Schlock Jockey

by Scott McLemee on April 16, 2007

I was sick of the whole Don Imus thing about two minutes into it, and did not expect willingly to read a long discussion of the subject. But Phil Nugent’s commentary is on target. The rhythms of his rant are always so beautifully well-modulated:

The talk radio world, one that Imus worked hard to shape, is one where overpaid white guys who did well in the voting for the title of “Class Clown” at their respective high schools sneer at blacks, women, gays, what have you, in a dismayingly self-congratulatory tone. The self-congratulation comes not from the cleverness of their material—nobody could be that self-deluded—but from the fantasy that they’re speaking truth to power and taking on The Man by being, and here hold tight while we flash back to the thrilling days of 1993, “politically incorrect.” Their natural audience is people who hate their lives and, at least for a few minutes a day, like to imagine that they’re outlaws by listening to some peabrain on the radio make fun of, say, homeless people or the victims of the 2004 tsunami. This stuff is not hard to do. Lest you think I’m being self-righteous here, let me make it clear that I know how easy it is to do funny ethnic voices and make fun of gay stereotypes because I’ve done it, usually very late at night, often on car trips when I was trying to keep myself and someone else awake, always when my cerebral wattage had reached the draining point and I couldn’t think of anything to say that would actually have counted as funny. In my defense, nobody was throwing millions of dollars at me at the time, and if they were, I like to think that I would have differed from the Imuses and the Opie and Anthonys of this world in that I would have made some effort to actually earn the money. (I remember that when Howard Stern began a short-lived tenure of having his show broadcast in New Orleans, he held a press conderence, and one of the local reporters asked him how he would compete with the hilarious, daring wild man talk guy who was already doing a New Orleans morning show, and whose name escapes me. Stern, who’d clearly never heard the local guy’s name, said something like, what’s he do, like a Southern guy and a black guy and a gay guy, all the while doing high-school level impersonations of a drawling hick, a Stepin Fetchit type, and a nelly dude, which did indeed sound exactly like the local guy’s repertoire of funny voices. I remember that the New Orleans reporter was stunned by this, and seemed genuinely unaware that there was some yokel doing the same basic act at some radio station in every city in America.)
On the other hand, that means Imus won’t be gone for long. He’ll be on satellite radio or Fox. His agent will be shopping a memoir around to publishers no later than the end of this week, probably.

So it goes. To continue:

If there was any wisdom in his decision to peg his attempt to keep his job on his attempt to prove himself a “good person,” it can only be that, as unlikely as that claim sounded, it was easier to believe that he was on some level a good person than it was to believe that he could ever, ever have become funny and talented. Dim and self-obsessed as ever, he never seemed to grasp that the people calling for his job weren’t doing it because they were not yet convinced of his goodness. They were doing it because they’d concluded that there was a real chance that they could get him fired, and he’d make an impressive trophy.

….He won’t starve, and he probably won’t even be gone for as long as some of us would like. But at least his admirers will have to live with the memory of him spending the week crawling on his belly, whimpering and licking every boot he came across in his pathetic bid for forgiveness, a most gratifying commentary on just how much of a ballsy anti-P.C. outlaw the jowly cretin and most of his ilk really are. No, the public excoriation and humilation of Don Imus will not rid the country of racism. But surely a country where the Don Imuses are never publically excoriated and humilated would be a worse place to live.

Now let us never speak of him again.

{ 52 comments }

1

Uncle Kvetch 04.16.07 at 5:59 pm

Spot-on. Very nice indeed.

2

abb1 04.16.07 at 6:56 pm

Actually, these guys can crawl on their bellies, whimper, lick boots, beg for forgiveness – and five minutes later brag about it and scorn the people whose boots they licked. Sociopaths.

3

Mooser 04.16.07 at 8:28 pm

I’ve never heard him, only sort of heard of him, and now may never hear him. I am not at the throbbing vortex of things.

4

rilkefan 04.16.07 at 8:32 pm

“sneer at blacks, women, gays, what have you”

According to what I’ve read, Imus sneers at everybody, starting with himself, so the above seems a bit of a distortion.

Also the argument starting, “We know for a fact that he’s not a good person” begs the question about the central issue.

5

mootieboo 04.16.07 at 9:16 pm

rilkefan:
I believe the phrase “what have you” clearly implies “everybody.” No distortion there.

6

Russell Arben Fox 04.16.07 at 9:21 pm

The debate over Imus’s firing generated the single best discussions I’ve had all year in my American government classes, so hey, it was worth something.

7

swampcracker 04.16.07 at 9:55 pm

“Now let us never speak of him again.” Does this mean we are not allowed to leave a comment? Gee whizz.

