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Posted by: Jon Fine on April 10, 2007
First off: Don Imus is a moron. Although I must confess I held this opinion long before his latest round of idiocy.
One of the things I hate—and there are many—about the latest Imus controversy is how it’s playing out exactly according to script. The “edgy” “irreverent” loudmouth DJ (I can’t even type that description without rolling my eyes. And these DJs, by the way, are almost never funny. Not because they’re sexist or tasteless. Because they’re Just. Never. Funny. The DJs who play an outmoded game of shock—which is still part of Imus’ shtick, even if it’s not his only one—wouldn’t know funny if it was transformed into a raging flesh-eating zombie that ripped out their livers. But, excuse me, I’m just channeling Grindhouse. Now that was funny.) whose job it is to titillate listeners by coming agonizingly close to taking things too far says a really-bad thing. And then the whole damned media shame-spiral begins: recriminations, apologies, more apologies (someone please print up the Don Imus Apology Tour t-shirt, already), the trial-suspension since someone like Imus never gets fired outright, continuing calls for his head … and said damned cycle has to run its course only because the networks won’t fire him outright, and he won’t go on his own. Soon, although not soon enough, we will see if this ends in Imus going off the air for good or not. Right now this all feels as contrived and carefully choreographed as pro wrestling. Just far less entertaining. And I don’t even find pro wrestling entertaining.
Imus’ remarks are, as even he admits, indefensible. I don’t buy my colleague David Kiley’s argument that he outlines here on several levels, but this section in particular
First, how about some balance. This business of one sentence carelessly uttered on the airwaves wiping out years of good works seems pretty unfair. I’m suddenly reminded of how John Kerry’s war record was smeared dishonestly because of a few paragraphs he spoke to Congress more than thirty years ago about alleged war atrocities committed by U.S. servicemen. And his Presidential candidacy was wiped out with one misunderstood utterance, “I voted for it before I voted against it.”
is just totally wacky. John Kerry, for his manifold faults as a candidate, did not call anyone a nappy-headed ho. And, as Kiley (and others) have pointed out, this is hardly “one sentence carelessly uttered” by Imus or his team. They’ve got a long record of queasy-making race-related comments.
Should Imus be fired? If it were up to me I’d have canned Imus long ago, on the grounds he’s a dried-up hack (and taken a ratings hit for months to grow a decent next-generation replacement). A hack whose career, strangely, has been buoyed by the political establishment adopting him as a loony stepbrother of sorts. The mirror he holds up to them is not pretty. It says quite a bit about the culture of the Beltway that a figure as patently ridiculous and behind-the-times as Imus qualifies as “edgy” to them.
And it probably takes a comment as publicized as Imus’ last for them to drop him at long last, and finally swear off the kicky thrill they got from giggling alongside him on air.
The media, entertainment and marketing worlds continue to shapeshift on a near-daily basis, as new forms arise and old assumptions erode. Where is it all going? No one really knows. But on this blog BusinessWeek’s media writers Tom Lowry and Ron Grover promise to provide ample helpings of scoop, provocation, and sharp analysis as they track and annotate this constantly changing terrain.