Friday, April 13, 2007

Shame on us and Imus

As I'm sure you've all heard by now, Don Imus, a "shock jock," made some comments about the Rutgers (college) Women's basketball team that have caused quite a stir. The comments were offensive not just in terms of race but also in terms of gender, and CBS and MSNBC initially gave Imus a 2 week suspension but have now fired him altogether (after a lot of publicity). I think just about every news show has weighed in on this in some way, and I thought it was intriguing that the Today Show did a piece this morning where they attempted to get the opinion of "the man [sic] on the street." They had a room of 12 people (notably a mix of male and female, various ethnicities) who all shared their opinions on the story. Everyone thought about it a little bit differently, but only one person really got my attention. He asked, "Why did this guy have a job in the first place?" and that got me thinking....

Don Imus' radio show got more than 2 million viewers, so there was some kind of a draw. I wonder about humor and where we develop a sense of what is funny. Is it learned? Part of personality or culture or both? People like Imus and Howard Stern are shock jocks - they get paid to say and do these outrageous things because people like them. Why? What makes them funny? Why do we laugh when others are put down or humiliated? Why is it okay to make fun of some people (say fat people, or people with low IQ's) but not others? Even watching Jay Leno or David Letterman - guys whose humor is more "mainstream" - many of the jokes are making fun of people (although W. makes it soooooo easy...) and millions of people laugh every night. The argument is that this time, with this particular comment, Imus went too far. I want to know who draws that line?? How do we know when things have gone too far? Is it arbitrary? Does it depend on who the speaker is or who the audience is? Do we establish what the line is or are we just supposed to somehow figure it out?

I don't know what the right way to handle this whole situation is and I'm not going to spout out "What I would have done..." but I do think it's sad that:
(1) racism is still such a huge issue in this country (and I'm beginning to wonder if we'll ever learn to have a real conversation that allows for healing on all sides).
(2) a man no longer has a job and he and his family have a ton of negative publicity to handle
(3) the Rutgers' women's basketball team was humiliated and put in the spotlight for this rather than for their basketball season (and have supposedly received death threats out of all this!)
(4) the governor of NJ was in a serious accident trying to be at the meeting between Imus and the Rutger's team.
(5) when things like this have happened in the past, the person who is seen as the offender (in this case, Don Imus) is punished, but the people behind him, that encourage this behavior don't get much of anything.

Now that Imus has been fired, it won't be long before the media frenzy dies down we can all go back to pretending that everything is fine - at least until the next celebrity makes a racist remark. Looking forward to hearing what you think....


Mary said...

About all I can comment on is your point #5. As my mother use to say, 'if they told you to jump off a bridge would you do that too?' We are each responsible for our own actions. We all get to make choices in life. Imus made the choice to say what he did. It doesn't matter who was pushing him- Imus made the choice. I'm a big fan of freedom of speech- I may not like what you have to say, but I will defend your right to say it. I also get to make choices in my own life of whether or not I'm going to listen to what you have to say. Granted the whole thing is an unfortunate mess. Out of everyone, Imus certainly isn't the victim- it was his decision and his words.

He had a job as a simple matter of economics- his ideas were in demand. As long as he was in demand his price went up. Now he is no longer in demand- his price has plummeted. My hope is someday the world will no longer demand a supply of ideaology that divides and degrates. Until then, as long as someone is buying, someone will be supplying.

Trouble said...

as far as where to draw the line, i don't know if we ever will know how. everyone is as different as the day is long. josh blue makes some great jokes about person's with disabilities. if i said the same things about josh blues' right arm as he does, i think i would be hated for it. there are people that i will let use the term queer around me and those who i won't. i use the word breeder as a way to joke about stereotypes with certain people. is that okay or insensitive?

i know people who have truly been offended by a coworker and taken the issue 'up the channels' and i have known others who have told me that they used the same 'channels' as a means to retribution or personal gain. my point is that when there is an agenda, everything changes and usually to the detriment of all involved.

did don imus ever had the kind of media attention that he does right now? don't you think that there are plenty of producer who are right now offering $$ to get him on their programs?

Mary said...

You may be right trouble- I don't know...... My guess is he won't make what he did w/ his contracted shows, but I've certainly underestimated this kind of thing before.......

I have a few more ideas on part of this issue that have come from a trial that I am a juror on. Perhaps I will have something of value to share when the trial is over and I see what decision we come to and why. Until then, any prayers of enlightenment and wisdom you could send my way would be greatly appreciated :)