January 21, 2019

Male Hysteria

Photo from Wikimedia Commons

At a recent Shabbat dinner, my host launched into a diatribe over a “two-page story” in The New York Times which allegedly argues that Picasso’s art should be ripped from museum walls due to his treatment of women.

“That’s censorship!” my host declaimed.

He mixed in other metaphors to describe his feelings about the #MeToo movement, equating it to “burning down forests and cities.”

I’m not sure how a few men losing their jobs is the same thing as a forest fire, but I got the subtext of his symbolism: He’s panicked.

We’re only a few months into probably the most significant public reckoning over sexual misconduct in history and already we’ve heard alarms bells ring over a female-driven “sex panic.” More and more we hear people cautioning that the #MeToo movement has gone too far, even though few of the predatory and powerful men who have been outed and ousted from their positions of public honor have actually been charged with a crime.

Nevertheless, all these angry, vengeful women are steering society into very dangerous waters: I mean, censor Picasso?

“That’s what the worst communist and fascist regimes in history did to the art of their day,” my host said. “Is that what you want?”

When a newspaper article about one of the prevalent social issues of the decade provokes comparisons to Stalinist communism, I’d say such a reaction is a sign of male panic.

After dinner, I tried to look up the article in question, but couldn’t find it. “Picasso + New York Times” yielded a story about the portraitist Chuck Close, whose show at the National Gallery of Art in Washington was recently postponed due to sexual harassment allegations. That piece explored the question of what to do about the artwork of artists who have behaved badly — including Caravaggio, who was accused of murder.

But the article my friend was referring to —  “Shock of the Nude” by Holland Cotter — wasn’t an article about Picasso at all (which explains why I couldn’t find it) but an art review of the career retrospective of artist Carolee Schneemann.

In it, there are about five lines relevant to Picasso (his name is mentioned only once) in which Cotter muses:

“Which modern misogynist will be yanked from museums next? Gauguin? Picasso? I say, sure, why not? Let’s set them aside for awhile, give them a rest, make room for what we never see, which means art by almost any woman you can name.”

The rest of the article is devoted solely to Schneemann’s work, but let’s discuss that first paragraph: “Set them aside for awhile” is hardly a declaration of censorship. Rather, Cotter is suggesting we take a break from the artists we’ve worshipped for forever in order to make room for artists we’ve been unable or unwilling to see.

Without having read the article, I suggested as much at dinner but my host couldn’t hear it. His hysteria over the changing tide caused by the #MeToo movement blinds him to the truths being revealed.

The only reason there isn’t a female Picasso is because she was ignored, spurned, ridiculed, marginalized, not given the opportunities of her peers and relegated to the dust bin of (art) history. As Amanda Hess wrote in a different article for the Times, “[Male artists’] offenses have affected the paths of other artists, determining which rise to prominence and which are harassed or shamed out of work.”

While it is true some outstanding female artists managed to break through in that man’s world — including Frida Kahlo, Mary Cassatt, Louise Bourgeois, Marlene Dumas and, indeed, Carolee Schneemann — far too many more lived, and continue to live, in obscurity.

It is mostly the art of men that adorns the walls of the world’s great museums — from the Louvre to the Prado to the Uffizi — even as the bodies of women are splashed onto their canvases and offered for the viewer’s pleasure.

These realizations don’t have to be threatening. No one is saying, “Burn Picasso’s paintings.” They’re saying, let’s use this unique moment to take a break from our patriarchal myopia to see and celebrate something new.

And I say, sure, why not?

Israel struggles to keep cloak of secrecy over spy story

The mysterious death of an Australian prisoner in Israel has put the spotlight on a military-run censorship system that is finding it harder to black out secret information often only a mouse click away on the Internet.

The case involves a man reported by Australia's ABC channel on Tuesday to have been a member of Israel's Mossad spy agency. According to the report, he committed suicide in prison in 2010 in an isolated top-security wing originally built for the assassin of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin.

Why the man, identified by ABC as Ben Zygier, an immigrant to Israel, was jailed is still a closely guarded secret, and reports dealing with matters of state security must be submitted to military censors for vetting.

In a highly unusual move within hours of the ABC broadcast, Israeli editors were summoned to an emergency meeting in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office and asked not to publish a story “that is very embarrassing to a certain government agency”, Israel's Haaretz newspaper reported.

