Hogan's Alley

Thursday, April 12, 2007

No Tears For Imus

This is Don Imus in his pre-rehab days 25, or more, years ago. I started listening to him at least 30 years ago. "Listening" doesn't really describe the process, for no sane person was ever able to stick with him through the whole of his four hour radio show.

What one listened for were his moments of irreverence and his merciless battery of the various "suits" who believed they controlled his show. It was this bad boy, take-this-job-and-shove-it attitude that gave comfort to the mass of us who were not about to tell our employers to shove anything.

What one quickly learned to dispense with were the endless pre-recorded commercials, the endless perseverations about some point of annoyance for which Imus was taking public revenge and the endless self-promotion. In recent years, since his marriage, the endless prattling on about the Ranch, healthy living (while we watched him deteriorate before our eyes), his wife's accomplishments or sales of Ranch-related products have been moments to be avoided at all cost.

Jumping in and out of the Imus show became much easier since he began to be simulcast on MSNBC. The remote control was a godsend. But there was also much to seek out. Imus' was the only TV show, with the exception of Jim Leher's Newshour, where one could hear at length discussions of current events or the arts where the guest got to say his or her piece and Imus made fun of them, one and all. Yes, there is also Charlie Rose, but wading through his questions often interferes with the flow of the guest.

That is all context for what I believe will be his total departure from non-satellite broadcasting. No one should cry for Imus. He is a rich man and he said a foul, stupid thing about the Rutgers kids. (I know it is pc to call them young women, but for those of us older than dirt they are much closer to children that adults.) They didn't agree to come on his show and be beaten up, as do the masochists in his regular guest rotation. Five of the ten players are freshmen for god's sake.

As I have written about before, I had a particular interest in the Rutgers women's team this year. For the prior two years I traveled to Glens Falls NY for the state basketball championships. For two years I watched Epiphany Prince, the number one or two nationally ranked high school players of her age. At Rutgers she had the great good fortune to have C. Vivian Stringer as her coach. A casualness and lack of effort that had plagued Prince at the end of her high school career were banished under Coach Stringer's tutelage. She, and the rest of the freshmen players, were cajoled, berated, yelled at and loved into an extraordinary performance that led them to the NCAA finals.

So Imus had finally picked on and bullied someone who didn't deserve his ire. And he did so in his own voice and in vile racist and misogynistic terms. But for his whole career, walking the edge of this particular cliff has been Imus' stock in trade. He has cultivated the racism and stupidity of the people he decided to keep around him. In particular, I mean Bernard McGurk, Sid Rosenbaum and Bo Dietl. It was the assigned role of these neanderthals to be the designated speakers of hate or near-hate speech. Through the use of these puppets Imus could say the things his 66 year old adolescent heart wanted to say and still maintain a phony veneer of deniability.

For the latest and fatal episode, Imus has tried to point out that terms like the one he used originated in the world of hip hop. The problem with that claim, true as it is, is that Imus didn't use it to attack anonymous or fictional characters in a "song". He used it to bludgeon ten very particular young ladies who were minding their own business. I bet most of them never even heard of the crotchety old faux cowboy from Central Park West.

So no crying for Don Imus. He will soon retire to his ranch in New Mexico, from where he will probably broadcast via Sirius/XM. But getting him off the air will accomplish nothing except to fill the coffers of the Revs. Sharpton and Jackson. The airwaves will continue to be polluted by literally thousands of cd's each year with messages of thuggery and the degradation of women. More about that later.

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