8

the idiot 04.16.07 at 10:05 pm

Rilkefan.
While “We know for a fact that he’s not a good person” begs a question (whether Imus is a good person), it does not beg the question (whether Imus should be removed).

Nugent situates the “good person” question quite seperately from the “can him” question: the answer to the former is irrelevant to his consideration of the latter:

If there was any wisdom in his decision to peg his attempt to keep his job on his attempt to prove himself a “good person,” it can only be that, as unlikely as that claim sounded, it was easier to believe that he was on some level a good person than it was to believe that he could ever, ever have become funny and talented. Dim and self-obsessed as ever, he never seemed to grasp that the people calling for his job weren’t doing it because they were not yet convinced of his goodness. They were doing it because they’d concluded that there was a real chance that they could get him fired, and he’d make an impressive trophy.(italics mine)

Nugent ideentifies himself with these “people calling for Imus’s job” throughout his argument, as is especially clear from his final pararagraph:

No, the public excoriation and humilation of Don Imus will not rid the country of racism. But surely a country where the Don Imuses are never publically excoriated and humilated would be a worse place to live.

Nugent begs the question of Imus’ goodness as he brackets it. Once bracketed, however, it does not affect the validity of his argument.

As to your first point: a person who habitually and intentionally demeans people through racial/sexual identifiers is a racist/sexist. If he also demeans people in other ways, he’s probably an a______. But I fail to see how the state of being an a______ can mitigate charges of racism. He did denigrate the Rutgers team based wholly on their race and sex, right?

9

otto 04.16.07 at 10:12 pm

We can only hope the same will happen to Marty Peretz one of these days.

10

Greg Hunter 04.16.07 at 10:49 pm

I watched Imus because he asked better question of more diverse guests than anyone on mainstream American TV. I would also contend that there was more to the Rutgers incident than has been reported. I do not know for sure, but Imus probably pushed the envelope because his sports reporter (Chris) is employed by Rutgers as the football commentator. He went too far, but he was trying to hard. He supported more charities and literally flogged Harold Ford Jr. ad nauseum. If he really was a racist pig, why did he flog this guy so hard to become the first African American Senator from Tennessee?

11

rilkefan 04.16.07 at 11:02 pm

“As to your first point: a person who habitually and intentionally demeans people through racial/sexual identifiers is a racist/sexist.”

Here “habitually”, “intentionally”, and “demeans” beg the question. Otherwise e.g. clearly non-racist black comedians would be racist. I’m happy to see Imus go regardless of whether he’s a racist or not, but I think there are reasons to preserve areas of less restrained speech; and more generally I think imprecision and illogic is bad even if used for ends I agree with.

12

Darkwater 04.17.07 at 12:16 am

Greg, if Imus was “literally flogging” Harold Ford and was proud of it, I think that’s pretty good prima facie evidence that he’s a racist.

13

Henry (not the famous one) 04.17.07 at 12:30 am

Apropos of the last line: Virgil’s comments to Dante about the damned souls of those who refused to take sides and who are found in Antehell:

. . . misericordia e giustizia li sdegna:
non ragioniam di lor, ma guarda e passa».

“Mercy and justice disdain them.
Let us not speak of them: look and pass on.”

Inferno III: 49-51

14

Volum 04.17.07 at 1:05 am

Lame.

This self-righteous pro-PC morality-police nonsense is so backward it makes my head spin.

If we get Bill Hicks, they get Bill O’Reilly.

That’s just the way it goes.

And all your knee-jerking me-too’ism will put all radio hosts, comedians, and actors, on-notice that if someone gets offended somewhere, prepare for massive public censorship and the possible destruction of your career.

Censorship is censorship.

15

ed 04.17.07 at 2:03 am

I would also contend that there was more to the Rutgers incident than has been reported.

That seems highly unlikely at this point.

Imus called Gwen Ifill a “cleaning lady.” Any more to that incident (from the early 90s) that hasn’t been reported? Am I missing something?

Cleaning woman. A dozen years ago. Par for the I-man course. Yes, he should go. Quietly. And we should be happy about his going.

16

snuh 04.17.07 at 2:38 am

We can only hope the same will happen to Marty Peretz one of these days.

also noted confederate sympathiser wesley pruden, who continues to survive and prosper as editor-in-chief at the washington times.

17

the idiot 04.17.07 at 4:47 am

Rilkefan.

I think imprecision and illogic is bad even if used for ends I agree with.

But that was my point: Nugent’s faulty logic was contained in a bracketed provision, and was therefore not used for any ends at all.

