August 02, 2006 | Graham

The outer boundaries of publishing, Presbyterians and Mel Gibson.

On Line Opinion publishes a lot of material that is nonsense- respectable, but nonsense. That’s our function. We’re a Socratic space. Our role is not to tell you what to think but to provide space where advocates of different views can attempt to persuade you for themselves.
It’s not always a comfortable task, and not all material on the site is necessarily respectable. Take the forum. When, for example, war erupts in the Middle East we always get more than our fair share of anti-semitic posters. After a while others complain and demand moderation. Making the moderation decisions is not easy. If anything I err on the side of accommodation to the offender’s right to freedom of expression. I do this not just because of a belief in free speech, but because an idiotic view expressed openly generally exposes its true nature in a way that it doesn’t when it is locked away.
I don’t think these minority views taint the space. While the comments in isolation may be offensive, generally in the context of the debate there are a number of counter views that overpower it. Every community has its nutters.
Mel Gibson is a nutter who is in the news, and one who has done Jews everywhere a favour with his anti-semitism. The ugly face and the ugly words don’t sustain his world view, they undermine it.
Mel would be reasonably free to post these types of comments on the OLO forum, as long as he didn’t break any laws, but if he sent me an article based on them it wouldn’t see the inside of our back-end. What is allowed in conversational discussion doesn’t necessarily merit publication. Even a publisher with as wide an ambit as ours has to draw the line somewhere or it loses all its authority.
But it seems that official Presbyterian publisher John Knox Press doesn’t understand that there are boundaries. It is putting itself in the Mel Gibson category, not for publishing an anti-semitic treatise, but something not entirely unrelated. As reported in Christianity Today it has published a book Christian Faith and the Truth Behind 9/11 by process theologian David Ray Griffin which claims that the “September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks were orchestrated by the US government.” This is not too far from the alternate theory that persists in the Arab world that it was orchestrated by Jews.
Some critics describe the decision as “kooky”. I’d say more likely suicidal, at least for a publisher with pretensions to respectability. In any event, if Griffin is planning any op-eds to publicise the book or its sequel 9/11 and American Empire: Intellectuals Speaking Out it would be a waste of electrons to send it to my intray. But if he wants to join one of the debates on our forum, he’s welcome. He might even want to bring Mel with him.

Posted by Graham at 10:42 pm | Comments (5) |
Filed under: Media


  1. Dear Graham, the thing with Gibson is terrible to say the least,but from what I can gather and I dont know if you will agree with me,but the constant use of the anti-semtic label to slap down or discredit ANY criticism of the Israeli Govt for their actions in the Mid East and strangly enough also demonstrates the power of the non existant so called jewish lobby
    Wonder how much uproar there would have been if he had said the same things about Rastas,Muslims et al thanks John Ryan

    Comment by John Ryan — August 4, 2006 @ 8:41 am

  2. I too have problems with the overly-generous use of the term “anti-semitic” to try to marginalise any criticism of Israel, but in Gibson’s case the remarks appear to have been a propos of nothing. And if there had been a history of progroms and genocide against Rastas and Muslims such as there has been against the Jews, yes I think we would have heard about his comments if they were made against those other groups.

    Comment by Graham Young — August 4, 2006 @ 9:02 am

  3. A reader just sent me this link: It is an article co-authored by Ed Koch, Jewish former mayor of New York. He seems to be suggesting that because Gibson is anti-Semitic he should never be allowed to work again! Not sure which of these two gentlemen’s views are the least acceptable.

    Comment by Graham Young — August 7, 2006 @ 5:27 pm

  4. I think Graham’s moderation is fine, gives the best to the articles and allows more leeway in the blogs and discussions.
    You may recall a book published by some heavy harvard types earlier this year arguing that there is too much influence from the Jewish lobby in the US. Not up to date on the flurry it created, but no one group (especially relevant for evangelistic types these days) should be able to massively influence gov policy.

    Comment by Karin — August 9, 2006 @ 10:08 am

  5. I wish I were allowed more editorial control over my garden.

    Comment by Benno — August 14, 2006 @ 9:39 pm

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