Thursday, April 12, 2007

The Last Straw

April 12, 2007

The man Bill Maher referred to yesterday as "a wounded old mustang" will not be on the job this morning; Don Imus has been given his walking papers from cable news network MSNBC, which has been simulcasting his radio show for some seven years. As I said in my last post here, it appears to be the end of an era.

Imus was the kind of guy who could shift gears from a high-toned and intelligent discussion with very important news guys, historians, and people in power about events of the day, particularly politics, to locker-room yuks with his crew of sports reporters and guests. It made, for me, a welcome reality, un-canned television, a free-for-all where surprises abounded. I have no interest whatever in sports and often turned it off when the guys got to their serious bets on who was going to win what, but I've had some moments of astonishment when the I-man interviewed some of the best talking heads in the business. He had an ease and the curiousity of the man in the street, and I think that was what sunk him. All too many of the legions of commentators of his plight on the tube have been saying things like "He's trying to have it both ways! He wants to ask intelligent questions and also be one of the boys!" Apparently this is considered an outrageous oxymoron.

The powers at MSNBC say they based their decision on the feedback from their employees, particularly Al Roker. It was not about the sponsors pulling out. It was not about Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson and their group of picketers outside the door. It was because MSNBC has integrity. Having someone the likes of Don Imus on the payroll, with his ability to chat with Doris Kearns Goodwin, Joe Biden, Willie Nelson, Douglas Brinkley, Howard Fineman, Col. Jack Jacobs, George Carlin, John McCain, Bernadette Castro, and on and on, while in the next segment throwing out offensive epithets like beads from a Mardi Gras float in a parade, compromises the network's integrity and is outside Al Roker's comfort zone.

The nation can rest now. He will no longer visit our livingrooms in the morning, since we were required to watch his show before. We can begin healing from the grievous period of time in which the news was dominated by the constant repetition of a thoughtless offhand remark he made one morning about the girls' basketball team of Rutgers. It has even been said that this will begin a new, thoughtful era of race relations. There will be no bad boys at the party. No threat that something offensive will come out of somebody's mouth.

Everybody's going to be like Al Roker. Is this a great country or what?

11 comments:

sinjap said...

it may be the end of an era for imus, but it's only the beginning of the crusade of the thought police...being a big talk radio aficionado i'm petrified my politics/news/entertainment mode of choice is going to be under the microscope over the next several months and years...big brother will be scrutinizing every jab, every quip, and every remotely insensitive remark going out over the airwaves...if it doesn't fit in with what's considered mainstream, you're yanked off the air under the guise of tolerance, fairness, and protecting the rest of us from such "hate" speech

i have three words for anyone who's appalled at imus, or otherwise pissed off that talk radio and the views that are expressed therein even exist...CHANGE THE CHANNEL! no one's forcing you to listen

John Sweden said...

Let us hope that the crusade is very successful in driving the bigoted old white guys and their cheap old frat boy humor out the public's consciousness. Every time I hear the tired old bullshit rants about free speech against PC it is always in relationship to…offensively racist, sexist, homophobic etc…etc…remarks and jokes.

Sinjap once again provides us with the personalized evidence for her own arguments about the decline of america...she's “upset” that she cannot listen to ideas, remarks and jokes, that in her own words are not in line with the concepts of “tolerance, fairness, and protecting the rest of us from such "hate" speech”. You see these ideals of civilized human beings, tolerance, fairness, respect for and acceptance of the sensitivities of others, refraining from hate speech…are as they’ve always been….anti-american.

The phony conservatives and bigots always drag out free speech argument, yet they are always the first one’s to insist on the government actively start, arresting, prosecuting, harassing, etc…etc….flag burners, war protesters, civil right activists or anybody who is seriously involved in free speech…not just working for cheap frat boy laugh…

Bill Maher is hypocrite and phony and wouldn’t know ass end of real political joke if it was staring him the face…Imus was an extinct dinosaur…the moment Howard Stern hit the airways…the very fact that he’s come back and is capable of actually being news…is the real evidence of america’s decline…

If I've offended you, CHANGE THE BLOG!...