As to illogic in my comment, I did not beg the question: I provided a justification (the Rutgers slur) which by itself was insufficient to prove habitude. That was a mistake, though I would like to retroactively amend the justification by adding in the Gwen Ifyll incident cited in comment 15, and the on-air deployment of Bernard McGuirk day in and day out. That should begin to show the outlines of habit and intent.

Even without the emendation, however, insuffucient justification is not the same as none at all; no question was begged.

18

Helen 04.17.07 at 4:54 am

Change the venue to Australia and “Don Imus” to “Alan Jones” to see an almost exact counterpart.

19

rilkefan 04.17.07 at 5:17 am

t.i., if you want to claim the statements in question are made in a contextless vacuum, fine – if you have no expectation to connect e.g. “intentional” and “demean” to the actual world then I’ve no interest in arguing, and ditto wrt the usefully vague “habitual”.

I think I can come up with further criticisms of the cited piece more or less at will but who cares.

20

snuh 04.17.07 at 7:29 am

Change the venue to Australia and “Don Imus” to “Alan Jones” to see an almost exact counterpart.

except don imus is a cowboy and alan jones is some sort of bizarre dandy.

21

conrad 04.17.07 at 8:43 am

I find it fascinating that in this whole Imus flap, a tremendous amount of hatred is, indeed being vented, not at blacks, but at “rich white guys”. Why is that somehow okay? What Imus said is pretty lame, but not hateful or cruel or even overtly racist, just sloppy stereotyping, which is what the guy lives by. But what critics of Imus say is incredibly hateful, racially motivated, and seemingly perfectly socially acceptable. If the target is white, male, and affluent, it seems socially acceptable to fling one’s turds upon him – always commenting on his race and sex, it seems.

Personally, I never liked Imus or his show, and think he’s kind of a dork. But I would defend his right to be a dork, and if people want to listen to him, I defend his right to earn a living being a dork. I think the whole spectacle of people piling on him to be repulsive and revoltingly hypocritical, and blatantly and deeply racist and sexist, rather than just superficially so, as in Imus’ case. It’s disappointing when people here join in on this gang-bang out of simple resentment.

22

SG 04.17.07 at 9:54 am

“nappy headed hos” is lame and not racist?

Heaping shit on rich white men who heap shit on black people is racist?

And isn`t the word dork itself an insult reserved mostly for white people?

23

almostinfamous 04.17.07 at 11:11 am

conrad, are you honestly saying that we should ignore the real, albeit “superficial” racism of a man whose voice and opinion reach millions of people?

for at least some of the people in his vast audience, his words and behaviours are at least reinforcing the pre-existing prejudices, if not validating large portions of their worldview.

of course, by this time next year he’ll probably be on one of the satellite radio stations of the US.

24

glenn 04.17.07 at 1:57 pm

egads…a post about Imus, and one that mentions Stern (and, no, not the magazine), is actually generating comments and interest?! On Crooked Timber, no less!

Ok, so when do we chat about Paris Hilton?

(But Nugent’s commentary is excellent!)

25

ed 04.17.07 at 2:08 pm

Personally, I never liked Imus or his show, and think he’s kind of a dork. But I would defend his right to be a dork, and if people want to listen to him, I defend his right to earn a living being a dork.

Wow, way to take a stand.

Who is taking away I-man’s right to be a dork? He can be a dork today as much as he oould two weeks ago. And he can try to earn a living doing it today also. He just can’t do it on CBS or MSNBC cause he was fired for being a racist.

What he said is racist (you really don’t get that by now?). And the problem isn’t “reverse racism” resentment of rich white men. But historically, that’s who caused the problem and had the power to cause the problem.

We’re not taking it out on Rich White Men. We’re taking it out on a specific racist asshole who too many media drones took to be a respectable venue to yak it up. No more. And that’s a good thing.

26

the idiot 04.17.07 at 2:36 pm

Rilkefan.
I’ll uncle on the definition of racism I provided, because I don’t have the time to defend it, and it was never necessary to my main point (the validity of Nugent‘s logic).

*

I think I can come up with further criticisms of the cited piece more or less at will but who cares.

You tossed off a quick objection which did not, on closer inspection, hold water. That you might have other such objections which you do not wish to specify does little to support a contention that Nugent argued poorly. I, at least, have the assumption that a person would lead with an argument that, if not her strongest, is at least minimally sufficient to achieve its end: as a result, I’ll assume, perhaps wrongly but until proven otherwise, that any other objections you may have will be of the caliber of your first, failed sally.

I only assumed that you cared because you spoke. As an ex-blogger and an infrequent commenter here or anywhere, I tend to assume people to be like me, not making claims about which they do not care.

