Thursday, April 12, 2007

Comments Post! Imus: Redux

Mmm, controversy.

I did this once before that I can remember, back on the global warming post, but I'm a gonna do it again for Tuesday's Imus post. I'm going to post up some of those excellent, well-reasoned comments and then respond to them and thus, possibly, keep the discussion alive.

(Just as a news update, Imus lost his TV show today, though he's still on the radio, broadcasting away. Drudge had a transcript of today's Imus show that was pretty funny because throughout Imus whines about losing his MSNBC show but keeps saying he isn't whining and that he deserves all this. You sort of feel sorry for the guy, but then you read this Slate article, and then you actually listen to his radio program for a minute or two, and then it's much harder to feel sorry for him.)

Anyway, onto the comments:

Shawn posted:

Either way, here's my big beef with this thing: it's more sexist than racist. The statement is demeaning to women regardless of race, but that's not to say Imus isn't making the association that black woman = ho. I think he probably is and I think the notoriety attached to the idea of the pimp in our culture over the past decade or so has sort of made this the acceptable norm in a way. Pimps and hos is a black thing right? Well, it shouldn't matter - it's a gender and power thing first and foremost.

I think Shawn's right here -- the sexism in Imus's oft-repeated comment has definitely been overlooked during all this. I wonder if the less-discussed sexism may be what's adding fuel to the fire -- it's like a double whammy of offensiveness, racist and sexist, and that much harder to brush off. And historically Imus has enjoyed using the pimps and hos imagery to spice his descriptions of black people. He called the New York Knicks "chest-thumping pimps" (And just to keep on with the Knicks, he once called Patrick Ewing once a "knuckle-dragging moron". )

Heath wrote:

I don't even care to argue whether he should or shouldn't get fired (or resign) over this, because at the end of the day it has to do with how the communications conglomerate that owns his station views this incident in terms of profit gain and loss. It's business, really, that decides these issues, and most of the time to a huge fault.

This I agree with. It is up to GE-owned NBC-Universal (which did opt to boot him), as well as the Viacom-owned CBS (which so far has opted to keep him). And I also agree that, oftentimes, it is "to a huge fault" that corporate America has so much leverage over what can and cannot be broadcast over the airwaves. Back during the run-up to the Iraq war, Phil Donahue had a show on MSNBC. It was a decent show, its rating weren't stellar but during his critical and skeptical coverage of the seemingly inevitable rush to war, which at the time was fairly unique on TV, his ratings went much higher. In fact, according to one of his producers, it became the most-watched show on the channel. But his show got canceled anyway. A leaked internal NBC memo came out calling Donahue and his show, "a difficult public face for NBC in a time of war ... He seems to delight in presenting guests who are anti-war, anti-Bush and skeptical of the administration's motives." So he got canned for expressing the entirely legitimate views shared by about half of the country. So even though his ratings were good, NBC decided, out of a sense of patriotism and for the good of their viewers, that he shouldn't be allowed to have a venue. Somewhat similarly (emphasis on the somewhat), Imus's ratings are way up, and still MSNBC has decided to fire him. But like Peggy wrote in her comment,

The fact is Imus is deteriorating the value of the brands he works for, not only for each station he airs on, but also MSNBC and CBS Radio, which is why they should let him go.

Though perhaps the facts that separate these two situations are more numerous than those that unite them. Imus said something ignorant and racist for a joke and lost his MSNBC job, and Donahue was airing legitimate political opinions unpopular with the NBC brass and lost his job on MSNBC. Pretty different.

Heath wrote:

Crane, your take on this is staggeringly myopic and dangerous. You need to stop watching the news for a couple months, so you'll stop with the left-leaning absolutism. Jesus. Gross. Gross Jesus. You say you're of two minds about this controversy, but are you? Really? I think not. You have a singular vision for a utopian society that's a bit naive, I think. Racism is a delicate subject, but to single out that it's exceptionally delicate for white people, is at it's core racism, too. But, it's the okay kind, right? You know the kind, the anti-white kind? That kind of racism is socially acceptable to you New York Times white apologists, and I can't side with that.

I agree with the second sentence. I do need to stop watching the news for a while -- it's been a real bore of late. But to the point, I don't think I am for a utopian society. In my post I didn't ask that offensive racial language be stricken from the public dialogue by force of law, I'm merely expressing my opinion that Imus ought to be fired for uttering it in this case. In fact, all the people calling for Imus to be fired are merely expressing their opinions about it. And though you may think these opinions wrong or "dangerous" even in the free-est society they'd be allowed and celebrated. And I'm not sure that pointing out that discussions on race are exceptionally delicate for whites is also racist, though it may be. Maybe it presupposes that inside the heart of every white person there's a hate-spitting racist trying to be heard, or maybe it presupposes that there's a tissue-skinned minority waiting to be offended at the slightest provocation, whether intentional or not. On any given day of the week, I believe neither, one or the other, or both. Also, I wonder what, specifically, you're referring to as "the anti-white kind [of racism that's] socially acceptable to you New York Times white apologists"?


