The New York Times reported today that Martin Eisentadt, the purported source of the "Palin-Didn't Know-That-Africa-Is-A-Continent" story, a senior advisor of the McCain campaign, and a fellow at the "Harding Institute for Freedom and Democracy," was a fictional blogger invented by Eitan Gorlin and Dan Mirvish, whom the Times described as "obscure filmmakers." They staged the hoax in order to pitch a television show they are developing.
Martin Eisenstadt doesn't exist, but I've heard a lot about Eitan for years from his parents, who are friends and former neighbors. I used to belong to a modern orthodox synagogue in suburban Maryland that includes among its members former ambassador to Egypt and to Israel, Daniel C. Kurtzer, former undersecretary of Defense, Dov Zakheim, former Jerusalem Post editor, David Makovsky, and current Director of the Institute for Public Affairs of the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America, Nathan J. Diament. It's a good shul, with an impressive rabbi, and a wonderful Shabbat hashkamah minyan, attended by Eitan's father. (There is less single-malt scotch for kiddush than at my current shul, but the latter is inside the Beltway.) I would not be surprised if Obama grabbed a larger percentage of orthodox voters at this shul than at any other orthodox shul in the country. But I would also not be surprised if McCain received an even larger percentage, especially since some of the members moved to the right after the failure of Oslo.
But "obscure filmmaker?" Oy! Gorlin's first (and only) feature, The Holy Land, was described by Stuart Klawans in the Nation as "a sometimes heartbroken, sometimes furious coming-of-age drama, set in a bleak and outrageous version of Israeli society. " Steven Holden of the Times was admittedly less enthusiastic:
The Holy Land, which opens today in Manhattan, is a barbed reflection on the great divide between secular and ultra-Orthodox Judaism in Israeli culture. But its digressive screenplay lacks focus and momentum and is too oblique to connect many of the dots between its characters and their behavior. Their politics are too murky to come into dramatic focus…But the performances are strong.
But critics were pretty evenly divided over the movie, which received 53% on the RottenTomatoes.com, "Tomatometer."
Let's hope that Gorlin's latest effort – a hoax that displays the credulity of the mass media, and the power of pseudonomynous bloggers (woohoo!) gets him the publicity he needs for making serious films and television shows. He's a good boy from a good community, and I wish him and Mirvish well.