27

rilkefan 04.17.07 at 5:56 pm

t.i: “You tossed off a quick objection which did not, on closer inspection, hold water.”

Umm, no. I identified two serious flaws in his argument based on a quick read; I didn’t bother with the whole “I say he’s untalented therefore he’s untalented” silliness and the equally thoughtless “taking his head as a trophy is a justification in itself” line your interpretation relies on. And I didn’t bother listing all the manipulative misuse of language in the piece. When I said who cares, I meant I had satisfied myself that this was a rant (as the post notes) and not something more.

28

conrad 04.17.07 at 9:50 pm

Trying to answer a few responses in one post:

No, I don’t think Imus is a racist. I don’t think he believes in the inferiority of the black race, or the superiority of the white race. I think his comment was a lame attempt at racial humor, not racist humor. The problem is that old white guys who aren’t “cool” get slammed for making such jokes, in part because they are just not very adept at the whole thing. Jokes like this are made on South Park every week, they’re just more hip about it.

Now, if you actually look at what Imus said, I think it’s clear he was actually trying to compliment the Rutgers team in a pseudo-hip way. He was trying to say how tough they were, how they were very intimidating on the court. In his mind, he riffed on the black street tough image. If it had been a men’s team, he might have said they were gangstas. Because it was women, he called then “ho’s”. Nappy-headed means “uncontrollable, wild hair”, it’s not a negative in this sense, but a positive, in that it’s part of an image in his mind of really tough women players who can take control of the court.

Now, if it were a white-player team, and he wanted to call them tough, he might have called them “Vikings”. And would that have caused any ruckus? Well, of course not, even though the Vikings were a murderous bunch of rapists and killers who terrorized Europe for several centuries. Oh, wait, there’s actually a team called the Vikings. Which just goes to show that in the sports world, tough and mean and criminal is considered a good thing. Think Oakland Raiders also.

Now the idea that because some white men have been racist, and slave-owners, and created the racial divide in the US long ago, that all white men must pay for this, and not be given your basic tolerant break and freedom of speech in areas like this, is just plain racist. If this is the standard all of us have hoe to, black or white, then this is going to one boring world to live in.

The further point is that Imus’ remarks would have gone completely unnoticed if not for a deliberate campaign to “get him”. Someone from a P.C. media watch group was taping every single Imus show hoping to catch him in something like this. Nobody else paid any attention to it at first. The Rutgers team never would have heard about it. But this group took the tape and emailed it out to thousands of media people and created a huge stink about it. It was all very carefully orchestrated and exploited in a hugely political manner. I find that all very ominous and dangerous, far more so than Imus himself and his lame racial jokes.

Now, of course MSNBC and CBS can drop him if they want to. What I object to is the massive media campaign to “get” this guy. It’s sick, it’s racist, it’s sexist, it’s hypocritical, and its a terrible example to follow. The self-righteous preening of the media, and so-called liberals, is very disturbing to me. I consider myself a liberal, and it’s for that reason that I find this whole episode an affront both culturally and politically.

29

ed 04.18.07 at 1:33 am

conrad:

“Politically Correct” Sophomore Actually a Racist Asshole

Good riddance to The I-Man: Howard Stern for pseudo-intellectuals.

30

ed 04.18.07 at 1:33 am

er…”Politicall Incorrect.” Obviously

31

conrad 04.18.07 at 2:36 am

What, other than lame remarks, makes Imus a racist? Aren’t you just being lazy and self-righteous to call him racist? A racist is more than someone who talks trash. A racist has an attitude that people of a certain race are less than human, inferior, worthy only of denigration, etc. I don’t see any evidence of that kind of attitude on Imus’ part. He just likes to sling stereotypes around. Sometimes he’s funny, sometimes not. Sometimes he’s racially offensive, just as sometimes he’s offensive in all kinds of other ways. But is he actually racist? There’s simply no evidence of that. All this overly sensitive chip-on-the shoulder reactionary outrage is fake and phony. This guy is neither KKK nor playing to the KKK. He’s sophomoric, true, and an asshole at least half the time, but he’s not racist – at least not until the charges are actually backed up with real political stands on his part that are clearly racist.

As gfor getting rid of him, the backlash hasn’t even begun. I guarantee that Imus will be back with more money, more stations, and a bigger audience than ever before. You’ve done nothing with this hateful, over-the-top campaign but make a martyr and even a hero of him to his fans, and to quite a few other people who never heard of him but think he’s getting the shaft.

32

conrad 04.18.07 at 2:38 am

Oh, and your Freudian slip was a real doozy, btw. Sometimes the truth comes through from our unconscious.