Mary Lois said...

Spoken like a man who doesn't watch Imus every morning, John! I know it's boring, but there in Sweden you haven't been exposed to the media coverage of this earth-shattering firing of a comparatively insignificant media figure. I never heard of Imus in the days when you and I trod the streets of New York together...his face was only a grimly glaring poster on the buses. But living in exile I've enjoyed his occasional confrontation with the powerful on the daily simulcast of the radio show of this particular geezer (as I often point out, he's exactly my age).

The show was mildly entertaining, and Imus was sometimes amusing, often annoying, and always appearing live, which is rare, and the essence of television itself.

One of the interesting aspects of the "Imus controversy" is that he was fired for using language that he learned from the black community, somehow validating a mindset of loathing of blacks and women in that community. That he was a white man made the language unacceptable.

I do believe enough has been said about this at the moment by me and everyone else. Unfortunately the rest of the world does not seem ready to drop it.

sinjap said...

in case you haven't read your constitution lately, mr. sweden, we do have freedom of speech, and even though radio and tv were yet to be invented when this right was explained, it is exactly this kind of outrageous stuff that was meant to be protected - flag burners, war protesters, and all...only if that free speech borders on the treasonous or seditious should it be muffled

i believe the marketplace should be the judge for who stays or who goes on the radio...they depend on advertisers to keep the revenue coming in...and if people don't buy what they're selling, the talent is off the air, pure and simple

personally i don't watch or listen to imus, just don't get him around here, same for howard stern...savage and boortz are more my style...and yes, they both say some outrageous things once in a while but unfortunately talk radio personalities don't have the luxury of a delete button, or an eraser, or a "take two"...it's the last truly off the hip venue

mr. sweden, you know that sometime in your life, in some conversation you were having, you went too far, said too much, or just said the wrong thing at the wrong time and were either admonished by your companions or by your own conscience...it happens to the best of us

mellow drama said...

John Sweden:

I can intuit that you have passionate ideas regarding free speech and America. Unfortunately, I can't grasp the points you are making, due more to impassioned, rambling syntax than anything else. Respectully: when you aren't quite so impassioned, would you try again?

Bert Bananas said...

We have a local, very local, talk show on a 500 watt AM station hosted by a very abrasive woman with very strong opinions. The station is owned by Clear Channel. At the start of each hour of her program there is a basso profundo announcer proclaiming that the woman's views are not necessarily the views of Clear Channel.

That's what CBS and MSNBC should have done. Then whenever Imus gaffed himself in the ass, and people complained, they could have cited their hourly proclamations and shaken their heads at his nerve and pointed to the First Amendment.

America has the FCC. Complaints to the FCC about Imus would have resulted in an investigation and a 'verdict' by the FCC, whose job it is to protect the public's airwaves. There might even have been a balanced assessment of the Imus show...

That's what I would have liked... it would have made more sense then letting Al Roker decide.

John Sweden said...

Sinjap

This is for you….

First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States

“Congress shall make “NO” law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.”

I highlighted the word “NO”, because it is the one word that most Americans, like you, fail to grasp when they read the first Amendment. I would like to know, where in this statement of your “rights”, do you get the idea, “only if that free speech borders on the treasonous or seditious should it be muffled”?

If you actually knew your history, you would also know that the men who framed this statement were doing it to protect the rights of Americans to make treasonous and seditious statements. These same men, approximately 11 years earlier, had signed their lives and fortunes away in a seditious and treasonous suicide pact called the “Declaration of Independence. So when they specifically use the word “NO”, in regards to laws passed by congress, they meant “NO”, not some,not a few or any to protect the government, or the nation, or the constitution. It was used to protect the principles embodied in the actual founding document of America, it’s Declaration of Independence….Read them both and get back to me…

Mellow Drama

How boring…you have actually nothing say, so you resort to critiquing the syntax. It’s a cheap shot worthy of Bill Reilly and probably Bill Maher…even Imus wouldn’t consider it.

