Christopher Hitchens is not fooled by Mel Gibson’s publicists – Gibson has been a seething racist for most of his career.
We live in a culture where the terms fascist and racist are thrown about, if anything, too easily and too frequently. Yet here is a man whose every word and deed is easily explicable once you know the single essential thing about him: He is a member of a fascist splinter group that believes it is the salvation of the Catholic Church.
This schismatic crackpot sect is headed by Mel Gibson’s father, Hutton Gibson, a nutty autodidact with a sideline in Holocaust denial. During the controversy over The Passion of the Christ, Gibson junior said that he had never heard anything but the truth from his father. I have some of old man Gibson’s books on my shelf, including his self-published classics Is the Pope Catholic? and The Enemy Is Still Here!, which essentially accuse the current papacy of doing the work of the Antichrist. My favorite sample of his prose style is the following: “Our ‘civilization’ tolerates open sodomy and condones murder of the unborn, but shrinks in horror from burning incorrigible heretics—essentially a charitable act.” He attacks the late Pope John Paul II for having said, in one of his “outreaches” to the Jewish people, “You are our predilect brothers and, in a certain way, one could say our oldest brothers.” Hutton Gibson’s comment? “Abel had an older brother.” I don’t think that there’s much ambiguity there, do you? Like many ultra-conservative Catholics, the Gibsons, père et fils, have never forgiven the Vatican for lifting the charge of deicide against the Jews in 1964.
Nor have they forgiven the British Isles for breaking away from Rome during the 16th-century Reformation and destroying the monopoly of Holy Mother Church. In a series of ultra-violent propaganda movies, from Braveheart to The Patriot, Gibson has represented the English as a generally foul tribe. Those of us who have English descent can of course laugh this off as the writhings of a thwarted theocracy (combined in this case with some symptoms of a colonial inferiority complex), but the historic connection of the Catholic right with European fascism is not so amusing.