April 4, 2013, - 5:38 pm
**** SCROLL DOWN FOR UPDATE ****
As a pop culture and movie critic and columnist, I’ve had my dust-ups and exchanges over the years with Roger Ebert, who died today at 70 from cancer.
Occasionally, he was collegial and thoughtful, in some e-mails between us. But many times he was not, as when Roger deliberately lied about me in the comments section of a New York Times article about Paramount Pictures revoking and then restoring my movie screening privileges. I alerted him to it, thinking he’d have solidarity with me as a movie critic whose privileges were revoked over a negative review. Silly me. Roger publicly called me a liar and claimed a movie that was screened for critics in Detroit was not screened for critics. But he admitted he was wrong in an e-mail exchange with me, and he posted another comment revoking his incorrect one. That’s how he was. Stubborn well past the point of truth, But sometimes nice, doing the right thing. I was the same way with him (I hope) and chose to take the upper road when I publicly wished him a complete recovery from cancer and when I apologized to him for not knowing that Howard Stern’s people were ambushing him with my phone call (which they did, after telling me Roger knew I’d be on with him). But he always stuck to his orthodox leftist, anti-Israel, pro-Muslim beliefs. That was my experience, anyway. And often, I felt he was spoiled by the waning power and influence he’d had over Hollywood.
When there was “Siskel and Ebert at the Movies,” I believe he always knew that Gene Siskel was the smarter and far superior movie critic of the two and didn’t like that. But later in e-mails to me, he would praise Siskel’s views on some movies and told me that they mirrored some of my own in reviews of mine he’d read. I was honored by the comparison. As a movie critic, he was a good one . . . when the movie was not political or about race and he could keep his personal politics out of it. But when the movie was about racism, Ebert was always strictly “down with the struggle,” no matter how horrible or dishonest or race-baiting the movie was. Ditto for left-wing films on other topics. (I am political in my movie reviews, as all my readers know, but I don’t pretend to be otherwise, as he did.) He also liked movies that glorified Islamic terrorists, which wasn’t too far from his personal, real life views. And, jibing with that, Ebert was vehemently anti-Israel, too.
I first met Roger Ebert (online in e-mails and on the radio, but never in person), after I wrote about his involvement in pressuring the U.S. government not to deport his Islamic terrorist buddy, Ibrahim Parlak of Michigan, who had trained in Syrian terrorist training camps and lied on at least five different applications to get into and stay in the United States (where he remains free as a bird to date). Roger didn’t like this, as he fancied himself some sort of national security expert, claiming that his friend Parlak was no national security threat, despite the fact that Homeland Security and several immigration judges said he was. Roger complained to me about the “amount of energy” he felt I spent in my article on his advocacy for an Islamic terrorist on U.S. soil. After all, Roger liked to eat at Parlak’s restaurant in Western Michigan.
Later, Ebert attacked me in one of his syndicated movie review columns on a Kurdish documentary, criticizing me for not sharing his unnuanced view that all Kurds are the good guys. Yes, most are. But some are not . . . including Ibrahim Parlak. And after that, I was attacked and lampooned on Roger’s site, though maybe in a more charitable way, as one of Ebert’s website contributors had a “guess the quote” game featuring quotes from my movie reviews and from Ann Coulter. I actually liked that one.
Roger Ebert had a problem with Israel defending itself, and it appears he just had a problem with Israel, period. He tweeted his animus toward Israel and in favor of American-Flag-burning, HAMASnik Rachel Corrie, who died while working for the terrorist group, International Solidarity Movement, when she tried to stop the bull-dozing of a house she and the Israelis knew was used to cover up a tunnel for HAMAS weapons smuggling from Egypt. He resented that the usually far-left Israeli Supreme Court decided in favor of Israel and how the American pancake girl, Rachel Corrie, died, after she fell underneath a bulldozer and the driver didn’t see her.
If you could separate out Roger Ebert’s reviews of non-political movies from the political- and race-based ones, he was very good. But the guy was basically an activist for the Democratic party in what were supposed to be non-partisan cinematic reviews. And he wielded way too much power over what came out of Hollywood and what succeeded once it did.
In the age of the internet and the slow death of TV, Ebert’s syndicated movie review TV show became irrelevant long before he was stricken with cancer. And he resented that someone like me on the right could review movies and have her reviews quoted in the New York Times and USA Today and gain some of the influence and notice he lost. I felt that resentment each time he attacked me or lied about me on the New York Times website, and so on. Perhaps that was why he was usually mean when he did respond or react to the many very nice e-mails I sent him.
One other thing about Roger: he was responsible for his ex-girlfriend Oprah’s nationally syndicated TV show which wreaked havoc on America and its culture for 25 years, after suggesting on a date that she syndicate her local Chicago talk show. And before becoming a movie critic, he made disgusting, semi-porn B-movies, “Beneath the Valley of the Ultra-Vixens,” and “”Beyond the Valley of the Dolls,” featuring lesbians, orgies, oral and anal sex, and so on. And another one, “Up!” featuring a Jewish Adolf Hitler look-alike and “breasts from every angle imaginable.” I’m glad he got outta the movie biz and into movie reviews because he was much better at the latter.
