Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Imus

In other news, anyone have any thoughts on this whole Don Imus debacle?

For a brief refresher, Don Imus, nemesis of Howard Stern, cranky old skull-faced radio bastard in the 10-gallon hat, one of the first to be called a "shock jock", said on air Wednesday of last week that the Rutgers women's basketball team were "nappy-headed hos". An uproar ensued, and justifiably. Yesterday, Imus went on Al Sharpton's radio show, "Keeping it Real with Al Sharpton", to apologize and explain himself. While he was on that show, he referred to Al Sharpton and another guest as "you people". This may have been innocent, but may also have been that old semi-subtle racist expression that says more about how a particular person views people of another race than about the race that person is attempting to refer to.

I'm of two minds about this controversy. I do very much like the idea of a broadcaster having freedom to say what they want on the air, and I recognize that radio people have to talk extemporaneously, and for hours everyday, about whatever the topics of the day are. Race is a delicate subject, particularly for white people to discuss, and aspects of this controversy might lead one to believe that for people in the public eye, one poorly-phrased statement can change your life in a very negative, very public way. On the other hand, this is Don Imus. Imus is a dick. Even when he's not putting his foot in his mouth over racially offensive statements, he's trying to be funny by being an ass-hole. And this wasn't a poorly-phrased statement, this was calling the Rutgers women's basketball team "nappy-headed hos". There's not a good euphemism for that. It's just racist. And he's made racially insensitive comments in the past, like calling PBS political analyst Gwen Ifill a "cleaning lady" for example. Rush Limbaugh got fired from ESPN (or officially he resigned) for saying the media wanted to see Eagles QB Donovan McNabb do well because they wanted a black quarterback to succeed. Getting him off TV then was good and it sent a good message: racist statements are not acceptable in the mainstream of today's society.

Should Imus be fired for his comments? I don't know. The statements he made were clearly offensive and, in my humble layman's opinion, there should be consequences. If the women's basketball team, which today agreed to meet with Imus, decides to forgive Imus for what he said, maybe Imus's seemingly heartfelt apologies and the 2-week suspension NBC's already handed down might suffice. If they don't, then ultimately NBC will decide what they're willing to live with in the name of profit. I do like that Imus is getting called out for this; he's being forced to defend his statements. That doesn't always happen. Nationally-known Atlanta-based radio "personality" Neal Boortz called Cynthia McKinny a "welfare drag queen" and a "ghetto slut" shortly after her run-in with a Capitol policeman, and for his racist remarks he received not even a fraction of the condemnation Imus is getting. Though the difference here might be the targets of these racist comments: on one hand you've got the commendable Rutgers basketball players who'd recently lost the championship game, and on the other you've got Cynthia McKinny, whose missteps and impolitic behavior had made her a lot of enemies in her home state. Both Imus's and Boortz's statements are racist, clearly, but when men like Sharpton and Jackson are trying to fight their impossible war, namely to cleanse speech of racist content, they must recognize the need to pick their battles. If it's possible to be more in the wrong than Boortz was last year, then Imus has done it. It'll be interesting to see how it plays out.

In completely unrelated news, Jimmy Kimmel subbed for Larry King the other night. On his show he had Emily Gould, a editor from Gawker.com to defend a feature on their website called "Gawker Stalker" which allows people to call in to Gawker with celebrity sightings, at which time Gawker posts them after a short delay. Celebs hate this, in particular Jimmy Kimmel. Someone called to report that Kimmel looked "intoxicated" in public. Gawker ran with the piece without bothering to check first with Kimmel's publicist, and so now poor Jimmy's mad and decides to take it out on Ms. Gould on King's show. This is the clip. I never liked Jimmy Kimmel, and this clip only goes to reinforce my poor opinion of him. "I want you to think about your life," he tells her. He implies she's on her way to hell, all because she had the temerity to make Jimmy feel bad. How Bill O'Reilly-esque he is in this clip. How small. His continued success is astonishing to me.

And I know two posts in one day is unusual, so just in case you may have missed it, check out my "Grindhouse" post, located just below this one. And I'm out.

5 comments:

harwell said...

I like that you described Imus as skull-faced. He's always seemed hideously unattractive to me, and I think you summed up his particular features well. Aside from being a really, really stupid thing to say for someone in his position I do have mixed feelings about the response though. There is certainly a double standard at work here. Your example of the Atlanta DJ is good and make no mistake - he's receiving the attention because of who he is more than because of what he said. I even suspect that someone like Howard Stern could get away with making a similar statement as long as he did it with a blackcent and Robin laughed at it. As long as they knew it was a joke, it would probably be okay. Maybe the problem is that Imus is so terribly unfunny that no one could tell he was joking...

Either way, here's my big beef with this thing: it's more sexist than racist. If he had called a predominantly white women's basketball team "nappy-headed hos" would people even notice? Probably, but not to this extent. How many black rappers have called other black women hos? 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.

Anyway, propping Imus up on Sharpton's show and meeting with the basketball team seems like such a lame thing to me, things Imus would never, EVER do if the media weren't watching his every move. It's the same thing with Michael Richards and Mel Gibson - they say they're sorry, they meet with the right people, make sure a couple photos are taken, and then boom their image and careers are supposed to be secure. That's not a cure for bigotry, it's only further proof of privilege and celebrity.

If you work at McDonald's and you call your manager a nappy headed ho, don't you think you'd probably get fired?

blankfist said...

Did Imus call his boss a nappy headed ho? No. If he did, he would get fired just as fast as a McEmployee. But, 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. And Imus is probably viewed in higher regard in terms of profit gain than the nappy headed McBurger Flipper.

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.

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 speeking 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.

We have to affirm life with offenses. This isn't a country where we should pulling this Mickey Mouse bullshit. I'm not substituting Smurf for fuck, and I'm certainly not going to apologize for other white people's bigotry. I don't listen to Imus. I probably never will. Still, even if he's not in the societal realm of good taste, he's still in the right.

peter said...

brian, I love that you described Imus as Skull-faced.

Gretchen said...

Do people really pay attention to Imus? What I really mean is, does anyone take him seriously? Paying this much attention to guys like Imus and Stern when they try to stir the pot only makes them more profitable to whichever conglomerate owns them and emboldens them. He's washed up. As for Kimmel, is it possible that your distaste for him has kinda skewed your interpretation of this clip at all?

Peggy said...

Heath - I agree this is a business decision. They 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. I highly recommend that Fox News pick him up. He'd be great for them. Because of the fragmentation in media, MSNBC and CBS can not afford to have negative attention that ostracizes their customers. Viewers and shareholders alike are being concerned in these decisions, not just hurt feelings.

Also - he is ugly as fuck and shouldn't be on tv period.