Behold, Commerce!

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Pictured above is the first semi-amusing piece of merchandise to come out of Kramergate. While other T-shirts exploiting the scandal make reference to previous scandals ("Michael Richards Doesn't Care About Black People") or tiresome anti-racist punning (Ku Klux Kramer), this shirt gets it right: It refers directly to one of Richards' key lines in his rant against the oppression of black hecklers. "Fifty years ago you'd be hanging upside down with a fork up your ass!" quoth Richards. "If you can read this, please pull the fork out of my ass," quoth this shirt.

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  1. Wow, imagine if he’d said ‘Redneck’ or ‘Hillbilly.’ Oh, wait, absolutely nothing would have happened.

    (Disclaimer: I am NOT advocating more suppression of the freedom of speech by adding to the list of disgruntled social groups; I’m just pointing out the hypocrisy involved.)

  2. Shut up, honky.

  3. As further evidence of Richard’s failure to amuse, just WTF does hanging upside down with a fork up your ass actually relate to/mean? Were slaves eaten for Thanksgiving dinner?

  4. Yeah, Frye…’Hillbilly’ and ‘Redneck’ are just as offensive to white, rural folk as the “N”-word is to African-Americans. That’s kind of a…well, stupid comparison…but one that gets trotted out every now and then as if it was some sort of profound analysis. It isn’t.

    There’s no “hypocrisy involved” here and it’s sophistry to suggest there is.

    But even if those terms did have the same conotation, would that make saying them right? (Then answer is, “NO”).

  5. BTW…my fav was “No Soup for KKKRamer!”

  6. The only thing this shirt makes me think is that there are a lot of people out there who really have too much time on their hands. That actually goes for Richards, too.

  7. Karen, we live in America – a country with a fairly and relatively healthy economy, massive personal freedoms, numerous individual liberties and a welfare state that(so far) is not crippling our productivity.

    Point is, there are people with too much time on their hands. Which sometimes leads them to post on blogs.

  8. I have thought about this and decided, “who cares”. Sure some words are really, really offensive to some people. But, so what? You would think he stabbed someone to death the way they go on and on about it. At least using “offensive” words isn’t a crime…..yet. And when they are which will go first the N-word or the C-word?

  9. Overit
    At least using “offensive” words isn’t a crime…..yet.

    I watched the CNN clip where they interviewed Paul Rodriguez who was appearing at the Laugh Factory the same night as Michael Richards. During the interview he said that there are limits to freedom of speech. I was absolutely stunned, who would pay good money to go see Paul Rodriguez?

  10. …there are limits to freedom of speech.

    Well…there are, Overit. Consider the Dixie Chicks dustup a few years back. All the erstwhile Dixie Chick fans and the d.j.s made a big show of how (and I’m gonna paraphrase, here), ‘sure they have the freedom to say what they want…but I dont have to pay for it or listen to it.’

    Same holds true here. Rightly or wrongly, Richards using that word is a social taboo for a large majority of people in this country. It says something to them about the type of person he is. That perception may be innacurate but that’s the nature of the market.

  11. The story is boring and I think Richards was just too fucked up to be on stage.

    That said, one is not Constitutionally protected when they shout “fire!” in a crowded theater, nor when their words pose an imminent threat of danger, like inciting a crowd to riot.
    It is not beyond the realm of possibility that shouting a word so drenched with a history of violence and division could be understood as to pose an imminent threat of violence to the members of that audience.

    These facts pose a classic libertarian conundrum in the free speech arena, so long you can imagine that a judge would view Richards’ words as posing an imminent threat of violence. (None of us may be able to name a judge who would by name…but we all know that a few hundred exist.)

  12. Even if you’re legally free to say something doesn’t mean you’re morally free to do it. Not all morality has to be or even should be reflected in the law.

  13. There is not a single word in the English or any other dictionary that could offend me to the degree that black Americans still, after all these years, go ballistic when they hear a white guy say “nigger.” How can anyone with any self esteem fall into the racist trap of identifying with an ethnic group at the expense of his own identity? It’s a bizarre, self-destructive example of tribalism. American blacks need to get over it, already, and discover the word “I”.

  14. Sure, I’m fine with people not paying to see or hear things they find offensive and allowing the market to work. But how long before we head down the road to make words illegal? So offensive words can be bandied about on stage between hip hop artists but not by lame stand up comics because they might incite a riot? When we pass these laws on “offensive” words will these laws only apply to certain people or groups? Will all men be banned from saying the C-word to women but will remain in the word arsenal of women themselves? I think the comparison of yelling fire when there is no fire is an extraneus point of comparison. It’s simply not the same and frankly I’m pretty much over people constantly trying to go through that door to stop people from saying things they find offensive.

