The Santa Barbara News-Press website is apparently too lame to link to its own front-page stories, so I’ll just summarize a portion of Ted Mills‘ 1.30 article about yesterday’s SBIFF screenwriters panel at the Lobero theatre. Mills mis-characterizes a question I asked of The King’s Speech screenwriter David Seidler and mis-leads about the facts behind it, so I need to straighten this out.
Mills reports that my “stunner” of a question “asked Seidler to respond to charges from from Christopher Hitchens [in a 1.24 Slate article] that The King’s Speech glorifies a monarch who was anti-Semitic.”
All right, stop right there. I never uttered the term “anti-Semitic” and most importantly neither did Hitchens. In fact, no one to my knowledge has ever alluded to King George VI having been precisely “anti-Semitic,” quote unquote.
Mills got it wrong, apparently, because he couldn’t be bothered to read Hitchens’ article, but also because Seidler hadn’t read it either, or so it seemed. His defiant answer at the panel was apparently a response to an 11.28 “Vulture” article by Claude Brodesser-Akner that linked to an eight-year-old Guardian article about Hitler-kowtowing on the part of Colin Firth‘s King George character. But even that article sugggested not so much an anti-Semitic attitude as an indifference to the plight of European Jewry at the start of World War II.
As I explained on 1.24, the gist of Hitchens’ Slate piece was simply that King George VI (a.k.a. “Bertie”), former British prime minister Neville Chamberlain and the Windsors all leaned toward appeasement at a crucial time in British history, which is to say the late 1930s and early ’40s. “If it had been up to the Windsors, [Britain's] finest hour would never have taken place,” Hitchens wrote, “so this is not a detail but a major desecration of the historical record.”
In light of Seidler and Mills’ misunderstanding and mis-referencing, Seidler’s response at yesterday’s screenwriters’ panel was almost moot, but here’s Mills’ description of it:
“Mr. Seidler rose to the occasion, and in a long defense tempered with restrained anger and peppered with much historical data, refuted Hitchens point by point. As someone who lost his paternal grandparents to the Holocaust, he said ‘the suggestion that I would then dedicate this much of my life to somebody I knew to be anti-Semitic I find vile.’”
Seidler also used the term “big lie.” But in the context of his answer, of Mills’ misleading article and Hitchens’ Slate piece, the use of the term “anti-Semitic” was also a big lie. All right, call it a medium-level lie. All to emphasize that it always helps if reporters and panelists take the time to read the pertinent materials before sounding off.