Moral: Those who get drunk say stupid things

As you may have read, actor Mel Gibson was allegedly pulled over Thursday driving drunk, and is alleged to have made comments to the police that appeared in an initial police report, then were removed in a later one.

Let’s go over some of the facts first, as not every news story I have read seems to do so.  Of course, the final police report hasn’t been released yet, and all the facts aren’t known.

What did Mel Gibson say?

TMZ has the alleged initial police report.  Here’s an excerpt:

S/Gibson almost continually threatened me saying he owned Malibu…S/Gibson blurted out a barrage of anti-Semitic remarks about “Fucking Jews”.  S/Gibson yelled out, “The Jews are responsible for all of the wars in the world.”  S/Gibson then asked, “Are you a Jew?”

(I’m not overly familiar with police reports, but my assumption is the S stands for Subject.)
The San Francisco Chronicle has his complete apology,

“After drinking alcohol on Thursday night, I did a number of things that were very wrong and for which I am ashamed,” Gibson said in a statement. “I drove a car when I should not have, and was stopped by the LA County Sheriffs. The arresting officer was just doing his job and I feel fortunate that I was apprehended before I caused injury to any other person. I acted like a person completely out of control when I was arrested, and said things that I do not believe to be true and which are despicable. I am deeply ashamed of everything I said. Also, I take this opportunity to apologize to the deputies involved for my belligerent behavior. They have always been there for me in my community and indeed probably saved me from myself. I disgraced myself and my family with my behavior and for that I am truly sorry. I have battled with the disease of alcoholism for all of my adult life and profoundly regret my horrific relapse. I apologize for any behavior unbecoming of me in my inebriated state and have already taken necessary steps to ensure my return to health.”

What did Abraham Foxman from the ADL say?

The Scotsman claims:

Calling for a criminal investigation into the Oscar-winning actor and director’s remarks, Abraham Foxman, the national director of the US Jewish Anti-Defamation League, said: “We believe there should be consequences to bigots and bigotry.”

A look at the ADL press release shows that no suggestion of a criminal investigation was made. Foxman and the ADL have said stupid things in the past, they are fairly extreme, but I don’t think anything quite as stupid as suggesting hate speech is the same as a hate crime.
What do I think? 
Oy.  Where to begin?  Let’s go back in time 10 years.
In 1995 Michael Jackson released his album HIStory.  In April 1996 the single from the album, “They Don’t Care About Us” was released.  (dates according to wiki).  It contained the lyrics “Jew me, sue me.” and “Kick me, Kike me.”  After complaints, he agreed to change the lyrics to the less offensive “Do me, sue me,” and “Kick me, hike me.”  The ADL was grateful, with Foxman saying,

“We are pleased that Michael Jackson will be re-recording, They Don’t Care About Us, and removing the anti-Jewish lyrics from his hit album HIStory. We have always believed that Mr. Jackson never intentionally meant to be offensive, yet the anti-Semitic words cut deeply.”

Let’s be completely clear.  Michael Jackson was 100% sober when he recorded the original lyrics.  An apology and an agreement to re-record with different lyrics was sufficient for Foxman to say that he believed Jackson never meant to be offensive. Gibson was extremely drunk, has apologized, and Foxman is sure Gibson was revealing his true self.

Other press releases in their archives show they were quick to accept apologies from Ted Turner, Barry Bonds, and Rev. Billy Graham.  Upon the release of some Nixon tapes, he was referred to as, “a great man, flawed.”  And when anti-Semitic comments were found in Truman’s diaries, he was referred to as “a man of the times.”

What’s different with Mel?  My guess is it may have something to do with The Passion.
I am in the strange position of thinking that the ADL was extremely generous with Jackson and some of the others above, but are holding an unfair grudge against Mel.

It is generally considered true that alcohol removes inhibitions, but I’m not inclined to accept as fact that the things one says while drunk are the ‘true’ inner-self.  I know that in my day-to-day life I will have waves of irrational thought. In 1993, I first started going to the open mic at the Wabash Triangle Cafe. The Wabash was located where The Pageant is now, and that section of Delmar was a little more run-down than it is now.  The first few nights I was scared walking to my car at midnight when the open mic was over.  Rationally, I knew there wasn’t much to be afraid of.  I wasn’t the only one exiting the building.  The parking lot was well lit.  But I had grown up a sheltered suburban childhood, and I am sure some would say my fear had racist underpinnings.  And I won’t argue with that.  But the point is that my brain wasn’t racist, and overpowered the fear, and I kept coming back.

Alcohol does more than lower inhibitions, it stops the rational part of the brain from functioning.  I believe there is a psychological argument that what one says while drunk isn’t necessarily a good indication of what one truly believes.  And when Gibson says in his apology that he doesn’t believe the things he said, and finds them despicable, I am willing to believe him.

I am certainly more willing to believe him, than I am to believe any of the apologies Michael Jackson has given over the years for the things he has said while in complete control of his mouth.

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