  15. Yes, ed, the problem here is that overly-sensitive black people should just not mind when white people shout “nigger” at them.

    That’s exactly the problem.

    Why don’t you go tell them about their tribalism? And have somebody tape it for me, ok?

  16. Richards should be condemned not for what he said but because it was painfully unfunny. He clearly flipped out and his coke-addled mind couldn’t turn it into something humorous to save he life. I say he gets what he deserves.

  17. At least using “offensive” words isn’t a crime…..yet.

    Sure it is. Hostile work environment doctrine and hate crimes statutes both criminalize using offensive words in certain contexts.

  18. RC,

    1 out of 2.

    There is no “hate crime statute” anywhere in America that criminalized words. Hate crime statutes criminalize violent and property crimes.

  19. Actually, hate crime laws punish “regular” crimes more severely when such crimes are accompanied by offensive words. So yes, you could say that the words are in a sense criminalized.

  20. Why don’t you go tell them about their tribalism? And have somebody tape it for me, ok?

    I love it!

  21. Why don’t you go tell them about their tribalism? And have somebody tape it for me, ok?

    I imagine it would resemble the many peaceful responses to offensive religous cartoons.

  22. Actually, hate crime laws punish “regular” crimes more severely when such crimes are accompanied by offensive words. So yes, you could say that the words are in a sense criminalized.

    By that logic, thoughts are criminalized as well. Murder is more severe with premeditation. Premeditation is planning it in advance. Therefore, punishing premeditated murder more than crimes of passion means that thoughts are punished.

  23. The shirt company is not the only one seeing a business opportunity:

    Los Angeles, CA: Actor Mel Gibson, former Seinfeld star Michael Richards and retired football pro O.J. Simpson announced today that they are forming a new studio to be called G.R.O.S. Productions. According to the founders, this studio will focus on topics deemed too controversial or risqu? by other mainstream studios.

    They stated that the studio’s first production will be a remake of the acclaimed 1915 classic Birth of a Nation, followed by an animated feature based on The Turner Diaries. Simpson is going to be starring in a remake of the 1975 movie Snuff. Gibson also expressed interest in directing an adaptation of the novel Mein Kampf…

  24. “Why don’t you go tell them about their tribalism? And have somebody tape it for me, ok?”

    Why, because the response is expected to be violent? That’s sad.

  25. So, a bunch of people (around 20 as reported), pile into the Laugh Factory and bother Michael Richards during his set. He responds with an insane, unfunny racist rant. (Unlike Chris Rock who does insane, funny racist rants.)

    So, just like with the Dixie Chicks remarks, Tom Cruise’s lunacy, etc., celebrities who alienate the audience pay a price. It’s the free market, baby, and it works.

  26. ” By that logic, thoughts are criminalized as well. Murder is more severe with premeditation. Premeditation is planning it in advance. Therefore, punishing premeditated murder more than crimes of passion means that thoughts are punished.”
    No logic there, friend. Premeditation requires actions to murder, preceeding the murder. You “set it up” in advance. A “crime of passion” supposedly happens at the spur of the moment, like coming home to find your spouse banging the milk person. Capisce?
    This is far different that “hate speech” dictums found on college campi & “progressive” type communities.
    Premeditation for murder or mayhem changes the circumstance around such murder. “Hate speech” is dimwit Statism. Thicker skin or a right hook fixes that….

  27. Ed, I am a white individualist and I am offended by that word.

  28. punishing premeditated murder more than crimes of passion means that thoughts are punished.

    I don’t buy it Mo. IANAL, but aren’t prosecutions for premeditaed murder based on evidence supporting actions that demonstrate premeditation? Therefore it is the act of planning and preparing for the crime that is punished.

  29. MUTT beat me to it.

  30. MUTT,

    “Premeditation for murder or mayhem changes the circumstance around such murder.”

    What circumstances? Aren’t you talking about thoughts and feelings (motives and intents), just like the hate crimes statutes?

    Zoidburg,

    OK, what about the difference between attempted murder and A&B w/ a deadly weapon. You hit the same guy over the head with the same two by four, and the difference between doing 5 years and doing 25 can be what you said to the victim, or to somebody else, before you started swinging.

  31. What if I were to walk up to a black person and say “What’s up n-word”? I mean really say n-word not nigger. Could I get away with it? (I’m a white guy) I’m betting that saying n-word this way would get me in the same trouble as saying nigger. Maybe I could go for “ger”? If you let words bother you then any word will do.

