The Big Picture

Patrick Goldstein and James Rainey
on entertainment and media

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Should Haim Saban really be telling CBS to get rid of Oliver Stone?

July 28, 2010 |  1:46 pm

Hugo_chavez Haim Saban isn't just mad at Oliver Stone for his controversial remarks about the Holocaust and Jewish domination of the media, which caused such a conflagration that Stone was forced to issue a speedy apology. According to this post in the Wrap, the Israeli-born media tycoon has launched a campaign to get Showtime to cancel its upcoming 10-part series, "A Secret History of America," which Stone has produced. Saban said he has already called Les Moonves, the CBS chief who oversees Showtime, demanding that he cancel the series, which is designed to provide an alternative look at U.S. history subjects rarely taught in public schools.

Saban said that WME Chairman Ari Emanuel had also "privately" called CBS to urge that the series be yanked from the Showtime schedule (though I guess now that Saban revealed that Emanuel has made the call, it isn't so "private" anymore). Saban says that Stone's apology was "transparently fake," adding that "this guy should be helped in joining Mel Gibson into the land of retirement, where he can preach his anti-Americanism and anti-Semitism in the wilderness where he belongs."

I know that some people are outraged by Stone's remarks, which included the nutty charge that America's support for Israel was the result of Jewish domination of the media. For one thing, it's pretty lame on Stone's part to ignore the fact that the U.S. is a natural ally for Israel on its own merits, since it's the only true democracy in the Middle East. On the other hand, I was surprised to discover that many of the people who left comments on my original blog post about Stone seemed convinced that the Jews actually do control both the media and the entertainment business, apparently because a lot of Jews work in media and showbiz. I hate to burst everyone's bubble, but that is transparently dumb on every level.

The most obvious: If you were putting together a list of the most powerful men in entertainment and media, you'd start with Rupert Murdoch, whose News Corp. owns 20th Century Fox and innumerable TV networks and newspapers; Brian Roberts, whose Comcast empire includes NBC/Universal and is a dominant player in cable TV; and Phil Anschutz, who controls innumerable sports teams, showbiz arenas, newspapers and Regal, the largest theater chain in the U.S. You know the punch line: None of them is Jewish. [UPDATE: I stand corrected: The Roberts family is Jewish.]

Haim Saban is a pretty wealthy and powerful guy himself, but he's a pisher compared to guys like Murdoch and Anschutz. I admire Saban's passion, but I don't agree with his trying to bully CBS into dumping Stone's series. This is a free country, so there's nothing wrong with Saban saying how distasteful he finds Stone's remarks (we're in agreement on that score). But getting a network to pull a show simply because its producer has espoused some crackpot conspiracy theories opens the door for all sorts of unsettling decisions. It's really not so different from the reasoning behind the infamous 1950s Hollywood blacklist, where hundreds of actors and filmmakers were denied work because people in powerful places didn't like their politics.

To put it in a more modern context, Mel Gibson has completed work on a new film, "The Beaver," which is in post-production at Summit Entertainment, the company behind the "Twilight" series. Should Summit simply refuse to release the movie, saying it finds Gibson's personal views and behavior repugnant? I'm sure that would make a lot of Gibson haters happy. But even though I find Gibson's antics wildly repugnant too, since he seems to hate every minority group on the planet, I think the film deserves to rise or fall on its own merits. If people loathe Gibson, they can--and should--refuse to see the movie. If it flops, the fans have spoken, but at least it was given a chance to be judged on its own merits.

I feel the same way about Stone's TV series about America's hidden history. In a free country, one of the freedoms that's worth respecting is the freedom to hear all sorts of opinions and attitudes, not just the ones we agree with.  


Photo: Oliver Stone, left, with Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez in a scene from Stone's documentary "South of the Border." Credit: Jose Ibanez / Cinema Libre