Dispatches from the Creation Wars

Media Whores Descend on Kramer

I find this whole Michael Richards situation quite ridiculous. What he did was ridiculous enough, of course, and his punishment is that his already flagging career is pretty much toast at this point (though I’m sure he’s already set financially from Seinfeld). But his public image is destroyed and he will, in all likelihood, slide into ever greater obscurity at this point. But predictably, his case has been descended upon by the usual pack of media whores, eager to get their faces in front of the cameras any way they can.

First up is Gloria Allred, who is representing the two men who were the targets of Richards’ racist tirade. And while I fully agree that what Richards said was terrible, I simply don’t believe this is a legal issue at all. Okay, you were offended; deal with it. I’m offended every day in this country. Your life isn’t going to crumble around you because this idiot said horrible things to you. This is nothing but a money grab on the part of the two men and on the part of Allred (which should surprise no one).

And now we also get to watch Richards try and forestall the inevitable by inviting Jesse Jackson to get a little more face time on the news shows; that’s just what we need. Jackson is already all over the cable news shows talking about this long process of atonement that Richards has to go through, all of which will certainly involve as much exposure for Jackson as possible as well as sizable donations to the various organizations that help pay the child support he has to pay for the children he fathered in a long-standing affair.

All of this is reminiscent of the Ted Haggard affair, I think. You have a public figure exposed and outed by his own behavior who now has to go through this long-term ritual of public contrition under the tutelage of morally-challenged ministers (or fake ministers, in Jackson’s case; he dropped out of divinity school but was later given an honorary degree). And all of this is little more than an exercise in public relations, orchestrated by the “crisis management” expert that Richards hired and involving religious leaders who are happy to be involved if it sends a little money and a lot of attention their way. The whole thing is quite absurd.

Comments

  1. #1 Martin Grant
    November 27, 2006

    >or fake ministers,

    Ed,

    What’s a fake minister? Is there a standard for allowing someone to preach or perform religious ceremonies? Do ministers need a degree from an accredited university? Do you consider all ordinations by the ULC (www.ulc.org) to be fake?

  2. #2 Dave
    November 27, 2006

    I think Kenneth Burke called what is going on the pollution/purification/redemption cycle. It feeds on the human tendency to ascribe guilt and then demand ritual redemption in order to “cleanse” the guilty. Nothing new here, politicians and celebrities have been attempting to manipulate this process for as far back as we can imagine…

  3. #3 Ed Brayton
    November 27, 2006

    Martin-

    Yes, I consider all ordinations to the ULC to be fake; so does everyone I know who has sent in their 5 bucks to get one (or whatever the cost is now). And I have the same problem with a reverend dropping out of divinity school and still calling himself a reverend as I would an anthropologist dropping out of college and still calling himself an anthropologist. If you didn’t do the work necessary to earn that credential, you shouldn’t claim to be one.

  4. #4 sam
    November 27, 2006

    Proving even further that poor Mr. Richards is an absolute idiot is the fact that he didn’t immediately blame the booze and disappear into rehab. Hasn’t he learned anything from American history? I bet rehab would have been cheaper than paying Jesse’s baby’s mommas.

  5. #5 kehrsam
    November 27, 2006

    I’m still curious what legal theory Allred has here. Does anyone go to a comedy club and not expect to have insults directed their way?

    This is weird, even assuming that Richards has deep pockets.

    As to the title Reverend, it can be earned in two ways. One as Ed points out, is to get a degree in some facet of religion. The other is to actually pastor a church. I don’t believe Jackson has either on his resume.

  6. #6 Badger3k
    November 27, 2006

    Ed – considering that theological credentials are based upon whatever the institution believes to be true, rather than some universal standard that is true, what is the difference between an online ordination and paying thousands for a degree in whatever-we-want-you-to-believe? An online ordination (usually) makes no claims as to the knowledge or abilities of the practitioner, something that the “official” schools do make, despite the dubious nature of the claim. Perhaps we can distinguish the real ministers as those who preach claims that are factually accurate (of course, then the “real” ministers will be outnumbered).

    Simply calling someone real because they have a superior who says they are ok may work for some denominations and belief systems, but there are far more out there that do not have such a monolithic structure. A priest who graduated from a seminary may know his dogma real well, but they may have the same grasp of reality as a fluffy-bunny wiccan who learned all they know from Llewellyn books. What is the work necessary to earn a credential in Asatru? How about the charismatic christian churches who lack any superiors besides themselves? Is a priest certified by Rev Moon more “real” than one from Liberty University? When I was doing my investigations into different religions and belief systems, I found out it that what was considered “qualified” or “official” was very arbitrary overall, and simply calling (or considering) someone as “real” seems to be more of some sort of respect for the money they paid to a school than any real knowledge they may have. I try to look at what these ministers say rather than what they call themselves, or whether someone else thinks of their qualifications. I’m not sure I made the points I wanted to make, so I’ll have to come back here after work.