33

Colin Danby 04.18.07 at 2:52 am

Re #28, Conrad, are you unaware that “ho” is short for “whore”? Calling young women whores is not generally understood to be a compliment.

“Nappy-headed” is a way of making clear that he’s talking about black women. So he called a group of student athletes black whores. You will kindly explain how this is a joke.

On your last point you would seem to be unaware that these remarks were on Imus’ own radio/TV show, intentionally broadcast to the widest possible audience. The number of plain facts you have to deny to make a case is instructive.

34

Helen 04.18.07 at 3:46 am

Nappy-headed means “uncontrollable, wild hair”, it’s not a negative in this sense, but a positive, in that it’s part of an image in his mind of really tough women players who can take control of the court.

Thank goodness I have finally found out what “nappy-headed” means. In Australia, as in the UK, “nappy” means a diaper. I was definitely bamboozled. Thanks.

35

conrad 04.18.07 at 4:14 am

Re #33

Conrad, are you unaware that “ho” is short for “whore”? Calling young women whores is not generally understood to be a compliment.

It depends on the context. While “ho” is derived from “whore”, it has a different meanings in black slang. On one hand, it can just mean any good-looking woman. It can also mean a tough, street-smart woman who can handle herself in difficult situations. “Pimps and hos” is common slang for “guys and gals” with of course a rather edgy street vibe to it.

As for the sexual content of “ho”, I think it’s clear that Imus was not using in in that way at all. He was clearly trying to come up with a stereotype of toughness for a group of black woman, and his fellow commentator supplied the “ho” word. He added “nappy”, which also suggest a wild and tough nature. As for calling a group of college athletes “hos”, that clearly NOT what he was intending to do, in the context of his commentary. He wasn’t commenting on their sexual habits, but on their toughness on the basketball court. Making these women into victims is one of the most sexist thing about this whole incident. It’s just a little trash-talking. Maybe Imus deserves an elbow in his eye on the way back up the court, but that’s about it.

Now, as to the humor of it, humor often involves the juxtaposition of opposite meanings. An orthodox Jew wearing a cowboy hat is funny, for example, because you don’t expect that juxtaposition. Likewise, Imus was looking for a startling juxtaposition to make a funny image about the Rutgers team. He knows, and his listerners probably know, that Rutgers is an upscale university. So comparing them to street tough “ho’s” was supposed to be funny, precisely because it wasn’t really what they were. At the time, in the context of saying it, there didn’t seem to be anything all that notable about it. I don’t know if anyone laughed, but no one called in to complain either. Taken out of context by the witchhunt crew from Media Matters, however, it sounded bizarre and racist. Which is easy to do if you want to with a lot of things. Take a Chris Rock show out of context, and it would seem bizarre and racist also.

Of course, if you have to explain a joke, it’s not a very good one. It’s clearly a sem-offensive joke, playing on race and sex and athleticism and urban slang, but that doesn’t make it a racist joke, and it certainly doesn’t make Imus a racist. I’m still waiting for some kind of real world evidence of his racism, his support of racist social policies, etc. Trying to convict someone by taking out of context bad jokes and making a national phenomena out of it is the truly offensive thing about all this.

36

Colin Danby 04.18.07 at 5:52 am

Are you twelve years old, Conrad? Perhaps you should ask someone to explain to you what a pimp is and why the juxtaposition of pimp to “ho” hardly diminishes the force of the insult “whore.”

Before you complain about people taking things out of context check the context yourself, which instantly disproves your labored reinterpretation of what Imus and his sidekick were up to. (http://mediamatters.org/items/200704040011)

Enough of your contrivances. Let’s just write down the standard bigotry-defense playbook.

1. A racist is the most bigoted person we can possibly imagine. Therefore anyone whose bigotry does not precisely track the most bigoted possible person cannot be racist.

2. Racism can only exist in the core of someone’s heart and since that’s unobservable nobody can legitimately be termed racist.

3. They were just kidding. That cross-burning? It was really a satire of cross-burnings.

4. Bigots who also insult Jewish and Irish people qualify as genial all-around ethnic humorists.

5. A black person once said something vile, so that lets all white people who say vile things off the hook, forever.

6. If even one of the people who deplores the bigot is less than saintly, the bigot is off the hook.

7. Everyone knows that people with a taste for bigoted utterance are the real victims.

I think you’ve hit them all. I grew up in North Carolina in the 1960’s and heard a lot of racist jokes, and a near-constant of those jokes was imitation of what the speaker imagined to be black slang.

