INSIST that he can’t be an anti-Semite, after all, they’ve known him for years (Eric Alterman for one).

    It’s almost ALMOST as repulsive as when Alterman claimed that John Fund could NEVER have beaten his ex-fiancee, because he was SUCH a gentleman when they briefly shared a studio.

    This is bovine scatology.

    Easterbrook would have to give a Nazi Salute to be any more blatantly anti-Semitic.

  14. Anonymous says:

    As a quick followup, one should also remember that he has claimed that the ADL’s problems with Mel Gibson’s Jesus movie is an attempt to score some cash.

    He said what he believed, he did NOT misstate himself.

  15. Devin Binger says:

    Matthew Saroff,
    Please don’t use misleading quotes like that. What you put as �Jewish executives [who] worship money above all else� Easterbrook actually wrote as “Yes, there are plenty of Christian and other Hollywood executives who worship money above all else, promoting for profit the adulation of violence.” I would like to being that quote with the phrase you quate as “Jewish executives,” but in fact I can’t seem to find where Easterbrook says that. I don’t know where you got it. In fact, Easterbrook is explicitly stating that he does not take issue with the greed of Jewish executives any more than with Christians, he simply hoped that with the memory of the Holocaust and the Arab-Israeli conflicts in mind, they would be more reluctant to encourage violence.

    While it was unnecessary and prehaps racist for him to feel the need to point out that these executives were Jewish, he did NOT state that Jews, or even these particular Jews, were greedy. Please be more careful with your quotes in the future.

  16. Anonymous says:

    I dunno… if I were Eisner or Weinstein, I would be pretty offended by someone implying that I didn’t learn enough from the suffering of my people and my extended family during the Holocaust. Offended enough to probably fire the sorry person who made the implication if he had the misfortune of being my employee.

    I don’t feel too bad for Easterbrook as a result. Besides, he’s a senior editor over at The New Republic… it’s not just any blog. I don’t agree with that characterization of this issue, either.

    Just my $.02.

  17. adamsj says:

    I wonder how anyone can justify making art about turning human beings into piles of meat.

    I’m not a believer in anything but the human race, but that offends my ethics.

  18. adamsj says:

    Posted too quickly: Read that as “art which glories in turning human beings into meat”.

  19. Matthew Saroff says:

    BTW, I think that this rush to defend Easterbrook is part of an unspoken “Gentlemen’s Agreement” among columnists regarding the petty foibles of their colleagues.

    (Yes, I’m being too cute by half with that turn of phrase)

    That being said, a FAR more contemptible example of this is Eric Alterman’s defense of John Fund, where he concluded that he could never have beaten his former fiancee because he was a perfect gentleman when they shared a studio.

    Columnists live in a very small world, and most of them all know each other, and they find it disturbing when one of their own reveals a personal demon.

  20. adamsj says:


    In much the same way that what Easterbrook actually said has been distorted in this thread by less-than-complete editing, you are misrepresenting Alterman’s argument. There was a lot more to it than “I never saw him beat his fiancee, so he must be innocent.”

  21. adamsj says:

    And here’s the link–judge for yourselves: Who Framed John Fund?. Or you can read this quote, which is enough to put to rest your misrepresentation of what Alterman said:

    “In a signed affidavit, the woman in question–whose true age is 36, seven years older than was reported, and who was born Carolyn Anne Barteaux but carries a passport (a copy of which was provided to me by Fund) under the name Carolyn Anne Pillsbury and now goes by Morgan Francis Pillsbury–withdraws any accusations of physical abuse, accusations that resulted in Fund’s arrest. She also denies in the affidavit that they had ever planned to marry.

    In a letter to the Wall Street Journal, she acknowledges that she has “trouble distinguishing between reality and fantasy” and in a sworn deposition, she says she has a “borderline personality disorder. One of the symptoms of this condition is an inability to discriminate truth from fiction.” In that same deposition, in response to the question, “What lies had you told in the past?” she answers, “Too many to name.”

  22. James B. Shearer says:

    Patrick Carroll states above that Easterbrook was an “at will” employee. Other commentary on this affair also seems to assume this. Is this known? I would have guessed he had some sort of contract with ESPN in which case “at will” doctrine would not apply. And even “at will” employees cannot be dismissed for “any reason”. There are various statutory and common law exceptions.

  23. Courtney says:

    While Easterbrook may not be an anti-Semitic person (whatever that means) , he did (perhaps unwittingly) use stereotypes. Trading in stereotypes is a dangerous game. Not only because stereotypes suffer from the generalization fallacy (which then leads to specious arguments built upon false assumptions), but because any use of stereotypes subtly invokes the historical oppressive canon for that group, bringing into the context whatever other false and harmful stereotypes the group has been pegged with. Thus, just one Jewish stereotype, however innocently made, brings with it the baggage of the ugly, purposeful anti-Semitism that has been used against the Jewish people for centuries, to devastating effect.