Israeli news outlets that had carried the report scrambled to remove it from their websites, but that only drew attention to the case. Chatter ran rampant on Twitter and Facebook, offering polyglot Israelis links to foreign news sites.

For decades, journalists in Israel have been required to sign an undertaking to abide by military censorship rules when they apply for accreditation from the government press office. Reporters risk being denied press cards and, in the case of foreigners, work visas if they violate the regulations.

“You either work with us, or you work abroad,” a military censor, cautioning against reporting where Palestinian rockets were landing in Israel, warned a Reuters correspondent during an eight-day Gaza war in November.


In the age of the Internet, efforts by Israel to put the genie back in the bottle proved fruitless.

“People in the state, in the Shin Bet (internal security agency) and the courts conduct themselves as if we were still in the stone age,” said Avigdor Feldman, an Israeli attorney whose clients have included nuclear whistle-blower Mordechai Vanunu.

Vanunu, a former technician in Israel's top secret Dimona nuclear reactor told Britain's Sunday Times newspaper in 1986 that atomic bombs were produced at the facility. He was jailed as a traitor and served 18 years in prison.

“These things are ultimately revealed. People talk, and not just on the Internet. The tight-lip that once typified this country is no longer … all the gag orders just shame the courts and the country,” he told Reuters.

Aluf Benn, editor of Israel's liberal Haaretz newspaper, said Israeli security authorities and judges who issue gag orders at their request find it hard to come to terms with the concept of a free media operating in a democracy.

“For (Mossad chief Tamir) Pardo and his ilk, the Israeli media are a branch of the state … that is why we are forced absurdly to quote foreign news sources about military operations, intelligence snafus and clandestine trials,” Benn wrote in a commentary in his newspaper.

“Generation after generation, the military censor has explained to reporters that anything published by an Israeli outlet is seen by the international community as an official statement, whereas reports by foreign news sources are not.”

So when controversial incidents take place, such as an attack on Syria last month that the Damascus government said was carried out by the Israeli air force, Israeli media are banned from publishing their own information.

And while Israel's nuclear arms have been an open secret for decades, reference to the arsenal has always been attributed in the local press to “foreign reports”.

Curiously, the case of “Prisoner X” was deemed so sensitive that for almost 24 hours the authorities tried to prevent any word seeping out into the local media.

They finally raised the white flag after left-wing and Arab legislators used their parliamentary immunity to demand explanations about the affair on the floor of the Knesset, enabling Israeli papers to at least allude to the story.

On Tuesday the gag orders were eased to allow the media to carry foreign reports of the case, but the censors told journalists not to identify the dead man's wife and two children – information that is readily available on the Internet.

Gad Shimron, a former Mossad officer who writes on intelligence matters, told Reuters he had no knowledge about Zygier, “but in the 21st century, in the age of Facebook and Twitter, I simply don't believe such secrecy can be maintained”.

Additional reporting by Maayan Lubell, Dan Williams and Crispian Balmer; Editing by Alison Williams

New internet censorship in Gaza

Many Gazans have long lamented that there’s not much to do in the Gaza Strip. There are no movie theaters, pool halls or bowling alleys — all of which are seen as “un-Islamic.” And it’s not getting any better. In fact, now, curbs are being extended further – to the Internet.

The Islamist Hamas movement that rules Gaza issued a new law this week that forces Gaza’s ten main internet providers to block all access to any websites with pornographic content.

“This move is aimed at preserving our morals,” Osama Al-Eisawi, Minister of Communication and Information Technology in the Hamas government said in a statement. “Our social fabric needs protection and we are actually protecting Internet users in Gaza.”

Al-Eisawi said that any Internet provider that does not obey the law will be closed down. He explained that the law is an extension of the one passed in 2008, when the filters to block pornography were put in place, but individual users could still choose to lift them. Now, that choice is no longer available.

Hamas officials say the law is being imposed in response to many requests from parents and what he called “other organizations.”

“We don’t aim at oppressing any freedom or censoring any political websites; we will just block the websites that have a pornographic nature,” Dr. Kamal Al-Masri, the Director General of Licensing at the Ministry of Communications said.