37

conrad 04.18.07 at 2:33 pm

Colin,

What does “pimp” mean in common slang nowadays? Does it really mean soliciting prostitution? There’s a show on MTV called “Pimp My Ride”. Is it about sex and prostitution? No, it’s about customizing automobiles. Any 12-year-old knows this. This means you are less knowledgable than a 12-year-old.

Likewise, “ho” and “bitch” mean very different things nowadays also. “ho” does not mean “whore”, unless used in a particular context.

As for your bigotry defense playbook, this is called paranoia. In the first place, you are assuming that everyone who tells a joke about racist, even a racist joke, is a racist. Maybe in your youth in North Carolina this was partly true. Maybe everyone there was already a racist, so those who told racist jokes were actually racist. I grew up in Connecticutt, and we told racist jokes when we were kids, and I don’t think any of us were racist. We just liked funny jokes. I still find some race jokes funny. I don’t think Imus’ joke about Rutgers was funny, but it’s not because it was racist, it just wasn’t funny. On the other hand, his joke about Gwen Ifill – praising the NY Times for assigning the cleaning lady to cover the White House – is funny, because she really does look like a cleaning lady. I also think Richard Prior and a whole slew of black comedians are funny when they tell jokes about race, usually at the expense of whites. As is Sarah Silverman often. Funny is just funny, particularly when it is about highly charged emotional issues like race.

Now, I’m not arguing that racism only exists in the core of one’s heart. I think it exists in one’s actions. It is you who claim that Imus is a racist simply because of what kinds of jokes he tells, which you think reveals what’s in his heart. I don’t much care what’s in his heart, I care what the guy actually does. Does he burn crosses on black peoples’ lawns, as you claim people who tell jokes like this do? Does he even support racist policies, racist politicians, racist agendas? If so, I’d like to see the evidence of this? If his “racism” exists only in the form of occasional bad-taste jokes, that a form of racism I think we can all live with. I’d much rather have that kind of tension-relief racism around than the racism which obeys social rules and yet contrives to keep down whole groups of people on the sly.

The fact is, we are all “racist” in some basic sense. We are all human, we all indentify with our own body, character, ethnicity, etc. We almost innately fear the “other”. We tell jokes about the “other”. This is how we deal with our fear and insecurity. Much better to deal with it that way than try to look good on the outside, while actually pursuing racist agendas inside.

My point about racism is that someone is not racist unless they are actually acting in a racist manner. Speech alone – especially out of context jokes – is not evidence of serious racism. Trying to police speech is just an attempt to cover up things that people don’t really want to deal with in themselves. Media Matters is a pseudo-liberal organization with an agenda that has nothing to do with combating racism. It’s about playing “gotcha” games.

Now, when a racist makes racist jokes, that’s not funny. When a segregationist makes racist jokes, as I’m sure you’ve heard down in Carolina, it’s just not funny. But I see no reason to believe that Imus is such a person. You haven’t given any. You are arguing like a six-year old, who takes everything way too literally and has no sense for the nuances of adult life.

My argument is not that racism is rare. Quite the opposite, racism is everywhere. But serious racism is quite a different thing from joking about race. People are funny in their own special ways. Black people are funny, white people are funny, every ethnicity is funny, but in its own way. Getting overly sensitive based on what other racists have done in the past just perpetuates racism. Media Matters is in the business of perpetuating racism for political purposes, just as the Republicans have done. They have turned this whole Imus remark into a mass hysteria about race no different in kind than racists have done in the past (though certainly different in degree). Rather than look at the situation as it actually is, it tries to impose a universal rule of what is “allowable”. This I object to.

This is also a serious problem with what remains of the “civil rights movement”. Rather than focusing on really improving the lives of blacks and other minorities, it tends all too often to focus on empty symbolic issues that have emotional appeal but no real substance. This is the equivalent of Bush Sr. raving on about flag-burning or the Pledge of Allegiance or Willie Horton. This is bad for America, as Jon Stewart would say. It’s bad when the right does it, and it’s bad when the left does it.

4. Bigots who also insult Jewish and Irish people qualify as genial all-around ethnic humorists.

Does that mean everyone who tells a Jewish or Irish joke is a racist? What about Jews and Irish comedians? They tell jokes about their own ethnicity all the time. They also tell jokes about other ethnicities too. And of course everyone tells jokes about mainstream white guys.

The point is, you haven’t demonstrated that Imus is any more racist than the average joe, just that he mouths off as a shock jock for a living. If you don’t like him, why not just tune into some other station? Why support a media boycott of the guy? What exactly is that supposed to accomplish?

