My colleague Danielle Berrin asked that question last week of Irv Weintraub, COO of the William Morris Agency. His response:
“I’m not sure I want to answer that question.”
I will. People “think Jews run Hollywood” because it gives folks like Bill Donahue a big bulls-eye for shotgunning blame for the degradation of moral values. “Hollywood is controlled by secular Jews who hate Christianity in general and Catholicism in particular ... I like families. I like children. They like abortions,” is my favorite utterance from the Catholic League leader.
More cynically, those who consider their communities victims of Hollywood need villains. And Jews have always been an easy target. It doesn’t help that there are, in fact, a disproportionate number of Jews in positions of power in the entertainment industry; there also are a disproportionate number among the bottom feeders just scraping by.
Weintraub went on to say he was no historian but suggested that maybe—just maybe—Jews were drawn to the arts because of a penchant for creativity. I’d say a bit more emphatically that, Yes, Jews have a 3,000-year history of story telling, a skillset that comes in quite handy in Hollywood. The clearest example of this, obviously, is the Bible, followed, though not too closely, by “The Big Lebowski.”
Based on this tradition, and the fact that the movie business was originally an immigrant industry, it should be no surprise that there is a strong Jewish presence in Tinseltown. Here is how I explained this phenomenon last month in a sarcastically headlined post “Yes, Virginia, there is a Jewish media conspiracy.”
Today’s Hollywood Jews are familial and cultural heirs to the town their ancestors built. Neal Gabler recognized that with his definitive 1988 book “An Empire of Their Own: How the Jews Invented Hollywood.” This was not an anti-Semitic text, but a keenly observant cultural history. The big difference between Gabler’s book and, say, those of Kevin MacDonald, is that one offers telling portraits of a peculiar phenomenon while the other blames the protagonists for a conspiracy to corrupt American attitudes.
There is no Jewish plot to control our minds through entertaining, godless propaganda; there is an ancient affinity for telling stories. And, as I’ve mentioned before: If Jews really worked in media to get out a unified message at the expense of their gentile neighbors, they sure do a poor job.