The voice of rage

Now that the initial furor over Michael Richards’ outburst has faded, I’ve had a bit of time to think about it a little — and Mel Gibson’s idiocy, and similar things. And I have a theory of my own that I’d like to toss out.

Some people say that, especially in Gibson’s case, “in vino veritas” — that these outbursts reveal much about the inner workings of these two men’s minds and show that they had such hateful thoughts and feelings within them, and the incidents merely brought them to the surface.

I’m not sure.

I’m no expert on psychology, but it seems to me that the common element in both is anger. Rage. Fury.

In that state, the most important thing to the inflamed mind: not speaking truth, but lashing out. Hitting. Hurting the target of your fury — or whoever is convenient — as badly as you can. Whether true or not, whether an accurate representation of your true feelings or not, the most important thing is to cause pain and suffering.

In Gibson’s case, there is the added factor of his father’s anti-Semitism. This means that anti-Jewish venom and rhetoric is something with which he’s intimately familiar. So those were probably the words of anger and hate that sprang to his booze-addled mind. His treatment of the female officer — “sugartits” — adds to this theory.

In Richards’ case, he was being antagonized and hassled by two men. The two most noticable things about them, from his perspective, was that they were assholes and black. He can’t tell much else about them — he had no clue who they were, what they did for a living, what their families were like, where they were from, their personal histories, none of the other things that we use when we verbally attack people. All he had to go on was their behavior towards him and their appearance — so that’s what he used. And he was so disconcerted and so blinded by his own fury that he latched on to that one element and tried to use it to strike back at them.

Now, I’m no “Seinfeld” fan. I don’t think I’ve ever seen more than a half a dozen episodes, and they didn’t do much for me. But Richards had a very major role in one of my favorite movies, and I resent his tainting my enjoyment of that film.

But I don’t think that Richards’ behavior really reveals what a lot of people say it did.

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