It’s For the Children... Posted by: Dale Franks
on Thursday, April 12, 2007
...Except for when it isn't. But, I'll get to that in a minute.
So, Don Imus, after a 40-year broadcast career, is now off the air, because of a single bad one-liner, insensitive as it might've been. What do we learn from this episode?
The number one lesson, I think, is in a situation where it's a humorous quip that's gotten you into trouble, never apologize. (Obviously, remarks made with animus will, and should, carry a heavy career penalty.) As far as I can tell, an apology is nothing more than a pointless gesture. As soon as you apologize, you've admitted to wrongdoing. All that does is concede that your critics are right, and put the smell of blood in the water. If you're going to apologize, you might as well resign right then and there, because the sharks will start circling even more aggressively. Apologizing isn't going to save you. It just tells everyone that you agree with your critics.
Instead: Attack! Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson aren't, after all, as pure as the driven snow themselves. If I had been Imus, the first thing I would've done is to try and get former Brooklyn DA Steven Pagones on the air. Failing that, I would still ruthlessly go after Al Sharpton by regaling the audience with the gory details of the Tawana Brawley hoax. I would explain, in careful detail, Al Sharpton's lies that Mr. Pagones was Tawana Brawley's rapist. At some point, Mr. Sharpton's statements in regards to Asian grocers or...ahem..."diamond merchants" would've been dropped in as well. Also, since the state DA's office has dropped all charges against the Duke Lacrosse players, I would delve deeply into Jesse Jackson's sordid shakedown schemes on businesses. And, of course, a resurrection of "Hymietown" would no doubt raise it's ugly head. In both cases, I would've highlighted these gentlemen's explicit pursuit of race-based, rather than justice-based outcomes, and openly laughed at the idea that they had any claim to moral superiority on any matter whatsoever.
Inerestingly, Niger Innis, the head of the Congress of Racial Equality, speaking on MSNBC, appears to agree:
"It has also empowered Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton to be the arbiters of political correctness, which I find to be disgusting and I find ironic and hypocritical."
The second lesson is about corporate America. As stylish as it is for some to proclaim that corporations run everything, and they are the hidden font of power in America, the fact is that corporations are, when it comes to the public, abject cowards. All it takes is for Messrs. Sharpton or Jackson to make threatening mouth noises, and corporations will bail out on controversy within hours. And this, I think, is also something that corporate ownership of media should make us think about. In the past twenty years, broadcasting has changed from a large number of small media companies owning radio or television stations in each city, to a very small number of large media corporations owning a majority of broadcast outlets. This contributes to a deadening sameness in broadcasting all over the country, as corporations shy away from anything remotely controversial, especially as regard to race. Every time something like the Imus deal happens, the word goes forth all across the country, to television and radio stations alike, to enforce ever greater controls of deadening conformity.
In the aftermath of this, you can begin to expect your morning talk radio to become increasingly bland. By the time this is over, morning radio will go back to the hack, 80s-radio "morning zoos", complete with whacky sound effects, and it'll be completely unlistenable. I'm glad I have Sirius in the truck and XM everywhere else.
Third, the double standard is now explicit. Your freedom of speech now depends entirely upon what race you are. So Dave Chappelle can make $50 million doing racially charged humor, but no white person can. As Snoop Dogg so eloquently put it today:
"It's a completely different scenario," said Snoop, barking over the phone from a hotel room in L.A. "[Rappers] are not talking about no collegiate basketball girls who have made it to the next level in education and sports. We're talking about ho's that's in the 'hood that ain't doing sh**, that's trying to get a n***a for his money. These are two separate things. First of all, we ain't no old-ass white men that sit up on MSNBC [which announced Wednesday it would drop its simulcast of Imus' radio show] going hard on black girls. We are rappers that have these songs coming from our minds and our souls that are relevant to what we feel. I will not let them mutha****as say we in the same league as him."