Fairhope

I remember when Imus when he first hit NY radio as the first of the shock jocks. In the sixties, “Imus in the Morning” was a pretty good show…and he’s always been consistently funny and slightly controversial. His humor has always been pretty much mainstream and directed to his upper middle class semi-liberal white audiences.

The truth is, 35 years ago, he was buried alive by the absolute king of the “Shock Jocks” Howard Stern: He was much more original and controversial. In terms free speech argument he has been ruthlessly persecuted by the “government”, in service of conservatives and religious right of America

Imus to my knowledge has never been in violation of the FCC or persecuted and harassed by the government in any official way. He has always played it safe and provided the mild entetaiment of sounding controversal but in reality never was. he wasn't back then and doubt if he has changed all that much in fact he's probaly mellowed with age ;-)

From what I understand, of the current controversy he is been tried in court of public opinion, which in my mind gives some hope for America.

After you left New York for the quiet life of Fairhope…as part of my working with the homeless… I was asked to become educated in “Managing Cultural Diversity in The Workplace” so that I might conduct a series of workshops on the issue for the agency I was working for. Basically it was a preventive measure to keep the agency from being sued. So I’m quite aware of thewhat the real issues are behind the firing of Imus, the public censuring of Mel Gibson and of Michael Richards aka “Kramer” etc… and the list goes on and on and on. You live in the world’s most multicultural society…you cannot afford or accept hate speech or it’s precursors racial, sexist, ethnic, homophobic, etc offensive statements, remarks, and humor…

It is not a government issue…it is however a social and personal one of maturity tolerance and respect for others to challenge and publicly and personally censure those who do…Imus is just another in the long line of public individuals the public has been mobilized to rightly censure and remove from the public discourse…

sinjap said...

wow! mr. sweden, somebody must have spiked your wheaties this morning!

as a matter of fact i agree with you about our freedom of speech and how it came about...i do know my history...and i'm not upset that i can't listen to some white guy make a joke about black girls...just not my cup of tea...in fact the only thing that i'm even slightly ticked off at is that this whole thing is dragging on so ridiculously

and by the way, we are not a multicultural society and shouldn't be...we may come from many lands but we are american and that is the only culture we should support...i personally don't believe in diversity for diversity's sake

Officious oaf said...

Sorry guys for coming late to this exciting and controversial Imus firing party, but I had a power outage in the cave- I ran out of firewood.

Whenever a disease attacks something, antibodies are created; the society is no exception. With Don Imus’s death on MSNBC caused by attacks of Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson, societal antibodies have been spawned. After the loss of the Rutger’s women basketball team in the finals of the national tournament, the “nappy-headed hos” players got plenty of e-mails of condolences. Now they are receiving hate mail, and Imus’s inbox abounds with support he had never had before. He’ll be back on the air again. Satellite radio takes the renegades. I wonder what the content is of the mail Sharpton and Jackson in their inboxes, which surely must be leaded lined because of the radio activity in them?

This forced conciliation of races under the guise of “political correctness” is producing just the opposite effect. The separation of the diehards is widening and is taking on new manifestations. Ok, so the “n” is banned from media expression, and talk show hosts have a racial line that they can’t cross over, but do you think that the sentiments of blacks and whites have changed in how they feel towards each other? If anything Al and Jesse made it more hostile. So what did they gain? Exactly what they were looking for: more fuel for their political agendas.

An unfair appraisal? Let’s see. Hip-hop and rap music came about as a means for inner city blacks to have an identity, something that takes attention away from their shameful school drop out, drug usage, adolescence child bearing, unemployment and crime rates. Who wants to be identified with those rates? However understandable it might be, this kind of identification doesn’t solve their problem. Solving their problem is not Al’s or Jesse’s aim; taking advantage of their problems is. Why these spin doctors have not come to the plight of their fellow black Americans? -I refuse to call them afro-Americans because I would have to refer to all other Americans using an ethnic prefix and that only adds to the separation of groups. Are we not trying to bring ethnic groups together and not separate them?

