Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Not in Mourning over Imus in the Morning

I first listened to Don Imus in the spring of 1988. I was living in New Jersey and listening to a lot of New York Mets games on WFAN out of New York. One night, I fell asleep with the radio still on. The next morning, I awakened to the dulcet tones of Imus and his crew of misfits. Even 19 years ago, he sounded like a grouchy old man. He was obnoxious, rude, and rarely had a good thing to say about anyone or anything. When I finally put a face to the voice, I thought he certainly looked the part. He was 47 at the time.

I've caught Imus' shtick off and on (mostly off) ever since. In a way, he’s aged well, but I suspect this has more to do with the fact that the human face can only look so wrinkled and weather-beaten. I think he reached the visibility limits with respect to “mileage” quite a few years ago.

His program certainly became more political, but it was still largely the a.m. (both in terms of time and frequency) ramblings of an unrepetentant curmudgeon. To be honest, I’ve never been a big fan of the MSNBC simulcast of his show. This is mainly the principle of the thing. I refuse to watch a “television program” that is, essentially, a bunch of cameras rolling while a radio program is being broadcast. Anyway, the point is that I’m pretty familiar with “Imus in the Morning”.

I was a little bit surprised when I heard that he’d made racially disparaging remarks about the Rutgers University women’s basketball team.

I was more surprised when I learned that he’d been suspended for two weeks by both MSNBC and CBS Radio. I think their response was “appropriate” by definition. He’s their employee, and, in matters like this, they make the rules. I just thought that Imus had enough clout to avoid a suspension.

I have not been at all surprised by the tone and tenor of the ongoing debate over all of this.

I knew that I would soon be subjected to water cooler debates over why it’s “o.k.” for an African-American entertainer to make derogatory statements about black women, while a white male gets into trouble for doing the same thing. At the other end of the spectrum, I’m going to hear calls for his head from people who I’ve heard make statements that make Imus’ look mild by comparison.

Look, context is everything. If comedian Chris Rock walks into P.J. Carney’s in New York City and tells the joke about an Irish seven-course meal's being a six-pack and a boiled potato, I would expect some of the patrons to respond differently than they would if comedian Denis Leary did the same thing. By the same token, yes, Tom Joyner might have been able to make the “nappy-headed ho’s” comment without sparking much, if any, controversy. What is usually ignored is the fact that no one should really be making statements like this in the first place!

"Double standards" always have existed when it comes to things like this, and they always will. One’s racial and ethnic identity can, absent evidence to the contrary, enable one to get the benefit of the doubt in terms of intent when it comes to making certain statements. It can work the other way, as well. This is also true in terms of other aspects of our “identities”, as well. I can call a sibling an idiot as often as I like. That being said, I will probably not take too kindly to such a label being applied to him or her by someone outside of the family. I tell more New Jersey jokes than most people, but that doesn’t mean I’ll appreciate it if someone from, say, Ohio starts talking about the “Garbage State”.

Imus’ remarks were stupid and insensitive. Guess what, he has a 30-year history of making stupid and insensitive comments in an attempt at being funny. I don’t listen to him much anymore, but I actually hope he keeps his job. Like the famous W.C. Fields quote regarding prejudice, Imus seems to hate everyone pretty much equally. He's also raised a lot of money for some very good causes. From a personal standpoint, I know that if he does get fired over this, the water cooler conversations will only get worse.

Come what may, though, I know that Imus will come out looking no more careworn than he did before the whole firestorm erupted.


Evorgleb said...

Wow, the Imus thing is just crazy. I personally have mixed feelings about it. If any of you care to read it, one of our writers over at Highbrid Nation worked with Imus over at WFAN for several years and recently chimed in on the whole situation. He also reveals some details that the media is failing to report on in regards to the suspension

plez... said...

i'm not in mourning, either, since i don't listen nor watch the show (that's why i have sirius satellite radio so i can hear Howard Stern & Company be rude and insensitive). besides, a 2-week vacation is just what the old bag-of-bones needs.

this story has gone around the blogosphere TWICE in the last 24 hours and plezWorld was no exception.

i wasn't particularly upset about the comment ("nappy headed ho's") but i thought that it was misdirected at a group of young women in college - personally, it would've been different if he had been talking about the WNBA NY Liberty Team!

i also take umbrage to his ticky-tacky "i-am-a-good-person-who-did-a-bad-thing" apology on his show and later on the Al Sharpton Show. his apology needs to be delivered in person to the young women on the Rutgers University basketball team and their parents... period!

his apology means no more to me than the state of Virginia's apology for slavery!

Anonymous said...

oba -

first off, let me congratulate evorgleb for the quick plug for his / her own blog by posting a teaser comment and directing your own readers there within 24 minutes of your initial post, complete with a link - good effort !

here's my take on this. the i-man may or may not be a racist (i for one think that he is on some level), but as a part-time listener of his during my time in NYC in the mid-1990s, my impression was that he truly lashed out at anyone and anything that he possibly could, black, white, brown, red, yellow, or green, all in a desparate attempt to chase howard stern's ratings. i remember that slick willy was a frequent target of his, on top of hillary, monica lewinsky, professional athletes (including OJ), catholics, and many others. it's been that way for 20 - 30 years now.

my point is that his act was desperate first, and discriminatory second. that doesn't excuse or diminish the impact of any discrimination on his part, but i think it does put it in to a context worth remembering. so doesn't all this attention thereby BENEFIT imus in some small way - it's what he wanted in the first place, right ? if so, wouldn't the best path of protest / outrage here be to just turn the dial ? ? ?

and really, what's new here ? and if nothing is new here, how is any of this news ? isn't that the whole point of the news, that's first and foremost it is in fact "new" ? that's where the term comes from, right ?

frankly, i'm worried that this whole story is taking too many quality, veteran reporters away from covering any potential updates on tomkat, whose tomkitten is allegedly approaching her first birthday....or has that already passed since she may reallly be chris klein's daughter ? ? ? come on now, enquiring minds want to know ! ! !


Anonymous said...

Without Imus, those African American winners would have been ignored and forgotten.