Charmingly, Mr. Dogg is making these comments the very same week he has pled "No Contest" to felony firearms and drug violations. Oddly, however, his commercial endorsement deals seem to be in no trouble, so we can look forward to seeing more of him in Chrysler and Orbit gum commercials.
I'm curious about something. Whose actions have a greater impact on, and serve as a stronger role model for, the black community: Don Imus, or Snoop Dogg? I merely ask for my own information.
In any event, I reject utterly the contention that your allowable speech is gauged by the amount of melanin in your skin. The difference between me and Mr. Dogg—if that is indeed his name—is that I don't want to stop Mr. Dogg from making his albums, or to censor his content, any more than I wish to censor Mr. Imus'. And yet, the same people who are always telling us that the cure for bad speech is more speech, always seem to be the same people who are keen to impose speech codes on campus, or to take away the livelihoods of people whose speech they don't like.
Funny how that works.
Fourth, let's not pretend that the handling of the Imus incident will do anything to improve race relations in this country. Quite the reverse. All it does is make it clear to white people that they must control themselves at all times, while black people exempt themselves from any similar responsibility. The subtle undertone it provokes is that black people are simply too sensitive to be treated as anything other than intemperate children, who must be coddled at all times so as to prevent them from ever hearing anything that might distress them.
I have no doubt that this is absolutely untrue for the majority of the black community. Yet, it is apparently true for a vocal minority, and it is that minority, unfortunately, that the American public sees on television, or hears on the radio, and which influences the American public's perception of the community as a whole.
We should think very seriously about what a change in perception the reaction to the Imus comment provokes. Fifty years ago, black people seem to have been made of sterner stuff. They walked willingly towards arrest, police batons, fire hoses, and German shepherds, to regain their civil rights. Today, it seems, some blacks are unable to withstand even bad jokes. Although they still reserve for themselves the right to make them, of course.
Fifth, I would point out to Mr. Dogg and his ilk that, by failing to defend Mr. Imus' right to free speech, they endanger their own. After all, if you want the FCC to regulate race-based speech, as Mr. Sharpton suggested, then you will find that your own speech will also be circumscribed. Failing to treat this as a free speech issue, is remarkably short-sighted, and will be looked back on with regret when it's their ox that's being gored. Indeed, the rumblings have already started. CORE's chief, Niger Innis, again:
"The hypocrisy of these media empires that are full partners in the grossest industry, the hip-hop industry, that pumps out the most vicious stereotypes of African-Americans, the hypocrisy is just gross," Innis told CNN's Zahn. "And they're going to — they're going to slap Don Imus on the hand because they're so offended?"
Make your albums while you still can, Snoop.
Pulling the FCC into this is a bad move. Quite apart from anything else, I don't want the FCC to have control of content anyway. Once you've agreed, in principle, that the FCC can control some content, you've agreed, in principle, to allow the FCC to control all content. The FCC's job should be limited to regulating the usage of the broadcast spectrum itself, not getting involved in determining what the government decides is OK for the citizenry to hear.
Sixth, the response of the Rutgers womens' basketball team members has been instructive. During their press conference, one of the players said something to the effect that the I-Man's comments stripped them of their accomplishments. Personally, I think they were stripped of their accomplishments when they got stomped like a narc at a biker rally by Tennessee's Lady Vols squad. But the proper response to Mr. Imus' comments is, "Go screw, Don,", not "Mr. Imus has wounded my self-esteem!"
The latter response, though, points to something that Michael Barone wrote about a couple of years ago in his book, Hard America, Soft America: Competition vs. Coddling and the Battle for the Nation's Future. Barone describes the educational system as Soft America: a place where competition is frowned upon, and the biggest goal is the student's self-esteem. The Rutgers women have spent all their life in Soft America, where everything is fair, and where Bad Things are forbidden, so that any contact with the hurtful or the insensitive is minimized.
