On Imus

I would have fired Don Imus years ago. Because he’s boring. And if he should have been fired as a racist, that, also, should have occurred years ago. Howard Stern has been exposing his racism for more than a decade (odd, by the way, that few if any news reports went to Stern for this perspective). I’m no fan of Imus. I panned him in TV Guide years ago. I won’t miss him now that he’s gone. I think what he said was as stupid as it was offensive — that is, colossally on both counts.

But I do think we need to stand back for a moment, just a moment, and examine the process of public scalpings in media, on the internet, and in politics today. This was Don Imus’ macaca moment and it was amplified to an 11 by the piranhaesque repetition of it on cable news (and, in this case, less so on the internet) and then by the calls for his execution from all the usual executioners.

Imus? Good riddance. Sen. George Allen? Bye-bye now. Trent Lott? He got his proper drubbing. Those are deserved departures from center stage. These public figures were caught at their worst, being themselves, and so they got their justice.

But my fear is that as we see more of each other in ubiquitous video ubiquitously played, we will see more moments of humanity — that is, screwups — and so we need to decide, rationally, what deserves a scalping and what does not. And we should not be held at the hands of ransom demands from our publicity-crazed, self-appointed guardians of righteousness — in this case, as in many, Al Sharpton or Jesse Jackson — who will hold a press conference and demand a firing if they can get airtime or money out of it.

So what is the standard? I think Duncan Black of Atrios explained it very well when I asked him just this while moderating a panel at the Museum of Television & Radio about the new age of video and politics, shortly after the macaca election, when that word cost Allen his seat and, likely, the Republicans their majority. I asked whether we needed to become more forgiving of mistakes — and which mistakes would those be? — as we are bound to see more of them, now that they will all be recorded and can all be broadcast to the world and repeated again and again. Duncan said that the macaca moment confirmed what was suspected and known but not necessarily demonstrated publicly about Allen. In that moment, with that one word, he showed his essence and the internet and then cable news allowed it to spread so we could all see that more broadly and more efficiently than was ever possible before.

At the Online Politics conference a few weeks ago, Joe Trippi said, “Every one of these candidates is going to get caught in a macaca moment.” They will mess up. They will say something in an unguarded moment. Yet we want them to be unguarded. We want them to be human. So when they are human and they do mess up, we can’t demand their scalp for every screwup. We have to judge whether this was merely a mistake or whether it revealed a fatal flaw in their character. And we need to be make that judgment ourselves, not under the threat and deadline of the press-conference piranha. We cannot run politics and the nation by the tyranny of the gotcha moment. I will also warn of the danger of life in the age of offense.

But that’s why Imus is a good case for discussion because what he said was truly offensive, it did reveal his essential character, and he met his justice beyond the sin of that one moment. But that won’t always be the case and even in the fast-forward society of internet and cable, we need to be able to judge thoughtfully and independently which are macaca moments and which are merely mistakes.

: LATER: I was just passing a bank of monitors here at CUNY and heard the parade of cable blather on the topic. Tom DeLay was calling for Rosie O’Donnell to be fired because she has said things that have offended him. This is what I mean about the dangers of the piranha pool in the age of offense. Just because someone offends someone, that is not cause to fire them make them resign from a show or a campaign. It means you can disagree with them. In fact, today, you have more means to state that disagreement and be heard than ever before. But we can’t fire everyone somene wants fired; we’ll be left with no more stars and no more politicians. And as tempting as that may sounds, it’s no way to run the world. The reason to fire Don Imus in my book is because he was boring. If you think he’s a racist for what he says today, then he said things in the past that should have told you the same thing. A channel has every right to hire and fire whom it pleases. It should do that for good reason — and racism and stupidity are good reasons — but not because someone somewhere played the offended card and called for a scalp.

  • http://http:/www.mythusmageopines.com/wp Alan Kellogg

    Imus? Racist? Bugger all you know, bub. Haven’t seen or heard the man in years, but when I was able to watch (had cable back then) he’d have all sorts of people on. Black, white, red, liberal, conservative, Jewish, Christian. The man was real big on promoting old musicians, and bitching about the music industry’s abyssmal record regarding talent.

    Don Imus was rotten to everybody, that’s his schtick. He’d say something stupid, get knocked down for it, and flounder his way to the good graces of his cohorts. The man was born a grouchy old fart, and he’s going to die a grouchy old fart.

    Why was he fired now? Because the suits at CBS and MSNBC went and got themselves castrated. They let themselves be extorted by crybabies, losers, frauds, and hypocrites. As did the suits at his sponsors. Companies he’s been loyal too for decades in some cases. People who knew what he was like decades ago, but only dumped him when the screeching got especially shrill.

    His termination could’ve happened years ago, if only people had reacted as they had now. But they didn’t. There were incidents were he offended somebody, they expressed their outrage, and the usual suspects chimed in. But everybody else figured it was Imus, and the whole thing would blow over. What was different now?

