Wednesday, April 11, 2007

A Thought About Imus

So now MSNBC has pulled its simulcast of the Imus show, and major advertisers are pulling their ads.

I've never much cared for Imus, never found him to be that funny. So I don't care much whether his show stays on the air, and if he is fired completely at the end of the day I think that's just fine.

I disagree with the likes of Sharpton, however, when he says that "None of us has the right to use the public airways in the way that Mr. Imus has done." It's dangerous to use the Imus example as a platform for talking about "rights." In the US, there aren't anything except public airwaves, so if you are saying that by obtaining a license to broadcast you are bound to a certain kind of content, then you are essentially endorsing censorship. The FCC currently regulates broadcasts for decency, and nothing suggests that what Imus said would run afoul of current rules. So, yes, Imus certainly has the "right" to use "public airwaves" to say what he said.

With that said, "the public" listening to Imus' blather has the right to complain, advertisers have the right to stop advertising, and MSNBC and CBS have the right to cease broadcasting or simulcasting Imus' program, as the case may be. And, it appears, all of those things are happening (or will happen shortly). So my take is that the system is working precisely as it should, without a complex set of content rules about what you can and can't say on the air.

UPDATE 4/13/2007 Imus has been bagged. If that creases you, you have the right to complain to CBS and others about his firing. Good luck and godspeed.



Anonymous Anonymous said...

I could not agree more.

My additional thoughts on this whole episode are as follows: Hearing reports of Imus' blather left me feeling rather sad. From what I understand, this type of conduct was routine on his show. So now Imus has been fired. That's certainly fine by me. We can all feel good about that.

But despite this new-found feeling goodness, I see larger issues lurking. I wonder what this whole experience says about our society. Millions of us apparently enjoyed this style of humor enough to spend the better part of our morning commutes listening to it. I, for one, wish we invested more of our resourses in public transportation so that more of us could engage in more productive pursuits on our commutes than listening to Imus.

And I can't help but to note the particularly sad irony that at least part of the language used by Imus to insult the young African American women appears to have been popularized by a dissapointingly large segment of the African American community.

How's that for pathetic?

10:48 PM  
Blogger Gollum said...

language used by Imus to insult the young African American women appears to have been popularized by a dissapointingly large segment of the African American community.

Good point. There's been a lot of discussion about "double standards" in play here and I think that's a red herring. You can't just look at a set of words and say, "well, black people use them too so why can't we?" And the answer is because words have different meanings depending on who says them, when they are said, and to whom. "Nigger" between two blacks can be a term of affection, a recognition of shared social status, common history, etc. The same word from a white to a black could be harmless if the two are old friends, and thoroughly antagonistic if they are not. This should surprise absolutely no one.

Even assuming the words mean the same thing when used by both Imuses and rappers, it still doesn't get Imus off the hook. Granted, my three year olds have difficulty understanding why they get in trouble for throwing food in a restaurant when they see a boy two tables over doing the same thing without reproach. My six year old, however, has figured it out.

Truthfully, what saddens me the most is that a remark made by a past-his-prime entertainer whose shtick is meant to appeal to a fairly base sense of humor is driving our national dialogue on race relations. But, maybe that's a topic for another post.

8:30 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I cannot help but to question whether Imus would have come up with that nomenclature on his own.

12:27 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't listen to Imus and could give a care about his employment status.
I think as a society we have become hypersensitive to what people say. What do I care about what people say about me, or your or the women's basketball team. I now who I am and what I'm about.

Sticks and stones....already.!!!

5:11 PM  
Blogger Gollum said...

I think as a society we have become hypersensitive to what people say.

In some cases, yes, but you and I can both remember a not-so-distant time when telling "nigger jokes" was acceptable dinner table conversation. We took our cues from those guiding the conversation - - namely, our parents and grandparents.

Imus is a public figure with a sizable following. His remarks influence others and set a tone.

If your son or daughter looked out your car window and referred to some dark-skinned pedestrians as nappy-headed ho's, would you just chuckle and say, "aw, he's just trying to be funny"? I doubt it.

8:36 AM  

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