Well, enjoy it while you can, ladies. Out here in Hard America, where the rest of us live, where competition is real and where there are no administrators to enforce fairness, snide comments by an aging disc jockey are the least of our problems. If you think Imus was insensitive and hurtful, wait until you get a job, and have to deal with bosses, co-workers, and customers, none of whom give flip about your feelings or self-esteem. It may not seem like it now, but in the near future, Don Imus' comments will be the least important thing in your lives.
We do young people no favors by raising them in such a way as to believe that the real world in which they will live and work is different than it actually is. Rather than shielding from it, we should be preparing them for it, and teaching them the skills they need to master it. Instead, they are simply tossed into the shark pool upon graduation with no preparation.
Finally, let's talk about the children. This week—starting today, in fact—is the 18th annual Imus radiothon to raise money for Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, and to help support the Imus Ranch, which offers children, 10% of whom are African-American, with cancer and blood-borne diseases a few weeks every year of vacation and treatment, free of charge.
Yesterday, MSNBC dropped the Imus show, which has run every morning for the 11 years of MSNBCs existence. Today, CBS dropped Imus in the Morning from the radio lineup, effective immediately. Naturally, this means that Mr. Imus will not be able to raise money during the radiothon, which will lead to a precipitous drop in donations. So, in effect, NBC and CBS decided that it would be better for children to die than for Don Imus to broadcast for another day or two. Think about that, too. Getting rid of Don Imus and escaping the controversy is so important to NBC and CBS that they are willing to kill children to do it.
Huh. Maybe there's something to that "corporations are evil" business after all.
[Apparently needed update for the clueless] My last point is that the same people who are so keen to claim their every policy suggestion is necessary "for the children", simply don't care about something that actually is for the children when it conflicts with the pieties of political correctness.
Great summary Dale. You put into words many of the things that have been floating around between my ears all week.
I hope this does at least in some small measure cause some self reflection in the black community. Any chance this brings Bill Cosby back in from the cold? Probably not.
Jesse and Al are back in the spotlight this week. It’s just too bad the spotlight isn’t on them for the reasons you listed. I would truly love to see those clowns held to the standards they demand of everyone else.
So true so true. I just hope the next person takes your advice and tells al to get stuffed. I mean id still apologise to the girls if they were offended, but make it a point that you apologise to them as people, not as the black "community" is there a white "community"? Or would that be racist?
So little time for this today, but I gotta make a few quick points:
As stylish as it is for some to proclaim that corporations run everything, and they are the hidden font of power in America, the fact is that corporations are, when it comes to the public, abject cowards.
You make it sound like it would be a good thing if corporations would just crack down on their customer base — us — and tell us what was what and who the hell we’d listen to them sponsor on the air and we could just like it or stfu.
Fifty years ago, black people seem to have been made of sterner stuff. They walked willingly towards arrest, police batons, fire hoses, and German shepherds, to regain their civil rights.
What was it Mr. O’Hara said? Something about you need a firm hand to handle darkies? Or maybe it was inferiors. I can’t remember dialogue worth a flip. Anyway, truer words, eh? You shut off the fire hoses and call off the dogs and just look how soft they go and how uppity they get in no time at all. Gets to where an old white guy can’t even poke fun at their hair or their loose morals or, hey, that hilarious way they have of rolling their eyes all around, like you could in the good old days. Amos and Andy, where have you gone?
So, in effect, NBC and CBS decided that it would be better for children to die than for Don Imus to broadcast for another day or two. Think about that, too. Getting rid of Don Imus and escaping the controversy is so important to NBC and CBS that they are willing to kill children to do it.
Jesus. Well, I hope you feel better for having tried on the garb of Hillary and Pelosi and pals to, um, make us all think. I don’t think you’re ‘spose to wear em exactly like that but whatever.
As for the general strategy of attack!ing, yeah, that would have just smoothed all the madness away, or at least shown everybody who was boss. Uh huh.
