Thursday, April 12, 2007

Ana Marie Cox Says No More

Not surprisingly, many of the regular guests on Don Imus’s show have been conflicted by their implicit complicity in his foul mouthed put downs of minorities and women. Media Matters for America offers this handy timeline that includes the highs and lows of reactions from our media elite over the last week. In this sorbid episode, I’m most interested in those comments that demonstrate some sense of self-awareness, such as in this thoughtful piece from Ana Marie Cox:
Last fall I became a regular guest [on Imus] and took up slightly more serious topics (on my last appearance we talked about Senator John McCain's Baghdad trip and Republican presidential candidate Rudy Giuliani's lack of social graces), but the subjects hardly mattered. I had been invited inside the circle, and to be perfectly honest, I was thrilled to be there.
As the invites kept coming, I found myself succumbing to the clubhouse mentality that Imus both inspires and cultivates. Sure, I cringed at his and his crew's race baiting (the Ray Nagin impersonations, the Obama jokes) and at the casual locker-room misogyny (Hillary Clinton's a "bitch," CNN news anchor Paula Zahn is a "wrinkled old prune"), but I told myself that going on the show meant something beyond inflating my precious ego. I wasn't alone. As Frank Rich noted a few years ago, "It's the only show ... that I've been on where you can actually talk in an informed way — not in sound bites." Yeah, what he said!
I'm embarrassed to admit that it took Imus' saying something so devastatingly crass to make me realize that there just was no reason beyond ego to play along. I did the show almost solely to earn my media-elite merit badge. The sad truth is that unless you have a book to promote, there's often no other reason any writer or columnist has to do the show. If Rich wants to "talk in an informed way," I'm sure there's an open mike at C-Span Radio, and if there's really a hunger for such adult dialogue, does it really have to be accompanied by childish crudeness? Actually, don't answer that. In any case, the media figures and politicians who clown around with Imus can pretend that the show is really about informed conversation or pop sociology or anything except junior-high-level teasing, but its true appeal for them lies in the seal of approval Imus bestows.
Cox zeros in the media power Imus has wielded. Part of what makes this episode so ugly is that Don Imus is a rich, powerful white man, and the women he described in such crude terms are anonymous, young, mostly black women. I don’t know, and don't much care, what’s in the guy’s heart of hearts. But don't doubt that he used such ugly language as long as he did because he could, because not enough people who mattered were willing to stand up to him.
I think that part of what fascinates people about this episode is that it involves issues we all have had to deal with in our workplaces. I have from time to time, faced the decision of whether to challenge such crudity or hold my tongue. I’ve done both. I’ve had to learn how to respect my colleagues and preserve my integrity in a world that’s very different from that in which my father worked, and no I don't think it's cramped my white male style. I hope I've become a better person in the process.
Ana Marie Cox has demonstrated that she is capable of examining her motivations in public. I’d like to see more media stars display the same quality.

4 Comments:

Anonymous Mike Matthews said...

What the hell is up with Ana? She's going to go on some moralizing charade? The woman who started likely the best blog in existence, Wonkette? This is a damn joke. She's lost a lot of respect from me.

I'm with Imus on this one...as much as I find his show to be mostly garbage.

11:10 PM, April 14, 2007  
Blogger TommyWonk said...

As for moralizing, I can't help noticing that you just deleted a comment over at DWA, saying it was "particularly naughty."

Is it possible that there are boundaries you won't cross? I hope you don't lose the respect of your readers for your discretion.

12:02 PM, April 15, 2007  
Anonymous Mike Matthews said...

It was a comment that could get me into trouble, personally. It was slanderous by every definition of the word and couldn't be covered by some "humor" defense like Imus claimed. Though what Imus said wasn't very funny, it hardly falls within the realm of defamation.

12:45 PM, April 15, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ana Marie Cox isn't much or a journalist herself... Check out
http://www.checkyourfacts.org/newsdetail.php?id=32
and see the tangled web she wove between Imus, Time Inc, and her blogging.

11:21 PM, April 26, 2007  

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