Put on your yarmulke, it's time for ...


... another "News Jews Can Use" edition of Altercation.

Dershowitz whines, Arianna wins:

Arianna is profiled, quite favorably, in Fortune this week, here. And yet, in the piece, I read the following accusation by Alan Dershowitz:

At the same time, she does not promise that what is submitted will always run, a fact that has drawn the ire of Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz. He became a regular contributor last year, but claims Huffington's editors started vetting his posts and then refused to run a column he submitted recently because it conflicted with the site's hard-left editorial line on Israel.

Huffington denies that, explaining instead that her editors wanted the column reworked because of Dershowitz's attacks on Norman Finkelstein, a controversial political scientist with whom Dershowitz has feuded.

"We are not prepared, for a variety of reasons, to host bloggers' personal attacks on others ... whether or not they're true," editor Colin Sterling wrote in an e-mail to Dershowitz's assistant. "We'd be happy to look at a revised version that takes this into account."

Dershowitz e-mailed back: "The point can't be made without telling the truth about Finkelstein. I have read dozens of ad hominem attacks against right wingers on your blog. Methinks thou has a double standard! I will post it elswhere [sic] where a real marketplace of ideas exists."

In an e-mail to me, Huffington includes links to other posts about Israel on her site that she says give all sides. "This had absolutely nothing to do with his position on Israel," she wrote (suddenly sounding very unbloggy), "but rather our desire not to have the Huffington Post become a forum for unending personal battles and potentially libelous charges."

Allow me to shed some light on this particular incident, as well as on Dershowitz's obsession with claiming that everyone in the world is anti-Israel except for him, Marty Peretz, Norman Podhoretz, and (possibly) Abe Foxman.

When I was doing Altercation on MSNBC, HuffPo, which had just started up, used to run it in its entirety, which MSNBC was good enough to allow. Everything that ran on MSNBC ran on HuffPo, automatically, with no-editing that I could discern. Then one day something didn't run. It was a post that termed Alan Dershowitz a "liar." Now, make no mistake; in addition to being a liar, Alan Dershowitz is also lawyer who likes to sue people (insert lawyer/liar joke as desired). I would not risk calling him a "liar" unless I were absolutely certain I could prove it. I have no interest in lawsuits, even ones that I win, because I'd be paying my own legal fees (I imagine). The reason I am certain enough to write this here today is because I have Dershowitz on tape, lying. It's a bizarre situation so follow carefully.

A long time ago, when I was an (overpaid) contract writer for Elle, I profiled Dershowitz. I wrote an extremely gentle profile because, believe it or not, I found him likeable and charming, and was surprised by this. The two criticisms I leveled were that Dershowitz loses all judgment and perspective when it comes to two topics -- unfortunately, these are also his favorite topics -- himself and Israel. (In some ways, they are also the same topic, but that's another story.)

When the piece came out, Dershowitz denied his quotes and insisted that I had actually told him that I planned to lie about him. Here's the really weird part. I was not merely taping the conversation in question -- I was about to run for the airport and had originally forgotten the question, so I had taken out my tape recorder and was holding it in front of his face. So Dershowitz was lying about a conversation that had taken place while he was speaking directly into a tape recorder. What's more he was lying about my calling myself a liar. What's more, he was proving the point of my piece, which was that he lacked all judgment when it came to issues related to Alan Dershowitz (and Israel). I can produce the tape at any time if Alan has a problem with this story, which, by the way, ran on Page Six, believe it or not, with no further objections from the liar, Dershowitz.

Now Dershowitz is claiming that he was censored by the Arab-lovers over at Arianna's house. But of course, I was no less "censored" for pointing out that Dershowitz is a liar. And I can prove my case. But the fact is, Colin Sterling was telling the truth. HuffPo does not allow attacks on other bloggers even when they are demonstrably true. And this proves once again, the hollowness of the whining of the likes of Dershowitz, et al, that if anyone disagrees with them, it's because they hate Israel. Their purpose is censorship, pure and simple.

Want more? The Chronicle of Higher Ed has yet another wrap-up of the Walt-Mearsheimer controversy here. It seems pretty decent. And while we're on the topic of Jews and the strange things some of them say in public when it comes to Jews: If they/we are so smart, why do we take seriously the pseudoscientific racism of a huckster like Charles Murray? OK, if I had no accomplishments whatever save using my wife's fortune to destroy liberalism's most important magazine while slandering genuine liberals on a regular basis, I might be vulnerable to Murray's ministrations as well. You know where this is going ...

From What Liberal Media?:

Undoubtedly the biggest political boost The Bell Curve received was from The New Republic. The editors of this once-liberal magazine's decision to carry Murray's arguments at such length was symbolic to say the least. At more 10,000 words, it proved to be one of the longest articles ever published in the magazine's nine-decade life. When added to the seventeen responses published with it, it's safe to say that no topic had ever galvanized the editors of what was once America's liberal flagship quite to this degree, save perhaps the evil doings of Yasir Arafat, among Arabs from time immemorial. Then-editor Andrew Sullivan argued in his unsigned editorial, "the notion that there might be resilient ethnic differences in intelligence is not, we believe, an inherently racist belief. It's an empirical hypothesis that can be examined." This defense of Murray and [co-author Richard J.] Herrnstein's right to free speech rather than the validity of their argument sounds plausible until one remembers that Holocaust denial is also an empirical hypothesis that can be examined. Clearly the magazine's editor and owner sought to give Murray's arguments the magazine's imprimatur. (Today Sullivan says he believes the book to be "one of the bravest, smartest books of the decade.") Aside from Sullivan's editorial, the only essay resembling an outright endorsement of Murray's arguments came from Peretz himself. He devoted his essay to the alleged injustices perpetrated in the name of group-admissions to universities and (somehow) compared the United States unfavorably to Israel's 'ingathering of the exiles" on this point.

