Sunday, 21 March 2004
Rooney and the religious right - THE COMMENTARY
By Joseph Planta
VANCOUVER - Religion has reared its head into the arena of public debate as of late, considering the commotion over Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ. The 60 Minutes resident curmudgeon, Andy Rooney had an end piece a couple weeks back lambasting Gibson and the movie. Rooney claimed that God had spoken to him and told him that Gibson and that religious zealot and Republican Pat Robertson were "whackos" and that both were "crazier than bedbugs." He went further. God supposedly told Rooney that, "Mel is a real nut case. What in the world, was I thinking when I created him? Listen, we all make mistakes."
Rooney went on the Imus in the Morning program on MSNBC soon after and when asked if he'd see the movie he said, "I don't want to pay $9.00 just for a few laughs." The shit hit the fan. Populist firebrands like Bill O'Reilly were on Rooney's case, and 60 Minutes viewers flooded Rooney with over 30,000 pieces of mail, e-mail and messages, some of which he shared on this past Sunday's broadcast. Susie Baker from Normal, Illinois wrote, "I am so angry I could spit!!!" Ron from Phillipsburg, New Jersey called Rooney "some hateful old bastard." James S. Gardner from Bethesda, Maryland wrote Rooney: "You asinine, bottom-dwelling, numb-skulled, low-life, slimy, sickening, gutless, spineless, ignorant, pot-licking, cowardly pathetic little weasel."
Bill O'Reilly waded into the matter on his O'Reilly Factor show, which we don't get in Canada and I'm told, is on the Fox News Channel, by saying Andy Rooney was too old, that he was "at the end of the road." Rooney sardonically replied, "That wasn't nice, Bill. I didn't get old on purpose, it just happened. If you're lucky, it could happen to you."
Well, Sunday night after the broadcast, Andy Rooney got an e-mail from one Joseph Planta of Vancouver, British Columbia. I wrote, "I'm sorry to disappoint you. Though I sometimes disagree with you, I don't think you're too old, or a bastard. I enjoy your pieces each week, and I hope you'll continue to do them for some time to come." Monday morning came this reply from our friend, Andy Rooney: "Thanks. I needed that."
The Andy Rooney episode does point to that great divide felt in American culture, inevitably our culture here in Canada, considering we're so entangled. Bill O'Reilly, for one, has been one of the great champions of Mel Gibson and this movie. (He also happens to be in business with Gibson, but that's beside the point.) Frank Rich, in his column in the New York Times, has taken a dislike to the film and Mel Gibson and Bill O'Reilly. Even before the movie came out and portions of the script were leaked, Rich was one of the first mainstream media voices to call the film anti-Semitic. Gibson fired back saying he'd want to kill Rich's dog and sling its intestines on a stick. The Culture War hit a new low, or high, depending on your political persuasion.
I haven't seen the film, nor have any plans to see it. It has its detractors and its supporters, considering the film has grossed an immense amount already. I haven't read the bible, so I couldn't tell you if it were accurate. Moreover, I couldn't tell you if Gibson is anti-Semitic, or if the film is. Certainly, his father is, and people of his Dad's ilk are probably keen on seeing the film, considering it's a Jew getting beat up for a couple of hours . . . As O'Reilly and Frank Rich feud, I'd probably take the side of Rich, considering he's one of the most esteemed voices on this continent as it is. O'Reilly, though seemingly intelligent has struck me as a bully and a sarcastic prig. O'Reilly however makes a good point, and that is, at the New York Times just after they trashed The Passion of the Christ, they ostensibly wrote a laudatory review of Ludacris' latest album. O'Reilly breaks it down clearly, as at the Times it looks as though Ludacris is good, and Jesus Christ is bad. It would appear that in the Times' high-minded world, that the Jews should have been jacked up on crack and just shot Jesus to death.
Kinky Friedman, the country singer, who's now running to be Governor of Texas in 2006, being of the Jewish faith, has nothing to contribute to the debate. He shrugs saying, the whole story of the Passion of Christ would make for a good book. Pardon me? Forget Rich and O'Reilly. Kinky's got it right.
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