    You. And that includes you as a member of Main Stream Media, Mr. Jarvis. You have gotten to be so shrill and sensitive one doesn’t dare do or say anything lest one gets a spiked cucumber up the pooper. Everything is going to offend somebody, and that somebody is going to find some underbrained, overpaid “I gotta fill airtime” clown to screech about it. It is fucking damn time you pathological promotors of ethical extremism grew a pair, grew a brain, and told the world’s whiners to get a live.

    To quote Frey and Henley,

    I turn on the tube and what do i see
    A whole lotta people crying, “Don’t blame me.”
    They point their crooked little fingers at everybody else
    Spend all their time feelin’ sorry for themselves
    Victim of these, victim of that
    Your momma’s too thin, and your daddy’s too fat

  • http://robertdfeinman.com/society Robert Feinman

    Perhaps it is because unacknowledged racism is still so prevalent that when it becomes visible it gets smacked down. The point being made is that this type of attitude is rare and getting rid of a few bad pennies is all that is required. This avoids consideration of the deeper issues.

    When people are asked if discrimination exists in this country about 50% of blacks say yes compared to about 18% of whites.
    CNN Poll

    So racist remarks get a person in trouble quickly, but other forms of bias don’t seem to generate the same amount of outrage. Ann Coulter continues on her merry way, Michael Savage shows his intolerance as does Rush Limbaugh daily. Even when talk show hosts distort people’s remarks or positions routinely their corporate sponsors ignore this.

    Media Matters for America tracks this all the time. Political slander is acceptable (especially against liberals), but racism is not.

    Jeff, your opening remark sounded like Yogi Berra: “Nobody goes there anymore it’s too crowded”. If Imus was boring why were his ratings so high?

  • Pingback: Matthew Bigelow - Journalist » Blog Archive » Imus scandal prompts debate on “forgiveness” in the Information Age

  • Peter

    For a rabid Howard Stern fan to agree to someone being fired for saying something “offensive” is truly hilarious. Is the word “irony” in your dictionary, Jeff?

  • Peter

    And one more thing: the next time I read you wailing against the FCC for censorship and succumbing to the “family value” crowd, I’d know it’s disingenuous.

  • http://marshallk.com Marshall Kirkpatrick

    Making dehumanizing remarks about someone based on their race and gender is unacceptable. The “buck up” crowd makes some good points but is probably also guilty of being lazy as not really engaging with this stuff is all too convenient for them. My 2 cents.

  • http://www.mannagroups.com Matthew Manna

    “But we can’t fire everyone somene wants fired; we’ll be left with no more stars and no more politicians. And as tempting as that may sounds, it’s no way to run the world.”

    That is exacly the way to run the world.

  • Helen

    “Howard Stern has been exposing his racism for more than a decade (odd, by the way, that few if any news reports went to Stern for this perspective).”

    What Imus said is no more racist than things Howie and staff have said or done over the last 25 years or so. Some examples include Howard wearing blackface on his New Years Eve PPV, Gary’s “Shwvoggie button” story, or Howard’s Amos & Andy dialect he has used when pretending to be Clarence Thomas or O.J. Simpson.

    And it’s not odd that few went to Howie for his comments because Howard is now irrelavant to the radio industry. The guy didn’t even crack the top 10 of Talkers magazine’s Heavy 100 talk radio shows.

  • http://robertdfeinman.com/society Robert Feinman

    Here’s a perfect example of how political attacks by the right go (mostly) unremarked.

    http://www.crooksandliars.com/2007/04/12/open-thread-444/

    The image of the Fox screen shows Obama with this:
    “…wants to play chicken with our troops”

    What Obama actually said was:
    “I think that nobody wants to play chicken with our troops on the ground.”

    If you want to talk about violating public standards and misuse of the airwaves this seems like a good example.

  • http://roborant.info Rob

    I think that Rosie had a macaca moment when she mocked Chinese people on The View. It was very similar to what Imus did.

    The difference, of course, is that Chinese people are not a protected class with quick-draw spokesmen who can organize a press conference faster than a speeding bullet. If Rosie had mocked black people, Sharpton would have been in front of the cameras before the video hit YouTube.

    Imus’ screw up was that he picked the wrong class of people to be rude to.

  • BW

    Jeff, your opening remark sounded like Yogi Berra: “Nobody goes there anymore it’s too crowded”. If Imus was boring why were his ratings so high?

    Errr… thing is, they weren’t.

  • http://mikecane.wordpress.com/ Mike Cane

    Oh boy. I think you’re using “boring” as a code word. That Imus had a show that made money and was popular says he wasn’t boring to *everyone*. Are we now to have your standard of entertainment as justification for someone’s continued employment?

    I saw the DeLay *written* piece. Commented on that as a followup to my earlier Imus post in the day. I use expletives. Sue me. Or sue the First Amendment. Or try to get me fired from my own blog. Whatever.

