One Man's Flip Is Another Man's Flop
by Peter Kurth
March 23, 2004

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Back up, America! Rewind that film! Your columnist has some flip-flopping to do.

You heard me – I’m a flip-flopper. Despite all you’ve been told by the White House, the major media, Ann Coulter and the Ouija board, it takes a big man to flip-flop and I’m going to be the first one on the block to do it.

I prefer the term “flip-flop” to “waffle,” because “waffling” makes it sound like I haven’t made up my mind, and I have. I’m flip-flopping absolutely. I’m turning 180 degrees. I’m going the whole nine yards, even though no one has yet figured out what those nine yards refer to. You can look it up.

What I’m flip-flopping about is Mel Gibson. Yes, Mel Gibson, a man I wrote off two weeks ago in this column as “a shameless and repulsive movie star.” He may still be a shameless and repulsive movie star, but from now on he’s got my vote. Why? Because Mel Gibson has “doubts” about George W. Bush.

That’s right – Mel Gibson has doubts about Bush. To be exact, he’s had doubts “of late” about Bush and his filthy war in Iraq.

“It’s all to do with these weapons of mass destruction that we can’t seem to find, and why did we go over there?” says Mel, sounding confused. Never mind: Anyone who has doubts about Bush is a hero to me. That’s a promise, and I won’t be flip-flopping on it.

What I’m not flip-flopping on is Mel’s Bible movie, whose name will never pass my lips again, not after the hate mail I’ve received since I first brought it up. I had no idea that Christian fanatics used words like that, but there you have it -- it’s like 12-year-old boys. If people knew how disgusting they are, they’d drown them at birth. Or maybe you missed the story about the Smelly Sneaker Contest in Montpelier on St. Patrick’s Day? You can look that up, too.

It’s easier for me to flip-flop about Mel Gibson now that Americans, in a major flip-flop, have knocked the Movie Whose Name Will Never Pass My Lips Again from its number one position and replaced it with a remake of Dawn of the Dead. As a Reuters news headline put it on Sunday, “Zombies Push Jesus from Top of North American Box Office.”

I knew they would if I waited long enough. Flip-flopping isn’t as hard as you think – all kinds of people are doing it. Last week, voters in Spain flipped-flopped themselves from “allies” to “appeasers.” The president of Poland flip-flopped by saying that the Bush administration “deceived” him about those weapons of mass destruction – “we were taken for a ride!” Italy, Hungary, the Netherlands and Honduras are ready to flip-flop any minute, leaving only 28 flavors – excuse me – partners in the Coalition of the Willing. Can it be long before Tony Blair gets flip-flopped out of a job?

If you’re worried that Mel Gibson has flip-flopped into a weak, whining, waffling weenie of the Satanic Liberal Left -- don’t. According to reports, Mel’s “next foray into the weighty world of religious film-making” will be about Hanukkah.

“The story that's always fired my imagination is the Book of Maccabees,” Mel said last week in an interview with Sean Hannity, the right-wing pundit and idiot du jour, whose new book, Deliver Us From Evil: Defeating Terrorism, Despotism, and Liberalism, in that order, is number one on The New York Times Bestseller List, right ahead of Mel’s own Book of the Movie – that is, the Movie Whose Name Will Never Pass My Lips Again.

According to the website Comingsoon.com –- no, it’s not about the Rapture -- the Maccabees were “Jewish guerilla fighters who led a successful rebellion against Greek conquerors 165 years before Christ.” According to Mel, “The Maccabee family stood up, and they made war, they stuck by their guns, and they came out winning. It's like a Western." And according to a lot of newspapers, all copying from the same press release, Mel’s taking flak already “from some quarters of the Jewish church.”

“My answer would be, 'Thanks but no thanks,’” says Abe Foxman, executive director of the Anti-Defamation League. Foxman knows a church when he sees one: “The last thing we need is to convert Jewish history into a western. I would prefer to leave [it] to Steven Spielberg.” He may have to flip-flop on that, because, what with the ticket sales, the Book of the Movie, the soundtrack, pay-TV, video, DVD and that bestselling line of “Passion Nail” pendants, Mel Gibson stands to make something like $700 million on the Movie Whose Name – you know the rest.

That’s a lot of nails, as they say in Hollywood. And if they aren’t saying it now they will be soon, because every single person who had a chance to be a part of Mel’s movie and turned it down, from the highest studio head to the lowest body-waxer, has been flip-flopping like crazy to feed at Mel’s trough. Right now, Mel Gibson could say that the world is balanced on the back of a giant turtle and half the population would flip-flop itself into believing it.

Meantime, science says there’s a 67 percent chance that God exists. If you know your Darwin, that’s a flip-flop, too. According to a new book, The Probability of God, the Almighty’s existence can be demonstrated by Bayes’ Theorem, which starts with the “prior probability” of a theory or hypothesis and, “by balancing the various factors that could affect a situation,” comes up with a “posterior probability” that it’s true or false. Either way, it’s a long ticket line.

Flip-flop – signing out.

Peter Kurth is the author of international bestselling books including Anastasia: The Riddle of Anna Anderson, Isadora: A Sensational Life, and a biography of the anti-fascist journalist Dorothy Thompson, American Cassandra: The Life of Dorothy Thompson. His essays have appeared in Salon, Vanity Fair, New York Times Book Review, and many others. Peter lives in Burlington, Vermont. He can be reached at: peterkurth@peterkurth.com. Visit his website at: http://www.peterkurth.com/


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