more on Jews in the media

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Bruce Wolman responds to a recent post about Jewish ownership of the media. Following his response, I respond to him. Take it away, Bruce:

Jeff Blankfort is misinformed about ownership of the media.

The Washington Post and Newsweek are owned by the Graham family, which is not Jewish. The great Grandfather, Eugene Meyer, who bought the paper in 1933 was Jewish, but his wife was a WASP socialite. The only daughter, Katherine, married Phil Graham. As far as I know, none of her children or grandchildren were or are Jewish. (This is a different story than the mixed tribe of the Sulzbergers of NYT.) When I was growing up, the Jews of Washington looked skeptically at the Grahams, as was the custom towards famous families that had left the faith and were active Protestants. It wasn’t until after the 1967 War, that the Post, like much of cosmopolitan America, became so staunchly philo-Semitic and pro-Zionist.

Moreover, it is only recently that the Los Angeles Times and the Chicago Tribune (the Tribune having bought the Times awhile back) came into the hands of Jewish ownership. Since that deal is unravelling with the Tribune in bankruptcy, it’s a stretch to call these papers part of the long-standing Jewish ownership of the media. The Chandler family, which owned the LAT for decades, was considered anti-Semitic for most of its history. It was only the last Chandler who led the company, Otto, who turned that view around.

ABC is owned by Disney, which is hardly Jewish owned, although Eisner grabbed a nice chunk of the company when he ran it.

Sony owns Columbia, News Corp. owns Fox, Time-Warner owns Warner, and Universal is owned by GE. Neither Sony, News Corp, Time-Warner or GE is Jewish owned. That leaves only Viacom in Jewish hands along with Dreamworks.

It fits in with the conspiracy theory to make Ruppert Murdoch an honorary Jew, but Ruppert is anything but Jewish. He would cut the Jews and Israel loose in a minute if it served his business interests (and he does when it does).

There is certainly a story about Jewish influence in the media, a nuanced one that should be discussed more, but not the anti-Semitic claptrap that Blankfort is passing on. Examining how the LAT with its history flipped and became almost indistinguishable in outlook to the NYT and WP, it suggests that the demographics of readership and advertisers have more to do with Jewish influence than ownership.

The Hollywood studios were mostly founded by Jews, but while in their ownership they went out of their way not to appear Jewish. As studio ownership broadened, a pro-Israeli bias became even more evident. There is no doubt that many Jews work in Hollywood and have important roles there. But the story of influence in the media is complicated and I though Mondoweiss had been doing a good job of documenting how it actually works. Blankfort’s meme is a step backwards in my judgement.

Weiss responds:

Most of Wolman’s sociology seems good to me. I think there’s some issue about Jewish identity in the Washington Post heirs, but who knows…

What I don’t find persuasive about Wolman’s response is his suggestion that Jews aren’t a dominant player in media life. We are. It is not just ownership, though ownership is important: As I’ve said, most of my checks as a journalist have been signed by Jewish publishers or Jewish owners. That’s in magazine work in New York. I got my start partly thru the New Republic, which is hugely important in career-making, and which imposes a pro-Israel litmus test; I lost my perch at the NY Observer because owner and editor were frankly Zionist; and lately I have been told that I can’t be hired by a prestige organization whose top editor is thanked in Joan Peters’s Zionist tract From Time Immemorial.

I can’t get assigned to write about Jewish identity and Middle East policy in a lot of places in the mainstream media; and though I am Jewish, Jewishness can’t be separated from that editorial climate. Jews predominate among the most influential print editors in the country. And just as anti-Zionism was a creed of Establishment Jews 80 and 100 years ago–to the point that Theodor Herzl was suffocated by his Jewish editors, who refused to cover Zionism in the leading newspaper of Europe, and had to start his own Zionist newspaper— to the point that anti-Zionism was espoused by both Eugene Meyer and Arthur Hays Sulzberger, the Jews who played such a role in the rise of the Post and the Times….. well, today soft Zionism is the creed of Establishment Jews, and support for the Jewish state is prevalent throughout media culture.

These Establishment Jews don’t tend to be feverish about Zionism, but they’re Zionist. (Silky soft, like the medium-grade of tofu.) One of my publishers had worked for AIPAC, and that’s not unusual. Wolf Blitzer worked for AIPAC. Across the spectrum, the really soft Zionist media types I know are two-staters, but a lot of them haven’t been to Israel. Some have relatives in Israel. Most of them are opposed to the settlements. But Jewish culture has a certain cohesiveness to it; and the dominant feeling even in the liberal media is the 70s Holocaust-fed belief that there is an absolute need for the Jewish state, and the Arabs are trying to push Jews into the sea. This culture explains why Jeffrey Goldberg has had such a fine career in journalism; leaving aside his considerable gifts, he is a Jewish militant, and the soft Zionism of media culture defers to that militancy. And defers to his knowledge of the situation. Just as Jews generally defer to their neoconservative cousins, because they know the situation. Tom Friedman and Charles Krauthammer are the court. Anecdotally, I have noticed that even gentile editors absorb these views (two states, Palestinian terrorists) as part of media culture; but I would say they are being influenced not by Jimmy Carter, say, but by Jews.

This culture can be changed– just as Jewish identity can be changed, remember the Shabbatai Zevi– but I would argue that it is the largest factor in media support for Israel. The Jewish presence in the media was the angry firewall, for instance, against Walt and Mearsheimer, and Jimmy Carter too.

Bruce, you and I are trying to change that culture. But that change is taking place very slowly. We are outliers. When Marty Peretz says that he pities Jews like us because of our "hatred of our inheritance," he is not a marginal character: no, his extreme view of this situation is still the fuel rod that energizes the nuclear core of mainstream Jewish life, and in turn defines the media culture with respect to these questions.

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