Cluelessly, pathetically, pointlessly, stupidly Imus threw it all away. And with everything that’s been said and continues to be said about how those 18 and 20 year old college athletes – who aren’t seasoned social commentators or philosophers and who haven’t sat around gabbing with senators and presidents and captains and kings for 30 years – should just get tough and grow up, I think I’ll up and say one more time that Imus would do well to suck it up, take his lumps, and decide where to go from here. And one day, for having been sweet enough to present them with his compliments on a silver platter to Sharpton to begin with, who knows but what the old race-baiter might find it politic to give old Mr. Shock Jock his balls back.
And the very, very bottom line here is that, everywhere you go, it’s always, always, always all about the bottom line. ’Cause that’s the way we like it.
I ended up not being thrilled about how this worked either, but conservatives should be thrilled. This is a case of liberal fratricide, and it got rather far out of hand. But Dale, this is a fluke. Glenn Beck called Hilary Clinton a bit*h last month and got away just fine. South Park continues. I don’t think a genuine comedian would have suffered the same kind of consequences.
This happened because:
CBS is a weak corporation with a liberal audience. Fox News has already refused to drop conservatives with conservative audiences in similar situations (after all, the audience cheers)
A media perfect storm of fluke intensity.
Imus really picked a very bad target with no mitigating context at all.
Somebody remind me, what was the name of that big-time hunting columnist who got dropped like a bad penny a few months ago for daring to say that killing prairie dogs with assault weapons was overkill? The point is, this stuff happens all the time, not just to white comedians who call basketball players wh*res.
All it takes is for Messrs. Sharpton or Jackson to make threatening mouth noises, and corporations will bail out on controversy within hours.
By reacting so late in the news cycle, NBC and CBS are unintentionally sending the message that it wasn’t their revulsion to the comments that triggered their decisions, but rather their fear of Sharpton, Jackson and the other noisy activists.
Third, the double standard is now explicit. Your freedom of speech now depends entirely upon what race you are. So Dave Chappelle can make $50 million doing racially charged humor, but no white person can.
From a free speech perspective, no one should be shut down over content issues. From an aesthetic perspective, there is a big difference in my mind between someone like Carlos Mencia (using him as an example because I am not familiar with Dave Chappelle) and Don Imus.
Mencia makes comedy out of the foibles and idiosyncracies of different racial and ethnic cultures. People who object to this on PC grounds are following the same logic that leads to speech codes on university campuses, and they need to be countered.
Imus is part of a different cultural trend in which people get vicarious thrills by witnessing other people getting put down. Personally, I don’t enjoy this and I wouldn’t encourage it, but if Imus wants to call someone a nappy headed ho, why couldn’t he direct that at someone who really deserves it, like Al Sharpton? That would contain some truth: Sharpton is a race whore, and mocking him in racist terms would be funny for that reason. It would take courage, though, to go after someone like Al Sharpton, so, like a typical cowardly bully Imus settles for ridiculing some female college basketball players.
Somebody remind me, what was the name of that big-time hunting columnist who got dropped like a bad penny a few months ago for daring to say that killing prairie dogs with assault weapons was overkill?
Well, it was Jim Zumbo, and that isn’t what he said. What he did was to write a column that equated hunters who use semi-auto rifles like the AR-15 with terrorists, and said that they had no place in the hunting community with their awful terrorist weapons.
Moreover, that was also a case of the hunting community eating one of its own. One of the gauges of basic fairness for any group is their willingness to criticize their own for straying from the standards the group proclaims, and not just concentrating on the faults of those outside the group. Messrs. Sharpton and Jackson could profit from the Zumbo example.
conservative audiences in similar situations (after all, the audience cheers)
Ha! Just look at The View. You have 2 liberal fringers (O’Donnell and Behar) saying things incredibly more outrageous than any of your examples and the audience cheers as well. O’Donnell said something extremely racist about Chinese people and nothing happened. The difference in this case is who the target of the racism was.