Bill Cosby and other distinguished blacks have repeatedly come out publicly and said the answer to the problem of the young blacks is to stop acting like “n….s” (They didn’t use the “n” word, but that is what they meant.) and act responsibly, be an American, take advantage of the American dream…you don’t even have to sneak across the border to do that. How many times have you heard Sharpton and Jackson chastise their own for acting irresponsibly? Not once. It is not their agendas.

It is freedom of expression that keeps country from being taken over by an authoritarian voice, call it censorship or political correctness. It is acting responsibly on all levels and minimizing (The fewer the antibodies the better) the differences of its people that makes a country great. Now you tell me in which camp the players are in the Imus firing episode. We haven’t mentioned the advertisers or the radio and TV stations in all of this, have we? No need to. It’s simple; money trumps all…it’s part of the American dream.

mellow drama said...

John Sweden said, (and I quote):
From what I understand, of the current controversy he is been tried in court of public opinion, which in my mind gives some hope for America.

Yet this is what makes me despair about America.

The element which seeks to homogenize and sanitize America against the right of free speech has gained such a foothold as to make Imus the problem rather than a symptom. Mr. Imus used socially acceptable catchphrases, spoken loudly, daily, all across America. I wouldn't even raise my eyes from the newspaper if I heard this come from a prime time sitcom.

The notion that we have become numb to this kind of language disturbs me far more than the insult. That we as a culture have raised the ghetto life to an iconic standard and glorified it squarely in the face of American Youth is a problem far larger than Don Imus In The Morning, no matter what slip he might make in an effort to maintain ratings. The ramifications of this reverse snobbery won't be known for a generation. I certainly don't allow the thoughts that promote it to get a foothold in my sphere of influence, but if these or similar words are spoken, we address the motive behind it, not the actual words.

Any black man could have said what Imus said on national television and gotten away with it. Had Michael Irvin (a frank-speaking black athlete) called them "nappy headed hos" on ESPN, those girls, white ones included, would have been high-fiving each other for the compliment.

Imus was singled out for several reasons, including that he was not black and was not as hip as he was trying to be. And, being a decent human being at heart, he admitted his wrong publicly and took his lumps with courage and character. Once the American Feeding Machine (read "Corporate Media") found a good, stout whipping post, it squared up and set in. How many of the advertisers so "offended" by Imus' remarks doubled up on ads during news time now that their former cash cow had become the meal?

There is no sense of ethic or morals behind this save the ethic of the dollar. Any posturing done is being done on behalf of a hypothetical mass of poor, moral, sensitive and caring individuals suddenly too shamed to look for a job now that Imus has spoken. Ask Jessie and Al where to find them after the cameras have disappeared. They'll be right there, still in their minds. Those who cried "offense" next cried "Now where's my money?"

If we want to moan about the condition of America, let's moan about the poverty of character extant in persons who would have us believe that sticking our fingers in our ears is equal to understanding.

One requires some hard mental work. The other only requires moral posturing.

Mary Lois said...

Just when I thought the Imus matter had faded away, I awoke and found comment after comment on this old post. Good for you, readers! I admit the controversy is not what it seems on the surface and everybody, including Time Magazine and my friend Dan Spiro who both disagree with me about the talents of Imus, have weighed in.

The thing is, with the growing admiration for "street" fashions, including language, American society has embraced the ungrammatical as well as the downright profane. We have begun to think it's cute. With all the overwhelming talk of racism, we assume that one who is affecting the talk is deprecating rather than embracing it. As "mellow" says, Imus was trying to be hip.

Maybe he'll think twice before trying to be hip any more. Maybe he'll act his age...like the rest of us.