That's (sort of) Racist!*
By R. D. Flavin
Examples of hate-speech and profanity follow.
Sensitive readers should not continue and might consider either watching FOX NEWS or listening to AM talk-radio.
See 'Abbreviations' below.
Animated-meme taken from MTV2’s television comedy, Wonder Showzen (aired 2005-2006; created by Vernon Chatman and John Lee).
Despise evil and ungodliness, but not men of ungodliness or evil. These, understand.
From William Saroyan's The Time of Your Life (1939, New York: Harcourt, Brace, and Co.).
Mel's 2006 mugshot and Oksana Griegorieva in pink.
Well, Mel Gibson has done it again! As if his 2006 D.U.I. arrest with accompanying anti-Jewish comments weren’t enough to secure his position in the Bigot Hall of Shame, recently released audio-tapes add anti-Black slurs and over-the-top profanity to his infamy. The covertly recorded conversation between Mel and his ex-girlfriend (and mother of his eigth child, Lucia) stirred the media up with its usage of “n****rs,” “c**t,” and assorted “f**k” this, that and the other thing. Then, as more of the conversation leaked, shock and awe gave way to loathing as apparent verbal violence against Oksana Griegorieva was supplemented by physical abuse. It’s complicated, sort of racist, and most assuredly creepy. Mel’s gonna need more than a few recitations of “Hail Mary” to clean up this mess.
As has been established, Mel has a drinking problem and serious anger management issues. Claims that he punched Okasana in the face while she was holding their baby daughter seem to be at the center of a nasty custody battle and, if substantiated, could cost Mel his freedom. Some have connected his being dumped by the William Morris Endeavor Entertainment agency with the audio-tapes, but this seems incorrect, as his long-time representative, Ed Limato, died on July 3, 2010 and there was residual disdain from his 2006 anti-Jewish remarks. Hollywood heavies Jodie Foster and Leonardo DiCaprio have backed out of future film projects with Mel and several Los Angeles pizzerias have said they would no longer accept orders from him. Also, his subscription to The National Review has reportedly been cancelled. At this point all that’s missing in Mel-ville is a sex-tape scandal, but tomorrow’s another day…
The first audio-tape to be released began with an almost laughable exchange about Okasana’s breasts with Mel insisting she had implants. The conversation got worse from there, with remarks about her seductive style of dressing and an allegation that her skirt was so short that others might be able to see her genitals from behind. And then, in a display of twisted Catholic charity, he spewed: “You’re an embarrassment to me. You look like a f**king pig in heat, and if you get raped by a pack of n****rs, it will be your fault.” That’s (sort of) racist! I don’t believe it should be classified as hate speech, but rather regarded as drunken trash talk. Perhaps The View’s Whoopi Goldberg said it best: "I have had a long friendship with Mel. You can say he's being a bonehead, but I can't sit and say that he's a racist having spent time with him in my house with my kids. I don't like what he's done, make no mistake." Crude, rude, and lewd, but the passion of hate is directed against Okasana and the racial epithet seems ancillary, if not disparate.
Jesse Jackson and Michael Richards, Andrew Breitbart, and Oliver stone.
Celebrity gaffs and boners are nothing new and many stars and public figures have been able to bounce back successfully after a bout of really bad behavior (the late Sen. Ted Kennedy, Eddie Murphy, Hugh Grant, etc.). Others, like the musician Jackson Brown who was once accused of beating up the actress Daryl Hannah or the currently incarcerated O. J. Simpson, can’t seem to shake the Joe Btfsplk-esque dark cloud hovering overhead. Apparently, violent offences are harder to forgive than grammatical blunders.