To his credit, David Gregory asked Jesse Jackson why he (Jackson) was given the chance to move past the "Hymietown" comment, but didn’t feel Imus should be given the chance to be forgiven and keep his job and move past it all in this situation. This was on MSNBC yesterday morning.
Jackson told Gregory that what he "might have said in a personal conversation 20+ years ago - a conversation that *you* didn’t hear and were not a part of", was completely different from what a man would say to denigrate others on the air "to thousands of people". (quotes are from memory, they may not be perfect)
In other words, you can hate Jews in your home, but you can’t joke on blacks on the radio. That’s the Reverend’s position. We already knew that, but now he’s been kind enough to go on record.
Nice post, Dale. As for Linda - well, I suppose that’s the tragic price we pay for deinstitutionalization.
Here’s some more bile for the mix. While I was shaving this morning, I heard that - before he got into a severe car accident - the governor of New Jersey was supposed to "moderate" a five-hour meeting between Imus and the girls. Now that shows exactly how utterly absurd this whole kerfuffle has become. Was I asleep, or did Joisey suddenly turn into such a crime-free, prosperous, efficient Utopia that the governor has five hours on his hand to help coddle a bunch of fainting hothouse flowers?
And I agree about the Rutgers’ girls "the bad man huwt my widdle feeeeeeellings, mommy!" whining. Bejus on a crutch, girls, grow the F up. What a way to reinforce every stereotype about women being fundamentally incapable of serious thought (well, Linda expressed that in spades, but those Rutgers NHH’s seem to have a case of the vapors that would make Katie Scarlett O’Hara blush in shame).
As for Linda - well, I suppose that’s the tragic price we pay for deinstitutionalization.
What a way to reinforce every stereotype about women being fundamentally incapable of serious thought (well, Linda expressed that in spades
Linda Morgan is a regular commenter here. I enjoy her comments, because they are usually lucidly well written and she often makes good points. I think the attacks on this thread are going a little overboard.
Linda Morgan is a regular commenter here. I enjoy her comments, because they are usually lucidly well written and she often makes good points. I think the attacks on this thread are going a little overboard.
I’m glad he got fired. After seeing their press conference, I can’t believe that he called those girls "nappy headed hos." They were so clean and articulate. And them getting into the final four, I mean, that’s a storybook, man.
If anyone wants to donate directly to the Imus Cattle Ranch for Kids with Cancer, there’s a link from the main page of http://www.imusranchfoods.com. (Apparently Imus Ranch Foods is the remnant of a restaurant venture between Mr. Imus and his brother. It now sells chips and salsa, coffee, and other stuff as a fundraiser for the ranch. I’d never heard of it before I went Googling.)
Dale, if you really care about kids think about the concept of standards for a minute. There is a way to talk in church, a way to talk in a bar (depends on the kind of bar...), a way to talk when the relatives are over, a way to talk late at night with the one you love, and a way to discuss politics in the context of a mainstream media forum. We teach kids standards of discouurse at home. Why do we tolerate a MSM which violates those standards and presents abuse as normative news commentary or entertainment?
The problem with Imus and Hannity and Savage and Linmbuag and Coulter etc.is that their abusive talk is allowed in settings where the standards ought to be higher. When a MSM outlet presents hate talk from one of the haters, an implied enndorsement is given. Hate talk becomes mainstream.
A lot of rap is hate talk, too. I would object very much if it was featured on CBS or PBS or any other MSM outlet as "just another perspective" or just a joke or some such rot. I don’t think that hate-filled songs, no matter what the artistic merit, should be given the endorsement of an award. It’s fine with me if anyone wants to organize a boycott of businesses that publish hate rap.
So the fact that people sell rap is not an excuse for tolerating abusive talk on so-called mainstream media outlets. I hope Imus is the first—or the second acually since Coulter has been exiled to Fox and Fox itself is in the process of being marginalized—in a string of firings or muzzlings which will include Beck and others eventually. Media outlets which have the role of establishing the norms for political discourse in our culture should not be airing hate talk from anybody.
