Role in American Mass Media and Cultural Life
By Mark Weber
This item was written and first posted in July 2013. It was updated and slightly edited in May 2019, and updated and revised again in Feb. 2021.
In a remarkable but under-reported address, one of America’s most prominent and influential political figures has acknowledged the “immense” and “outsized” Jewish role in the US mass media and cultural life. Joe Biden – now President of the U.S. – said that this has been the single most important factor in shaping American attitudes over the past century, and in driving major cultural-political changes.
“Jewish heritage has shaped who we are – all of us – as much or more than any other factor in the last 223 years. And that’s a fact,” Biden told a gathering of Jewish leaders on May 21, 2013, in Washington, DC. “The truth is that Jewish heritage, Jewish culture, Jewish values are such an essential part of who we are that it’s fair to say that Jewish heritage is American heritage,” he added. /1
“Think – behind of all that, I bet you 85 percent of those [major social-political] changes, whether it’s in Hollywood or social media, are a consequence of Jewish leaders in the industry. The influence is immense, the influence is immense. And, I might add, it is all to the good,” Biden added. “We talk about it in terms of the incredible accomplishments and contributions” of individual Jews, Biden went on, but it’s more profound than that “because the values, the values are so deep and so engrained in American culture, in our Constitution.”
Biden spoke with the awareness of a seasoned Washington insider. Few men have been more deeply involved in national politics, or are more intimately familiar with the realities of power in American public life. At the time he gave this May 2013 address, he was the U.S. Vice President, a position he held for eight years in the administration of President Obama. Before that he had been a U.S. Senator for 26 years, and held important posts in Congress.
“The Jewish people have contributed greatly to America. No group has had such an outsized influence per capita,” Biden also said in his May 2013 speech. He specifically cited the Jewish role in shaping popular attitudes and in setting policies on race relations, the role of women in society, and “gay rights.” He said: “You can’t talk about the civil rights movement in this country without talking about Jewish freedom riders and Jack Greenberg … You can’t talk about the women’s movement without talking about Betty Friedan.” Biden also praised the Jewish community’s “embrace of immigration.”
“I believe what affects the [major social-political] movements in America, what affects our attitudes in America are as much the culture and the arts as anything else,” Biden also said. “It wasn’t anything we [politicians] legislatively did,” he went on. “It was [such television shows as] ‘Will and Grace,’ it was the social media. Literally. That’s what changed peoples’ attitudes. That’s why I was so certain that the vast majority of people would embrace, and rapidly embrace” same-sex marriage.
In his May 2013 address, Biden also spoke of the crucial role played by Jews in the evolution of American jurisprudence, and in that regard mentioned seven Supreme Court justices: Brandeis, Fortas, Frankfurter, Cardozo, Ginsberg, Breyer and Kagan. “You can’t talk about the recognition of … rights in the Constitution without looking at these incredible jurists that we’ve had.”
Biden might also have mentioned that of the nine US Supreme Court justices at the time, three were Jewish, and that Jews have likewise been greatly overrepresented in other high-level federal, state and city government posts. He could have also mentioned that the chairman of the Federal Reserve System, and the mayors of America’s three most populous cities – New York, Los Angeles and Chicago – were Jewish.
Although Jewish clout has been an important fact of American life for decades, this reality is rarely acknowledged openly, especially by prominent non-Jewish Americans. In a society that supposedly strives for “diversity” and “affirmative action” equality, the vastly disproportionate power and influence of an ethnic-religious group that makes up no more than two percent of the overall population might understandably be regarded as a source of embarrassment. Perhaps that explains why Biden’s frank remarks received only scant press coverage, and prompted almost no commentary in the mainstream media.