    Imus, then DeLay:

    When You Let Loose The Dogs Of War, Don’t Fucking Cry When They Turn On You And Bite Your Smug-Ass Face Off
    http://mikecane.wordpress.com/2007/04/13/when-you-let-loose-the-dogs-of-war-dont-fucking-cry-when-they-turn-on-you-and-bite-your-smug-ass-face-off/

    Goddammit! Knock It The Fuck Off Already!
    http://mikecane.wordpress.com/2007/04/13/goddammit-knock-it-the-fuck-off-already/

    I think in the years to come we will very much regret what just happened to Imus.

  • http://mikecane.wordpress.com/ Mike Cane

    Apologies for the URLs doing that. had I known that’d happen, I would have used tinyurl.

  • http://leatherpenguin.com Staten Island guy

    “If Imus was boring why were his ratings so high?”

    His radio ratings were in the tank, and his MSNBC numbers were nothing to brag about. The only thing keeping his show alive was the never-ending parade of politicians, Beltway media insiders, and others looking for face time with the “I-man” to show they were members of the “cool kids’ club.” They all knew damn well what Imus’s shtick was, and didn’t care until this past week, when he went radioactive and they ran for the hills.

    Which the LA Times thinks is gonna give Democrats agita:
    http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/nation/la-na-imuspol13apr13,0,2734444.story?coll=la-home-headlines

  • http://robertdfeinman.com/society Robert Feinman

    Re Yogi Berra:

    From the NY Times.

    His program generates in excess of $20 million in annual revenue for CBS Radio, his primary employer, and his flagship New York station, WFAN, according to two people apprised of the show’s finances who spoke on condition of anonymity. When advertising revenue for affiliates and MSNBC, which simulcasts the program, is included, the figure exceeds $50 million.

    Read the article for yourself. Imus was making lots of money for CBS.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2007/04/11/business/media/11imus.html

  • http://leatherpenguin.com Staten Island guy

    ad revenue, yes? ratings, no.

    Imus had a strong brand and good demographics, and could charge big numbers for spots because advertisers wanted access to that demographic slice, but his actual standings, ratings wise, were sub-par.

    And by throwing him over the side you’ll be watching CBS and MSNBC scrambling like mad to figure some way to fill that revenue hole, because no one is gonna pay the old rates for his timeslots since his audience will no longer be tuning in.

    WFAN is supposed to be frantic trying to figure out how to fill that hole, to the point that on the NY Radio Message Board radio people are saying ‘FAN might break up their afternoon team of Mike and the Mad Dog (Mike moves to Imus’s slot while Mad Dog holds down the afternoon fort) until they can come up with someone as a permanent replacement.

    Somehow, Sharpton convinced them he could cause them more financial pain if they didn’t fire Imus than losing him would cost. I think he was full of it, but they blinked and the game was over.

  • Paul

    Howard Stern is not a racist. How can you be a racist when you dislike your own race, Blacks, Whites, Hispanics, Asian, the list goes on? Howard treats all races with equal ridicule and contempt. That’s his point.

  • chico haas

    Imus was a good interviewer. Probing, discomforting and intelligent. You got more than soundbites from authors, politicians, MSM folks, artistic-types. His show had a lot of stupid filler, but it wasn’t C-span to begin with. For his remarks, he needed not a slap on the wrist, but a good, hard slap in the face. Sharpton, well, he’s right out of Bonfire of the Vanities. He lives off the misery of “black folks.” And Jackson, shame on him. He stood next to Moses once and now he’s thown in with a jackal.

    Missed Variety headline: IMUSN’T

  • http://cellar.org/iotd.php Undertoad

    What the Howard Stern examples underline is that racism played for comedy is fine – partly because making fun of racism, making a game of it, etc. diminishes it like nothing else.

  • http://deleted Tansley – addendum

    Well, never having listened to Imus except for a few recent soundbites, all I can say about the man personally, at this point, was that despite the fact that he obviously has something of a MIND, he clearly forgot to let out the CLUTCH on it when he insulted the Rutgers team. Maybe the coffee was weak that morning…

    There is something you’re missing here, Jeff…and it seems rather ironic that it would fall to ME, the ‘advertising guy’, to point it out to you…

    You say that you fear that the ubiquitous videos, ubiquitously replayed (etc., etc.) may, to paraphrase you, eventually end up torpedoing everyone under the public microscope when they each have their ‘macaca moments.’

    I’m afraid I’m largely in agreement with Matt Manna, here, because of the overall ‘beauty contest’ that American Politics has become over the course of the past century. Excessive polish has given us plenty of people who should never have been in public office in the first place, but who got there because they could afford the best make-up artists, best speech writers and best publicity people their corporate cronies and sponsors could buy for them.

    All right, so the current president still hasn’t made much use of his own such staff beyond the cosmetics artists—that’s beside the point.

    We began losing statesmen and gaining politicians at a furious rate as mass communications improved and continued to mutate in our culture…and indeed, all over the world. The ‘Macaca Moment’ is one of the first signs that the technology is now helping to negate the countless hours and dollars of making politicians cosmetically perfect. Woops, there goes George Allen. Woops, there goes so-and-so….so what?