    As an example of this phenomenon, Rush Limbaugh’s “innocent” comment about Donovan McNabb being overrated subtly tapped into an old racist canard about African Americans not being smart enough to play the position of quarterback. Limbaugh used a stereotype, and with it, invoked this harmful racist perception without having even mentioned it.

    In his blog, Easterbrook imputes motives to Eisner and Weinstein based upon their religion. Out of context, this may seem pretty harmless. But you cannot ignore the context. This very tactic — imputing motives and characteristics to an individual based upon the individual’s religion, is exactly the strategy of those who purposefully seek to scapegoat and oppress groups.

    This is not to say that this was Easterbrook’s purpose. Unlike Limbaugh, Easterbrook’s motives seem quite genuine. However, as a journalist, an educated individual, and a critical thinker, he has a responsibility not to trade in stereotypes no matter how tempting it may be. Even if there was a grain of truth in Easterbrook’s comments (which I don’t think there was), he cannot ignore the concomitant harm that accompanies the use of stereotypes. He should recognize this, and not hide behind the shield of non-intent. Just because he didn’t mean to be anti-Semitic, doesn’t mean that he wasn’t, and it also doesn’t excuse him for failing to recognize his dangerous use of oppressive rhetoric.

  24. Greg Thrasher says:

    As a person of color I am not amazed at all by those here and in the media who is defending the hate speech of Easterbrook. What is tragic for me is witness such denial and deflection has so much passion and depth. What next holocuast and slavery denials on our network news shows……

  25. Thomas Riedel says:

    If all justice is subjective, try to ask yourself, by which standard should the bosses of Disney have judged Easterbrook’s statement? By the same moral standard they applied to the films of Mr Tarantino that are part of their product portfolio and thus, of their corporate culture and their corporate ethics? I think, Disney’s ethics are consistently the same when backing the films by Mr Trash and firing people who inquire about the ethical foundation of all this.

  26. Matthew Saroff says:

    If, and we don’t know that this is the case, Eisner had Easterbrook fired, there are two possible reasons, depending on how he read what was written:

    * That Eisner should be ashamed of himself for putting out something like “Kill Bill”.

    * That Eisner is a money grubbing Jew, and his Jewish avarice that makes him put out films like this.

    Any number of people have read what he wrote in both ways.

    If it was done for the first reason, this is cause for concern.

    If it was for the second, there isn’t. Even when acting more or less privately, as on a blog, throwing racial epithets at your boss is a legitimate cause for termination.

  27. Steve says:

    Apparently one thing nobody here has yet questioned is Easterbrook’s premise. He laments “glorifying the killing of the helpless”.

    If you’ve seen Kill Bill, you might have noticed that the only people being killed are a huge army of back-flipping superhuman evil Yakuza assassins, plus some other people who are even more deadly and nasty. Excuse me, helpless?!

    So, if I get this right, he’s taking his tough moral stand so that some impressionable movie-viewer doesn’t walk out of the theater and start single-handedly challenging a zillion motorcycle-riding ninjas to a swordfight?

  28. Adam Goldstein says:

    How anyone could read that and not come away with a sense of anti-Semitism is beyond me. The recent comments out of Malaysia were much less offensive than this (the former I wouldn’t even call anti-Semitic–paranoid and indicitive of an inferiority complex perhaps, but not anti-Semitic).

    You can translate the plain meaning of the paragraph–which, despite attemps here to obfuscate it, is clear on the face of the words–to any number of groups just by changing the hateful stereotype/historical event/modern event. The apologists on here should keep doing it over and over until they find one that offends them. (How this bunch of American white devils can justify religious bigotry after having been driven out of Europe in the 18th Century by religious persecution only highlights that they’re only concerned with perpetuating racism and claiming to own every human being who doesn’t eat mayo sandwiches on wonder bread.)

    (Yes, that was sarcasm and an example.)

    As a side note, it’s cute that he also assumes all Jews come from Europe. I suppose if you’re going to make one generalization, you might as well make a bunch. What a repugnant tool.

  29. Lizard says:

    If I walk up to my boss and begin to insult him, or his ancestry, I assure you, I will be fired. Nor would I have any right to expect otherwise. There is no such thing as a moral or legal obligation to pay money to people who are spitting on you. Freedom of speech means one does not need to fear arrest, imprisonment, torture, or execution for ones words — it does not mean that there are no consequences to speech whatsoever. (Want to speak and avoid consequences, or, at least, minimize them? Speak anonymously or pseudonymously, and accept the limited credibility as the price you pay for your boss not knowing what you think of him. Life is about tradeoffs and choices.)

  30. Matthew Saroff says:

    As what I hope is my final comment about this issue, I think that Easterbrook’s comparison of Gibson and Eisner, etc. is more proof of anti Semitism.



    To criticize one for actions in contradiction with a public profession of intense faith is not the same as criticizing someone who is, by all accounts, commonly called a secular Jew.

    The fact that Easterbrook seems to be unable to separate the two is religious bigotry.

  31. Matthew Saroff says:

    I should proof what I right better.

