The upcoming release of Ridley Scott’s epic film adaptation of the biblical story of Exodus has generated some controversy due to the all-white casting of the movie’s principle players. While creative endeavors are entitled to exercise license in the pursuit of effective storytelling, it is reasonable to observe a certain measure of fidelity to reality. For instance, an actor playing the part of Ray Charles does not have to be blind, but he sure as hell better be black. Consequently, the complaints about Exodus are justifiable and a worthy subject of debate.
Enter Rupert Murdoch, the Chairman and CEO of the film’s distributor 21st Century Fox (as well as Fox News). Murdoch took to Twitter to defend the film from the criticism that its casting was insensitive to race. But his comments escalated the problem from mere insensitivity to outright racism.
The tweets that Murdoch posted said, in sequence…
5:07 PM – 28 Nov 2014: “Moses film attacked on Twitter for all white cast. Since when are Egyptians not white? All I know are.”
5:22 PM – 28 Nov 2014: “Everybody-attacks last tweet. Of course Egyptians are Middle Eastern, but far from black. They treated blacks as slaves.”
5:53 PM – 28 Nov 2014: “Okay, there are many shades of color. Nothing racist about that, so calm down!”
It is astonishing that someone who runs an international media corporation is oblivious to the offensive nature of his comments and that he manages to make things worse with every subsequent utterance.
First of all, it requires a rather perverse and racist logic to conclude that just because every Egyptian that Murdoch knows is white, it is therefore true that all Egyptians are white. What’s more, Murdoch has revealed information about himself that says something about his personal relationships. He confessed that he doesn’t know any Egyptians that are not white. Of course, the narrowness of Murdoch’s network of acquaintances does not define the diversity of a nation.
Secondly, Murdoch’s first defense is based on a distinction between Middle Easterners and blacks. However, it is Murdoch who is introducing the notion that the problem with the movie is an absence of blacks. In fact, the critics have mainly addressed the exclusivity of whites. That doesn’t mean that more blacks should have been cast, just more people who are not white, including Middle Easterners.
Furthermore, while artificially making this a black/white issue, Murdoch supports his bigotry by noting that Egyptians “treated blacks as slaves.” Is that supposed to mean that, therefore, there are no black Egyptians? Americans also treated blacks as slaves. So by Murdoch’s logic there are no black Americans. Additionally, someone should inform Murdoch that Egyptians also treated Jews as slaves, which is the whole theme of the film. So what exactly is his point?
Finally, having exhausted all of the tortured logic he could summon, Murdoch condescendingly instructs his critics to “calm down.” It’s as if his blatant prejudices are excusable because he is Rupert Murdoch and no one is allowed to question him. And those who do are over-excited and their complaints are unwarranted. He seems to believe that he has some moral superiority to tell other people how they should feel and respond to his hateful biases.
If anyone is curious as to why there is so much expression of racism on Fox News, and other Murdoch properties like the Wall Street Journal, they can fairly conclude that the source emanates from the top. It is people like Murdoch who influence those he employs, who then influence their audience of dimwitted followers, that results in the repulsive editorial bigotry that is so rampant in conservative media.