For some Jews, Biden’s remarks about Jewish power were worrisome – not because they were untrue, but because they were made publicly. One prominent Jewish journalist wrote that, however gratifying Biden’s “very philo-Semitic” remarks might be, such an open acknowledgment of Jewish influence is “wandering into highly uncomfortable terrain.” He went too far, cautioned Jonathan Chait, especially given that “lots of people” are not at all happy about how “Jews have used their influence over popular culture to change societal attitudes toward homosexuality.” /2
As Biden mentioned, the Jewish role in shaping attitudes is by no means a recent phenomenon. It was noted, for example, in 1968 by Walter Kerr, a renowned author, director and Pulitzer prize-winning drama critic. Writing in The New York Times, he remarked: “What has happened since World War II is that the American sensibility has become part Jewish, perhaps as much Jewish as anything else … The literate American mind has come in some measure to think Jewishly. It has been taught to, and it was ready to. After the entertainers and novelists came the Jewish critics, politicians, theologians. Critics and politicians and theologians are by profession molders; they form ways of seeing.” /3
“It makes no sense at all to try to deny the reality of Jewish power and prominence in popular culture,” wrote Michael Medved, a well-known Jewish author and film critic, in 1996. “Any list of the most influential production executives at each of the major movie studios,” he said, “will produce a heavy majority of recognizably Jewish names.” /4 Joel Stein, a columnist for the Los Angeles Times, wrote in 2008: “As a proud Jew, I want America to know about our accomplishment. Yes, we control Hollywood … I don’t care if Americans think we’re running the news media, Hollywood, Wall Street or the government. I just care that we get to keep running them.” /5
While Biden praised the Jewish role in the mass media and popular culture as “all to the good,” some prominent Americans have not been so pleased. President Richard Nixon and the Rev. Billy Graham, the nation’s best-known Christian evangelist, spoke together frankly about the Jewish grip on the media during a private White House meeting in 1972. Their secretly recorded one-on-one conversation was not made public until 30 years later. During their talk, Graham said: “This stranglehold has got to be broken or the country’s going down the drain.” The President responded by saying: “You believe that?” Graham replied: “Yes, sir.” And Nixon said: “Oh, boy. So do I. I can’t ever [publicly] say that, but I believe it.” /6
In the United States, as in every modern society, those who control the mainstream media, and especially motion pictures and television, guide and shape how people, and especially the most socially attuned and culturally fashionable, think about major issues. The mass media, including popular entertainment, sets the limits on “permissible” discussion of important issues, and thereby steers the general direction of public policy. Views and ideas that those who control the media dislike are vilified as “extremist,” “hateful,” and “offensive,” and are removed from “acceptable” public consideration, while those who dare to express such views are maligned as bigots or “haters.”
An important consequence of the Jewish hold on the US mass media is a broadly pro-Israel slant in the presentation of news, current affairs and history – a bias that’s apparent to anyone who carefully compares news coverage of Israel and the Israel-Palestine conflict in the US media with coverage in Europe, Asia or Latin America.
Another noteworthy expression of the Jewish role in the media has been a routinely sympathetic portrayal of Jews as victims, notably through the tireless “Holocaust remembrance” campaign that encourages, and is meant to encourage, strong and emotional support of Israel. /7 With special attentiveness to Jewish concerns and fears, the American media highlights real and supposed dangers to Israel and Jews around the world. Moreover, Israel’s adversaries are routinely portrayed as America’s enemies, thereby encouraging US wars against countries that Israel regards as dangerous /8
Another important consequence of the Jewish hold on the mass media and cultural life has been – as Biden suggested – a broad decades-long promotion of cultural-racial “diversity” and “pluralism.” Jewish-Zionist leaders regard maximum “tolerance” and “diversity” in the US and other non-Jewish societies as beneficial to Jewish community interests. /9 “America’s pluralistic society is at the heart of Jewish security,” said Abraham Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League – a leading Jewish-Zionist organization. “In the long run,” he continued, “what has made American Jewish life a uniquely positive experience in Diaspora history and which has enabled us to be such important allies for the State of Israel, is the health of a pluralistic, tolerant and inclusive American society.” /10
American motion pictures and television, in collaboration with influential Jewish-Zionist organizations, have for many years sought to persuade Americans – especially younger Americans – to welcome and embrace ever more social, cultural and racial “diversity,” and to regard themselves simply as individuals. While striving to belittle and break down racial, religious, ethnic and cultural identity and cohesion among non-Jewish Americans, the US media promotes a tribalistic nationalism (Zionism) for Jews, and defends Israel as n emphatically Jewish ethnic-religious state.
