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Image and reality clash: from Christian Adams to Sherrod to Wright and Farrakhan.
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Can you say John Edwards?
Can you say Shirley Sherrod, the Obama-appointed Georgia Director of Rural Development in the United States Department of Agriculture?
Be patient. We’ll come back to Shirley.
When Mel Gibson got caught spewing that alcohol-fueled anti-Semitic rant when arrested for his DUI, it was just the alcohol, said Mel. And Mel’s public, shrugging at the image of ole crazy Martin Riggs, the hyper-active semi-nuts detective who was one of Gibson’s more beloved creations, sort of shrugged and moved on. (A character, coincidentally, doubtless loved in part because of his friendship with Rigg’s black partner Roger Murtaugh, as played by Danny Glover. Who can forget when they teamed up to humiliate those nasty South African racist bullies in Lethal Weapon 2?)
Now, this time, ugly new tapes. More than one. There are ugly words on those tapes, too, delivered in the unmistakable voice. Racist words. Violent words. Threatening words. The Image of Mel is revealed to be something else completely. If not the Total Reality of Mel — and in fairness one can only pray that it is not — what America hears is a troubling something closer to the Actual Reality of Mel. This time, in detail if these tapes are accurate we see an altogether different image from that of the swell and talented guy who is a terrific husband and family man. The Mel his public thought they knew is, it seems, not at all the real Mel.
Now out come the uncomfortable leaks from Hollywood’s “industry sources.” The racist, anti-Semitic fury we are hearing on these tapes — that surfaced in that DUI incident back when. Says someone unnamed but in the know to the New York Post: “I don’t think this (scandal) comes as any great surprise. The tone and the language (on the tapes) — people have heard that before.” Says another: “People close to him knew the true Mel. They knew he was anti-Semitic. He had a reputation on sets for being sexist.”
And right on cue, out from show biz land comes a cogent list of mostly unpublicized past problems. This drinking reputation. That driving violation in another country. This gay slur. That racist remark. More anti-Semitism.
So where does the world such as we know it stand with Mel? Result?
The result is a once pretty good image and a very good career as actor, writer, producer, movie star is — well — on life-support if not flat-lining out from this creative life altogether.
The question? Is the NAACP taking notes?
The NAACP, you see, once had a reputation not unlike Mel Gibson pre-turmoil. Where Mel was presented always as the devoted husband of decades and all-around good-guy father of multiple kids, the NAACP was the well-thought of, brave, insightful and honest seeker of justice for American blacks. Where Mel had the courage of his creative convictions whether it was the commercial tale of William Wallace and Scottish freedom or the wild idea of a realistic presentation of The Passion of the Christ, so too was the NAACP winning decades and decades of plaudits. Head held high under the rawest of racist threats — threats that as often as not were carried out — it withstood the violence and the ugliness with quiet, graceful persistence. It did all of this while never losing a sense of fairness, impartiality and balance, its hand always open with the tolerance it all too frequently did not receive.
And then, somehow, in some fashion, the NAACP began to go Gibson.
Or, to be more precise, a new reality began to crash through the old image. Now the NAACP — which so many Jews and whites had a hand in helping to create — began to reverberate to the tones of the anti-Semite and the racist.
Take the case of Minister of Islam Louis Farrakhan, whose anti-Semitic sentiments might be the only thing he has in common with Mel Gibson. “Hitler was a great man,” said Farrakhan. Jews were “bloodsuckers” said Farrakhan. “The white man is our mortal enemy, and we cannot accept him. I will fight to see that vicious beast go down into the lake of fire prepared for him,” said Farrakhan.
So where does Minister Farrakhan show up to speak and receive a tumultuous reception?
A man of faith in a godless age is hitting Americans where it hurts.
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It won’t take long for conservatives to scratch this presidential wannabe off their 2008 scorecard.
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