    This is the flipside of the electronic ‘great society’ you’ve been foretelling, Jeff – unmitigated feedback. The audience now gets the chance to pepper the stage, and the players upon it, with tomatoes and rotten fruit again. It has come full-circle. If the show stinks, somebody should hear about it…the sooner, the better. So it has gone with Imus. He got cream-pied BACK – BIG TIME. It may come off as frontier justice, but the dynamics are pretty plain: this is the twenty first century – racial slurs aren’t there for general availability to any class-clown has-been who wants to try to pull a few extra yuks out of his audience. You’re right – he was stupid. Guess what? Anybody who can be THAT stupid, had better be prepared to shoulder the responsibility for STAYING that stupid.

    This is social Darwinism in its purest form. Adapt and survive…or fail and die-out. And so too should it be for ‘politicians.’ If we want to see American politics cleaned up, the best thing would be to give anyone who needs it enough rope to let them hang themselves with it. It’s perfect.

    I think we’ve had enough pre-packaged pretty-faces who know exactly what to say and when, as long as they’re in a studio reading a teleprompter, or viewing oversized flash-cards. Let’s see which of these bad boys can actually think, really THINK, on their feet, and not resort to cliches or canned aphorisms in order to pass themselves off as erudite, when in fact they haven’t really got a lot on a ROCK. Let’s see dozens of politicians going down in flames from their own words, if that’s what it takes…so that, when the smoke clears, we can finally actually SEE the few possible fledgling STATESMEN who may remain.

    Don’t worry about the age of offense, Jeff. You won’t be able to stop it. People will mellow on somebody if what they hear has the ring of TRUTH. Your average person-in-the-street is usually pretty good at picking up on when they’re being sold snake-oil…especially if they see the guy hawking it starting to SWEAT really badly…

    The public is tuning in on EVERYTHING these days, and watching closely…and even flinging an occasional PIE…

    Imus made the mistake of assuming he was NECESSARY…

  • http://www.trevorcarpenter.com Trevor Carpenter

    Jeff,
    I love your blog. I really like how you construct what you have to say. I don’t always agree with you, and yet your different opinions and views are welcomed.

    On this issue, I agree with you completely.

    Great job.

  • Tom Maguire

    But my fear is that as we see more of each other in ubiquitous video ubiquitously played, we will see more moments of humanity — that is, screwups — and so we need to decide, rationally, what deserves a scalping and what does not.

    Let me help –

    (1) White conservative males can not offend anyone;

    (2) members of an accepted aggrieved victim group can say anything that offends white conservatives or easily bullied white liberals.

    (3) When different aggrieved groups clash, public opinion decides on some random basis – e.g., Michael Richard could have been an oppressed Jew reacting to anti-Semitism from the black community. But no! Instead he is a wealthy Jew who is also racist – now we know.

    Rosie O’Donnell is a liberal lesbian so she can offend Tom DeLay (or common sense) all day without consequence.

    Bill Clinton promoted only the intern who had sex with him, but no national women’s group denounced that as sexual harassment, since he was strongly pro-life.

    The only prominent Democrat who needs to fear charges of racism, sexism, homophobia or anything else (possibly including anti-Semitism) is Joe Lieberman, because of his support for the war.

    These basic rules of identity politics and shakedown street have not changed in thirty years and won’t be changing soon.

  • http://www.hoystory.com Hoystory

    Robert Feinman: You can complain about Fox News all you want, but drop this garbage about “misuse of the public airwaves.” They’re a cable channel. They don’t use the public airwaves.

    Tom Maguire: I think you meant that Clinton was pro-choice.

    For the record: Don Imus is a punk. I predict that he’ll have a new radio gig in less than a month — possibly on satellite radio.

    For the record II: Rosie O’Donnell is a nutjob. Her spouting wacko conspiracy theories on ABC is an abuse of the public airwaves and she should be forced to attend some sensitivity structural engineering courses before she opens her trap again.

  • http://ayalrosenthal.info Ayal Rosenthal

    What about the double standard going on in today’s society? Don Imus remarks paled in comparison to what Al Sharpton had to say about the three wrong-fully accused Duke lacrosse players, and Imus at least apologized. Will media and civil right activists now shun Sharpton for his then hurtful comments against those young college athletes that were based on total BS? Doubtful.

  • Pingback: Pito’s Blog » Blog Archive » Jeff Jarvis on the whole Imus situation

  • http://leatherpenguin.com Staten Island guy

    TANSLEY: “We began losing statesmen and gaining politicians at a furious rate …”

    When I read that I flashed on the idea of a man like Danny Pat Moynihan trying to get elected in the current environment.

    Couldn’t happen.

  • Mumblix Grumph

    Hooray! It’s September 10th in America again!

  • Pingback: On Imus and Speech - odd time signatures -

  • http://afnbroadcaster.blogspot.com/ AFNBroadcaster

    I think Imus should have been fired for saying “That’s Jive,” not for his nappy hair comment. At least the hair reference is current. Don Imus, while popular is a part of a dying breed. Shock-Jock radio is on its way out. He had a good run, and now its time to say good-bye.

