Big Wrongo

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.

10 thoughts on “Big Wrongo

  1. Yet he neglected to mention why he omitted the appeasement with Chamberlain, and forced in Stanley Baldwin lamenting about Hitler as he resigns?

  2. Although the movie’s depiction of the political situation is way too feelgoody in all directions– Churchill after all was romantically pro-Edward during the abdication, much to the disgust of many of his fellows, and George’s hope for prime minister even in 1940 was still Halifax, who isn’t in the movie at all– I think it’s fair to George and to the much-maligned Chamberlain to note that it isn’t just that they were on the appeasement side. The whole country was desperately hoping to avoid war in the late 30s, and willing to avoid any sacrifice and drop any burden to avoid fighting another World War.

    In any case, American antiwar leftists who have been so vociferously against American military action against dictators in another part of the world more recently should perhaps have a bit of humility toward those in another era who held similar views, wisely or unwisely from most of a century on, that a horror in foreign lands was not their fight to fight. As the present situation in Egypt suggests, we are not even at the end of the beginning of that war.

  3. Those in America who were appeasing or supporting Germany in the run-up to WWII included Joseph P. Kennedy, Henry Ford and Charles Lindbergh.

    But to quote my favorite joke, “This isn’t about hunting.”

    And this isn’t about diplomacy, appeasement, Nazis, sympathy for same or even the dubious duo who stepped aside to let King George ascend to power.

    It’s about Awards Season Dirty Tricks perpetrated by members of the Consensi in order to a) curry favor with the powers of the Contentioni and b) influence the outcome of the Oscar race.

    It happens almost every time there’s a tight Oscar race.

    But just as pig-butchering happens 32,000 times a day at the Smithfield Packing Company, it’s never pleasant to a) watch or b) stand downwind.

  4. If they wanted to make a movie about a King and not deal at all with his real life baggage, they should have just called him King X. Pussies.

  5. Other celebrities supporting America First were novelist Sinclair Lewis, poet E. E. Cummings, Alice Roosevelt Longworth, film producer Walt Disney, and actress Lillian Gish. Architect Frank Lloyd Wright attempted to join, but the board thought he had a “reputation for immorality”. The many student chapters included future celebrities, such as author Gore Vidal (as a student at Phillips Exeter Academy), and the aforementioned future President Gerald Ford, at Yale Law School.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/America_First_Committee

  6. P.S. I went to an event at the Museum of Tv and Radio where they showed an American Masters documentary about Gore Vidal. Vidal was there at the Q&A afterwards, He said that when America firsters simply didn’t know the extent to which the Jews were being persecuted when the organization was set up. I believe him,

  7. Although the movie’s depiction of the political situation is way too feelgoody in all directions– Churchill after all was romantically pro-Edward during the abdication, much to the disgust of many of his fellows, and George’s hope for prime minister even in 1940 was still Halifax, who isn’t in the movie at all– I think it’s fair to George and to the much-maligned Chamberlain to note that it isn’t just that they were on the appeasement side. The whole country was desperately hoping to avoid war in the late 30s, and willing to avoid any sacrifice and drop any burden to avoid fighting another World War.

    In any case, American antiwar leftists who have been so vociferously against American military action against dictators in another part of the world more recently should perhaps have a bit of humility toward those in another era who held similar views, wisely or unwisely from most of a century on, that a horror in foreign lands was not their fight to fight. As the present situation in Egypt suggests, we are not even at the end of the beginning of that war.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>