Four months after Mel’s D.U.I. arrest and paranoid anti-Jewish exaggeration ("F**king Jews... The Jews are responsible for all the wars in the world"), the comedian Michael Richards was filmed while performing a stand-up routine racially insulting African-American members of his audience. Mel issued public apologies for his anti-Jewish mini-rant, was forgiven by the National Director of the Anti-Defamation League, and moved on …without learning his lesson. Michael Richards, after his melt-down and under threat of a civil suit, appeared on the Rev. Jesse Jackson’s syndicated radio show, Keep Hope Alive, and offered several apologies. And then, moving on, he quit show business for a couple of years, and only recently has dared the camera with a guest appearance on the HBO television series, Curb Your Enthusiasm, with fellow ex-Seinfeld cast members. Richards’ choice of Jackson would seem calculated, as the good reverend has had a few anti-Jewish mini-rants of his own to deal with. Now, speaking of sticks and stones…
With the end of the Cheney/Bush era and the election of President Barry, conservative Republicans have reached deep into their bag of tricks in an attempt to once more make fools of American voters. The silliness of Sarah Palin, the psychotic (and sometimes treasonously criminal) “Birther” movement, along with an unprecedented rise in conservative media (e.g. Fox News, The Rush Limbaugh Show, Liberality For All comic books) have all assisted the emergence of the loose-knit “Tea Party” confederacy, the latest club for angry, white Republican males over 45. Though not explicitly racist in mission or rhetoric, the Tea Partiers have passively condoned racist and bias speech at their protests and rallies. And, most predictably, Tea Party supporters have discounted such claims, sometimes sailing so far into denial they’ve sunk to levels of disingenuous libel.
Internet conservative political commentator and innuendo aficionado, Andrew Breitbart, learned his trade from Matt Drudge and Arianna Huffington, but has surpassed both in vapidity and sheer meanness. Earlier this year he posted video on one of his web-sites which he stated disproved any claims that taunts of “n****r” were used at a Tea Party rally at the United States Capitol building and when the video was later discovered to be filmed at least an hour later then when the taunts are said to have occurred, Breitbart responded with charges that the Congressmen in question were lying. He then offered to donate $100,000 to the United Negro College Fund if anyone could produce a video of the taunts. Breitbart apparently enjoyed the attention the inaccurate description of the posted video brought him, because he just did it again.
Motivated by the incident at the Tea Party Capital building rally, as well as examples and allegations of other racist and bias speech by Tea Partiers, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (hereafter NAACP), recently issued a statement of condemnation against the Tea Party confederacy. Breitbart, seizing a chance to better butter his bread, uploaded a video to his website and posted inflammatory comments about a government employee, Shirley Sherrod, who had spoke at an NAACP event in March 2010. The short video clip contained a remark by Sherrod about a white farmer she had difficulty with, which Breitbart represented as an example of racism within the NAACP and the government (specifically, the US Department of Agriculture). Within hours of Breitbart’s posting, Fox News and other media outlets were featuring the story. The repercussions of the negative publicity were immediate and disturbing – the US Department of Agriculture asked for (and got) Sherrod’s resignation and the NAACP issued a statement of apology. The following day a full version of the video was released which placed Sherrod’s remarks in context, Sherrod was offered her job back, the NAACP squeaked an “Oops, our bad…,” and Sherrod got a personal telephone call of apology from President Barry. Fox News maintained they were just doing their job and contextual fact checking is asking too much, while Breitbart continues to smirk and plan his next smear campaign.
A little more than a week ago, during an interview with the London Sunday Times about an upcoming ten-part documentary for Showtime Networks Inc., film director Oliver Stone made several comments about Hitler and Stalin getting historical bum raps because of a perceived Jewish control of the media. As said by the Irish dramatist Brendan Behan, “There’s no such thing as bad publicity (except your own obituary).” Well, Stone has certainly deserved a lot of bad publicity for his Jewish conspiracy position. Raised an Episcopalian and later converting to Buddhism, Stone’s father was Jewish (reportedly originally named Silverman) and his mother was a Roman Catholic from France. Dear me, where have we encountered an anti-Jewish individual before whose father was Jewish? Yeah, the infamous Chicago neo-Nazi, Frank Collin…
Frank Joseph Collin in the early 1970s, Epimenides of Knossos, and Prof. Frederick M. Lawrence.
As has been written about before, once upon a time in the City of Big Shoulders there was a nasty neo-Nazi who wanted to lead his gang of racist punks on a march through the nearby village of Skokie, which had at the time a large population of Holocaust survivors. Skokie officials denied a permit for the march, a lawsuit followed in which the American Civil Liberties Union successfully defended the neo-Nazis' right to march in front of the US Supreme Court. The ACLU subsequently experienced an almost fatal drop in financial contributions, a condition they’ve yet to fully recover from, and the neo-Nazis eventually chickened out and instead of marching in Skokie, went to the Southside of Chicago and intimidated African-Americans, something they’d done many times before. Shortly thereafter, the nasty neo-Nazi gang leader, Frank Joseph Collin, was revealed to have been born of a Jewish father (originally named Cohen), an early internee at the Dachau concentration camp who was released before the evil experiments and executions began, and a Christian mother. The other neo-Nazis threw him out of the gang and later, after he was caught with naked underage boys holding guns, the State of Illinois threw him in jail. Before his arrest, a psychiatrist interviewed Collin and proffered a quickie diagnosis that Collin was filled with “hatred for his father” and the planned Skokie march could have been an “anti-Collin demonstration.” Well, at least Mel Gibson, Jesse Jackson, and Oliver Stone have so far stayed away from naked underage boys holding guns!
Collin spent three years behind bars for the liberties he took with and from the naked underage boys holding guns, completed a journalism correspondence course while incarcerated, was paroled, assumed the pen-name of “Frank Joseph,” and began a career as a New Age-ish author. I’ve written about Collin since 1994 and continue to be surprised at the reaction of some people when they are informed of his past. The majority are instantly aghast, while an odd minority offer variations of “Oh, that was a long time ago,” “He’s a changed man and doesn’t do that stuff anymore,” or “But, Collin's past behavior shouldn’t affect his current writings.” As recently as a month ago, “Frank Joseph” was chosen as the July author-of-the-month for the crackpot Graham Hancock web-site, a lively discussion ensued on one of its online forums, variations of the previous mentioned excuses of past behavior were offered in defense of Collin, and then it was quietly decided there wouldn’t be a July 2010 author-of-the-month. Some forgive, others don’t…
Some things we say don’t make sense, yet we say them anyway. For example, the classic(al) grammatical conundrum “All Cretans are liars,” variously known as the Liar’s or Epimenides Paradox, is a self-referential problem of logic believed to have been introduced by the quasi-legendary philosopher Epimenides of Knossos (fl. 600 BCE) and achieved lasting debate with its inclusion in St. Paul’s Epistle to Titus (1:12-14). It can’t be true and it hurts most people’s head just thinking about it. Yet, in a like manner, I’ve occasionally written “I only hate people who hate.” Was the Cretan lying? Yup, and though it could have been a general perception (read: popular slur) at the time to make such a claim, it’s nigh unto impossible that an entire ethnic group would be committed and cursed with uttering falsehoods. Some, yes; many, maybe; most, unlikely; all, highly improbable. The Cretan making the claim was either misquoted or a tricky liar. Conversely, if I truly hate all people who hate, then I must hate myself as well. Dear me, that doesn’t make sense…
One of our leading experts on hate crime/speech (or, properly, bias crime/speech) is Frederick M. Lawrence, the President-Elect of Brandeis University, former professor of law at Boston University, and current Dean of The George Washington University Law School and Robert Kramer Professor of Law. This column’s epigraph by Saroyan was used by Lawrence in an engaging interpretation of Collin and is, in my opinion, most appropriate for a discussion of racism in general, with attention to attention-whores (Lawrence 1993). [Note: I don’t regard ‘whore’ as profanity, though it could be used inappropriately to excite, incite, and cause distress.] Lawrence has steadfastly distinguished between genuinely anti-whoever crimes and speech and opportunistic crimes and speech. Also, there’s that lofty, yet intellectually weighty, First Amendment clause that protects free speech. Lawrence has challenged our tolerance and morality. Collin, of course, is a textbook example of legal toleration. He’s also an attention whore, crackpot, and successful con-man. Ain’t America great?
We live with and through values, law, science, and the door that hits us in the ass when we leave. Older folks still dwell on Pres. Reagan and his values, a mediocre actor who never stopped being mediocre, and today some regard Reagan’s so-called values as scripture. Our nation formed itself with its own laws and we’re still …growing up. Science? America is a joke, as we’re known as a nation of Creationists, yet even the Catholic Church accepts evolution. We are a stubborn people. And, tossing off, as far as that “door that hits us in the ass” goes, well, we’ve been looked upon as Ugly Americans for some time…
Like Whoopi, I don’t believe Mel Gibson is a racist, just a “bonehead.” Though, honestly, I’d use stronger language if I wasn’t afraid of censorship software. Oh, who am I kidding? China will let this column through, but the Boston Public Library won’t! Anywho, it’s my opinion that there’s big differences between bad grammar, (drunk) trash talk, protected speech, and actually doing something wrong… Words, except when you’re screaming in a theater that there’s an imaginary fire someplace, must be held as unactionable, while deeds should remain punishable. Forgiveness? I’m still angry at McDonald’s for not bringing back the double Big Mac.
For a somewhat related column, see:
July 2009, #272 7-29-09 "Social Spasm."
Looking for my lost temper,