Monday, November 29th | 26 Kislev 5782

November 30, 2017 7:54 pm

New York Times Uses Jewish Innuendo in Story on Oscars and Weinstein Scandal

avatar by Ira Stoll


Harvey Weinstein. Photo: David Shankbone via Wikimedia Commons.

The New York Times, which thankfully refrained, at least until now, from linking the recent series of sex scandals to the Jewish backgrounds of many of the men involved, has published a piece that seems to skate right up to — and arguably across — that line.

Oy vey, it’s awards season again. Could there be a worse time for Hollywood to celebrate itself?

That’s how Cara Buckley’s dispatch on the front of the Times arts section begins.

The Times’ own confusion about what the article itself was actually about is evidenced by the fact that the paper has tried three different headlines over the story. It started as “Let’s Give Weinstein’s Victims the Spotlight on Oscar Night,” then was revised to “Tainted Gold? This Year’s Awards Season,” and was revised finally, online, to “How Can the Oscars Celebrate in Weinstein’s Long Shadow?”

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I asked Ms. Buckley, via Twitter, “Why’d you start your story about the Oscars today with ‘Oy Vey’ rather than some non-Yiddish-inflected phrase that conveys the same meaning, like ‘Uh-oh,’ or ‘Oh no’ or ‘Yikes’?” She didn’t reply. Maybe she was auditioning for comedy gigs on the Borscht Belt. Maybe it was a not-so-subtle reference to Jewish influence in Hollywood.

I might have let it slide without comment, but later in the piece, the Times quotes the proposal of another critic:

Writing in The New York Post, Kyle Smith, critic at large for National Review, said the ceremony should be canceled, and its date, March 4, 2018, made a day of atonement for Hollywood.

He was hardly serious, but regardless, fat chance, and not just because Hollywood isn’t known to atone.

“Day of Atonement” is the English translation of Yom Yippur, an important Jewish religious holiday. If the Times wants to “go there” with the Harvey Weinstein story in a way that it thinks is relevant and thoughtful, I’d be interested to read what the paper has to offer, though it’s perilous turf, as Tablet magazine discovered. Instead, what the Times does in this piece, with its “oy vey” and “Day of Atonement” references, is to approach the issue in a glancing way, with innuendo or coded language rather than a direct consideration. It’s enough to make Times readers say “oy vey.”

UPDATE: Ms. Buckley did eventually reply to my inquiry, saying that the “Oy Vey” was driven not by Weinstein’s religious or cultural background but rather by her own circumstances. Read more here.

More of Ira Stoll’s media critique, a regular Algemeiner feature, can be found here.

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