Take THAT, Imus!

4 comments April 11th, 2007at 11:15am Posted by Eli

NY Newsday’s Johnette Howard has the definitive rebuttal from ESPN’s terribly sensitive and enlightened Max Kellerman:

[Kellerman announced] that his personal ratings of the Rutgers women versus the University of Tennessee’s women’s team on an attractiveness scale of “negative, positive or neutral” ended with Tennessee having more unattractive players, 9-6.

There you have it. Imus clearly didn’t know what he was talking about.

More piercing insight from Kellerman:

Kellerman suggested that what everyone really reacted to when Imus called the Rutgers women “nappy-headed hos” and “jigaboos” is really just a lemming-like response to “trigger words that are socially unpopular.” In other words, political correctness run amok.

Howard is not having it:

This debate is not about Imus’ constitutional right to free speech. He has the right to say whatever he wants. The more salient issue here is what qualifies as appropriate speech on public airwaves. And what CBS and NBC, which both finally suspended Imus on Monday from radio and TV for two weeks, have to ask themselves is whether Imus reflects the values their organizations want to project. If he doesn’t, he should go.

What this debate is also not about are many of the points Imus has argued in self-defense. His assertion that his charity work proves he is a “good guy” means nothing. Human beings are not absolutes. It is possible to be a racist, misogynist, homophobe and a good fundraiser, too.

Nor should the measuring stick here be intent, as Imus keeps asserting. Imus’ behavior is the problem. This is hardly the first offense for him or his crew. He’s a serial abuser who has been in this spin cycle of offend-apologize-fall off the wagon again before. (If you want a more comprehensive list, go visit www.mediamatters.org .)


Imus and his sidekicks weren’t talking about sports, per se. Denigrating people is sport to them. What put this over the top is they also were treating the Rutgers women (i.e, those “hard-core hos”) as sport – things they could use for pleasure, do anything to, then toss away without repercussions.

Or so they thought.

What we’ve learned in the past six days is – surprise – there actually is a limited tolerance for what Imus and his crew are pimping. The bar on coarseness may be set far too high. But there is a limit.

Every once in awhile, and this is one of those cases, the fact that such ugly statements have precedent doesn’t mean you have to take it. As Imus has found out, some people are nobody’s ho.

I think Howard hits some very good salient points here: The fact that the right to free speech is not the same as an absolute right to employment, much less a right to access to the public airwaves, and the hollowness of Imus’s I’m-a-good-man-who-screwed-up-by-accident defense.

I think she may be a little optimistic about the lasting repercussions – my gut is still telling me that this will all blow over and Imus will keep his job because he’s just too valuable to his employers, and too connected with the elites who appear on his show and don’t appear inclined to abandon him now, whether out of loyalty or fear.

But if Imus does go down, it would be a hugely important step towards reclaiming our discourse from the hatemongers who pollute it. The idea of firing or shunning a powerful media celebrity who spews racism, misogyny, homophobia, and anti-liberal eliminationism would no longer be unthinkable. And once it becomes thinkable, the next step is that it becomes expected, i.e.,”They fired Imus for calling female basketball players nappy-headed hos, but you can’t fire Michael Savage for telling a gay caller that he hopes he gets AIDS and dies???”

But that first domino has to fall. Until then, the shock jocks and hate talkers will just keep pushing and pushing until nothing is out of bounds. Hell, we’re almost there already.

Entry Filed under: Media,Racism,Wankers


  • 1. Ruth  |  April 11th, 2007 at 6:00 pm

    Much as I detest the whole category of ‘shock jock’ radio hosts, they are drawing in an audience that hears from them the fringes of human discourse, and approves. I think that there should be special, blatantly racist and sexist categories, and that there should be X-rated realms for them, perhaps an H-rating for Hate Radio.

    As you can imagine, they’re not a problem to me because I don’t have that taste. But if the rhetoric of hate has an audience, let it be a rating that adults can choose, with parental controls. It could join porn as separated from family hours. And let the sponsors choose to be outside the pale in their choice of programs.

    Honestly, hate is as anti-social as porn, why not give it a similar rating.

  • 2. MEC  |  April 11th, 2007 at 7:43 pm

    “Almost there?”

    Exhibit A: Ann Coulter.

    Strike the “almost.”

  • 3. Eli  |  April 11th, 2007 at 11:11 pm

    Ruth – I’m not sure if that would work, but it would at least demarcate hate radio as outside the mainstream, which is a very important distinction to make.

    MEC – Coulter is Pure Evil, but probably still not as bad as Savage or the KSFO freaks.

  • 4. Interrobang  |  April 12th, 2007 at 6:11 pm

    Hattie: Sorry, no. (This is a radical pro-porn feminist speaking.) Hate is infinitely more anti-social than porn. Non-misogynist, non-violent porn does exist, and no purveyors of porn are particularly interested in political power qua power.

    The people who are pushing the Overton window further and further towards eliminationism are explicitly interested in political power, and are explicitly interested in political power. In fact, that’s about all they’re really interested in, since they want the right to be able to impose their will(s) on us by fiat. There’s no way that porn is anywhere near as systemically destructive as either theocrats or would-be fascists.

    In fact, I had one of the paid PR firms that gets big bucks to formulate the messages and talking points these people put out doing oppo research on my blog yesterday.

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