Without an understanding of the Jewish role in the American mass media and US cultural life, major social-political trends over the past century are all but incomprehensible. Joe Biden’s frank acknowledgement of this “immense” clout is a welcome contribution to a greater awareness of this important reality of American life.
1. Jennifer Epstein, “Biden: ‘Jewish heritage is American heritage’,” Politico, May 21, 2013. (https://www.politico.com/blogs/politico44/2013/05/biden-jewish-heritage-is-american-heritage-164525); Daniel Halper, “Biden Talks of ‘Outsized Influence’ of Jews: ‘The Influence Is Immense’,” The Weekly Standard, May 22, 2013.
2. Jonathan Chait, “Biden Praises Jews, Goes Too Far, Accidentally Thrills Anti-Semites,” New York magazine, May 22, 2013. (http://nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2013/05/biden-praises-jews-goes-too-far.html)
3. Walter Kerr, “Skin Deep is Not Good Enough,” The New York Times, April 14, 1968, pp. D1, D3. Quoted in: Kevin MacDonald, The Culture of Critique (Praeger, 1998), p. 243. See also: Mark Weber, “A Straight Look at the Jewish Lobby” (http://ihr.org/leaflets/jewishlobby.shtml)
4. M. Medved, “Is Hollywood Too Jewish?,” Moment, Vol. 21, No. 4 (1996), p. 37.
5. J. Stein, “How Jewish Is Hollywood?,” Los Angeles Times, Dec. 19, 2008.
6. “Nixon, Billy Graham Make Derogatory Comments About Jews on Tapes,” Chicago Tribune, March 1, 2002 (or Feb. 28, 2002) (http://www.fpp.co.uk/online/02/02/Graham_Nixon.html);
“Billy Graham Apologizes for ’72 Remarks,” Associated Press, Los Angeles Times, March 2, 2002. “Graham Regrets Jewish Slur,” BBC News, March 2, 2002.
7. M. Weber, “Holocaust Remembrance: What’s Behind the Campaign?”
9. Kevin MacDonald, The Culture of Critique. Praeger, 1998 (Softcover edition, 2002). See also: Review by Stanley Hornbeck of The Culture of Critique in the June 1999 issue of American Renaissance. (https://www.amren.com/news/2020/06/culture-of-critique-jews-kevin-macdonald/)
10. Foxman letter of Nov. 11, 2005. Published in The Jerusalem Post, Nov. 18, 2005.
For Further Reading
Norman F. Cantor. The Sacred Chain: A History of the Jews. New York: Harper, 1994.
Benjamin Ginsberg. The Fatal Embrace: Jews and the State. The Univ. of Chicago Press, 1993.
Peter Harrison, “What Causes Anti-Semitism?” Review of Macdonald’s Separation and Its Discontents. The Journal of Historical Review, May-June 1998.
( http://ihr.org/jhr/v17/v17n3p28_Harrison )
Alfred M. Lilienthal, The Zionist Connection. New York: Dodd, Mead, 1978.
Seymour Martin Lipset and Earl Raab. Jews and the New American Scene. Harvard University Press, 1995.
Kevin MacDonald, Separation and Its Discontents: Toward an Evolutionary Theory of Anti-Semitism. Praeger, 1998
Kevin MacDonald, The Culture of Critique: An Evolutionary Analysis of Jewish Involvement in Twentieth-Century Intellectual and Political Movements. Praeger, 1998 (Softcover edition, 2002).
Tony Martin, “Tactics of Organized Jewry in Suppressing Free Speech” June 2002.
( http://www.ihr.org/other/TonyMartin2002.html )
W. D. Rubinstein. The Left, The Right and the Jews. New York: Universe Books, 1982.
Mark Weber, “The Danger and Challenge of Jewish-Zionist Power.” May 2015.
M. Weber, “A Straight Look at the Jewish Lobby”
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