Hogan's Alley

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Who Brought Down Imus?

In newsrooms across the country, when an issue with racial overtones arises, reporters push the speed dial button on their phones that says, "Racism", and the phone rings at Al Sharpton's National Action Network. So of course Rev. Sharpton, with his history of using the media to beat up innocent people with no apology (the Tawana Brawley case) and Rev. Jackson, with his "hymietown" baggage are brought to the fore to define the attack on Imus. Imus himself, media maven that he is, unintentionally raised Sharpton's profile by agreeing to plead for his life at the feet of the great man on his radio show.

The media treat African Americans as if they were the only ethnic group in the world who are allowed to have only one spokesperson at a time. Degradingly, they think of African Americans as a people in lock step who share one and only one political or world view. Who is the spokesman or leader of Jews, Italians, the Irish, or Poles in America. The very notion is ridiculous, yet since the death of the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jackson or Sharpton have tried to become that leader and the media have bought it.

In the current Imus affair, I would like to propose that a large new set of African American leaders came to the fore. The press conference held last week by C. Vivian Stringer and the Rutgers women was as powerful a statement of outrage and a plea for civility as we are likely to hear. Al Roker and other black staff members at NBC publicly demanded Imus' removal and the NBC News President, Steve Capus has said that their concerns were the determining factor in Imus removal. Roker said:

In the end, this is not about Don Imus or his producer, Bernard McGuirk, who often set the ugly and hateful tone of the "comedy" bits they produced. The ten young women of the Rutgers Women’s basketball team showed how unjust and wrong the humor of the Imus program is. Mr. Imus says he's a good person who said a bad thing. That may be true. Certainly his charity work speaks to that. But just as he wants to be judged on what he does, he must also be judged on what he says and what he has said, both on and off the air. Mr. McGuirk contends he's not a racist, even though he spews racist invective because, in his words, he grew up around black people. Hmmm. So did Strom Thurmond.

There were others, too numerous to name. They have been appearing all over the airwaves in the last few days. Like any group of people, some are more sensible than others. A large number, however, have been eloquent and reasoned in their condemnation of the kind of behavior Imus committed. I choose to believe that it was this chorus of voices that prompted sponsors to abandon Imus and MSNBC and probably CBS to drop him. Let's give credit where credit is due.

These same people have been equally appalled by the nasty and brutish crap that passes for our most popular music and as comedy on TV, cd's and in clubs. More on that later.

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