How many anti-Semites does it take to make a culture anti-Semitic? With an eye toward the future, i.e., America's youth, here are some comments on the Mel Gibson story from US Weekly. (Idea shamelessly stolen from Gawker.)
Everyone makes mistakes. Lighten up on the guy. He’s a great actor and he’s made some fantastic movies. Of course he should be more careful about what he says because everything you do or say is magnified when you are a celebrity.
WHAT does OJ Simpson have to do with Mel Gibson? [Someone previously had brought up OJ Simpson.] There is no comparison here. OJ killed 2 people and got away with it. Mel Gibson admitted he was drunk driving; said some hurtful things - proved he’s human. He’s accepting the consequences of his actions and trying to apologize (maybe way to much but…. at least he did).
I think Mel just has a typically Australian sense of humor, and just to give the guy a break. Not for the speeding & drinking of course, but his wry and cutting remarks. John Lennon used to do it, so do typical Australian males whether drunk or not and no one gets after them. Sure he is a celebrity, and this along with all other tabloids nowadays, will probably boost his career media-wise rather than condemn it in the long run.
The reason why I wanted to look at the comments has to do with my non-rhetorical question at the top of this paragraph. One would be predisposed to call Mel Gibson a racist cracker nutcase, right? Well, I don't know about the average age of these US Weekly readers, but I'd assume they're not that old. They probably haven't seen Mad Max, Bird on a Wire, Lethal Weapon. Hell, I haven't seen that many Mel Gibson movies. I know the latest ones have been pretty brutal. (In, well, the jargonastic and literal senses.) The comments on the US Weekly board were generally all positive. These three stood out as being the most articulate. The "everything you do or say is magnified when you are a celebrity" angle was used in Gibson's latest apology.
What is the different between Aunt Sally spouting off racist comments and Mel Gibson's doing so? In the former, Aunt Sally faces opprobrium only from the people in her vicinity. In the case of Gibson, he faces everyone's reproach. (You would think.) The second comment goes along with these lines--his using religious epithets "proved he's human", which is unfortunately the case. Human beings seem generally bigoted, warmongering and hateful. From his public persona I had never particularly formed an opinion of Mel Gibson. (Before the Passion of the Christ, I suppose.) This is boring.
I put in the last comment because it was plain ridiculous. John Lennon wasn't Australian, and Mel Gibson's career is fucked for the time being.
My point in bringing this up, though, is that the form of life in America is one of anti-Semitism. Maybe I grew up in a generally uncultivated area of the country, but "Jew" was used as a transitive verb, e.g., "You Jewed me out of five bucks." When I was in college, the same stereotypes held. Part of this, I think, is cultivated by pop culture Jewish comedians like Seinfeld and Sarah Silverman. But I find that hurtful Jewish stereotypes are common and pravelant.
Does Mel Gibson speak for America? You would think the answer is no; but if you just look and see what's before you, then the answer is yes. Is there a way to reform this view? Is it even unethical to be racist? What if you never act on your racist beliefs? What if you never offended someone? I think the startling answer is that it is not unethical to be racist in itself. That's why societies still are generally racist. But by racist in itself I don't mean one is justified in committing hate crimes or genocide. But if you live in a community of 1500 people, none of whom are black or Jewish or Chinese, and you never meet any of those people, then who are you harming?
But in an overarching manner, if you think ethics is based on some sort of conceptual plurality concerning practical problems (as Putnam seems to), then I don't think he can say that this racist action is unethical. And the kids seem to agree.