Mon, Jul

The Sounds of Voices, Silenced


ACCORDING TO LIZ - The major Hollywood talent agency UTA appears to have overreacted in dropping Oscar-winner Susan Sarandon, and the initial news media reports may conflated hate speech with free speech by using a single soundbite: that Jewish people were “getting a taste of what it feels like to be a Muslim in this country, so often subjected to violence.”

Her full address at a rally in support of the Palestinian people that called for a ceasefire and resolution of the Netanyahu government’s conflict with Hamas included:

“People are questioning, people are standing up, people are educating themselves, people are stepping away from brainwashing that started when they were kids... There are a lot of people that are afraid, that are afraid of being Jewish at this time, and are getting a taste of what it feels like to be a Muslim in this country, so often subjected to violence... be strong, be patient, be clear and stand with anybody who has the courage to speak out.”

And ended by thanking those like supporters for the Jewish Voice for Peace: people who “come out to have our backs.”

The co-head of film at CAA resigned from her job after being outed for posting a picture of Sarandon captioned “You’re currently learning who supports genocide.”

Whose free speech is the more egregious?

A renowned Manhattan oncologist sued the NYU Langone hospital in retaliation for his dismissal as the director of its cancer center after retweeting social media posts in support of the Israeli government. Dr. Benjamin Neel claims his removal was to varnish NYU Langone’s image as being impartial about the war following its firing of Dr. Zaki Masoud, a resident at another NYU Langone hospital for posting “Let them call it terrorism... We call it liberation” over a photo of Palestinians on Instagram.

All doctors should oppose war – after all, “do no harm” is the underlying tenet of the Hippocratic Oath – but the incendiary quality of both doctors’ posts underline that personal social media accounts are never private and that people should think first about the hurt posts could create before uploading them.

Spyglass Media fired Melissa Barrera, who had starred in two prior films in the franchise, from the upcoming Scream VII, after the actress accused Israel of committing “genocide” and “brutally killing innocent Palestinians, mothers and children, under the pretense of destroying Hamas.”

The producer justified its removal of by stating it had “zero tolerance for anti-Semitism or the incitement of hate in any form, including false references to genocide, ethnic cleansing, Holocaust distortion or anything that flagrantly crosses the line into hate speech.”

But Barrera’s diatribe specifically attacked the American news media – too often bought and paid for its pro-Israeli slant: “Western media only shows the [Israeli] side. Why do they do that, I will let you deduce for yourself... We don’t need more hate. No Islamophobia. No anti-Semitism...”

How can posting that Western media depicted only the Israeli version of events be construed as hate speech? And that the truth of the matter is that Israel is committing genocide under the guise of going after Hamas. Indiscriminate bombings of hospitals, refugee camps, places of worship and schools can never be covered by that “collateral damage” euphemism.

Later, she posted to Instagram that: “As a Latina, a proud Mexicana, I feel the responsibility of having a platform that allows me the privilege of being heard... Every person on this earth … deserves equal human rights, dignity and, of course, freedom. I believe a group of people are NOT their leadership, and that no governing body should be above criticism.”

Isn’t that what is embedded in the American ethos, the freedom to criticize leaders and governments?

On the other hand, while Elon Musk has profited off his own anti-Semitism, giving it free rein on X (aka Twitter) and attracting other adherents of hate speech, in his guise as a corporate entity, he appears to have more protection than people, continuing to spread his vitriol and others who spew even more offensive pronouncements.

Even the potential loss of $75 million in advertising in the backlash from Musk endorsing a post accusing Jews of “hatred against whites” won’t silence the racist multi-billionaire.

One hopes that some day the corporate veil can be whipped away from men like him, and they receive their comeuppance for their cruelty and their refusal to protect the less powerful from verbal assaults, especially when they encourage physical violence, and as Musk is already facing, multiple violations of his own employees’ civil and workers’ rights.

Dr. Lara Sheehi, a professor of clinical psychology at George Washington University, was targeted by a pro-Israel lobby group, with the criticism that she and internationally acclaimed scholar and advocate for children’s rights Nadera Shalhoub-Kevorkian from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem made students feel “vulnerable and unsafe.” Huh?

Sounded like a manufactured opportunity for supporters of Israeli aggression to have a pity-party and play poor-me. In fact, StandWithUs blasted their complaints across rightwing social media even before filing a formal objection through normal channels.

Reportedly, Shalhoub-Kevorkian talk was well-received and students posed good questions so it appears that the attack was actually addressed to the speaker who has been targeted in Israel for signing onto a letter opposing the retaliatory and indiscriminate bombing of Gaza following the Hamas incursion.

In fact, after the Holocaust, world governments joined with its survivors to promise the Jews that never again would the international community turn a blind eye to atrocities. It did not give Israel a get-out-of-jail-free card to massacre its neighbors.

No matter how disturbing the arguments are, so long as people can refrain from personally attacking others for voicing their criticisms, no voice should be muted and no-one should fear for their job for expressing their honest opinion.

But, in these times of civil unrest, let’s make an attempt to be civil, to consider the feelings of others... before speaking a word, before clicking send, before posting.

The world will be all the better for such civility.

(Liz Amsden is a contributor to CityWatch and an activist from Northeast Los Angeles with opinions on much of what goes on in our lives. She has written extensively on the City's budget and services as well as her many other interests and passions.  In her real life she works on budgets for film and television where fiction can rarely be as strange as the truth of living in today's world.)