Thursday, April 12, 2007

Open Mouth, Insert Foot, Lose Career

The news is all abuzz about Don Imus' firing by both CBS radio and MSNBC. Too bad for him some loopy astronaut didn't don a diaper and head out to club her rival, or a D-List celebrity didn't die to take this story off the "front page".

No, since it's been slow news-wise lately, we had to watch the tiny simmer grow into a roiling boil of "outrage" at the comments made during some banter between Mr. Imus and Bernard McGuirk, one of his producers regarding the Rutgers University women's basketball team.

Sure, what he said was asinine. But then, Don Imus pretty much says asinine things every day. I don't defend his comments at all, but I do shake my head at the blatant hypocrisy in the outrage. I would wager that NO member of the Rutgers women's basketball team actually witnessed the comments. They had to hear about it from someone else. I would also wager that their first reaction was "What a jerk". Period. I would wager that their need for a press conference, their little pity party about how their joy has been stolen and how offended they are was ginned up by other people who cajoled them into a false sense of outrage.
If someone calls you a name, what do you do?
Most likely, you remember what your parents told you when you were a kid: "Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me." Of course, parents probably don't teach that to kids any more. Now it may go something like this: "Anything I can possibly construe as 'hate speech' may grant me fame and fortune, so ALWAYS be looking for ways to be offended. There might be a big fat paycheck in it!"
Whether or not "all women of color" were, or even could be, offended by Imus' remarks, does this mean he should lose his career? Whatever happened to the concept of letting the punishment fit the crime?
If Imus offends you, you have the power to force him to either (a) change his ways or (b) change his job by NOT LISTENING. Ratings keep radio hosts on the air, period.
So now, a guy who raises awareness and millions of dollars for Autism and kids with cancer, who champions "green" cleaning products, who was a driving force behind the Center for the Intrepid in San Antonio... this guy has to lose his career for saying something stupid?
Will anyone demand that the contracts (and the CDs in stores) be pulled from the rappers who made phrases like "Nappy-headed hos" a part of the "urban vernacular"? Don Imus never would have had those words bumping around in his previously drug-addled brain if it weren't for the "Hip Hop Community", which continuously savages women in its words, videos, actions, and attitude.

Incidentally, just when did "Nappy-headed" become a racist, derogatory phrase anyway? The first time I ever heard it was in Stevie Wonder's "I Wish": "Looking back on when I was a little nappy-headed boy..." and this was said in fond reminiscing of his childhood. Black women today say "Nappy is Happy" in explanation of wearing their hair naturally. So don't cry to me about it being racist. It isn't.

Let's see if every talk show host, black, white, Democrat, Republican, Christian, Atheist, Jewish, Muslim, male, female, gets held to this new standard. They won't. You know they won't. George Bush and Republicans will still get called Nazis, our troops will still get called terrorists, whites will still be called oppressors, Christians will still be called (oh, just pick anything here!)...

Stupid, stupid, stupid. Don Imus should have apologized to the Rutgers girls, and that is the end of it. A suspension, sure. Make him feel some pain so perhaps he'll think twice before touching the third rail of comedy for white people (black comedians, commentators, sports celebrities et al have no such boundaries). But "offending" someone is not grounds for losing one's career. Especially when you have made your name by being offensive and controversial. Billy Graham didn't suddenly break out with the comment. Brian Williams didn't suddenly spill it. Tim Russert didn't. The President didn't. It was IMUS, for Pete's sake. Ray Nagin didn't pay with his career for his racist "Chocolate City" comments (no, he got reelected!). Kanye West didn't pay with his career for accusing the President of racism. Spike Lee didn't pay with his career for calling Trent Lott a "card carrying member of the KKK" (that isn't offensive?????). Of course not. So why Imus? I shudder for the future of free speech.

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