  • David Marshall

    My wife and I are high school teachers. We lived, worked, and raised our 4 daughters in Asia. One married an African American and another Chinese. The other two settled for gentlemen from the south! Twelve years outside of American soil seemed to spare our children from judging a book by its cover.

    Our cross-cultural experience also planted seeds of sensitivity that helped my wife and me enter a Detroit suburban high school that is 50% African American and understand the importance of contextualizing our teaching methods. If we should ever be accused of discrimination, it would be that we didn’t give the white students the same dose of affection!

    The firing of Don Imus is another setback for our students. It may have been a “good” thing, but I fear that it was not the “best” presentation. On a daily basis we hear our students proclaim, “No one is going to disrespect me!” to which we respond, “Of course they are.” So many of our students are being raised to believe that they can control how others treat them.

    Unfortunately this line of thinking becomes the foundation for a whole lot of ‘blaming’. It is heartbreaking to witness a student’s response to his or her own mistakes and failures, convinced that someone else needs to be blamed; someone else needs to “fix”, not “their” problem, but “the” problem.

    I clearly remember the Detroit riots as a youngster in the 60’s. My parents would never have admitted to an ounce of racism, but it was there. It was the kind of racism that subtly “pushed” the African American away. It still exists today and it makes me sad. But what adds to my sadness is that there is a lot of “pulling” away going on. We see it everyday in our halls and classrooms. Ask many of our African American students why we can’t say, “What’s up my nigga?” and the response will be, “Only us blacks can talk that way to each other. You’re white.”

    When we head back to school next Monday, we will have to deal with the other side of the Don Imus firing: young impressionable students saying, “That’s right; no one is going to disrespect me”, as he or she contemplates one more giant step away from outreached hand a reach that is already too far.

    I just wish Al and Jesse would have asked for our opinions, at least regarding how they presented their rationale. Discussions on the real meaning of respect will be in the lesson plans come Monday morning.

    Right or wrong on the Imus firing, the way it was fanned in the media was not the “best” for helping shape the character of our students. There are just too many Don Imus’s out there to think that blaming is going to heal a very deep wound.

    Here’s an idea: rather than put a good thing, “The Blaming of Don Imus” at the center of the media’s attention, they zoom in on the best, “Rutgers Girls Basketball Players Respond to Disrespect with Wonderful Character: Forgiveness.”

    That is a “Choice” that just doesn’t sell advertising time. How ironic!

  • Tom Maguire

    I think you meant that Clinton was pro-choice.

    I am strongly pro Spell Check, and eagerly await the follow-up, “Brain Check”. Thanks.

    David Marshall – wow, that was great. The Baseball Crank said something similar, but with much less of your background.

  • Carson Bennett

    I’m also a teacher — to some extext it may be unavoidable, but this has created greater tensions, not fewer, among students of different races. It is generally accepted (by all) that Jackson and Sharpton are primarily (not solely) opportunists; their broader apparent acceptance as something more and their success in this power play has enhanced the perception that different races are not treated the same: the perception is that African-Amercians have very few limits on their speech (commenting on any race) while other races have definite limits with severe consequences. This has been a general working impression of most students — having it highlighted and then cheered has created tensions among the various constitutencies that are not healthy.

    Jeff’s insight that the penalties are only levied when the offending speech was “really the person” and not just “a slip up” only aggravates the irritation: now it isn’t just breaking the law, it is the social assessment of “who you really are.” The students view this kind of zealotry (it isn’t just that you stole something, it is that it reveals you to be the thief that you really are) like a search for the unconverted that every group fears: populist leaders who not only know what you did but “who you really are.” They have already been subjected to this in other areas: “I know you say the right things but in your heart you don’t believe them.”

    In any case, this has increased tensions some — some will say that is necessary to making progress and the tension is part of on-going reform and I do hope that turns out to be accurate.

  • http://mikecane.wordpress.com/ Mike Cane

    >>>This is social Darwinism in its purest form. Adapt and survive…or fail and die-out.

    Didn’t the Bolsheviks say something along those lines when they overthrew the Czar?

    Really, this shit is something all of you are going to regret.

  • http://mikecane.wordpress.com/ Mike Cane

    Hmmmm… my mind isn’t that far gone. Jeff, you deleted two comments here.

    One was from a fellow who had a pro-peace site focused on the Middle East. The second was my reply to him.

    Why?

  • http://www.essentiallycontestedamerica.org/2007/04/14#a1032 Robert Justin Lipkin

    We need to reflect on the lessons learned in the Imus affair.

    See Essentially Contested America

    http://www.essentiallycontestedamerica.org/2007/04/14#a1032

  • Bill Kite

    So the mainstream media follows up the Anna Nicole Smith story with the exceptionally important news about Don Imus. As for the media working in tandem with a corrupt justice system in the Duke Rape Hoax, not much coverage. But in the blogosphere, the record stands clear.