Were Imus' comments offensive? Sure. To me? No. To someone or a group of people? Apparently. You think there should be consequences, and I wonder what consequences you feel would be appropriate. To me, this falls under free speech, but, because he was speaking as an employee of the station, it's up to the station to determine if this will affect their profits negatively. If decidedly yes, then they should have the right to let him go. And if the voice of the people say they don't like what he says, then they have the right to not listen to him. Those are the consequences I find fair. The law has no place in this matter. Not even a little bit.

I totally agree that the law has no place in this. I hope I didn't give the impression in my post that I did. He has a right to free speech, and so do all of us who condemn it. And yes, it's true as you imply, that one solution would be for those who didn't like his comments to simply not tune in (which would likely effect his ratings not in the slightest as the people most enraged by his comment are not Imus listeners). But as Peggy alluded to, it's more than just that, it's a "branding" issue. Imus falls under the "brand" of NBC-MSNBC, and if he's been deemed a racist by leading and respected opinion makers in the country and that label has now stuck, then NBC cannot reasonably keep an outed racist under the NBC brand.

I think it's a mistake to look at this Imus imbroglio through the prism of this one comment. If it had been that and only that, his shot at holding onto his job would be much better. But it isn't. He's got a history. Journalist and politician guests are Imus's bread and butter. I think it's telling that not a single black journalist, of which there are many, have ever gone on his show. Even before he insulted PBS's Gwen Ifill by calling her "the cleaning lady", she knew enough not to go on his show, which may have been why he singled her out for the racial insult. The exception, (so I've read though I can't find the article at the moment), was Clarence Page of the Chicago Tribune. He went on, told Imus to cut it out with all the racial stuff, and was never asked back. Yes, Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson want him gone, but so does Barack Obama. Even Al Roker, hardly a reactionary firebrand, thinks Imus ought to go. I think the unspoken boycott by respected African-Americans of Imus's show is very telling, and gives the subtext to this outrage that, to some, seems overblown. I think a lot of people have been waiting a long time for Imus to slip up like this. It was bound to happen.

But racism, systemic and government supported racism, is alive and well in 2007. Today on Josh Marshall's, he lays out clearly what may be underlying the entire US Attorney scandal, namely suppressing the minority vote, specifically African-Americans. Click here for the full post. Therein he lists a few cases featuring voters making innocent mistakes and being prosecuted harshly by the federal government. The gist of his piece is this: some of the fired attorneys were supposedly fired for not pursuing so-called "voter fraud" cases aggressively enough. But, as Marshall says, the overwhelming evidence points to the fact that voter fraud cases are, across the board, trumped up and phony attempts to keep black people out of the voting booths, or to throw out their votes after they've been cast. It's been a Republican strategy for decades, but never moreso than it has been under Karl Rove. Remember Florida in 2000? They stole the election by throwing out huge chunks of the black vote. Hell, not long after I started this blog, I wrote about this great state of Georgia passing a law, sponsored and passed by Republicans, requiring all voters to have a $20 ID in order to cast a ballot. This would disproportionately effect poor minority voters, which was, of course, the idea. But to hear a Georgia Republican tell it, the Voter ID bill was designed to protect against the anti-democratic (and non-existent as it turns out) scourge of voter fraud. Like so much of what Republican's hold near and dear, it's bullshit.

And finally, speaking of Republican bullshit, they're trotting out a shiny red wheelbarrow full of it for our discriminating palettes today. You know those White House emails Congressional Democrats requested in regards to the US Attorney purge? The ones White House officials wrote on the Republican National Committee's email system so as to circumvent the Hatch Law requiring all White House emails be saved for posterity? The ones that no doubt featured tons of damaging evidence of deliberate, widespread Rovian malfeasance? Yeah, well, they lost them.

Another day in the reign of George W. Bush.


blankfist said...

Here's the comment of mine you should post next time: "Booooooorrrring...."

Kidding. You have a very interesting talent of usurping other's opinions while making it sound like encouragment. I like it, so I'm writing this as a fan. After nearly every 'comment' you reposted, you immediately show how you agree with something within their comment before jumping right into tearing it down. Wait. No, I stand corrected, you only do that to my comments. Which deserves commending, because it's subtle. My favorite false ecouragment was "I agree with the second sentence. I do need to stop watching the news for a while -- it's been a real bore of late. Oh man! Zing! For a second there I thought, "Oh, he's agreeing that Dems and Repubs who cling closely and adamantly to their partisan moutpieces feel as if the smallest sign of dissention on their part would be a sign of weakness for their party, so they have to swallow all of the partisan koolaid all the time." But, no, it was just that you felt the news has been boring recently. Oh man! Good one! You got me!