38

John Protevi 04.18.07 at 2:45 pm

Conrad, dude, please. You’re like, so two weeks ago. But if you must, you’re stuck in an ontologizing mode. The right question to ask is not “IS” Imus a racist? Cause then you’re stuck in trying to qualify a substance. Better to ask about the event: did the remark play upon racist terms, and was it aimed at very sympathetic victims?

39

ajay 04.18.07 at 4:05 pm

“ho” does not mean “whore”, unless used in a particular context.

Tell you what. What do you think would happen to you if you said (to a black man) “Your wife is a well-dressed woman”? Now, what do you think would happen if you said “Your wife is a well-dressed ho”? Because I think you might notice a difference in the reaction.

40

conrad 04.18.07 at 5:42 pm

John,

You are right that the joke was racial, and that it was played on sympathetic parties. But calling them “victims” is exactly what I’m criticizing. I think that’s pretty sexist too – thinking of woman athletes as poor victims of a lame joke. To think that way actually requires that we diminish the strength and power of these young women. I don’t see them as victims at all, unless they are willing to play that role. The non-victim posture would be to just shrug this kind of crap off and refuse to let oneself be portrayed as victim in this witchunt craze.

Also, the issue of whether Imus is actually a racist does matter, even for longer than two weeks. It also matters whether the remark itself is actually racist, or just a bad racial joke on sympathetic people. The second is not a firing offense, nor a cause celebre for the civil rights movement.

For Ajay, as I said, the context of using the word “ho” matters greatly. I’m sure Imus would never use it to refer to a man’s wife, white or black, at a social occasion. His show is shock-jock entertainment, in which the host says precisely the kind of thing that none of us would say in regular social life. That’s the point. If you don’t approve of that kind of entertainment, fine, don’t listen to it. But don’t try to tell everyone else what they can and cannot listen to, based on your own preferences. Or, be prepared to have your own preferences censored as well. Let’s all go back to the 50’s, when even talking about black people was considered a no-no. Is that what you want?

41

John Protevi 04.18.07 at 7:19 pm

Okay, the “targets” of his remark. May I suggest you contact the Rutgers women and enlighten them as to the proper way they should have adopted the “non-victim posture”? Be sure to return here to tell us of their response. If only they had had the wisdom to contact you first, our nation would have been spared this terrible ordeal, the firing of Don Imus.

Seriously, though, the whole “is he or isn’t he a racist” line of questioning is bogus, not least because treating people like substances and seeing whether X or Y characteristic is in their essence is not really a good ontology for human beings. We’re much more like complex events unfolding in time as we interact with other events than we are like substances with a set of essential characteristics.

Finally, as long as we’re talking about the remark, “joke” is not the right word. What was the set up for which Imus delivered his remark as the punchline? It wasn’t a joke, it was an insult.

42

DonBoy 04.19.07 at 12:41 am

On the other hand, his joke about Gwen Ifill – praising the NY Times for assigning the cleaning lady to cover the White House – is funny, because she really does look like a cleaning lady.

Or the Secretary of State. Just depends on what you expect to see, I guess.

43

roy belmont 04.19.07 at 1:44 am

Nugent:

“the Snopes family…
open-mouthed hillbilly…
Joe Caveman…
tobacco-juice-stained crowd…

the jowly cretin…”

Bigotry sucks, doesn’t it? Unless it’s directed at people who really deserve it. Then it’s okay.
Everybody knows hillbillies are worthless subhuman scum. And cavemen, well, that one’s been over for a long time, hasn’t it?
Though you have to admit Australian bushmen do resemble the stereotyped caveman, at least a little, even with clothes on and all drunk and lying on the sidewalk.
Cretins are okay to laugh at because hey, who knows any? None around here. They’re all in institutions!
You worthless assholes.

44

Pinko Punko 04.19.07 at 8:38 am

I love all the endless expounding over “nappy” and “ho,” which were clearly used with racist connotations, yet none of the “I wanna have the I-man’s babies” brigade has bothered to realize that McGuirk used the term “jigaboo” seconds after Imus’s “ho” crack. This pretty muh ices the racist cake. Seriously, people a little effort next time. And the next person that complains about censorship can STFU. I’m swimming in the irony of that last statement.

Drop the zero, people, get with the hero!

45

Katherine 04.19.07 at 12:11 pm

I particular love that, according to conrad, all the people arguing with him are sexists because protesting against the joke makes the butt of the joke victims. Sorry to tell you this, but calling women “ho’s” is not funny. At all. It doesn’t indicate toughness, or “street”, it conveys prostitution. It conveys an utter lack of respect for womanhood and a deeply disturbing view of female sexuality and its relationship to mail sexuality. So put that in your pipe and smoke it, you smug bastard. Oops sorry – just a joke.