  • http://mikecane.wordpress.com Mike Cane

    Please ignore my question to Jeff up there about posts being deleted. Apparently part of my mind *is* going! I’d forgotten I’ve been in *two* discussions about speech here: blogs and Imus.

    The back of my mind was telling me — having witnessed the Mainelli thread several months ago — that Jeff doesn’t delete posts (at least afaik not there), while the front of my mind never asked if I was in *two* threads here.

    Sincere apologies to all.

  • http://mypetjawa.mu.nu Good Lt

    “Robert Feinman: You can complain about Fox News all you want, but drop this garbage about “misuse of the public airwaves.” They’re a cable channel. They don’t use the public airwaves.”

    Heh. And another FOX-hater gets pwned by reality.

    Suggestion, people – if you don’t like what a host is saying, TURN IT OFF. You are free not to listen, watch or internalize. You have the power.

    We all have the freedom of choice here. If certain Stalinistic forces like the Sharptons, and the Kucinich/Hinchey/McCain/Feingolds of the world get their way, there are fewer choices for everyone.

    Which would you rather have – a burgeoning marketplace with lots of choices, or a milquetoast set of pre-approved-by-government-bureaucrats garbage to choose from?

    I know what I choose. And by the way, it wasn’t Imus. The market is a beautiful thing.

  • http://robertdfeinman.com/society Robert Feinman

    Apparently conservatives feel that free speech excuses outright misrepresentations. Fox (whether cable or broadcast, the screen shot wasn’t clear to me) was defaming Obama.

    Now there are libel laws in this country so, in principle, he could take legal action against Fox for this, but as a public figure it would be almost impossible for him to win the case, and the publicity would just give Fox the added exposure it seeks.

    Turning it off is an appropriate mechanism in theory, but it works better in some contexts than others. In print there are lots of outlets for opinions (although there are very few major dailies left), so with a bit of effort one could read anything from the “Nation” to the “National Review”. This is not true for TV. There are three (four?) major broadcast outlets and a similar number on cable. They are all controlled by large, essentially conservative, media conglomerates. Where are TV viewers supposed to go to get another point of view?

    Efforts to broaden the range of voices has been relatively unsuccessful. Al Jazeera in English has been kept off all cable outlets in the US. (I won’t comment on whether they are biased or not since I’ve never been able to watch them.) The BBC is shown in a limited fashion in some markets, beyond this there is almost nothing.

    So there are two points to be made. First. that a major TV outlet sees nothing wrong with slander and second, that a reasonable percentage of viewers don’t see anything wrong with their doing it. With the dropping of the fairness doctrine the opportunity to present the other side of an issue has vanished as well.

    Freedom of speech only means something if people also have freedom of listen. With a controlled media environment this is not a realistic option.

  • dean pappas

    Hear, hear.

    I tried listening to Howard Stern and gave up, not because of his offensiveness (which is good enough reason to), but because he was so unbelievably boring (junior high humor).

    My major complaint against everyone jumping all over Sharpton and Jesse Jackson (both of whom I have no love for) is that it ignores Newsweek’s article which pointed to the uproar within the black journalistic community that had put so much pressure on his firing: In other words, Jackson and Sharpton were not the pivotal figures in his firing that everyone is making them out to be (see Oliphant’s cartoon this week). Unfortunately Jackson and Sharpton set themselves up as (understandable) targets of the political right, particularly the racist political right.

    I’d like to read some articles by white males acknowledging how much racism still plays a role in America today; and to discuss the impact this racism has on the ordinary person (e.g. I am a counselor, and the stress that triggers schizophrenia is more prevalent among the poor, particularly the black poor).

    P.S. I am a white male.

  • nicki

    i think it’s pretty funny how all the African -americans think he should be fired. I don’t like Imus. He’s obnoxious and rude. I’ve heard him in passing a few times but I don’t feel he should be fired. Maybe he really was sorry. Maybe he really didn’t realize his words were going to be that hurtful being that blacks use that language all the time I hear black women call each other that, even joking around. Maybe hip-hop is to blame. There are some artists out there who don’t like it but I don’t see them on TV every night protesting like we’re seeing it now. He got fired. The blacks got there way…again!!! Let’s drop it and they can go on using that language themselves and sit around waiting for the next white person to say it so they can act persecuted and do this again for attention. And, I’m sorry but since when does a group of people have to actually take a vote to DECIDE whether or not to FORGIVE somebody????? That is a personal choice. Yes, they are a team but they are individuals first and i about fell over when I heard that they actually voted on whether or not to forgive him. Was it wrong, sure but alot worse has been said and done. Things like this are never going to go away unfortunately. I really don’t think Imus is losing that much sleep over losing his job but I think it’s a disgrace that it came down to it just to make some point to make some people happy. there are probalbly some execs that have used some racial/sexist terms themselves! are the people upset that the terms were used or that they were used on tv. What’s the real problem?? Everyone knows those terms are used daily…not a shocker! Lets’s start with BET network and see how degrading those videos/shows etc are. If blacks want respected, they need to start respecting themselves and stop acting like animals! Not all of them but you know who and what i’m talking about. and those who are speaking out like Jackson and sharpton , Oprah and the people I see being interviewed on the streets, start listening to yourselves, stop sounding so persecuted, you sound like you are just loving it, just waiting for something like this to happen so you can spring out and get on your pedestals and start preaching and whining. noone can tell you anything different. you are closeminded to anything anyone says. White people have no idea right?? Wrong! We can see it from all angles. You all put your blinders on and become so defensive you WON”T hear it another way! where we will say, hey what he said was wrong or maybe even be divided on whether or not he should be fired, blacks will say 100% yep he should be fired! It was the worse thing ever. Hey your own are doing it. You want change, start at home guys!

