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In a Lament of the Old 'Establishment,' Hollywood Encounters Anti-Semitism

November 13, 1994|Neal Gabler | Neal Gabler is author of "An Empire of Their Own: How the Jews Invented Hollywood" (Knopf). His new book, "Walter Winchell: Gossip, Power and the Culture of Celebrity" is reviewed in the Book Review

NEW YORK — Reading an article, "The New Establishment," in the October Vanity Fair and scanning the accompanying photo of 16 movers and shakers in America's new communications megalith, William Cash says he was piqued. Cash, a Hollywood reporter for London's conservative Daily Tele- graph, was irked by the magazine's own coy question, "Is there anything that binds this group of men?"

That answer, as Cash delivers it in a scurrilous piece in the Oct. 29 issue of England's Spectator, is that they are "predominantly" Jewish. (Actually, nine of the 16 are Jewish--but Cash isn't about to let a little arithmetic get in the way of a polemic.) More, Cash writes that the reason the New Establishment is predominantly Jewish is that it actively excludes Gentiles.

The article might be dismissed as an anti-Semitic bleat from a reactionary crackpot if it didn't have a respectable platform in the Spectator and didn't play to a pre-existing prejudice--that Jews control the U.S. media. But here the canard is given new impetus in an environment of anti- political correctness, where hostility often passes for honesty.

Cash realizes his discovery will trigger the "inevitable shrieks of anti-Semitism"--and it has--though he seems willing to brave these attacks in the interest of social science. This New Establishment is a "culturally maladroit and culturally nihilist ( sic )" band, Titans of Tripe, Cash calls them after Auberon Waugh, who wear, "nylon jogging anoraks, fluffy white socks, digital watches and faded jeans." You call this a power structure!

Once upon a glorious time, Cash laments, power was in the hands (or the feet) of a white-shoe aristocracy. These were well-born, well-educated, well-dressed men (at least when wearing wingtips)--culturally adroit and not at all nihilistic. They looked and acted the part of the Establishment--in fact, very much like the British Establishment. Nothing arriviste here. They ruled seigneurially and sartorially.

But now the big feet of the New Establishment wear white socks--and sneakers. These power brokers--including Rupert Murdoch of Fox Film and Television, Bill Gates of Microsoft computer-operating systems, John C. Malone of the Tele-Communications cable empire, not to mention the Jews among them--have not only nudged aside the Old Establishment. Their cabal practices, in Cash's analysis, are a "reverse form of class or racial discrimination," denying access to "Wasps, blacks and Brits." French, too?

As evidence of what he calls the feudal power structure of Hollywood, Cash adduces the recent formation of a new studio by Jewish director Steven Spielberg, Jewish record mogul David Geffen and Jewish former Disney executive Jeffrey Katzenberg, whom Cash castigates for green-lighting two movies, "Aspen Extreme" and "Love Trouble." "Beauty and the Beast" "Aladdin" and "The Lion King," which Katzenberg also green-lighted, apparently escaped his attention.

Quoting from an account in the Wall Street Journal, Cash recounts how this triumvirate sought the "rabbinical" blessing of MCA's long-time Chairman Lew R. Wasserman, the "last surviving Jewish founder-builder of a studio," in Cash's description. (Wasserman is a man of legendary proportions, but it would have taken preternatural precociousness for him to have founded Universal Pictures in 1912--before he was born.)

For Cash, this is sinister, like a capo petitioning a godfather--Cash's own analogy. It seems never to have occurred to him that the three sought Wasserman's advice or wanted to know what Wasserman was going to do with his bosses at MCA's parent company, Mashushita, before they made their own move.

Did I say bosses? Can it be that the godfather of the Jewish cabal that excludes Wasps, blacks and Brits pays obeisance to a higher authority? It can, because the studios and telecommunications empires that Cash identifies as predominantly Jewish are owned and controlled by non-Jews: MCA by Mashushita, Columbia and Tri-Star by Sony, Fox by Murdoch, Time-Warner by stockholders and a corporate board.

Ignoring the facts to suit his myth of Jewish control, Cash is in a long tradition of anti-Semites who began smiting Jewish movie executives almost from the moment the Jews entered the film industry in the 1910s.

One reform group demanded that movies be liberated "from the hands of the devil and 500 un-Christian Jews." Another religious zealot blasted Hollywood Jews for the "seduction of hundreds of thoughtless girls every day," which he ascribed, euphemistically, to a general "Europeanization" of the country. Henry Ford, in his Dearborn Independent, cited Jewish control of the film industry and said, "It is the genius of that race to create problems of a moral character in whatever business they achieve a majority."

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