Toronto, ON – Canadian-born comedian Russell Peters added his views during an interview with Sandie Rinaldo on the CTV program W5, broadcast on March 25, 2023.
During his interview, Peters described Chappelle’s monologue as “fantastic,” saying that he “articulated exactly what people are afraid to say.”
Peters added that in his opinion, “to say the Jews run Hollywood isn’t a bad thing….I wouldn’t want anyone else to run it.”
While Peters expressed his view that the trope of Jews controlling Hollywood is positive, he’s also perhaps inadvertently helping to perpetuate the antisemitic conspiracy of Jews controlling levers of power, including banking infrastructure, media outlets, and more.
The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, a forged antisemitic text first published in 1903, purporting to be minutes from a meeting of Jews plotting world domination, was one of the first instances of this conspiracy theory widely disseminated. Later, Hitler’s Nazi regime made widespread use of this and other related antisemitic conspiracy theories, promoting the claim that the Jews were attempting to take over the world.
These conspiracies were created and spread purposefully by antisemitic actors, including Czarist Russia and the Nazis, for a very specific purpose: to encourage the wider general public to look at Jews with deep suspicion and hatred, and to make Jews more vulnerable to being abused. “Hitler believed that the only way to get across his ideas was to keep the propaganda simplistic and create the illusion that the German people had but one enemy: the Jews,” according to Yad Vashem, a prominent Holocaust museum based in Jerusalem.
At first glance, the trope of Jews running Hollywood may not appear to be as nefarious as the claim that Jews run global finance, but the message is not dissimilar.
And while it is true that Jews do appear to be overrepresented in the Hollywood film industry and have a long history in making motion pictures, far above the less than the 1.8 per cent proportion of Jews in the overall American population as a whole, overrepresentation does not necessarily equal control over an entire industry.
For many years, Jewish professionals in the Hollywood film industry not only hid their Jewish identity, but also largely avoided producing content with overtly Jewish themes, as they were often accused of being communist sympathizers.
While trends have since shifted, the contemporary Hollywood film industry is far more complex today, and “the film studios are all now subdivisions of huge multinational corporations,” according to director John Landis.
The bigger issue in the “Jews run Hollywood” trope is that it conflates Jews being in an industry, with running it.
“Whenever the Jews enter into any kind of position where they might have influence over people who are not Jewish, then all of a sudden it’s seen as some kind of conspiracy,” Professor Pamela Nadell, a scholar in antisemitism, told the Times of Israel in November, 2022.
While comedy is subjective, and the role of a stand-up comic is to “push the envelope,” as Peters told Rinaldo, there is nevertheless importance in understanding that a message – even done in the guise of comedy – still has a tremendous power to shape opinions and views, and should be taken with responsibility.
In particular, with antisemitic hate crimes rising rapidly throughout the western world, recognizing the connection between comedy that provokes, and comedy that plays into potentially dangerous conspiracy theories, has perhaps never been more important for comedians to acknowledge.