The year 2008 was a very strange one for the Liberal literati of New York and Hollywood. It was the year they believed playwright, screenwriter, director, essayist, novelist and poet, David Mamet, “outed” himself as a Conservative. For many of his peers, Mamet, might as well have declared himself a serial killer.
The “outing” came in the form of Village Voice op-ed entitled, “Why I am No Longer a Brain-Dead Liberal.” It was followed by his 2011 book, The Secret Knowledge: On the Dismantling of American Culture, a tale of his bitter disenchantment with liberalism, his blog since 2005 on Huff Post, and his frequent, outspoken interviews.
In abanding the State of Israel, the West reverts to pagan sacrifice.
After his Conservative “Manifesto,” all hell broke loose among Mamet watchers.
Hey, Mamet isn’t some “culture-lite” writer or right-wing aging actor trumpeting for an AK47 in every drawer. This is a Pulitzer Prize-winning guy, whose works include Glengarry Glen Ross (1984), Speed-the-Plow (1988), The Verdict (1982) and Wag the Dog (1997). He has been a force of such magnitude that his dialogue; rapid-fire, edgy, cracking, naturalistic, intruding style bears his name: “Mamet-speak.”
Predictably, The Wall Street Journal mostly sent roses, the New York Times and The Economist mostly sent thorns (their reviewer called Mamet's Secret Knowledge “baroque lucubrations,” a “tedious and simplistic rant”), while unpredictably, The American Conservative went nay. The most famous of zig-zaggers, the late Christopher Hitchens, threw those thorns calling it "one-dimensional," “sloppy,” “shallow” “propagandistic,” and “more boring than irritating.” (The book is still a hot seller on Amazon).
While he’s been embraced by many on the Right, remember where Mamet lives; in the largely liberal world of the New York/Hollywood “artiste.” Distilling the rhetoric, Mamet has not merely been accused of being a turncoat, but, among other things, nihilist, cultish, self-serving – and nuts. Here are just a few titles of rebuttal articles: “David Mamet's Fatal Conceit,” “Writer David Mamet: Man overboard,” and “David Mamet Gets Lanced-a-Lot.”
The Israel Factor
Interestingly, it was Israel and Judaism that ultimately “turned” him with the help of his rabbis, Conservative economists, and commentators. For example, in a January article in Newsweek, “Gun Laws and the Fools of Chelm,” he looks at attempts at gun control through the point of view that “any governmental determination of an individual’s abilities must be based on a bureaucratic assessment of the lowest possible denominator,” then compares the logic to the foolish inhabitants of Chelm. “We modern Solons delight in passing gun laws that, in their entirety, amount to ‘making crime illegal.’ What possible purpose in declaring schools ‘gun-free zones’? Who bringing a gun, with evil intent, into a school would be deterred by the sign?”
The roots for his beliefs are deep and follow a trajectory. However, regardless of your politics or his other views, it is specifically his position on Jews and Israel that we focus upon.
Mamet was born in 1947 in Chicago to Jewish parents. His father, Bernie Mamet, was an attorney who specialized in labor law. His mother, Lenore June (née Silver), was a teacher. His parents divorced when he was 11, and it was more sour milk than honey for David and his sister, also a playwright, who shuttled from home to home. Yet from this background he honed his Mamet-speak. (We Jews have been known to be passionately “naturalistic” – and interrupt on occasion.)
Like many of that generation, he grew up around Yiddish-speaking immigrants whose goal was assimilation. He credits his current wife, actress Rebecca Pidgeon, along with his second trip to Israel in 2002 as a guest of the Jerusalem Film Festival, for "unearthing” his roots. The city was under siege by suicide-bomber attacks, and Mamet was deeply moved by the thousands who attended the festival despite the Intifada and terrorism.
Even before what others called his so-called Conservative “epiphany,” and with characteristic openness, Mamet broadcasted his ardently, unapologetic pro-Israel stance in the Huff Post, and in his 2006 collection of essays, The Wicked Son: Anti-Semitism, Self-Hatred, and the Jews, in which he wrote: "I believe we have to be frank: The world hates the Jews. The world has always and will continue to do so.”
In Huff Post, he wrote: “Israel is a sovereign nation, founded by United Nations Charter in 1948. Since then, she has been both chronically and acutely under attack… Israel wants peace, the Arabs want Israel gone.” He goes on to say the Western media sees Israel as “somehow the aggressor, and the Israelis as somehow inhuman, and delighting in blood.” The Jews, he claims, are not the victims of rotten PR, but rather victims of anti-Semitism.
