Now 53, John Cusack has been a well-known film actor since he was a teenager. He’s starred in dozens of big pictures, including Grosse Point Blank, Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, Pushing Tin, High Fidelity, Runaway Jury, 1408, and The Butler.
But like many of the other actors we’ve discussed on this site, he’s also politically active. A member of the Democratic Socialists of America, he supported the presidential candidacy of Bernie Sanders in 2016 and backs him in the current presidential contest as well.
He didn’t pick up the activist stuff in Hollywood; he was raised on it. His parents were political activists too; he has described himself as having grown up with Philip and Daniel Berrigan, the radical Roman Catholic clerics the latter of whom had the distinction of being the first priest on the FBI’s “most wanted” list and ended up behind bars. Cusack has spoken of them in such a way as to suggest that they were role models for him.
Cusack shares his views regularly on Twitter. He is not known, shall we say, for his subtlety of thought and expression. In 2017 he tweeted a photo of President Trump alongside the quote “YER DEAD – GET YERSELF BURIED.” When it caused something of a controversy, he took it down.
Then, a couple of months ago, he retweeted an image of a giant hand crushing a bunch of people; on the shirtsleeve from which the giant hand protruded was a Star of David. Accompanying this Der Stürmer-type image was the following quotation, which was attributed to Voltaire: “To learn who rules over you, simply find out who you are not allowed to criticize.” Cusack supplemented the quotation with his own comment: “Follow the money.”
The point was clear: Jews run the world. Jews are all about money. Jews are crushing the rest of us. The tweet could hardly have been more stunningly antisemitic. Add to that the fact that the line he quoted about “find[ing] out who you are not allowed to criticize” was a statement not by Voltaire but by an American neo-Nazi named Kevin Alfred Strom.
When he was widely denounced for this breathtakingly obscene tweet, Cusack doubled down. “You think Israel isn’t commuting [sic] atrocities against Palestinians?” he wrote. “What planet are you on?” Eventually, however, the criticism got to be too much. At first, bizarrely, and pusillanimously, Cusack blamed his retweet on a bot. “How,” wondered Jewish writer Elad Nehorai, “does a bot get you to write ‘follow the money’ after sharing an overtly anti-Semitic image?” Eventually Cusack owned up to having posted the retweet and issued a wimpy sort-of-apology that only served to prove that he really isn’t terribly sharp. That apology was so lame that he then issued another apology, which also was lame. The response from David Baddiel, a Jewish comedian in the UK, was succinct and right on the mark: “John Cusack says he didn’t at first realise that the image was anti-Semitic. My, it’s a troublesome old blind spot for progressives, isn’t it?”
Meanwhile, in a Boston Jewish publication, a woman named Judy Bolton-Fasman posted an open letter to Cusack. Confessing to having had a crush on him in the 1990s, she said that while she too was a critic of some Israeli actions, “it must be said that Israeli citizens have died in Palestinian suicide bombings on buses, in malls and cafes just because they were Jews. There are frequent rocket attacks out of Gaza.” She asked him: “Have you been to Israel?….I’m not happy about walling off the West Bank where it divides neighborhoods and families. However, Israelis call it a security barrier with good reason. Even the most dovish Israeli will tell you the barrier has drastically reduced the number of terror attacks in Israel proper.” She added that she had “met incredible Israelis and Palestinians who are dedicated to achieving peace” and encouraged him to travel to Israel and meet them instead of just demonizing Jews. Good advice. But since the politics of a man like Cusack have less to do with the real world than with blind, stubborn ideological devotion, Ms. Bolton-Fasman is likely whistling in the wind.