I’ve listened to Don Imus in the past and the pattern never varies: he’s often very listenable, a good interviewer with good guests, and then it happens – he says something that is simply inexcusable. It never fails to happen, and then I find myself changing the station in search of something less depressing.
It’s depressing because it did not have to be that way. Imus was perfectly capable of conducting a good radio and TV show without resorting to the worst kinds of stereotypes that targets women, ethnic minorities, personal enemies (that sometimes include non-celebrities such as his own vendors) and politicians that he has, randomly it would seem, chosen to destroy.
It is inarguable that he targets women; almost every women mentioned is judged by her appearance, and often is criticized over their appearance. The regular cast and crew is overwhelmingly male and the few women who enter the Imus domain must be either thick-skinned or willing to play along in the role of “slut.”
Ethnic minorities do only a little better but are often targeted by Bernard McGuirk, the show’s producer. Produced sketches often feature minority personalities voiced in the most stereotypical manner possible without regard to the way the actual person sounds in real life.
So it was no surprise that Imus and McGuirk picked on the Rutgers University Women’s Basketball Team that made the 2007 NCAA final four, since his aim is so scattershot: he pointlessly called them “nappy headed hoes.”
There is no defense, of course for this remark, and again, it fits in with a long pattern of bigoted and cruel statements in his past.
Why then is his firing not a 100% slam dunk good thing?
First of all, is the waste of the talent of Don Imus: he can be very good at what he does. Secondly, he also has redeeming features in his character such as philanthropy involving charities for children, and the occasional truth seeking in the political realm. These are not small things.
There is also the problem of persons like Al Sharpton who took an active role in the campaign to fire Imus, and who, in the past, contributed to racial division themselves (e.g.: the Tawana Brawley hoax.) Sharpton himself has come a long way over the years, to his credit; should an Imus receive the same slack for lesser misadventures?
There are other problems with this firing that have little to do with Imus himself, however.
With this firing, the standards of what is allowable and what is not allowable has been muddied: how is a person like Michael Savage STILL heard over the airwaves?
According to a Media Matters transcript Savage has said on his show: “But basically, if you're talking about a day like today, Martin Luther King Junior Day, and you're gonna understand what civil rights has become, the con it's become in this country. It's a whole industry; it's a racket. It's a racket that is used to exploit primarily heterosexual, Christian, white males' birthright and steal from them what is their birthright and give it to people who didn't qualify for it.
Take a guess out of whose hide all of these rights are coming. They're not coming out of women's hides. Are they? No, there's only one group that's targeted, and that group are white, heterosexual males. They are the new witches being hunted by the illiberal left using the guise of civil rights and fairness to women and whatnot.
Equality and fairness is a “guise” to rob white heterosexual males of their birthrights, which can only mean “privilege” in the world of Michael Savage. Yes, people like Savage deserve these privileges and others do not. If he is talking about “merit,” please keep in mind that in his spare time, he promotes homeopathy; he has a Ph.D. in “nutritional ethnomedicine” from U.C. Berkeley.
From another Media Matter transcript Savage said, “Only a devastating military blow against the hearts of Islamic terror coupled with an outright ban on Muslim immigration, laws making the dissemination of enemy propaganda illegal, and the uncoupling of the liberal ACLU can save the <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags" />United States. I would also make theconstruction of mosques illegal in America and the speaking of English only in the streets of the United States the law.” (Go to http://mediamatters.org/issues_topics/people/michaelsavage. )
There are over 200 radio stations carrying Michael Savage, and his listenership is considerably more than that of Imus, yet there is no equivalent uproar.
How is it that Imus gets canned when he must be no more than 20th on the list of most bigoted radio hosts, and in fact possesses a number of actual redeeming features?
And speaking of bigotry, how does anyone have the right to criticize Don Imus when the President of the United States can so openly declare without consequence and, in fact, congratulations that he would never nominate a non-believer to the nation’s courts? (Go to http://www.newsmax.com/archives/articles/2002/6/27/144852.shtml .) If anyone thinks that all bigotry will be treated harshly post-Imus, think again!
In the zeal to clean up the airwaves, will criticism of religion, government, society, etc., be stifled in fear of possible retribution? Unfortunately it is still usually ok to be bigoted against gays, Muslims and, of course, atheists.
The firing of Don Imus is almost too random to be useful and edifying; I have no idea what comes next, and I have no idea if it will be better than what came before.