    “He criticized Eisner, WHO MAKES NO PROCLAMATION ABOUT HIS RELIGION IN HIS CAREER, because he IS Jewish.”

    Should be, something to the effect of, “The fact that he makes Eisner’s religion an issue, despite the fact that Eisner makes no such proclaimation about his religion, is a double standard based on the religion of the subject. There is no clearer definition of bigotry.”

  32. Kevin says:

    I just started an anti-Disney Yahoo group at

    I am hoping for input from people regarding all things bad (and good) from Disney.

    If you have personal experiences of being harmed by disney, I also host a support group at

  33. Paul says:

    Simply put, I think anyone, black, jewish, or martian should be ashamed of producing a movie like Kill Bill. However, in this day and age you have to be a little crazy as a public figure to single out any religious, ethnic or lifestyle group that is not white, protestant and male.
    Can you imagine him being fired for saying �WASP executives [who] worship money above all else� instead of �Jewish executives [who] worship money above all else�. Nope.
    Signed – A person of color

  34. Anonymous says:

    For Immediate Release: May 5, 2004
    For More Info: [email protected] Announces Disney Boycott, the leading web site for Democratic activists, today launched a boycott of the Walt Disney Company to protest its refusal to distribute Michael Moore’s new film, “Fahrenheit 911.”

    The film is highly critical of Bush’s handling of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and his actions leading up the attacks. It links Bush with powerful Saudi families, including that of Osama bin Laden.

    “As Americans, we are outraged that Disney would use its enormous power to censor Michael Moore, one of America’s most important filmmakers,” said president Bob Fertik.

    “As Democrats, we are outraged that Disney would use its enormous power to prevent Americans from learning important and disturbing facts about George W. Bush, in order to keep voters from considering those facts when they vote in November,” Fertik added.

    Participants in the boycott will refuse to purchase Disney products until the company agrees to distribute “Fahrenheit 911.” Those products include films, theme parks, toys, and TV networks. Activists can sign the boycott petition by visiting

    Disney forbids distribution of film that criticizes Bush – NYT By Jim Rutenberg

    The Walt Disney Company is blocking its Miramax division from distributing a new documentary by Michael Moore that harshly criticizes President Bush, executives at both Disney and Miramax said Tuesday.

    The film, “Fahrenheit 911,” links Mr. Bush and prominent Saudis – including the family of Osama bin Laden – and criticizes Mr. Bush’s actions before and after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

    Disney, which bought Miramax more than a decade ago, has a contractual agreement with the Miramax principals, Bob and Harvey Weinstein, allowing it to prevent the company from distributing films under certain circumstances, like an excessive budget or an NC-17 rating.

    Executives at Miramax, who became principal investors in Mr. Moore’s project last spring, do not believe that this is one of those cases, people involved in the production of the film said. If a compromise is not reached, these people said, the matter could go to mediation, though neither side is said to want to travel that route.

    In a statement, Matthew Hiltzik, a spokesman for Miramax, said: “We’re discussing the issue with Disney. We’re looking at all of our options and look forward to resolving this amicably.”

    But Disney executives indicated that they would not budge from their position forbidding Miramax to be the distributor of the film in North America. Overseas rights have been sold to a number of companies, executives said.

    “We advised both the agent and Miramax in May of 2003 that the film would not be distributed by Miramax,” said Zenia Mucha, a company spokeswoman, referring to Mr. Moore’s agent. “That decision stands.”

    Disney came under heavy criticism from conservatives last May after the disclosure that Miramax had agreed to finance the film when Icon Productions, Mel Gibson’s company, backed out.

    Mr. Moore’s agent, Ari Emanuel, said Michael D. Eisner, Disney’s chief executive, asked him last spring to pull out of the deal with Miramax. Mr. Emanuel said Mr. Eisner expressed particular concern that it would endanger tax breaks Disney receives for its theme park, hotels and other ventures in Florida, where Mr. Bush’s brother, Jeb, is governor.


  35. Leah Guildenstern writes:

    “I have to disagree with you on the “no sign of antisemitism”. Singling out any group for special treatment/expectations is a problem, even if the current statement is not overtly “bad” to the reader at that time.

    In this case, the article seems to state that Jews are “responsible” for the violent movies and they should know better.”

    A half-truth, if even that – quoting the allegedly antisemitic blogger:

    “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.”

    Leah, don’t let the Ellis Island – imposed Celtic sounding surname fool you; I’ve probably been in Shul more times than you have. You and I both know that these words, issuing from the mouth of a rabbi, would hardly make anybody blink. Like any people, we have our history, the history will teach lessons, and we should learn from them. Why us more than others? Wrong question – why us less than others?

    How can one be Jewish, and not have any thoughts about the Holocaust? Having had those thoughts, how can one not think of what happens when one ceases to feel empathy for one’s fellow man, a reaction that casual nihilism will encourage? That’s the question that somebody is asking, and the fact that this question has been responded to with personal attacks directed against the asker is shameful. Apologies are called for, but not from the man who has been fired, if this is all that he was fired over.

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