“We will stay in coordination with all the Internet providers in Gaza regarding this law. We have systems and technologies that will help us keep tracking those providers. If any provider breaks the law then they will be prosecuted or face a complete shut down,” Al- Masri concluded.

Some in Gaza worried that the ban on pornography is just a first step to total control, arguing that in the future, Hamas could choose to block political websites. But most say the ban will not be effective, in any case. Gazans are considered to be especially Internet-savvy, some believe because it is so difficult for them to leave Gaza to travel abroad (they need permits from either Israel or Egypt to leave Gaza).

“I would like to think of myself and others as grown-up adults who have the freedom of choice over whether to put filters on our Internet connection or not,” Adam Al-Agha, a student sitting in front of a computer screen at an Internet café told The Media Line. “Youth here are very advanced when it comes to technology –we can easily surpass this barrier using certain techniques.”

Other similar moves by the Islamist Hamas movement have failed to gain traction. Hamas first legislated against pornography with a law in 2008, but backed-off when Internet providers and the public protested. Hamas also tried to ban restaurants and coffee shops from selling hookah (water pipes with flavored tobacco that is popular throughout the Middle East), but the government amended the rule, saying men could smoke hookah in public but not women, for whom it is considered to be immodest. In each case, Hamas retracted the ban after protests. However, one rule that has been mostly enforced prohibits men from cutting women’s hair.

In response to the Internet law, though, some critics say Hamas is a strict Islamist movement that is trying to Islamize Gaza. Others consider the moralistic moves by Hamas to be a way of demonstrating its control over Gaza.

Officials from Pal-Tel (Palestinian Telecommunication Company), who preferred to remain anonymous, said the filters blocking pornography will slow down the Internet connection, frustrating many users.

A statement from the Ministry of Communication and Information Technology said there have been complaints that even non-pornographic websites were being censored.

“We are happy to receive any complaints,” the statement said. “Some non-pornographic websites were banned or could not open because of the Internet providers, not because of us.”

He said that some internet providers had technical issues after putting the filters on while others were differed over which websites should be blocked.

We are all working on fixing these little issues,” the statement said. “The filter is very new and it's normal to face mishaps at first.”

The statement ended with a warning: “We will soon issue the names of Internet providers who implemented this law and the names of those who broke it. Those who broke it will face legal charges.”

Proposed USC-Dubai journalism school concerns faculty and community

Faculty members at the USC Annenberg School for Communications are deep into a controversy that should be of interest to the Jewish community.

It concerns a proposal from USC for a $3 million contract for Annenberg to work with the American University in Dubai to create a journalism and communications school in the Middle Eastern nation.

Some on the USC faculty are concerned that Dubai, part of the United Arab Emirates (UAE), will discriminate against student applicants and faculty who are not Muslim, including Jews. Critics also cite past United Arab Emirate opposition to Israel.

What makes this of interest to local Jews — even those not connected to the home of the Trojans — is the close connection USC has forged with the Jewish community over the years. The Jewish presence among students, faculty and the board of trustees is strong, USC’s Hillel is bustling and the university also has the Casden Institute for the Study of the Jewish Role in American Life, which works with the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, as well as the Shoah Visual History Foundation. In addition, Jews are among USC’s financial supporters.

The current university is far different than the old anti-Semitic USC. That era was recalled in a 1996 article by The Jewish Journal’s Tom Tugend, who described the school’s pre-World War II quota system that was “strikingly simple. One Jewish student was admitted to the medical school, one to the dental school and one to the law school.”

Today, Jewish faculty members are divided over the Dubai proposal. “So many of the people involved in this are Jewish,” said Ed Cray, a veteran journalism professor.

According to a proposed memorandum of understanding, Annenberg would receive $1 million a year for three years to provide the American University and its Mohammed bin Rashid School for Communication with curriculum advice and faculty assistance. Annenberg would also work with its Dubai partner to set up an international conference center and think tank there.

The memorandum states that neither USC nor the Rashid school would “discriminate on the basis of race, religion, gender, color, age, physical or mental disability, national origin, veteran status, marital status or any other category protected by law in employment or in any of its programs and/or activities.” But it’s unclear how this clause would be enforced.