But seriously, I agree your opinions should be and are being held as your unconditional right, and no part of what I said do I want to be taken as censorial in the slightest. If you believe he should be fired, then I think your opinion is speaking volumes with the current vox populi. Racism is a problem in 2007, maybe not as prevelant as it was in 1960s America, but still an ongoing issue needing our attention to correct. The correction, I think, needs to come from a perspective of enforcing equality, and not from a symbolic attack on some hack shock jock's comments. The law should support and advocate our civil rights, because the words 'all men are created equal' isn't just a snappy mantra, it's our declaration. And the law must uphold that. The law, however, should have little place in determining what is and isn't considered approrpiate expression under free speech. Unfortunately, they currently enforce poor censorial laws, but that's a discussion for another time. The companies, on the other hand, do not need to be held to the same free speech rights, because they have profit interests - and they're not the government (to mean, not public). So, in that respect, I think we're all on the same page. Good post, dude.

Anonymous said...

Wow! An amazing and spirited debate.

First off - if we take the business model - here we go. The media - that "space" up there belongs to the people of the Republic, not corporations - this is the law of the land.

The Gov't sells this media time (for nothing mind you) to monopolized, gov't funded corporate entities who have slowly become even more concentrated by huge privatized conglomerates to our dismay. This is happening across the globe - look at Italy where their past PM (Burlesconi) ran the country and controlled all media outlets.

Why is centralization of the "free press" so bad? Because you eventually bite the hand that feeds, making it impossible to get the real truth of anything out - instead of PR hacks and special interest backed "experts" spewing their lies on primetime and to the lazy, apathetic masses.

Moreover, the idea of making money in the media is to create markets of users or in this case viewers.

These broadcast companies and/or media conglomerates obtain advertising dollars to sustain themselves - and what gets people watching TV or anything for that matter is sensationalism, pure and simple - infantile bullshit mostly adhering to the basest of instincts and pretending to offer a democratic choice of information.

These psuedo shows (which lack any critical thought whatsoever and do nothing but reinforce our prevailing market dogma) is what drives people to be immersed by the corporate products and services. Not to say that people are swayed one way or another - they just want your time and they want to manufacture a need (even if there isn't one to begin with).

In many ways - content is just a filler or another form of advertising to get people to watch and absorb another stupid commercial.

The idiot box for instance - is one big massive pollution device of corporate advertising.

In radio and TV - there is seldom anything of value offered to our society - if anything - it pushes for separation among people and the creation of ridiculous niche groups( black, Latino, gay, straight, Christian, etc) in order to easily market to and manipulate.

You see - Imus is not the problem -he fulfills precisely the concept of free market dogma under the guise of free speech. He is a useful pawn of senstationalism that gets people interested - enough to be battered by useless advertising. It's that simple. A more sophisticated and complicated thinker would alienate the masses from these products as it would make them think too much about life, their liberty, what is happening around them, ad nauseam. It undermines their legitimacy so to speak.

Now, where it gets interesting is when people wake up, unite regardless of race, creed and political opinion and just say enough is enough. The argument should not be made against Imus, or Limbaugh, or Coulter or Donahue, or Maher or any of the pundits - but instead the fucking companies that pay their bills.

Boycott the firms, stop listening, turn off your fucking TV - transcend these ridiculous concepts of brand - ask or demand for a replacement or alternative!

Where is our truly democratic media? The last remnants are within left leaning listener sponsored Pacifica, or some of the libertarian websites like or even some of the Evangelical listener sponsored sites or even

PBS, BBC, NPR and to a point Air America are sanctioned and controlled by a state/corporate alliance that is usually underwritten and propogated by the usual suspects - rich elite families that built America (through Foundations, Trusts, etc).

Moreover, read up about Walter Lippman and the famed "liberal" CBS mogul who made it normal for the gov't/media to go to bed with one another and stay the course for the welfare of the state.

So - arguing about who said what is in my opinion a waste of precious time (sorry!). I just feel Imus and the lot are merely a distraction.

Is our country that feeble to think that a few fascist zealots on the air (and most of this is crypto) will influence an entire nation into a homogenous racist movement, endagering the African-Americans?

Moreover, the retaliation by special interest groups, NGO, non-profits, watchdogs and lobbyist groups to against these eggregious situations are created to fight this very concentrated power. They exist as a reality of the situation.

Haven't you also read that Marshall McLuhan stated that the Medium is the Message - meaning that content no matter how inflammatory has no effect on people - what does - is the medium or platform of the communication system or link - that can change, atomize, separate society and harm democracy and liberty.


harwell said...

Just chiming in to say that Imus has now been fired by CBS from the radio.

I can't believe I'm going to say this but I almost feel sorry for him. I didn't like Imus but because of this I simply didn't listen to him. And I kind of doubt Al Sharpton listened to him either. I can understand why CBS doesn't want a racist on the air representing them...but it seems to suggest we should avoid racist comments not because it's the wrong thing to do but because you could lose your job.

And who had a better job to actually discuss the problems of racism than a radio guy like Imus??

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