I felt for Roger that he suffered for so long from cancer and not being able to eat or taste food for years. That has to be tough for anyone, and I’m glad he is no longer suffering. I feel for his wife who was his caretaker for so many years and is now a widow.
But I think it’s important to point out where Roger Ebert stood, and that was often on the wrong side. Roger Ebert judged me solely for my politics. And that’s the way I will judge and remember him, too.
Just because somebody we know from TV passes away from illness, that doesn’t mean we can’t remember them for exactly who they were.
Roger Ebert, Rest In Peace. Ibrahim Parlak’s and Rachel Corrie’s Victims, Rest In Peace, too.
Reader Ralph Adamo:
In 1985, Ebert’s selection for best picture was “The Color Purple,” whereas Siskel’s choice was “Shoah.” In a nutshell, that tells you a lot about each of those critics and their respective values.
**** UPDATE: Below is the first e-mail exchange Roger Ebert and I had at the end of March 2005, after I wrote, “Thumbs Down: Roger Ebert Helps a Terrorist.” After this exchange, his responses to me thawed and then re-iced over the years. While at first you might feel sorry for Roger–and if I had only read his letter, I would too–please read my response and ask yourself who didn’t play fair and who is deceptively playing the victim:
Dear Ms. Schlussel,
Update your database. I have lost 100 pounds.
As you know, because I made it clear in the letter you refer to, Ibrahim’s offer to come to my house to cook for me came during a period when I was recovering from radiation treatment. By suppressing the context, you make it seem as if I support him because I am a glutton.
Of course I do not support terrorism, as you know perfectly well. I support Ibrahim, who was granted asylum in this country at a time when the Kurds were considered to be U.S. allies.
From the New York Times article on the case: “…one of his closest friends, Martin Dzuris, who had fled Communist Czechoslovakia and who is now a loyal George W. Bush supporter, built a Web site and organized a letter-writing campaign to politicians.”
He is a true conservative in that he opposes unnecessary government intervention in the private lives of citizens.
Since you are personally aware of the nuances of the case, as a fellow journalist I doubt you are proud of the headline “Roger Ebert Gives Thumbs-Up to Terrorism.” Surely there is a way to make your argument without playing dirty?
Dear Roger Ebert, “R. Hyde,” “Reinhold Timme,” or whatever name or pseudonym you are using these days:
I was sorry to learn that you were ill, and am sincerely glad to hear that you are in remission.
Regardless, your illness and weight are not the issue. I did not once mention your weight or illness in my column. They are irrelevant. Instead, I mentioned your penchant for food, which appears– from your letter to the U.S. Government–to be the sole reason you know this man, Ibrahim Parlak, and want him to be allowed to stay here. In your 16 line letter (as it appears on Parlak’s website), I counted at least 7 references (almost one every 2 lines) to Ibrahim Parlak’s “restaurant,” restaurant “business,” your status as a 10-year “regular patron” of the restaurant, his offer to prepare “special foods” for you, etc. I could have quoted all of those things to give it even more “context” (which you claim is lacking, but isn’t), but in the interest of space, I chose only one of those many references.
And therein lies the issue. You are vouching for this murderer and terrorist because he makes food you like to eat and you like his restaurant. But that does not mean he is not a terrorist or a man held responsible in the murder of two people, and did not lie about it to get into this country and remain here. As you are well aware, Parlak is and did all of these things, of which he is accused. In fact, his food preparation skills and restaurateur status have nothing to do with the price of tea in China, as the trite old saying goes.
I am sure Osama Bin Laden could make a mean falafel and a fabulous fattoosh if he had to, but that would not be an excuse to fail to bring him to justice. I’m not saying this man is on that level. He isn’t. But he’s a terrorist and a murderer, who trained in terror training camps, and that’s enough. And many in his shoes can make Middle Eastern food. In fact, several men arrested on terror charges and/or deported from the U.S. have owned, operated, and/or worked at Middle Eastern restaurants. The ability to make Baba Ghanoush is not a litmus test on whether one is a terrorist or a murderer.
You claim that because PKK was not always classified as a terrorist group, as it was not so classified when Parlak came into this country, that Parlak should not be penalized. However, the same can be said of the groups Hezbollah, HAMAS, Islamic Jihad, and, yes, even Al-Qaeda. Yet, we regularly–thankfully–deport those who have been involved with these groups on a regular basis, even if they came here when, unfortunately, our country did not take terrorism seriously enough, and the groups were not labeled as terrorist groups. The State Dept. terrorist list only dates back to 1995 or 1996, when President Clinton signed a law mandating it and making it illegal to be involved with those groups. While, as you state, the Kurds were considered to be allies, the PKK was hardly considered to be so. It has ties to Al Qaeda and a host of other groups who hate us and want to eliminate us.