Any reference to whether we brought this on ourselves is, to Mamet, an outrage, similar to asking a rape victim, "How short a skirt were you wearing?" He vehemently adds: “How did ‘The Jews’ cause Hitler to kidnap Europe?”
And now? “Israel we are told, has somehow so inflamed the Arabs, that [Israel/the Jews] will bring the world to the brink of destruction… Israel's Jews are no more the cause of Arab Fundamentalist rage than they were the cause of European Fascism. We, as always, are the miner's canary, singled out as, and the first victims of national or global unrest.”
In The Wall Street Journal (December 13, 2011), Mamet wrote: “In abandonment of the state of Israel, the West reverts to pagan sacrifice... As Realpolitik, the Liberal West's anti-Semitism can be understood as like Chamberlain's offering of Czechoslovakia to Hitler, a sop thrown to terrorism.”
Mamet assigns Western media coverage of the Middle East conflict to mob psychology and "Love of the Victim.” Hey, as entertainment, it sells. He writes: "There is something of the sadomasochistic in the Left's love of the Palestinians, whom audiences are conditioned to see in the role of Woman in Jeopardy."
Israel is paying the price. Despite facts, or sense, the Palestinian road show is skewed drama, allowing the audience to sit back and enjoy. For to exercise reason would require them to actually do something.
His is also a vociferous wake-up call to Jews everywhere. In The Wicked Son, Mamet confronts what he sees as a perilous predilection among some Jews, who have internalized this self-loathing, to exclude themselves from the fray, and analyzes the consequence when they abandon their heritage to garner acceptance in Israel-bashing liberal society. "It is the sin of the spies, a ‘coward generation’ with a ‘lack of belief in God.’ People have a drive to worship something, and will fill the void left by rejecting God by worshipping sports, celebrities, ‘wealth, fame, status, sex, physical fitness, good works, human perfectibility.”
Keep it Simple, Stupid
Not unlike his naturalistic dialogue, Mamet’s message is simple:
The Israelis would like to live in peace within their borders; the Arabs would like to kill them all.
The Liberal West would like the citizens of Israel to take the only course which would bring about the end of the disturbing 'cycle of violence'... abandoning their homes and their country... Is this desire anti-Semitism? You bet your life it is. (Secret Knowledge)
So why clutter simple convictions and bold-face evidence?
A May 2006 study of Saudi Arabia's revised schoolbook curriculum discovered the following statements:
Eighth grade: “As cited in Ibn Abbas: The apes are Jews.”
Textbooks for 9th graders: "The annihilation of the Jewish people is imperative."
In May, 2010, The Global Muslim Brotherhood reported with glee, that the Hamas Deputy Minister, Abdullah Jarbu called Jews “foreign bacteria” that should be “annihilated.”
Mamet is saying: Is this not anti-Semitism? Is annihilation not the agenda? Does one need to straddle? Analyze? Pontificate? Debate? When the pogrom comes, he predicts, even lapsed Jews will search frantically for doorways with mezuzahs.
Far less often is he quoted as also saying: “Some of the allegations against Israel are substantial… Sometimes it's in the right and sometimes it's not. Well, of what country is that not true?”
The man who many critics have anointed a worthy successor to Henry Miller, Tennessee Williams, and Eugene O'Neill, has created a fray and enters laughing, much like, well, a wildly talented, 65-year-old Bart Simpson. Hey, he’s been “frayed” before. "I've been alienating my public since I was 20 years old!” he says.
But Mamet, who directs films and wrote the screenplay for the 1987 smash, The Untouchables, knows in some circles he's become “untouchable” in Hollywood. Says Mamet: “All of a sudden, kaboom, half the country won’t speak to me anymore.” He doesn’t give a damn. He’s content to be with family and a few old good pals such as Jonathan Katz and William H. Macy. As for the public? “No one’s gonna catch cooties by seeing a play from an opposing point of view,” he retorts.
David Alan Mamet is a Star of David – for his courage, his stand-up roar, his artistic and political risk, and for his bottom lines:
"There has always been a different standard for the Jews… We’re human beings only when it suits the world to treat us as human beings. There’s a pretty good book on the subject – the Torah.”– David Alan Mamet
Watch the trailer for David Mamet’s Glengarry Glen Ross: