There is no excuse, no rational, no words that can justify Michael Richard’s (AKA Kramer on the Hit NBC series Seinfeld) ignorant and bigoted rant aimed at two hecklers from his Laugh Factory show on November 17th. I won’t waste time reposting his shuddersome remarks here; you can actually SEE his rabid attack on TZM.com, Googlevideo, and of course, the on-line revolutionary video-blog site: Youtube.com.
If you haven’t seen or heard about this story, you must be living on mars.
Further crucifying the 57 year old actor here is pointless – he’s simply an outted-racist whose career is now further spiraling into nonexistence. He’s Done. Caput. The proof being in a 3 minute video that blazed throughout the digital world within hours of his hate-filled vitriol and will remain there, accessible to all, until the end of time. This is the new reality of digital media.
TZM.com notes that the video has been downloaded close to 3 million times (from their site alone) since posted, forcing major news networks like CNN and BBC to pick up the story. Networks, news sites and even the Brazilian News sources here have sunk their talons into this story like a falcon would into the flesh of its prey. It was an international media event probably before Richards awoke the following day.
The actor/stand up comedian did of course later apologize on the Late Night Show with David Letterman under the crafty tutelage of former colleague Jerry Seinfeld – who (nudge nudge wink wink) is just about to release a DVD anniversary edition of the syndicated hit series for the "BUY BIG" holiday season. The pathetic attempt at an apology, which can also be viewed anywhere on-line, did little if anything to ameliorate his berserk outbreak. Why? Because we were able to “bear witness to ignorance” first hand; and those images are now permanently burned into the retina of the public eye.
Words in print do have power; however reading that someone was verbally abusive is not as potent as actually seeing and hearing for one’s self. This is at the base of the Quaker philosophy of “bearing witness”. Once you personally see something wrong, you are then empowered and obliged to do something about it.
Given the immediacy and accessibility of the digital world we were all able to see (up front and personal) Richards' racism, and by doing so, we are now obligated to react. In the case of Michael Richards, this will probably come in the form of a boycott. No one will hire him, and no one will dare pay and see him again. His career is over. How can anyone, ever again, be able to look at that adorably dim-witted and eccentric character “Kramer”, and not think “wow, what an ignorant racist SOB”.
Many in the blog communities are making the comparison with Richard’s to Mel Gibson’s drunken anti-Semitic tirade aimed at local police officers while incarcerated for driving pissed months back. Although the Gibson story also sent shock waves around the world, Mel was able to some extent distant himself from his repugnant remarks by blaming alcoholism for the hate filled harangue. As image consultants compare the two events and offer advice to Richards as in how to SPIN his flub and control the damage, what few are considering here is that Mel’s meltdown wasn’t caught on tape.
Would Mel have had his legions of supporters and colleagues pine in on his behalf had they actually seen the drunken actor frothing at the mouth spouting anti-Semitic abuse? Would his public be as willing as they are to give him the benefit of the doubt had his abuse been caught on tape and flooded the net, like has happened Michael Richards?
I think not.