Dropping the #JBomb
I’ve sat on this a very, very long time. Names have been changed.
I don’t endorse the first of the following quotes, but more on that later.
In this episode, Patrick Stewart, William Shatner, and a bunch more discuss the many tried-and-true Christian/religious fallacies either used to support religion or to attempt to undermine atheism. This is awesome as they go point-by-point deconstructing each argument and why it’s fucking ridiculous.
A few minutes in, during the news on Papa John’s, Shatner has this to say:
"These guys [Papa John's] have more money than they know what to do with and they’re being fucking Jews about 15 cents on a pizza."
I wrote to Shatner. Called him on the stereotype. I urged him to apologize, not for my benefit, but to sway any negative sentiment that might befall him from any listeners. He said he wouldn’t apologize because the comment was funny, he got a few laughs (though if you listen to the show, it’s arguable that said laughter is pretty awkward), and the comment was an insult to religion, which he had no problem insulting.
- I don’t care if Shatner apologizes. It was a suggestion, not a mandate. It’s his show and his First Amendment rights; he can say whatever the hell he wants.
- I don’t buy Shatner’s defense.
Within seconds, he covers his ass:
"Let me rephrase. They’re [Papa John's] being cunts… [some cross-talk] I’m sorry. And I know you probably shouldn’t use ‘Jew’ in that context, but when I was a kid, ‘Jew’ was a synonym for ‘cheap.’ I was just raised with that in my vocabulary, and yeah, I probably shouldn’t say it, but fuck the Jews, I don’t care."
He says it right there. "I probably shouldn’t say it." So with me over e-mail, Shatner’s all like, "It was a joke," but right there in the show, he immediately backpedaled his statement and justified it. And honestly, the fact that he was raised with the stereotype is irrelevant to his responsibility in using it. I mean, shit, I was raised around people who regularly used "Beaner" in reference to Latinos, but I don’t use it because it’s racist and mean.
The fact is Shatner fucked up, he knew (and knows) he fucked up, and that’s why seconds after making his allegedly funny, only-about-the-religion comment, he retreated.
But hold on.
I highly doubt Shatner’s anti-semitic. He’s had George Takei, Nichelle Nichols, and possibly others of the Tribe whom I haven’t thought of, on his show. He’s highly praised them. I’m positive their being of the Tribe never even crossed his mind. I’m sure, to him, the word "Jew" really does only apply to the religion. But, I’d argue the idea of the word being synonymous with "cheap" isn’t a religiously based stereotype. It’s a cultural one. The obvious question, then, is where does the religion end and the culture begin? I’d say that the stereotype applies culturally, not religiously, because when people tend to use the stereotype (as Shatner did), they don’t tend to be referring to anything Torah- or religion-based. In fact, I’d argue that most people who ever used the stereotype have little to no actual knowledge of the Torah (though I have no idea how much about the Torah Shatner knows). That, and there’s nothing inherent in the faith that leads to any of the Jewish people being cheap. Nothing more than in any other faith.
I love Shatner. I love what he and Stewart have built with Starfleet and its related material. Despite my misgivings on this issue, I have no current plans to boycott Starfleet. In fact, I’ve appeared on episodes since (which I’ll post on later). I just wish Shatner’d chosen his words better, as it sounds like he does as well. That’s it and that’s all.