  • http://darydayshow.com Dary

    To hear how caucasian female fans feel, log on to darydayshow.com

  • Tom

    All this IMUS stuff is a bunch of crap. Yes, it was derogatory but certainly not worth the violent reponse it received from the black community. This sort of violent reaction by the black community once more goes to their impotence and double standard in dealing with the real issue.

    The real demeaning of black women did not come about from what IMUS said…but more from the how the rappers portray black women in their TV musical videos for all the world to see. This portrayal by rappers not only demeans black women but exploits them as well….and whadayaknow … no one has said anything….is that because it’s okay when black brothers make a living off black sisters.

    Yet, the black community is also conflicted by this exploitation of their race by their race, but are not potent enough to do anything about it…so they have found themselves a scapegoat in the form of Don Imus. Now they can express their disgust and clear their conscience all at once…and how convenient too.

    Their action says a lot more about how weak and superficial is the black community…how much hate and anger is in their soul…and ultimately, this outcry against Imus is nothing more than an expression of the anger and hate the members of the black community feel for themselves.

  • http://mypetjawa.mu.nu Good Lt

    “freedom of listen”

    #1 – Freedom of listen? Which Constitutional Amendment is that listed under?
    #2 – You’re confusing this with the choice to listen. When people don’t choose to listen to certain outlets, you don’t like it and want their choices taken away.
    #3- The government and the FCC don’t regulate cable news because it isn’t public airwaves.
    #4- CBS is a conservative corporation? NBC? CNN? ABC? Heh.

  • http://marginalizingmorons.blogspot.com/ CaptiousNut

    What I find disturbing is how freely most people sit around and discuss whom independent companies should be hiring/firing, how much “other people” should get paid, etc.

    Jeff, you don’t think Americans have a “right to not be offended”? I concur. In fact, Rush Limbaugh has been singing that refrain for about twenty years.

    I had no idea that you were on the path to salvation.

  • John F.

    What you or I think about Imus’ firing is irrelevant. The only opinions that count are those of Proctor and Gamble, Coca Cola, and so on. They alone have the dubious privilege of trying to guess what the lowest common vanilla is at any particular time. No law or moral code says Imus has the right to earn millions every year to be “edgy,” or whatever his shtick is. He’s a ratings ho’ who has failed to deliver for his pimp. It’s none of my business or yours.

  • Harry

    “With the dropping of the fairness doctrine the opportunity to present the other side of an issue has vanished as well. ”

    You are a fascist. The Constitution guarantees free speech, not “balanced speech” (whatever that means).

    Seriously, you should’ve been born in Stalin’s USSR. Your zeal for controlling what people are allowed to say would’ve been put to good use there.

  • http://mikecane.wordpress.com/ Mike Cane

    Harry: I don’t know how old you are, but were you old enough to have listened to — and did you listen to — radio when the Fairness Doctrine was in effect? It was quite different than what we have today.

  • http://deleted Tansley – addendum

    For Mike Cane: Yes, the Bolsheviks said something similar to that whilst overthrowing the Czar… Ironically, they themselves became far worse than the Czar, when the Okrana migrated into their ranks and took over the revolution, changing their name, in the process, to the KGB… Successful organizations, like successful life forms, adapt and survive…

    But that’s a process in a far larger context, Mike. Here, we’re dealing with the opportunity to let politicos get hoisted by their own petards…in spades. That’s a far cry from overthrowing a government – in fact, it’s the opposite: it’s showing up the paper mache floats and shiney wigets as so much foofaraw and letting the people who actually have CONTENT float to the surface…a little different from rounding up all the aristocrats and shooting them.

    For Staten Island guy: Pat Moynihan, you’re right…would never have survived. He would’ve needed a new hair stylist, wardrobe consultant and a speech writer…oh yes, and a LOBOTOMY…

  • Renee

    NBC has unmitigated gall in firing Imus. What hypocrisy after NBC’s show all fall have Tracy Morgan stating “I hope all black people win Deal or No Deal for their upcoming show promo 30 Rock. NBC President Steve Capus must feel it’s fine to have blacks say bigoted racist remarks but it is inappropriate when a white makes a similar comment. That is the kettle calling the pot black. What a bunch of hypocrites there are at NBC and in the media period.

