Yesterday (Sunday) I received a email post from my friend and frequent Books and Bait contributor Chet Brinkley (see that full post below). Mr. Brinkley wrote that as a civil libertarian and strong advocate of the first amendment, he finds himself "torn" over what to think about the Imus firing. After mulling over Chet Brinkley's sentiments, I opened the Sunday New York Times to see that Frank Rich was at least partially defending Imus in his Sunday column. And then today in the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, columnist Syl Jones added some incisive anti-Imus commentary--some of which I will quote in this post.
Since this issue hasn't dissipated yet, I thought I would offer my own perspectives here today. I can find absolutely no sympathy for Imus on any grounds whatsoever. Chet Brinkley was impressed that even after CBS fired Imus, "he and his wife still wanted to apologize to the Rutgers team." Here are my answers to some of the extremely lame Imus defending that has gone on during the past few days.
#1: on the general topic of free speech--Imus did not lose his free speech privileges! This is very important to remember. Don Imus is sitting in his fancy New York apartment right now, or walking the streets of Manhattan (and he's probably wearing that dumbass cowboy hat too). He is not in jail, he is in no legal trouble, and his employment opportunities are, frankly, pretty good. Don Imus is not Eugene Debs, or Emma Goldman, or Margaret Sanger (all paid the price for their speech and actions). He got fired from his job because he's a fucking racist idiot. After cleaning out his desk, and picking up his inflated paycheck, Imus can still say anything he wants. He can go on TV, write an editorial, give a speech, publish a blog.....he remains totally free to be the bigoted and chauvinistic bastard that he was on the radio. He hasn't lost his free-speech rights at all.
#2: it's about the government--The critical part of the free speech issue is when it is imposed by the government. It's the government that can take away free speech rights--not CBS news. What we need to be concerned about is government censorship--the right to speak out against the Bush war-machine, the right to protest, online freedoms, and absolute music, art, and literature freedoms.
#3: Jackson and Sharpton--Bringing up these guys is nothing but a red-herring. Mr. Brinkley quotes Kansas City Star sportswriter Jason Whitlock who manages to get in a short quip against Jackson and Sharpton. The fact that the national media marches out Jackson and Sharpton every time there is race issues really tells us more about the national media than anything else. These two gentlemen don't speak for all African Americans. And if I was one of those conspiracy buffs (like my good friend Ratso Rizzo), I would say that the national media only uses Jackson and Sharpton to turn public opinion against African American issues. But I won't say that. In fact, it doesn't matter what Jesse Jackson or Al Sharpton say--if you dislike these gentleman, it has nothing to do with the issues at hand.
#4: the weak-ass rap argument--Mr. Brinkley writes in his post, "As a white guy, I'm out of touch with the black experience. But I don't think it serves anyone well to condemn whites for using hateful and bigoted language while "rewarding" artists in the black community for using it with impunity." I think this is simply silly! There are many black organizations and individuals trying to deal with these rap/hip-hop race and gender issues. In the meantime, what should white America do? Are we allowed to all perform our best Strom Thurmond impersonations just because black rap artists use racial slurs in their music. The connection makes no sense. As Syl Jones writes in his editorial, " If you can't understand what's wrong with a white man piggybacking on the problems of an African American subculture of disrespect and blithely importing it into a nationally syndicated radio and television broadcast, what do you understand?"
#5: the even weaker-ass "chilling effect" argument--Frank Rich wrote in the Sunday Times that firing Imus will have a "chilling effect on comics who push the line" as well as on political talking-heads like Bill Maher and Ann Colter. Again, this is simply silly. Chilling is such a severe word when Imus didn't lose his free speech rights. Furthermore, Frank Rich is demonstrating his insider status here. Maybe there will be a slight effect on some of the inside-the-beltway types, but who else will be influenced......my guess is no one.
#6: this is also about women and gender--Some have forgotten during the past week that Imus not only made a racial slur, but he also showed his true chauvinistic colors. At the same time he made his now infamous statement on the Rutgers women's team, he said something about the Tennessee players being "cute." I think his clear disrespect for women should have earned him the ax.
#7: and don't use the term PC around here-- What does "politically correct" really mean? Let me tell you using a wonderful quote from Amanda Marcotte at Pandagon, "PC is a term that is used to declare insults aimed at the less powerful groups protected, while doubling up the social punishments for even legitimate (if humorous) criticisms of the powerful." PC is an excuse for the white, male frat-boy types to criticize anyone they please and laugh about it--it also "allows" them to label themselves the victims of an oversensitive society. What assholes!
#8: Imus only apologized because he finally went too far/he got caught--Did I even have to mention this one? Isn't it obvious?
#9: finally....and most importantly--free speech is here so "we the people" can criticize the government--I agree with Brinkley, Rich, and others that absolute free speech is important. But we need to reflect upon what it is for--free speech was not originally intended to allow the majority (white males) to say anything they want against minorities. They can do that already--and they have always had the political power to do that. Imus is just piling it on. Let's not forget that black female college athletes aren't the enemy; and rap singers aren't the enemy. No hip-hop artist is going to take away my habeas corpus rights.....but I know someone else who will. The enemies, the people we need to fear, are in the government (specifically the Bush administration). They can take away our rights.
I understand that even though Imus is a small-fish, we still don't want to go down that first amendment slippery slope. But Imus didn't lose any rights and he's not worth defending.