Jack Valenti died today of complications from a stroke in his Washington, D.C. home. He was 85. Rest assured, I am not going to post an obituary. You can read a pretty good one here, where you might be surprised to learn some things about Valenti that you didn't know. I sure did (for example, I didn't know he was a bomber in WWII or that he was one of the people in the motorcade when JFK was shot). Nor am I going to use his death as an opportunity to say anything on the subject of censorship (although my opinions might surprise people as they tend to be different from most people's). Rather I am going to relay a few things I read today on the comment-board over at Valenti's IMDB page. Some things that, quite frankly, disturb and sadden me. In fact, in a way, this blog isn't really about Jack Valenti so much as it's about people's reactions to his death and how they tie in with some things I've been thinking about lately.
(Note: There is going to be some langage in the following statements that you do not typically hear on this film blog.)
On a thread entitled "THE BASTARD IS FINALLY DEAD" someone wrote "Allah/Jesus/Buddha be praised. This old douchebag finally croaked."
On another thread entitled "Die From Your Stroke" someone wrote "You suck."
On a thread entitled "At Last" someone wrote "At last this fascist is dead, what a shame for the industry. I hope media (except FOX of course) Talk about him as what he really was, a greedy ignorant fascist."
And finally, for a change of pace, a thread entitled "My prayers go out to him and his family" has someone saying "May he rest in peace." to which someone responded with "Fuck him and his family. I hope they die too."
Clearly, Valenti was not well-liked by a lot of people nowadays. I suspect primarily because of the growing discontent with the MPAA and its ratings system (which is nowhere better represented than in Kirby Dick's documentary This Film is Not Yet Rated), but comments like these tend to depress me because they demonstrate a lack of ability to separate the worth of a person from the worth of their ideas. Whether one agrees or disagrees with Valenti's opinions on movie content and his approach to rating them, whether one thinks that the effect he had on the industry were predominately positive or negative, such personal hatred-such vitrolic sentiments-are completely uncalled for. Jack Valenti's death is not a cause for celebration. In fact, I'm not sure any person's death is a cause for celebration. Even the death of an individual about whom we can honestly say the world is better off without (which Valenti was far from). Even the death of an Adolf Hitler or a Saddam Hussein should be cause for some degree of mourning I think. As I wrote in response to a comment on a recent blog about the Virginia Tech shooting, "I am reminded of that poem by John Donne: 'Any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in Mankind; And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.'"
How "dead" inside does a person have to be that they can derive satisfaction from the death of a fellow human being? I know this is a rather radical statement, but I think that the people who rejoice at the passing of Jack Valenti are fundamentally no different from someone like Cho Seunh Hui.