I have watched Don Imus enough to have an idea of what his show is like. I don’t think he is funny. I don’t think he is wise. I don’t watch him. I don’t like him. If given the choice of watching Imus and the Test Pattern, I would choose the Test Pattern. But I don’t think he should have been fired.
If you believe in freedom of speech you must accept speech that you don’t like or agree with. That’s the deal. Somebody may not like what you say. Imus stuck his foot in it. No doubt. That is his style. If you are watching or listening to Imus, you know what you are going to get. If you don’t like it, don’t view it. I know what he is. I don’t like what de does, so I don’t watch him. I have no right to stop those who like Imus, from enjoying his rap.
Jim Henley? Never heard of him. Oh, wait, isn’t he the guy who gave Mona her latest platform?
Hunh. Well, except for "think of the children" schtick, and as I said at Jim’s, I otherwise largely agree with Dale. But then I have often been annoyed at disingenuous claims to have found racism most foul, where there really isn’t any — the claim is simply a political tool. In the Imus case, more really an excuse for a national Passion Play on race. Imus is a shock jock and has said nasty things about almost everybody forever.
If you believe in freedom of speech you must accept speech that you don’t like or agree with.
Right now, tonight, Don Imus has just as much freedom as you or I or anyone else around here to say whatever he wants. Not only that, he can put up a web site and start talking all the junk he wants to about anybody’s hair he wants to and, hell, put up any kind of pictures or movies of whatever hos he thinks his audience might appreciate. Sh*t, he can rap if he wants to like Karl Rove did at that dinner the other week, even though I, personally, would caution against that. But it’s all up to him, and he can be just as nasty as he wanna be.
And of course he doesn’t have to count on YouTube not “censoring” him, either. Among beaucoup options for getting his word out are these here:
Don Imus could easily originate his show on the net. Stream it. Offer it for download. Offer it on Itunes, Youtube, Joost, Revver, the new NBC Video venture, Veoh and ever other video site. On the net he can say whatever he wants.
So why not take it all to the web? Here’s why, of course:
Because the economics don’t work.
And why not?
Would you put up your own money to cover the production and personnel costs and take that risk ? Neither would I. Things may be different in 10 or more years, but right now Americans still consume media and advertisers support media on traditional TV and radio outlets.
Ten years. Oh. Right. May be, you know. How daunting.
This just irritates the hell out of me: The people who are going on and on about poor Don Imus having his freedom of speech lopped off are really just trying to insist that he’s supposed to have some sort of ever ongoing entitlement to being paid big bucks by people who just don’t think he is worth it. By people who canned his ass because he’d made himself into a liability for them by shooting off the moron half of his mouth one too many times.
But, dang it, those other people are supposed to pay for them to watch and hear what they want to watch and hear Imus say. And if those other people weren’t so damned scared of Sharpton and a few thousand emails and potential FCC actions and would just catch up to the possible fact that 2 out of every 3 people in major cities all over the country want Imus, well then by golly they’d have Imus in the Morning the way they’re supposed to all the way to the end of time.
What I’d like to know is why the people who miss the poor guy like nobody’s business don’t stop all their godd*mned whining about the gathering threat of the FCC and just pitch in however many bucks each to cover his f*cking “production and personnel costs and take that risk?” I mean, since the whole satellite radio thing might end up being less than likely.
Assuming Imus is game of course, which if he’s not… well, that’s life, so there you go. It was the government what done it.
And, James, I’m not trying to slap you, particularly, around for whining; I just found your sentence to be a convenient point of departure, so no hard feelings, ’k?
Thanks for the update. It’s shocking that anyone could begrudge actual, existing children charitable help from individual donors making personal choices, but there you go. It makes a nice philosophical point, and establishes some form of bona fides.