Annenberg dean Ernest J. Wilson III told me that USC will be “providing training to a significant part of the journalists who will be distributing information all through the Middle East and into India.”

Annenberg professor Philip Seib, principal director of the project, said in an article on the Annenberg Web site, “The news business is much less mature in Arab countries…. We’re eager to contribute to the enhancement of journalistic fundamentals … by fostering appreciation of American journalism values — everything from ethics to professional production skills….”

Faculty critics with long memories recall a proposal in the 1970s for a USC Middle East Studies Center financed entirely, Tugend reported, “by Arab oil money.” The Jewish community, fearing creation of a nest of pro-Arab, anti-Israel academics, protested, and the proposal was killed.

A vocal opponent of the Dubai plan is professor Jonathan Kotler, who was joined by a half-dozen colleagues. He told me he was concerned about UAE support for the PLO and its “civil rights record … in its treatment of foreigners, women, children and gays….” And he noted that Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum, ruler of Dubai, has been sued for forcing young boys into slavery to serve as jockeys in the popular sport of camel racing. The Dubai communications school was named for him.

“I don’t think we should get into bed with such a person,” he said, and he believes the proposal “besmirches the name of the university and the Annenberg school.” He was particularly concerned about past United Arab Emirate support for the Palestine Liberation Organization, which he considers a supporter of jihad and terrorism.

“As a Jewish American, I am offended,” he said.

Murray Fromson, an emeritus journalism professor and a longtime foreign correspondent for the Associated Press and CBS, sees it differently.

Fromson, who every year visits his daughter Aliza Ben-Tal, assistant to the president of Ben-Gurion University, in Israel, told me this is not a Jewish issue unless Dubai discriminates against Jews or academics who are involved in communications programs in Israel. “It’s a Jewish issue if we start a program in Israel and they [Dubai officials] say we can’t do it,” Fromson said.

He said his years as a reporter overseas taught him the value of such programs, a view that was reinforced when he headed a USC program in Mexico, in the days when the PRI political party clamped down on dissent in a brutal way, and the government bribed the press.

His students there learned about a free press. “Two of our students were among those who got the National Assembly to adopt a First Amendment [free press guarantee],” he said.

I’ve taught at Annenberg on and off for several years. As a part-time Trojan, here’s what I think:

Like Fromson, I believe a program such as this can do much good, even in a country with a poor human rights record. But USC should insist on ironclad anti-discrimination clauses in the contract to prevent the Arab rulers of Dubai from discriminating against Jews and other non-Muslims.


Hamas celebrates one year in office


Ahmadinejad: The next Hitler?

From 1939 to 1945, during the Holocaust, 6 million Jews died atrocious deaths throughout Europe at the hands of Adolf Hitler.

On Aug. 6, 2005, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad assumed office as president of the Islamic Republic of Iran, a rise that could provoke the beginning of the next Holocaust or World War.

Ahmadinejad, 50, has been a very outspoken and controversial character since he stepped into office. Not only is this man an anti-Semite, but he’s also drawn the attention of the international community as an imminent threat to the entire globe.

He has clearly established a blatant opposition to the Jewish people as a whole, as well as other faiths different from his own Shi’a Islam. Throughout his term, he has repeatedly quoted the deceased mullah, Ayatollah Khomeni, by saying that Israel should be “wiped off the map.” Recently, Ahmadinejad held a “Holocaust Summit” in which he denied the Holocaust, calling it a “myth.”

The honorary guests included David Duke, grand wizard of Klu Klux Klan in the 1970s, who spoke to the summit, saying, “The Holocaust is the device used as the pillar of Zionist imperialism, Zionist aggression, Zionist terror and Zionist murder.”

However, Ahmadinejad’s hatred isn’t limited to the Jewish community. Recently, he called for a census of every single follower of the Bahai’ faith for “confidential reasons.” Thousands of non-Muslims are being persecuted every day in Iran by his actions — Ahmadinejad is the one provoking it.

Hateful remarks and threats may be legally permitted, but the development of uranium and other dangerous products that may contribute to the construction of weapons of mass destruction certainly is not. Despite numerous demands from the United Nations, Europe and the United States, Iran has refused to cease producing these radiological compounds, citing that they are being developed purely for internal nuclear growth and research.

