Headlines from a variety of entertainment, business and news sources are announcing the cancelation of Charlie Sheen’s long-running television program; Two and a Half Men. The reason why? A crazy rant delivered by the abusive and often drunk or high actor, on the Alex Jones Radio show. But wait, there’s more.
The same articles suggest that Sheen is an anti-Semite, or at least guilty of including anti-Semitic slurs in his insane radio rant. What did he say? Nothing, other than referring to the show’s creator and Sheen nemesis, Chuck Lorre, by the Hebrew name, Chaim Levine. Hardly evidence of Jew-hatred.
For starters, Lorre’s name at birth was in fact, Levine! And while I do not know his Hebrew name, or even if he has one, Chaim could well be the chosen Hebrew parallel for Charles or Chuck. As my great-grandparents would have said, “we should be so lucky to live in a world where using someone’s Hebrew name counts as anti-Semitism.” In other words, in a world in which there is genuine hatred of Jews, labeling Sheen’s words, anti-Semitic, is probably absurd and certainly a gross over-statement.
If anything, Sheen feels that he was personally attacked – that his integrity was called into question, so he called out the integrity of his so-called attacker by attacking Lorre’s decision to change his name. It was a stupid move on Sheen’s part because there is no evidence that a change in name represents a lack of integrity. And if it does, then Sheen should be speaking with his father, Martin Sheen, who changed his name from Esetvez.
Name changes, especially in the past, were not about a lack of integrity, there were about overcoming ethnic bias. If anything, the need to change one’s name represents a flaw in the culture, not the one making the name change.
I suspect that the executives at both CBS and Warner Brothers who labeled Sheen’s remarks as anti-Semitic, did so because it gave them a sense of being on the moral high ground when they pulled the plug on the show. It helped them to avoid explaining why years of public drunkenness and continued mistreatment of women were, apparently, not sufficient reasons to cancel the show.
While we should all feel good about living in a culture where charges like “anti-Semitic,” “racist” and “homophobic” are taken with increasing seriousness, that increasing seriousness also creates new levels of obligation regarding tossing such charges about too loosely. In fact, doing so will ultimately create a counter-trend in which those same charges will come to have little or no value at all. Think “the boy who cried wolf.’