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conrad 04.19.07 at 3:41 pm

Katherine,

It’s not protesting against the joke that makes the women victims, it’s the manner and degree to which one protests. Clearly, most of the media outrage is making these women into victims. I’ve heard their own coach call Imus “evil”, which raises the whole thing to a ridiculous level of warfare. I think these women are being taught a terrible and stupid lesson, and women like you are only perpetuating it. The pressure on these women to go along with this witchhunt is unconsciencable. No one even seems interested in what they actually think, and none of them are even able to speak for themselves – it’s all about going along with the team, the coach, the media, the critics, and going against that grain gets you targeted as a villain – as you and others here are doing.

Does it even occur to you that I’m not a racist, just in favor of free and open speech? It doesn’t seem to. Most of you are simply whitewashing this story, pretending there is only one side to it, your side, and anyone else is on the side of racism and evil. I would be defending Imus just as strongly if he were a black man making offensive comments about white women – the sad thing is, so would most of you out there. Which is precisely my point – this is a politically motivated witchhunt that has nothing to do with these women at all. They are just bystanders in a cultural war.

THe fact is, black men do make all kinds of offensive comments about white women – listen to rap music, my dears. I do. I really dig rap music, even the most offensive varieties, as long as it’s well done. Not everyone does of course, and that’s fine. Protest their misogyny and racism if you like. But don’t try to get them banned and censored and record companies to refuse to publish them. Scream all you like about Imus, you’re certainly entitled to your opinion. But don’t try to pressure anyone to fire him.

You may want to live in a society which censors all offensive statements that you consider offensive. I don’t. I don’t want to censor statements that I consider offensive. And Imus’ remarks do not, to me, in the modern cultural context, seem like any big deal at all.

As for “ho”, you can take it any way you like, but the usage of the term varies tremendously depending on context. Are you really saying that Imus’ intent was to impute that the Rutgers players were prostitutes? If so, then the Minnesota football team should be protesting that they are being called rapists and murderers when people call them “Vikings”. Or if a male football player is called a “marauder”, or a “Raider”. All of these imply rape as a way of doing business. But clearly, no one means to say that male football players are rapists when using such terms. Nor is “Pimp my ride” a phrase about learning how to be a pimp. Language is highly flexible, and making it rigid and offensive is the reactionary response of humorless church ladies and censors of all stripes.

So yes, I do consider many of these protests to be sexist in nature. I doubt anyone would be raising a stink if it were the Rutgers men’s team who had been referred to by Imus as “gangstas”. The fact that they are women is precisely what makes this a “story”, and the media is using the sexist notion that women are defenseless victims the primary reason to go after Imus here. Do you disagree with that?

47

conrad 04.19.07 at 3:58 pm

re 42, wow, so you think all black women look alike? Sorry, Condaleeza looks nothing like Gwen Ifill. I was just watching PBS News Hour last night, and damn if Ifill doens’t look like a classic black cleaning lady. Something about the resigned, plain look on her face. Condoleeza, on the other hand, is full of tension and intensity – not cleaning lady material.

The point here is that we are way too sensitive about race. Can’t even make a joke about it. And don’t ever utter the word “jigaboo”! My God, as if “honkie” had never been used by a black comedian before. But then racism is purely a white phenomena, right?

As I’ve said, racism is indeed pervasive, and trying to suppress any kind of offensive racial references in speech is not the way to deal with it. I’m in favor of letting down impulse control in the area of speech. I always go by the motto “sticks and stones can break my bones, but words can never hurt me.” So keep up the vitriol if you like. Just don’t try to get me fired from my job for defending offensive speech.

48

conrad 04.19.07 at 4:12 pm

BTW, if anyone wants to hear some seriously funny race-based commentary on sex, hos, dogs, etc., try this on for size:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j3LLpNLo864

Any protesters ready to get on this bandwagon?

49

asm 04.19.07 at 5:23 pm

Not even protest offensive speech? Personally, I consider this sign a thrilling demonstration of free expression.

50

DonBoy 04.21.07 at 5:33 am

47: You’re the one who threw out that Ifill looks like a cleaning lady, and I had no idea why.

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conrad 04.21.07 at 7:34 am

to #50, re Ifil, I threw that out there because it was one of the commonly cited “proofs” mentioned by critics of Imus as to his alleged racist attitude. I thought you would have been aware of it.

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conrad 04.21.07 at 7:39 am

re #49, yes, and segregated bathrooms are also a wonderful way of expressing one’s views. Surely you applaud them?

When the point of “free speech” is to exclude one’s targets from participation in public life, it is not free. Book burnings are not celebrations of intellectual freedom.

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