Regardless, it was ALWAYS illegal to lie on immigration and other forms. And it was ALWAYS the policy not to let a man held responsible for the murders of two men (who served jail time for it) into this country. Yet, your culinary pal, Mr. Parlak, lied not once, but FIVE times on FIVE separate government documents/applications — all of which are enumerated in my column, a fact which you continue to choose to ignore. It is a fact which is important, because, as you and I both know, had your chef, Mr. Parlak, been truthful even once regarding his conviction, he would NEVER have been allowed to stay here in the first place. He was granted asylum, only because he lied and continued to lie thereafter, every step of the way. That is the issue, plain and simple. Yet, you fail to address that.
You claim that because Martin Dzuris, a self-proclaimed conservative Republican, is a friend and supporter of Parlak, therefore, some Kosher (or is that Halal?) seal of approval must automatically be stamped on Parlak. What does Dzuris know about Parlak? He played tennis with him and, like you, ate at his restaurant. Big deal. He was not there in Turkey with Parlak and his grenade, AK-47, and pistol, and he was also not there, each of the five times Parlak lied about his being held responsible in two murders. He was not there at the terrorist training camp in the Bekaa Valley, etc. What about that?
And what about Parlak’s lawyer, Noel Saleh, who openly declared that he donated to Hezbollah, another terrorist group, which murdered over 300 U.S. Marines and civilians, and who is president of an organization tied to terrorism? President Bush welcomed Islamic Jihad front-man Sami Al-Arian to the White House, as well as others who are strongly tied to terrorist groups. Bush, as you may know, is a conservative Republican, too. But, he, too, was wrong (and I called him on it, in an October 2001 series of columns and an “O’Reilly Factor” appearance, that same month).
As a conservative, I really do not need to be lectured by a liberal, activist movie critic about the definition of a “conservative.” “Unnecessary government intervention in the private lives of citizens” (your words) have nothing to do with this situation. This is not even close to akin to government intervention in abortion or someone’s sex life, regardless of what your and/or my views on those issues are. In fact, the primary purpose of government is to defend its citizens–from harm, from foreign armies and invaders, etc. I suggest a review of the U.S. Constitution, as I can think of no better example of the federal government exercising its power per Article IV, Section 4, which states, “The United States shall guarantee . . . . and shall protect each of them [each State] against Invasion,” or Article I, Section 8, which provides Congress (which created DHS) the power to “repel Invasions.” When illegal aliens come to this country, and lie to get citizenship, that is, no doubt, an invasion.
As for the headline you quote, which you claim is “playing dirty,” I am, indeed, proud of it. On my own website, it’s entitled, “Thumbs Down: Roger Ebert Supports a Terrorist.” In your own letter to the government, you begin by saying, “I am a film critic.” You are allowed to use your status as a TV and print movie critic as a credential, however dubious with regard to national security, for your claims that Parlak does not pose a risk to this country and is not a dangerous person, yet I am not allowed to use your trademark phrases employed as a movie critic? You can’t have it both ways.
As far as “playing dirty,” I could have mentioned in my column your own failed “films,” which you—no surprise given their gutter quality–wrote under the pseudonyms, “R. Hyde” and “Reinhold Timme.”
I could have discussed the “plot” of “Beneath the Valley of the Ultra-Vixens,” the promotional posters of which feature two giant female breasts and erect nipples, with nude and semi-nude women orgying on top of them. I could have discussed the main character, “Lamar’s obsession with rear entry,” how “Lamar is trying to find other tail to try his technique on,” and the movie’s “love scene from the mattress’ point of view.” Or I could have mentioned your masterpiece, “Beyond the Valley of the Dolls,” featuring “a sleeping woman performing on a gun which is in her mouth” and “lesbian sex scenes.” Or I could have written about “Up!” which features an Adolph Hitler look-alike, playing character “Adolf Schwartz” (talk about belittling the Holocaust and WWII). “Springtime for Hitler,” anyone? That’s not to mention its “one-woman nude Greek chorus” that pops up at various intervals during the movie, to narrate, and “breasts from every angle imaginable.”
Had I mentioned these other things, perhaps you could have said that I was “playing dirty”–or merely just writing about you “playing dirty.” But the dirtiest thing here is that a renowned movie critic—who employs ink by the gallon for his own print column–is using his renown to help a man like this–a murderer and trained terrorist. Then, he’s shocked, shocked, when someone calls him on it.
And, FYI, after I sent Roger this response, he again complained about “the amount of energy” I spent on it. Huh?
Tags: Gene Siskel, Israel, Rachel Corrie, Roger Ebert, Roger Ebert anti-Israel, Roger Ebert Israel, Roger Ebert Rachel Corrie, Roger Ebert RIP