Anyway, back to business ...

Marty Peretz Quote of the Day:

Marty Peretz, 7/5/05:

What vision of a good society do the ideologists of Palestine proffer to their boosters all over the world? Really nothing, except another miserable state like the others in the Arab Middle East.

Posted by M. Duss

Alter-review, even more Jews ...:

The Jazz Singer by Eric:

I have long been fascinated by the history of The Jazz Singer, which was just released in a three volume DVD edition, beautifully packaged by Warner Home Video, with lots of extras about the birth of sound in film on the occasion of its 80th anniversary, here. And though I've done a lot of reading about it, nobody has satisfactorily explained, in my view, how in the world this story, of all possible stories, would be chosen as the first-ever "talkie." Think about the moment you see immortalized in Singin' in the Rain when the concept of talkies is first introduced to the assembled Hollywood royalty. Recall any Jews? If you read Neal Gabler's wonderful history of the "Jews who invented Hollywood," you see that literally, the last thing in the world these guys wanted Americans to think of them as was "Jews." Almost no Jews appeared on the screen as Jews under the authority of the great Jewish moguls, so why in the world would they choose to showcase not only Jews, but incredibly, almost -- if you remember the scenes in the synagogue -- bizarrely "Jew-y Jews." Why did they chose to depict the very thing they were most ashamed of -- their Lower East Side/Eastern European folk customs -- when they could have picked anything at all? As Aldous Huxley wrote in 1929, ""My flesh crept as the loud speaker poured out the sodden words, the greasy sagging melody. I felt ashamed of myself for listening to such things, for even being a member of the species to which such things are addressed." (He is quoted in Gary Giddins' excellent essay in The New York Sun, here, whose excellent cultural coverage I often admire and which betrays none of the Stalinist ethic one finds in the arts coverage of The Wall Street Journal or The Weekly Standard.) And how, moreover, did the rest of the Hollywood react to this choice? And why did Jews (as Jews) pretty much disappear, (with about three or four exceptions), from the screen for the next 35-40 years?

Over the years, I've spent some time on the theories that academics, film critics, Jewish scholars and American historians have put forth over time to address this question. None, if any, are fully convincing, but almost all are interesting, as the material is so rich. The most famous of the arguments, by the late cultural historian Michael Rogin, argues: "The movie transposes the social pressures of anti-Semitism into a purely intrafamilial father-son conflict, concealing social reality. At a time when black performers were banned from starring roles on stage or film, the black voice was 'ventriloquized' through the use of blackface. By the early twentieth century, Jews had almost entirely taken over blackface entertainment. Rogin sees blackface as a mask used by Jewish entertainers in their struggles to assimilate. He argues that The Jazz Singer emasculated revolutionary black modern music in the name of paying it homage. Blackface resurrected the plantation myth of the childlike Negro and domesticated the improvisational energy of authentic black music." (Those words are not my own or Rogin's owing to authorial laziness. I found them in Political Science: Black Face, White Noise: The Jewish Jazz Singer Finds His Voice by Michael Rogin, Critical Inquiry, XVIII, 1992, pp. 417-454. Abstract by Michael J. Bader, but they accurately reflect Rogin's argument, to my memory.)

Anyway, it's difficult to imagine what The Jazz Singer is "really saying" about its makers and how does that relate to and how that relates to the peculiar psychology of Messrs. Warner, Cohn, Mayer, etc, as well as late 1920s America? (Keep in mind that the Broadway show, and then the movie, opened in the wake of the 1924 Johnson-Reed [immigration] Act that all but shut down Jewish and other ethnic immigration to the United States based on contemporary understanding of the laws of eugenics. For instance immigration from Russia would be reduced from 16,270 to just 1,792 under the Act.)

Additionally, and in my view, no less significantly, what does it mean that this film keeps getting remade? And what does it say about the moment in question when the folks behind the pictures in Hollywood -- still mostly Jewish -- are trying to say about Jews and the larger American immigrant experience in doing so? What might they be saying that they don't know they might be saying? And what is America saying about them?

The versions of the story known to me are as follows:

"Day of Atonement" (1924), short story by Sam Raphaelson

The Jazz Singer (1925), Broadway show

The Jazz Singer (1927), the "first talkie," with Al Jolson and May McAvoy

The Jazz Singer (1953), with With Danny Thomas and Peggy Lee

The Jazz Singer (1959), TV special with Jerry Lewis and Molly Picon

The Jazz Singer (1980), with Neil Diamond and Laurence Olivier

"Jazz Singer" (1981), SCTV sketch with Al Jarreau and Eugene Levy

"Jazz Singer" Simpsons episode 8F05 (1991), "Like Father, Like Clown"

If you haven't seen the last two, well, get thee to a DVD store ...

Correspondence Corner:

No Jews wrote me letters yesterday, apparently.

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