  7. #7 Ed Brayton
    November 27, 2006

    Badger3K wrote:

    Ed – considering that theological credentials are based upon whatever the institution believes to be true, rather than some universal standard that is true, what is the difference between an online ordination and paying thousands for a degree in whatever-we-want-you-to-believe?

    And do you suppose that a sociology degree or a philosophy degree is based upon “some universal standard that is true”? No, it’s based upon learning the various and diverging viewpoints in those field; there certainly isn’t any universal agreement in those fields on what is and isn’t true.

    An online ordination (usually) makes no claims as to the knowledge or abilities of the practitioner, something that the “official” schools do make, despite the dubious nature of the claim. Perhaps we can distinguish the real ministers as those who preach claims that are factually accurate (of course, then the “real” ministers will be outnumbered).

    I would regard anyone claiming a credential in any field without having put in serious work in learning the field as being “fake”.

  8. #8 Martin Grant
    November 27, 2006

    Ed,

    I think the point is that ordination is not a credential. It just means you are priest in your religion, authorized to perform religious ceremonies by hierarchy of your particular church.

    -Martin

  9. #9 Martin Grant
    November 27, 2006

    Credential: a certificate, letter, or experience that qualifies somebody to do something

    Ok, it is a credential. What it is not, is a degree. I wouldn’t mistake it one. The only way I would consider someone a fake minister, is if they were claiming to be a minister and were not recognized by their own church.

  10. #10 David N. Scott
    November 27, 2006

    I’ve had two friends get religious-type degrees while I knew them. Regardless of any worldview issues, I know they worked as hard as anybody, especially when they got up to the Masters/Doctorate level.

  11. #11 Ed Brayton
    November 27, 2006

    A divinity degree can, in fact, be a very rigorous academic program. Theology is as serious a subject to study as any other and takes the same commitment to do well.

  12. #12 Grumpy
    November 27, 2006

    You might also have mentioned the loathsome Michael Savage, who held up Kramergate as “what liberalism really is.”
    http://mediamatters.org/items/200611220003

    Rush Limbaugh’s take (though I only heard part of it) is that Michael Richards is a washed-up nobody. Fair enough — though I immediately recalled that former wacky neighbor Art Carney went on to win an Oscar 20 years after winning an Emmy for playing Ed Norton.

  13. #13 Martin Grant
    November 27, 2006

    >A divinity degree can, in fact, be a very rigorous academic program.

    Sure it can. And a church might even require it’s clergy to acquire one. But a divinity degree and being ordained a minister are not the same thing. You can have neither, both, or just one of the two.

  14. #14 Woodrow "asim" Jarvis Hill
    November 28, 2006

    But a divinity degree and being ordained a minister are not the same thing. You can have neither, both, or just one of the two.

    I can speak fairly specifically to Rev. Jackson’s situation; my father and he went to High School together, and my father also styles himself a Rev., at times, without a degree.
    My commentary is specific to the African-American community, more specifically the one(s) that I grew up in (Baptist, Methodist, AME, etc.). I understand poor white communities have a similar tradition, but I know far less about it. Many ministers did, and do have training — MLK being the best-known example, of course — and that is, today certainly, the most accepted way to become a Reverend.
    Yet there’s also a point where, esp. in a community with limited access to formal training, men (and, very rarely, women) could and are “called to the pulpit”, as we say. In demonstrating a powerful sense of the gospel, and also having a strong charisma, one could be styled Reverend, even gaining the Pastorhood of a church, without having gone to any school.

    I’m not saying Jackson deserves the title, per se. I am saying that there’s actual tradition behind non-degreed Reverends in the communities Jackson came from. And that tradition comes not from a lack of interest in learning the gospel, but from a lack of funds and other means to receive that training.
    In the end, Ed, I understand your feelings. Yet I suspect that, if one accepts religion, that, like St. Paul, one might not be “trained”, but yet be called, and be effective.

  15. #15 Badger3k
    November 29, 2006

    I have a few questions, since this thread got me considering many things, but as I have no time now, they’ll wait fopr some future posting. If anybody still reads this, I remembered what Ed is thinking of. IIRC, ULC has some kind of “divinity degree” – maybe a doctorate, didn’t bother to look. To me, this basically is like a creationist diploma mill – fake degrees that are bought rather than earned through actual education, experience, and testing. I agree with Ed on that issue – claiming qualifications you don’t have is wrong. However, as others said, ordination and education can be two completely different things. I wasn’t aware of Jackson claims that he has some kind of degree, though.

    Still, my posting will teach me to use “true” (apparently) instead of “factual and based on evidence” (I said I wasn’t sure I said what I meant).

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