Don Imus, Censorship, and Self-Appointed Spokesmen

This week’s rant originated as a condemnation of the Sensitivity Police, who in recent months has seen fit to condemn anybody who states any opinion or makes a wisecrack that they deem to be tasteless, racist, homophobic, sexist, or any of seemingly dozens of sins.
Obviously, the reason why this week would be the time for such babble is due to the actions of talk show host Don Imus. While discussing the outcome of the Rutgers-Tennessee NCAA women’s basketball championship, Imus referred to the Rutgers players as “nappy headed ho’s”.
Sure, it was a tasteless line, but it was also a throwaway off-the-cuff remark. Interestingly, African-American comedian Patrice O’Neal admitted on Monday’s Opie and Anthony show that he had similar thoughts as he watched the game.
It was a dumb joke, and the issue should have ended after he apologized the next morning. Instead, the controversy, fuelled by media whores taking advantage of a slow news week, has spread like cancer into a situation that now has the potential to squash the First Amendment rights of everybody in the television, radio, and print media industries.
Don’t believe me? Take a look at how the vultures have descended on Imus. He can’t apologize enough for these people. He’s spent time on the issue every day this week on his syndicated radio show, along with making appearances on Al Shapton’s radio show and NBC’s Today Show. Every cable news talking head show is devoting a large chunk to the controversy, featuring multiple “experts” with lofty (but questionable) titles explaining to us exactly what we’re supposed to think. Newspaper columnists and bloggers are shocked, shocked, shocked that Imus would say such awful things.
Adding more insult to the non-story, many of these members of the morality police are invoking the word “children” into the story. Yes, the old “what about the children” cliché. Yet the last I checked, with very few exceptions people in college are of adult age, and are able to vote, get married (although why anybody does that I’ll never understand), or join the military. If these athletes can handle the criticism for missing a crucial jump shot, I highly doubt they’ll be scarred by jokes about their tattoos or hair styles.
What’s most troublesome about this situation is the double-standard that’s so explicitly shown in the media coverage. Take Imus and Jackson’s appearances on the Today Show. Matt Lauer had no problems throwing Imus under the bus, particularly when bringing up a previous controversy that happened over 25 years ago. When Meredith Vierra interviewed Rev. Jackson, though, she apologized profusely before asking about an incident where Jackson had made controversial comments about Jews. (Even worse is that after 50 years of nothing but weather reports and interviewing old ladies celebrating their 100th birthday, Al Roker suddenly has an opinon on Imus.)
The fact that extremist race-baiters such as Sharpton and Jackson are now leading the charge for Imus’ dismissal is troubling. They are both the epitome of vultures, always appearing whenever they can maximize their onscreen time. Yet it appears that it’s only the media that claim them as leaders of the African-American community. To prove that point, I did a little unscientific survey of black employees, friends, and acquaintances, and the almost unanimous opinion was “fuck Al Sharpton”.
Brooklyn filmmaker Franklyn A. Strachan Jr. was a bit more eloquent, telling me by email that “neither were elected by the majority of the black population in America to any position of power or representation. Hence forth their opinions are that of themselves and their small contingency; not that of the black population. I am offended by media outlets dictating who speaks for me. If anyone should be reprimanded it is those people who have decided this for me.”
As a society, we cannot stoop to where a handful of people can decide who can say what words, particularly in a comedic or satirical situation. Imus’ show is primarily a comedy show that includes politics, and he cannot possibly be expected to be held to the same standards as Brian Williams or Matt Lauer.
Who is going to decide what words can and cannot be said? Keep in mind that you as a citizen have absolutely no right to NOT be offended by words that anger or offend you. Artists, comedians, actors, and musicians do risk losing work by offering material that may be considered offensive, but they certainly have the right to say them. As Strachan said in his email, “free speech is a right that insures we are an educated society. Without knowing the thoughts and feelings of others we can not clearly be represented. If the opinion is popular or not should be inconsequential, and should not be a factor for discipline”.
Members of the media already have enough problems dealing with the FCC’s vague, post-Janet Jackson rules that have already virtually eliminated any sort of edge-y musical or comedic material. We are inching closer and closer to a puritanical society where even Elvis, the Beatles and Stones would stand no chance of hitting the airwaves, let alone Richard Pryor or George Carlin. Do we really want an entire nation of Celine Dion and Jeff Foxworthy fans?


Anonymous said…
It is stupid. They never made a stink about all the other crap that comes out of this StearnWannaBe's trap.

Thing is, I'm sure ImASS is thoroughly enjoying all this negative attention - as much as he enjoyed going on the Rev Al's show yesterday so he could blow him, live on the radio.

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