Wednesday, April 11
Imus be dreaming.
Let me get this straight -- this is the guy who's making fun of other people's hair?
Allow me to do something completely out of character here and take the contrarian position: What if we actually are making a bigger deal about this Don Imus/nappy-headed hos thing than we need to be?
Before I get into this, a few disclaimers:
1. I do think Imus is an asshole. Yes, being an asshole is kind of his shtick, but equating a group of young women whose only crime was being really good at basketball to prostitutes goes even beyond the level of assholishness typically granted to talk-radio hosts as a matter of course.
2. NBC or MSNBC or whoever should have the right to fire him for this if they want. Anytime some controversial commentator gets the boot from some network, whether it's Imus or Dr. Laura or Michael Savage, there are the usual cries of censorship and blah blah blah, but the First Amendment only pertains to the government silencing people. When the government clamps down on somebody because they think that guy's criticisms are cutting too close to the people in power, that's censorship; when a corporation clamps down on somebody because that person has become a hot potato no sane advertiser wants to touch, that's capitalism.
Yes, Imus is an asshole, and yes, he's pretty much asked for whatever misfortune has come his way. But now that he's been booted from MSNBC, so what? Have we really come that much closer to eradicating racism in this country? Is anything he said that much worse than the filth that people like Savage and Sean Hannity spew with relative impunity on a regular basis?
In case your NetNanny has blocked access to this site for the last seven months, let me remind you that I'm the guy who got so pissed about a football game that he deliberately destroyed a toaster, so it stands to reason that I've screamed stuff worse than "nappy-headed hos," both in the privacy of my own home and in public stadiums, at various athletes. None of it had the racially charged element of "nappy-headed hos," mind you, but be that as it may, when all is said and done, I am kind of an asshole. Are any of you going to criticize me as hard as Imus?
I completely agree with ACG that "But look at all the other people who say that!" is no excuse for someone's pointlessly abusive behavior. Imus deserves to be criticized irrespective of what any gangsta rapper out there says. But does Imus's transgression mean that those rappers should be immune from criticism? I don't think it does. My point, which I may not be making very well, is this: The more we put on the blinders and make this only about one asshole radio host, the more we miss out on a chance to have a real dialogue about how racism, sexism, and whatever else are spoken of in this country. "There are a lot of people doing much worse stuff than Don Imus" may not be an excuse for what Imus did, but neither is "Don Imus is an asshole" an excuse for the rest of us to ignore everything else that's still wrong with our society -- or for us to wear ourselves out patting ourselves on the back just because we managed to get one Neanderthal douchebag kicked off the air.
I come here neither to bury Don Imus nor to praise him; I come to ask for some perspective. Let's criticize Imus to the extent that any average schmoe on the street has the right to criticize someone, but beyond that, I leave it to the Rutgers basketball players and their parents. In the end, I'm less worried about the Imuses of the world, whose racism/misogyny just can't help but make itself publicly known, than the Congressman who has much more hateful ideas but is smart enough to keep them relatively quiet. Even once the former has been sent off to radio Siberia, the latter will still be there -- and don't kid yourself that they won't.