  32. You know…all the preachin’ and frettin’ and bitchin’ ain’t gonna change one little fact…From the venue owner down to the ticket buyer, if the majority a paying people in a free society decide they’re not gonna pay to see you perform, you’re through.

  33. ” What circumstances? Aren’t you talking about thoughts and feelings (motives and intents), just like the hate crimes statutes?”
    No, Im talking about , say, pocketing a revolver (civilized enough act-more should do so) WITH THE INTENT of laying in wait for , say
    the Flying Monkey In Chief, or your nieghbor, or your wife. And killing them.
    Or, say, climbing thru “x’s window, with the INTENTION of knifing him in his sleep. Or, say, bringing Mary Worth a lovely pumpkin pie, laced with ricin, with the intent of doing away with the meddlesome old biddy. Surely you see the difference between that, and busting a bottle over a guys head because he grossly offended & grabbed the tits of your wife?
    One is unpremeditated: you did not go out with the intention of killing X. He insulted and assaulted the love of your life. Poisoning Mary, or laying in wait at the local loon church with a baby seal club to put the Flying Monkey in Chief out of our misery, however both may deserve it, is pre meditated. Capisce??
    Let me guess: you went to college…….

  34. I am a white individualist and I am offended by that word.

    Get over it, John, Joe, et al.
    It’s only a word.
    Sticks and stones, etc. etc.
    Grow up.

  35. I see where the “hecklers” are now SUING Michael Richards (Gloria Allred is behind it – figures). Let’s make something clear: Richards’ rant was inexcusable, but the hecklers were hardly the innocent victims they’re made out to be. They’re HECKLERS! By all rights, they should have been tossed out the minute they started acting up.
    Again, not that two wrongs make a right, but let’s face it: hecklers are assholes.

  36. I do see the distinction, MUTT; as you say, it is one of “INTENTION.”

    Just as the difference between laying in wait to commit a murder and “busting a bottle over a guys head because he grossly offended & grabbed the tits of your wife” is one of intention – of the thoughts and feelings of the criminal – so is the difference between a hate crime and a different sort of violent crime one of intention.

    Not only did I go to college, but I also went to grad school.

  37. Kramer was funny on Seinfeld, you have to admit that. I have never seen him do standup, so I can’t comment on the quality of his humor there.

    I agree with the free market comments here. The jury is still out on whether Richards can still attract a paying crowd, although he might not get the chance as he seems to be banned by the clubs.

    Personally, I would not pay to watch his act as I am way too niggardly. Sorry, I could not resist.

    Full disclosure, I do not work for the city of Baltimore, nor am I a bleeding heart liberal Democrat.

  38. The “crime” of hate speech requires the sanction of the victim to be effective. Remove the sanction — the insistence of being offended by speech you don’t like — and the speech in question becomes impotent; nigger becomes just another word spoken by just another yahoo. It’s the continued insistence of Official Black America at taking bigoted speech personally that has given bigots and racists a power they couldn’t have otherwise. Ignore them, and they will wither on the vine. Satirize them and you speed up the process. Bringing a lawsuit is exactly the wrong approach. Freedom of speech is the antidote, not the poison.

  39. You don’t have a right to ‘shout fire’ in a crowded theater just as you don’t have a right to walk into someone’s home and start lighting your farts. It’s an issue of property and contract. The audience members paid to see a show. If another audience members disturbs the show, then they are in violation of the contract and should be thrown out. Why are hecklers even tolerated?

    Richards’ words were offensive but given the amount of profanity and racial epithets that have historically been slung out by professional comedians on stage I don’t see that what he did is necessarily ‘riot inducing.’ It’s a little further off the edge but still on the edge.

    Also, the problem with comparing a ‘pre-meditated’ crime to a ‘hate crime’ is that the latter might not involve any planning whatsoever or any sort of intent to follow-up one’s hate with action. Many of us ‘hate’ a particular person or persons. Some even a group here or there. But the vast majority of us do not act on this hate. Some guy frothing at the mouth on stage or in an alley for that matter, is just frothing. We have no idea what he might do in the future. If anything, his frothing will act as a release to his emotions and he’ll be done with it. Or the social embarrassment could cause him to completely modify his social frothing.

    Lastly, oh, I am so tired of cases where some nutty celebrity goes off on a rant and then suddenly we’re told by professional loudmouths that ‘we’re all racists.’ Or that this is symptomatic of a national crisis. Psshaw, it’s one raving lunatic having a wank on stage and then a different wank apologizing for the first wank.

  40. ed,

    Individuals pretending not the find it offensive when white people shout “nigger” at black people are not going to cause that word to stop being offensive. Culture doesn’t work like that.

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