Wednesday, November 22, 2006

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What's the more disturbing video of the week?

Over the past week, there's been a lot of blog chatter about a tazer incident at a UCLA library that was partially captured on video. To quote James Joyner, "I agree that the use of a taser against a skinny student for the crime of being a dumbass would appear to be an excessive application of force."

The video is extremely disturbing for the cries of the tazed student, Mostafa Tabatabainejad. What I found interesting, however, was the way in which every person on that video acted according to type. The security officers acted as brutal thugs who would not have their authority questioned; the students acted as the righteously indignant chorus. Even Tabatabainejad seemed to be playing a role, the belligerent protestor ("here's your f#$%ing Patriot Act!!"). The violence is disturbing, but the characters playing their parts grounds the sequence into familiar tropes. It is, therefore, perhaps less shocking than it should be.

For me, the more discomfiting video was Michael Richards' apology on The Late Show with David Letterman for his racially profane diatribe at an LA comedy club over the weekend. Richards, a comedian, is acting in a non-comedic fashion. The audience, confused about what's going on, begins to laugh at Richards' apology. Jerry Seinfeld, a comedian, tut-tuts the audience for laughing. Richards, who on Seinfeld played a character who seemingly fell ass-backwards into success, has put himself into the exact opposite situation, someone who seems completely mystified about how he wound up in his current predicament.

posted by Dan on 11.22.06 at 08:48 AM


Actually, Dan, I think you'll find this video to be pretty discomfiting.

posted by: Randy Paul on 11.22.06 at 08:48 AM [permalink]

That tazing is kinda hard to watch. How do you taze someone, which is used to incapacitate, as a means to get somebody to stand up? Its just idiotic.

posted by: Mark Buehner on 11.22.06 at 08:48 AM [permalink]

The tasering didn't bother me that much, really. Maybe it should have, but it didn't.

posted by: JH on 11.22.06 at 08:48 AM [permalink]

Richards's apology has been almost universally condemned. The key to a good apology is that it sincerely demonstrate remorse. I saw that in Richards. I feel like everyone else watched something else. Richards behaved, I think, much as I would have: confused, guilty, uncertain about how to make amends, and deeply sorry. I compare his apology to the usual Hollywood ones -- such as one-on-one interviews with Barbara Walters, a la Mel Gibson, or multiple talk-show appearances, like Hugh Grant for the BJ incident -- and find Richards's much more persuasive. The usual Hollywood apologies just look like marketing to me. Do people really see Richards's pittiful demeanor Letterman as an attempt at marketing?

Plus: Holy cow, JH, how could you not find this video shocking? The taser reminds me of that Klingon device, the agonzer, or something like that. It clearly hurts like hell, and all the kid was doing was trying to leave the library non-violently.

posted by: Amitava Mazumdar on 11.22.06 at 08:48 AM [permalink]

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