Currently, Iranian scientists are feverishly producing copious amounts of potentially deadly nuclear compounds, which eventually may be used on Israel or possibly the United States.

“The combination of a regime with a radical agenda, together with a distorted sense of reality, put together with nuclear weapons, is a dangerous combination that no one in the international community can accept,” says Mark Regev, spokesman for Israel’s foreign ministry.

Some might argue that though Ahmadinejad may appear to be a threat to the world, he is serving and providing for his own country and people. But the scores of protests against Ahmadinejad by college students in Tehran over the past couple of months prove otherwise.

In fact, when he first stepped into office, dozens of activists shouted abusive slogans and set off firecrackers as Ahmadinejad addressed students at Tehran’s Amir Kabir University. Furthermore, students recently disrupted a speech by Ahmadinejad at the Amirkabir University of Technology in Tehran. According to the Iranian Student News Agency, the students set fire to photographs of Ahmadinejad and threw firecrackers. The protesters also chanted “Death to the dictator.”

The only reasonable, rational or even ethical thing to do is to dismantle the current Iranian regime and throw Ahmadinejad out of power. This is obviously not an easy task.

Therefore, the Jewish community as a whole, teens and adults, should take an affirmative stance against Ahmadinejad, by being the first ones to initiate or attempt to initiate some sort of change, whether large or small.

We can all use editorial articles, peaceful and effective protests, and especially our voices to raise awareness against Ahmadinejad and his terror.

Jewish politicians, rabbinical and social leaders must step up and attempt to make a change themselves or address the present situation in Iran to those who can make a change.

Not only is Ahmadinejad’s regime currently persecuting the Iranian Jewish community in Iran, but if nothing is done, the global Jewish community may once again face another Hitler equipped with powerful nuclear technology, brutality, and worst of all, complete and utter hatred against Jews. Our eyes were shut more than 60 years ago when millions died; let’s make sure that doesn’t happen again.

Joshua Yasmeh is a sophomore at El Camino Real High School in Woodland Hills.

Speak Up!

Tribe, by and for teens, appears the first issue of every month in The Jewish Journal. Ninth- to 12th-graders are invited to submit first-person columns, feature articles or news stories of up to 800 words. Deadline for the March issue is Feb. 15; Deadline for the April issue is March 15. Send submissions to julief@jewishjournal.com.

Exercise your right to read — without censorship

The last week of September is Banned Books Week.

Ever read a book from the “Harry Potter” series or “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn”? Then you’ve read a banned book — a book taken off of shelves in a classroom or library at one time because people complained about it.

Sometimes, people who want to ban a book get so mad they actually burn copies of it (like in “Pleasantville” and “Footloose”).

The American Library Association got more than 400 requests to ban books last year. But most of those requests were unsuccessful, because of librarians, teachers, parents, students and other people who make sure books stay on shelves.

Use this week to support your right to read. Here are some banned books to consider reading this week:

  • “Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl” by Anne Frank, which someone wanted to ban because it was “a real downer.”

  • “Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret” by Judy Blume
  • “The Chocolate War” by Robert Cormier
  • The “Goosebumps” series by R.L. Stine
  • The “Captain Underpants” series by Dav Pilkey
  • “James and the Giant Peach” by Roald Dahl
  • “The Lorax” by Dr. Seuss
  • “Bridge to Terabithia” by Katherine Paterson
  • …. And don’t forget the Torah and the Talmud

For more information, visit ” target=”_blank”>Kids@jewishjournal.com with Kein v’Lo in the subject line.

U.S. Firms Kowtow to China Censorship

If an American enters “Li Zhi” or “Shi Tao” in the search engine at Yahoo! News, more than 400 stories turn up, none of them flattering to Yahoo! But those articles won’t appear if you search for those words, or countless others deemed subversive by officials, on a computer in China.

For nearly a decade, not only has Yahoo! allowed the Chinese version of its search engine to be censored; worse, it has also turned over to Chinese state security the IP and e-mail addresses they have sought in order to nail and jail dissidents. When an American-based multinational is complicit with a police state’s worst practices, at the very least it takes the zing out of the exclamation mark in its branding.