    What about other racists remarks when an italian is called a Wop, a Mexican a spick, cacasians are called honkys, or crackers all are racists remarks.

  • Lisa

    O.K. I am not a fan of Imus – I believe either you are a “Howard Stern” type radio personality or not – you can’t be both (trying to be taken seriously on any level) – so Imus got what was coming to him and good for the network to have the balls to fire him.

    BUT – what I want to know is since Nappy is a highly offensive and racist stereotype word – how is it o.k. for Halle Berry’s next movie to be titled: NAPPILY EVER AFTER????

    Oscar-winning actress Halle Berry, at age 40, is preparing to go where few leading actresses would dare. Berry is going bald. Berry will shed her hair for a romantic comedy, which she said is currently titled “Nappily Ever After,” that could start shooting as soon as this summer. “I’m going to shave my head bald. I can’t believe it,” she said.

    UMMMMM……Where is the uproar – where is the public outrage…why is this o.k. – Somebody please explain (and why hasn’t this been brought up in the Media???) We can’t tolerate racism – at any level.

  • http://www.orato.com emily

    Don Imus, like Howard Stern is a “shock jock.” We know the term. They are being paid to shock us. Seems simple enough. Until they do shock us. One might think that is part of their job, hence the title. But no. When they fulfill that part of their duties, all hell breaks loose. If they can’t offend, how are they shocking us? And without touching nerves, how are they doing their job? I’m not sure if it’s a paradox or a vicious circle but whatever it is, it’s a perplexing set up.

    For the rest of Scott Cooper’s opinion on the topic, go to http://www.orato.com/node/2172

  • L A JONES

    The best of Imus is being played by KCAARADIO.COM. Show the sponcers that Imus has a serious following, because WE can forgive!

  • Guy Love

    We live in the age of the double standard. Whoever has the more effective media machine or represents the current fad victim group of the moment gets to extract their pound of flesh from whomever is offending them. I have no problem with Imus getting canned for his remarks, I just can’t help being amused by the selective application of these standards to him. Afterall, he is only repeating what has been said over and over by endless hip-hop artists in their songs. How come they are being rewarded with media airtime, big dollar contracts, and societal glorification?

    Double standards, hipocracy, selective application, everyone in the media plays this game. The ends justify the means as long as you are calling the shots. Imus is just the latest guy to suffer this schizophrenic behavior of our entertainment / media types.

  • Peter

    Mike Caine: I’m old enough to remember. Before the “fairness doctrine” was dropped, AM radio was pronounced DEAD, remember? No one listens to it. The “fairness doctrine” is just a smoke screen for liberals to complain about talk radio now dominated by conservatives. The left has no market in talk radio or ideas. Witness Air America. Plus, when is the last time ABC, NBC, CBS and CNN give conservatives a fair shake? All three nightly news anchors are liberals. In fact, you’ll be hardpressed to find many conservatives on the three major network news divisons plus CNN. Would you consider that fair? (I’m a libertarian, but the case is the same.)

  • David Marshall

    Read my previous reply, above, as a bit of background for what I want to briefly say. I have read comment after comment here and in other blogs, and I have yet to see any thoughts that are related to the impact that Imus’s firing has on our African American young people. I see first hand, on a daily basis, the pulling away and the blaming that justifies that pulling away. In some ways the damage done by African American Hip Hop pales in significance when compared to the spoken word of Imus and his subsequent firing. The first provides the haven to flee to, but the latter supplies the justification to go. Whether you approve of the lyrics of Hip Hop or not, the reality is that the attraction isn’t hate, anger, or disillusionment and despair. It simply helps fill the emptiness that was already there. Will the firing of Don Imus doing anything to keep our young people from pulling away, or would Imus’s repentance and sincere effort to embrace these fragile lives have done a better job? At some point all of the discussion and opinion sharing needs to give way to something that these young people can hold on to.

  • http://www.nappyheadedhotshirts.com jerry

    Well if you need some humor this week,which I think we all do, look at some Nappy Headed HO T-shirts!
    http://www.nappyheadedhotshirts.com

  • Pingback: Reflecting on Imus -- Do I have to? « ToughSledding

  • JULIE

    I WOULD ONLY LIKE TO SAY, THAT I AND MANY PEOPLE I KNOW WILL NOT WATCH TV IN THE MORNING ANYMORE. MR IMUS WAS A REASON TO START OUR DAY AND THE SHOW WAS INTERESTING.

    IT WAS OUR MOMENT, LIKE JOHN TRAVOLTA, WALKING INTO THE DANCEHALL ON SATURDAY NIGHT FEVER.

    DID WE BELONG??

    MY SISTER AND I CALLED LONG DISTANCE JUST TO TALK ABOUT HIS SHOW AND WHO HE HAD ON IN THE MORNING.

    “ARE YOU ALRIGHT”

    WISH HE WAS BACK.

  • Pingback: Calling for the Boss’s Head « Only Once – Matt Blumberg