Friday, April 13, 2007

Thanks a lot, Don.

Imus should apologize for causing Governor Corzine's car accident

Things are just swell in Imusville these days. A career ruined, a community who wants him dead and now he's partly responsible for the severe injuries suffered by New Jersey Governor John Corzine. Corzine was in a motorcade on his way to moderate the discussion between Imus and the Rutgers Women's Basketball team when the car he was travelling in was sideswiped by a truck. Corzine suffered multiple injuries and should fully recover, but the bigger issue is just what Don Imus has left in his bag of tricks. Is there no end to your scorn, Don?

First, I should point out that if you want a well-written piece on the subject, (as opposed to what I'm about to put forth) read Jason Whitlock's column today. It's about as honest and real a discussion as there is on the subject. Let me be perfectly blunt about this situation (and I'm sorry about getting all serious in this space), the fact that Imus lost his radio show for these comments is absurd. The fact that someone who is paid to express their opinion and push the boundaries of free speech loses his job for crossing that line makes no sense to me. But, at the same time, the fact that he was canned by both MSNBC and CBS was 100% the right move. Once the sponsors left, Moonves had no choice. Moonves is no idiot (he's a fellow Bucknell grad, so he has to be bright). So don't let his his bullshit line about a moral decision based on numerous conversations he's had with concerned groups fool you. Those "concerned groups" were American Express and Pfizer, not the Rainbow Coalition and the NAACP. Imus has made that company millions. As soon as his schtick lost them money, he's gone. And that was what was going to happen. But let's get to the meat of the issue here. Because it really bothers me.

I do not feel sorry for Imus at all. He's a smug, self-righteous prick who--as this week has shown--did not exactly ingratiate himself with his talk show brethren. So don't let what I'm about to say confuse you. I'm not an Imus fan. I'm also not a fan of ignorant and insensitive speech. I'm just less of a fan of what is tantamount to gorilla censorship by a consortium of people who claim to be about personal rights and liberties but instead are ever more obviously concerned with personal aggrandizement. Imus hosted a comedy show in the same way Howard Stern does and Opie & Anthony do and so on and so forth. He has for YEARS said offensive stuff about minorities, homosexuals, women (women especially) and pretty much any other group that finds itself the butt of jokes. His remark about the Rutgers women was ridiculous, inappropriate, insensitive and BORDERLINE racist. It was at the very least suggestive of racial stereotypes. He was wrong to say it and he admitted he was wrong. Now what's funny to me is that it has been suggested that had he instead said, "that Rutgers basketball team looked like thugs" or "they've got the braids and tattoos and look so tough they could probably beat the crap out of me" or something to that effect, that would be ok. Aren't those statements, without using the inappropriate language, suggestive of the same stereotypes but just a little more subtle? Certainly not as offensive, but when you break it down, wouldn't he be saying the same thing? And if the problem is--as has been suggested by the self-appointed voice of black people, Al Sharpton--that the tenor of Imus's statements was more wrong than the actual words he chose to use, why is one ok and the other not? My favorite part about this is that the media--and even Sharpton!--are praising these women for being classy and eloquent and forthright in their response to Imus's comments. What did you expect from them? Did you think Imus was right and these women required our protection because they couldn't adequately defend themselves? By praising them for their classy response, aren't you then suggesting that a typical response from african-american women put in this position would be shaking their finger while they're talking, wiggling their necks and shouting "uh uh! NO you ditn't!" It's like Chris Rock's bit about the praise Colin Powell received for his eloquence ("he speaks so well. He speaks so well! OF COURSE HE SPEAKS WELL, HE'S AN EDUCATED MAN!"). These women have dealt with this situation well because they are bright. They are in college and represent a level of academic achievement matched by less than 40% of the U.S. population. Praising them for being classy only reinforces the stereotype that you expected them not to be classy. It's fricking embarrassing. In fact, I would argue that the line between what Imus said and what people are saying about how these women are handling the situation is very dim, almost as dim as the people saying it.

Lastly, if you're going to direct your scorn at anyone in this situation it should be first directed at Imus, secondly at the sponsors of Imus's show and thirdly at Al Sharpton and the selective political correctness cabal. Les Moonves made a business decision after the sponsors cut bait. Was he going to stick by Imus out of loyalty and lose money? No f'n way. They didn't teach us that in Business Management 101 at Ol' BU. Imus's firing had nothing to do with the content of his statements. Had the statements been so inflammatory, he would have been canned immediately. Getting rid of Imus wasn't cowardly (as was suggested by the esteemed arbiter of social consciousness, Michael Kay). The cowards (if you want to call them that) are the sponsors for being bullied into pulling their spots. If the sponsors made their decisions based on serious moral misgivings, so be it. I can't fault them for that. But they didn't. It was a P.R. stunt and they were bullied into it by people who talk with forked tongues. If anyone should be aware of the dangers inherent to using insensitive language regarding racial issues, it should be Al Sharpton (do Tawana Bradley or the phrase "white interloper" ring a bell, Alfred?). Al Sharpton fights for social justice, equality and for a better understanding of racial issues. Those are worthy goals. In fact, they may be the most serious and dangerous issues facing the nation today. But tearing down people's liberties and constitutional freedoms by means of gorilla tactics in order to achieve those goals is absurd. Al Sharpton has every right to rake Imus over the coals and bring him on his show and embarrass him and whatever. He has no right to say that Imus can't say what he said. Imus can say whatever the F he wants. If you don't like it, don't listen. If his employer feels it's inappropriate and sponsors are pulling their support, he'll get what he deserves. But what Sharpton resorted to was irresponsible. And in fact, if he had thought it through, Sharpton would have been much better served to let Imus go through this public humiliation and come back two weeks later with his tail between his legs. Imus would be the symbol of insensitivity and you could let public opinion determine his fate. If he got canned after that, Sharpton's point would have been proven without him actually having to wave his magical wand of racial mob justice. Instead, we're now faced with the prospect of stricter boundaries on speech, less debate and the inability to take your grandfather out to dinner anymore for fear his inappropriate remarks will stir up the ire of Sharpton and he'll be forced out of his retirement home. If it's social justice you want Al, shouldn't you be in favor of increased debate and opposed to more censorship? Make no mistake, this story WAS about Imus and now IS about Al Sharpton. And that's just the way that arrogant prick wanted it.

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