Shi Tao, 37, was a reporter for the business daily, Dangdai Shang Bao. A year ago, he was sentenced by Beijing to 10 years in prison for “divulging state secrets abroad.” His offense was e-mailing to non-Chinese Web sites the warning that the Beijing government told his newspaper and others not to cover the 15th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre. According to the text of the verdict, it was Yahoo! Hong Kong that enabled Chinese investigators to track the posting on a foreign Web site to Shi’s yahoo.com.cn e-mail account and to the IP address of his computer.

This month, another such case was reported. Li Zhi, a 35-year-old ex-civil servant from Dazhou, who was sentenced to eight years in prison for criticizing the corruption of local officials in online discussion groups, also had Yahoo! to thank for handing over to the police his e-mail address and user-name.

Yahoo! is not alone among American media companies kowtowing to the People’s Republic. Google, despite its “Don’t Be Evil” motto, has also agreed to abide by Beijing’s censorship guidelines. Microsoft’s MSN Spaces censors its Chinese-language blogs.

The Chinese police’s surveillance infrastructure is located in thousands of routers sold to them by Cisco Systems and programmed by Cisco engineers. It enables the authorities to suppress “subversive” key words and identify visitors to banned sites.

When pressed, these companies’ apologists offer the when-in-Rome defense: If you do business in other countries, you have to follow their laws and practices. But that argument conveniently forgets the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, which outlaws bribery by U.S. firms, no matter how common or licit it might be in the countries where they do business. It also ignores the Jackson-Vanik amendment, which conditioned U.S. trade relations on Soviet emigration policies.

If complicity with bribery deserves outlawing, then why not censorship? If Soviet repression of Jews’ human rights could be part of our economic policy, then why not Chinese repression of dissidents?

Defenders of American-enabled cyber-snitching claim that foreign investment in China will liberalize Chinese society. The more they taste the goods, services and rising standard of living delivered by Western free markets, it’s said, the more political freedom the Chinese will demand.

Unfortunately, it’s the reverse that seems to be happening. The more that Western companies yearn for billions of yuan, the more willing they have been to compromise human rights values, if that’s what it takes.

Every major advance in technology has generated both utopian and dystopian visions of the future. The optimistic version of what will eventually happen is that the Internet is inherently, wonderfully uncontrollable. The genie out of the bottle is freedom’s ally; new provocative commentators, using new technologies like podcasting, and employing new workarounds, like IP anonymity software, will eventually make the Web a censor’s worst nightmare.

The countervailing vision is Big Brother. Recent revelations about warrantless wiretapping in the United States remind us how sophisticated the black arts of snooping are. If the limits on their use in a democracy are the subject of fierce debate, imagine how fragile are dissent, privacy and civil liberties in authoritarian societies that brook no compromise on state power.

No one knows which version of the future will prevail. Recently, the House Human Rights Subcommittee held a hearing about the ethical responsibilities of Internet firms. Yahoo!, Google, Microsoft and Cisco were summoned. The expected arguments on both sides were aired: trade, capitalism and technology were depicted on the one hand as liberators of the human spirit and on the other as accessories of human rights abuses.

Since it’s a crapshoot what direction the information revolution is really heading, surely the right path for an America that doesn’t merely mouth its moral values is to hold Yahoo! et al’s feet to the fire. The Web prides itself on being self-regulating; what about a cyber-rally on behalf of human rights, along with a reminder of consumers’ economic power?

Internet companies, rather than hunkering down and trying to get away with what business practices they can, could create voluntary codes of conduct that go beyond apparently hollow mottoes. The mere threat of government regulation could do wonders to focus the corporate mind. Any or all of that would be way better than what we’re doing now: rolling the dice that benevolent geeks and prosocial hackers will inevitably outwit the thought police and their kangaroo courts.

Martin Kaplan is associate dean of the USC Annenberg School for Communication, where he founded and directs the Norman Lear Center (


A Wolf Among ‘Sheep’

Dick Wolf

Dick Wolf lets out a low, audible groan at the mention of theV-chip. For years now, the creator and executive producer oftelevision’s longest-running drama has spoken out against what hebelieves are the forces of censorship and intimidation lurking behindthe innocent-enough-sounding fix. A V-chip attached to a ratingssystem would turn any show without a gentle G into “an all-pointsbulletin” for politicians, special-interest groups and, of course,advertisers. “Procter & Gamble doesn’t spend $1 billion a year ontelevision advertising to be controversial,” he says. “Advertisersare sheep.”

