The Passion of the Christopher

From: Dace (
Date: Fri 02 Apr 2004 - 23:30:40 GMT

  • Next message: Scott Chase: "Re: The Passion of the Christopher"

    This came out about a month ago in The Mirror. Christopher Hitchens demolition of Mel Gibson's "The Passion of the Christ" is a case study in pathological memetics. The only part Hitchens leaves out is the origin of the Christian anti-Semite meme. Blaming the Jews for the murder of Christ was a tactic employed by early Christians to win favor with Rome, which was already persecuting them. They could say, "Look, we don't have any beef against the Romans. The bad guys here are those terrible Jews." Hence all the nonsense about Pilate being forced by a mob of Jews to execute Jesus. What began as a simple idea morphed into a meme. That it took on a life of its own is indicated by the fact that it continued as strongly as ever even after the whole empire had converted to Christianity. Gibson is clearly in thrall to this meme, still going strong after 1900 years.



    A few years ago, Mel Gibson got himself into an argument after uttering a series of crude remarks that were hostile to homosexuals.

    Now he has made a film that principally appeals to the gay Christian sado-masochistic community: a niche market that hasn't been sufficiently exploited.

    If you like seeing handsome young men stripped and tied up and flayed with whips, The Passion Of The Christ is the movie for you.

    Some people used to go to Ben-Hur deliberately late, and just watch the chariot race while skipping the boring quasi-Biblical stuff. Alas, that isn't possible with this film.

    Along with the protracted torture comes a simple-minded but nonetheless bigoted version of the more questionable bits of the Gospels. It's boring all right - much of the film is excruciatingly tedious - but it also manages to be extraordinarily nasty.

    Gibson claims that the Holy Ghost spoke through him in the directing of this movie, and that everything in it is from the Bible. I very much doubt the first claim, and I can safely say that the second one is false.

    The Bible does not have an encounter between Jesus and a sort of Satanic succubus figure in the Garden of Gethsemane. The Bible does not have a raven pecking out the eye of one of the crucified thieves. The Bible does not have Judas pursued to his suicide by a horde of supernatural and sinister devil-children.

    Moreover, whatever the Bible may say, the Roman authorities in Jerusalem were not minor officials in a Jewish empire, compelled to obey the orders of a gang of bloodthirsty rabbis.

    It was Rome that was boss. Indeed, Pontius Pilate was later recalled by the Emperor Tiberius for the extreme brutality with which he treated the Jewish inhabitants (and you had to be quite cruel to get Tiberius to raise his eyebrows).

    Yet Gibson is evidently obsessed with the Jewish question, and it shows in his film.

    It also shows when he's off-screen. Invited by Peggy Noonan - a sympathetic conservative interviewer - in Reader's Digest to say what he thought of the Holocaust, Gibson replied with extreme cold-ness that a lot of people were killed in the Second World War and no doubt some of them were Jews. Shit happens, in other words. He doesn't seem to grasp the point that the war was started by a political party which believed in a Jewish world conspiracy.

    He doesn't go as far as his father, who says that the Holocaust story is
    "mostly fiction" and that there were more Jews at the end of the war than there were at the beginning, but he does say that his old man has "never told me a lie".

    And he does say that he bases his film on the visions of the Crucifixion experienced by a 19th-century German nun, Anne-Catherine Emmerich, who believed that the Jews used the blood of Christian children in their Passover rituals. (In case you have forgotten, the setting of the film is the Jewish Passover.)

    Yesterday, as the movie opened, a Pentecostal church in Denver, Colorado, put up a big sign on its marquee saying: "Jews Killed The Lord Jesus." Nice going.

    In order to keep up this relentless propaganda pressure, Gibson employs the cheap technique of the horror movie director.

    Just as you think things can't get any worse, he shoves in a gruesome surprise.

    The flogging scene stops, and you think: "Well, that's over." And then the sadistic guards pick up a new kind of flagellating instrument, and start again.

    The nails go through the limbs, one by one, and then, for an extra touch, the cross is raised, turned over and dropped face-down with its victim attached, so that the nails can be flattened down on the other side.

    The vulg-arity and sensationalism of this would be bad enough if there wasn't a continual accompaniment of jeering, taunting Jews who want more of the same.

    The same cynical tactic has been applied to the marketing of the movie.

    Gibson is well known to be a member of a Catholic extremist group that rejects the Pope's teachings and denounces the Second Vatican Council
    (which, among other things, dropped the charge that all Jews were Christ-killers).

    He went to some trouble to spread alarm in the Jewish community, which rightly suspected that the film might revive the old religious paranoia.

    He showed the film at the Vatican, and then claimed that the Pope had endorsed it - a claim that the Vatican has flatly denied, but then every little helps.

    Then he ran a series of screenings for right-wing fundamentalists only, and refused to show any tapes to anyone who wasn't a religious nut. (It took me ages to get around the ban and get hold of a pirated copy, and I was writing for the Hollywood issue of Vanity Fair.)

    Having secured a huge amount of free publicity in this way, and some very lucrative advance block bookings from Christian fundamentalist groups, Gibson now talks self-pityingly about how he has risked his fortune and his career, but doesn't care if he "never works again" because he's done it all for Jesus.

    The clear message I get from that is that he'll be boycotted by sinister Hollywood Jews. So it's a win-win for him: big box office or celebrity martyrdom. With any luck, a bit of both. How perfectly nauseating.

    In a widely publicised concession, Gibson said that he'd removed the scene where the Jewish mob cries out that it wants the blood of Jesus to descend on the heads of its children's children.

    This very questionable episode - it is mentioned in only one of the four gospels - has in fact not been cut. Only the English subtitle has gone. (The film is spoken in Aramaic and Latin, though Roman soldiers actually spoke a dialect of Greek.)

    So when the film is later shown, in Russia and Poland, say, or Egypt and Syria, there will be a ready-made propaganda vehicle for those who fancy a bit of torture and murder, with a heavy dose of Jew-baiting thrown in.

    Gibson knows very well that this will happen, and he'll be raking it in from exactly those foreign rights to the film.

    So my advice is this. Do not go.

    Leave it to the sickos who like this sort of thing, and don't fill the pockets of the sicko who made it.

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