Joel Stein asks "How Jewish is Hollywood?"
December 20, 2008, 05:01 PM
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In the Los Angeles Times, columnist Joel Stein asks "How Jewish Is Hollywood?"

I have never been so upset by a poll in my life. Only 22% of Americans now believe "the movie and television industries are pretty much run by Jews," down from nearly 50% in 1964. The Anti-Defamation League, which released the poll results last month, sees in these numbers a victory against stereotyping. Actually, it just shows how dumb America has gotten. Jews totally run Hollywood.

How deeply Jewish is Hollywood? When the studio chiefs took out a full-page ad in the Los Angeles Times a few weeks ago to demand that the Screen Actors Guild settle its contract, the open letter was signed by: News Corp. President Peter Chernin (Jewish), Paramount Pictures Chairman Brad Grey (Jewish), Walt Disney Co. Chief Executive Robert Iger (Jewish), Sony Pictures Chairman Michael Lynton (surprise, Dutch Jew), Warner Bros. Chairman Barry Meyer (Jewish), CBS Corp. Chief Executive Leslie Moonves (so Jewish his great uncle was the first prime minister of Israel), MGM Chairman Harry Sloan (Jewish) and NBC Universal Chief Executive Jeff Zucker (mega-Jewish). ...

The person they were yelling at in that ad was SAG President Alan Rosenberg (take a guess). The scathing rebuttal to the ad was written by entertainment super-agent Ari Emanuel (Jew with Israeli parents) ...

Ari Emanuel, who is the original for Jeremy Piven's "Ari Gold" character on HBO's Entourage, is the brother of Obama chief-of-staff Rahm Emanuel.

Whatever happened to Armenian moguls? It seemed like in the past there was often one studio boss who'd be Armenian.

In general, isn't it weird how it has become fashionable to be naive and less worldly, as evidenced by the drop in percentage of Americans who agreed with the factual statement "the movie and television industries are pretty much run by Jews"? It used to be that people felt proud of knowing the score, of understanding the way of the world, of being clued in to how things work.

Today, though, it's cool to be ignorant. I don't think it's just people who actually know the facts about Hollywood and lied to the ADL to be safe. Judging from comments by countless anonymous people on the Internet, a lot of people are proud of being out of touch with what's happening. They want you to be aware that they've cultivated their cluelessness. It's really very strange for somebody like me who can remember back to the late 1960s. That era had its flaws, to be sure, but willful ignorance was not one of them.

The Jews are so dominant, I had to scour the trades to come up with six Gentiles in high positions at entertainment companies. When I called them to talk about their incredible advancement, five of them refused to talk to me, apparently out of fear of insulting Jews. The sixth, AMC President Charlie Collier, turned out to be Jewish.

As a proud Jew, I want America to know about our accomplishment. Yes, we control Hollywood. Without us, you'd be flipping between "The 700 Club" and "Davey and Goliath" on TV all day.

So I've taken it upon myself to re-convince America that Jews run Hollywood by launching a public relations campaign, because that's what we do best. I'm weighing several slogans, including: "Hollywood: More Jewish than ever!"; "Hollywood: From the people who brought you the Bible"; and "Hollywood: If you enjoy TV and movies, then you probably like Jews after all."

I called ADL Chairman Abe Foxman, who was in Santiago, Chile, where, he told me to my dismay, he was not hunting Nazis. He dismissed my whole proposition, saying that the number of people who think Jews run Hollywood is still too high. The ADL poll, he pointed out, showed that 59% of Americans think Hollywood execs "do not share the religious and moral values of most Americans," and 43% think the entertainment industry is waging an organized campaign to "weaken the influence of religious values in this country."

That's a sinister canard, Foxman said. "It means they think Jews meet at Canter's Deli on Friday mornings to decide what's best for the Jews." Foxman's argument made me rethink: I have to eat at Canter's more often.

"That's a very dangerous phrase, 'Jews control Hollywood.' What is true is that there are a lot of Jews in Hollywood," he said. Instead of "control," Foxman would prefer people say that many executives in the industry "happen to be Jewish," as in "all eight major film studios are run by men who happen to be Jewish."

But Foxman said he is proud of the accomplishments of American Jews. "I think Jews are disproportionately represented in the creative industry. They're disproportionate as lawyers and probably medicine here as well," he said. He argues that this does not mean that Jews make pro-Jewish movies any more than they do pro-Jewish surgery. Though other countries, I've noticed, aren't so big on circumcision.

I appreciate Foxman's concerns. And maybe my life spent in a New Jersey-New York/Bay Area-L.A. pro-Semitic cocoon has left me naive. But I don't care if Americans think we're running the news media, Hollywood, Wall Street or the government. I just care that we get to keep running them.

I always thought The Larry Sanders Show had the most interesting take on this perpetual question. From an earlier article in the Los Angeles Times:

[Producer] Artie chews out [writer] Phil after his repeated homophobic jokes prompt a gay assistant (Scott Thompson) to hit the show with a sexual harassment lawsuit. “You know who runs this town?” Artie growls at Phil.

“The Jews?” Phil says.

“No,” Artie retorts. “The gay Jews.”

Interestingly, sometimes people go in the opposite direction and make inside jokes by portraying moguls as non-Jewishly as possible. In Evelyn Waugh's 1948 Hollywood novel The Loved One, the highest ranking figure in the studio is named Erikson, who speaks in "blunt Nordic terms." Similarly, in "Singing in the Rain," the upstanding but clueless 1920s movie studio mogul is named "R.F. Simpson" and is played by 6'-2" cowboy actor Millard Mitchell.

It's funny how history gets written. Back in Golden Age Hollywood, eight major studios were nepotistically run by Jewish moguls who hired their relatives and in-laws as executives, and the other studio was owned by Walt Disney, who nepotistically hired his relatives as executives. For decades now, a controversy has raged over whether Walt Disney was anti-Semitic. No comparable controversy exists over whether the other eight studios were anti-Gentilic. In fact, the term "anti-Gentilic" doesn't even exist. (As I recall, George Orwell had some insights into the political usefulness of the nonexistence of words.)