And Wolf should know. When his show, “Law and Order,” dramatizedthe bombing of an abortion clinic, $800,000 worth of ads fell out. Ashow dealing with assisted suicide cost NBC $500,000 in yanked ads.These were not hours filled with naked tushies, à la “NYPDBlue,” or the carnage of “Walker, Texas Ranger,” either. Wolf proudlypoints out that in seven seasons, the two detectives on “Law andOrder” have never fired their guns. The lesson for him is clear — arating system would gut television of the thing it does best: seriousadult drama.

Worse, it could open the way for harsher forms of censorship. Fouryears ago, on a PBS symposium, Wolf pressed Rep. Henry Hyde, R-Ohio,on whether the congressman would support legislative censorship. Hydeeventually said that he would. In writings and speeches on the issue,that exchange is never far from Wolf’s mind.

“Law and Order,” of course, is one of those serious adult dramasthat TV does best. Equal parts cop show and courtroom thriller, theseries has explored issues such as racism, police brutality andfreedom of speech. Wolf — speaking with The Journal by car phone –says that he “absolutely” seeks out important issues to thread intohis drama. “The show reaches its highest heights in these episodes,”he says.

Case in point: an episode in which a Malcolm X-style black leaderis assassinated and the suspect is a middle-aged Jewish man. When thesuspect’s defense attorney — a Jew — cross-examines a black witnessto the murder, the witness blurts out, “The damn Jew shot Malcolm andthe damn Jew lawyer will get him off!”

Wolf recalls watching that interchange on TV. “The hairs on theback of my neck stood up. That’s what I strive for. The show is meantto wake people up.”

The son of a Jewish father and Irish Catholic mother, Wolf wasraised in Manhattan in a secular home steeped in liberal values. “Myfather’s mother was a Marxist,” he says, “so I guess I came from aliberal tradition.” After graduating from the University ofPennsylvania, he worked on Madison Avenue (“I’m Cheryl, Fly Me”) andthen began a successful second career writing movies. One of his mostmemorable efforts was “School Ties,” which explored anti-Semitism ata prep school. Although Wolf attended Andover, he never experiencedprejudice there. He wrote the script because he cared about the issueand the story. It took him 11 years to get it made.

Since 1988, Wolf has been one of television’s most prolificwriter/producers, having created 11 series, including theEmmy-winning “Law and Order.”

It’s a safe bet that the voluble and articulate Wolf, 50, has hisopinions. But his show doesn’t force-feed viewers a party line. Rightand wrong shift, blend and realign in the course of a single episode.It’s prime-time “Rashomon,” and that’s the way Wolf likes it. Hisideal show? Where each of the six main characters take six sides ofthe same issue, “and they’re all right.”

The complex and thoughtful approach to network television hasearned Wolf accolades from numerous professional and civil rightsgroups. On Oct. 21, he’ll receive the 1997 DistinguishedEntertainment Industry Award from the Anti-Defamation League at adinner at the Century Plaza Hotel Towers.

“Dick’s entire career has been built on free speech andhumanitarianism,” says Universal Television Group Chairman GregMeidel, who is chairing the event. The ADL chose Wolf, says RegionalDirector David Lehrer, because his shows “convey our mission, whichis to fight bigotry and discrimination.”

What Wolf wants is to leave adult TV to the free market andcensorship to parents. (Wolf and his wife, Christine, have threechildren, but only let the oldest watch their dad’s show.)

Advertisers can’t be expected to put a dime behind shows thatreceive a controversial rating. And Congress and network regulatorscan’t be trusted to differentiate between gratuitous violence and sexand issues that may be offensive but are nevertheless crucial.

They can’t be trusted, Wolf believes, because going afterHollywood is loads easier — and makes for much better press — thanwrestling with health care or other weighty issues. The producerpoints a finger at Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., who pushes the V-chipwhile voting against gun control and paternity leave. Where are thefamily values there?

“This is the biggest free ride since McCarthy,” he says, “butthese threats are not idle.”

For more information on the ADL dinner, contact Nancy Volpert at(310) 446-8000.