Sunday, April 15, 2007

Don Imus, Free Speech, Hip Hop and Al Sharpton

As expected, the backlash against the firing of Don Imus is building in ferocity, though the arguments as to why he should have kept his job have little to do with what he actually said or the young women who found themselves at the receiving end of his vulgar comments. Many of the arguments involve free speech, the vulgarity of hip hop music, or a dislike of Al Sharpton.
The argument that firing Don Imus somehow violated his right to free speech is the dumbest. Mr. Imus hasn't lost his freedom of speech; he lost a multi-million dollar contract with two large media companies. He is free to write a letter to the editor, to write his congressman, to stand on a street corner and hold a sign, or even to start a blog. Hey, I don't have a seven figure contract to appear on radio or television, and I don't hear any complaints that my free speech rights are being violated.
The argument that hip hop artists use similar language is hardly edifying. If his defenders can't justify Mr. Imus' comments, maybe they can find someone with even lower standards. Hey these guys get to call women demeaning names, why can't Don Imus?
As for the arguments involving the dislike of Al Sharpton, think back on the events of the last two weeks: Who got Al Sharpton involved? Not the Rutgers coach or players; you never saw them standing behind a bank of microphones with Reverend Sharpton. It is Don Imus himself who placed Al Sharpton front and center by going on his radio show last Monday.
There are other, even less convincing arguments in defense of Don Imus. There's the argument that he was trying to be funny, though no one I've read or talked with has admitted to actually laughing at what he said. And arguments that his demeaning remarks were meant as satire simply aren't convincing. One dictionary defines satire as "holding up human vices and follies to ridicule or scorn." Just which vices or follies of the Rutgers basketball team were Don Imus holding up for scorn?
No one demonstrated as much class as the players and coach of the Rutgers basketball team. Given the media frenzy, I find it remarkable that they managed to avoid the cameras as much as they did. And after they did meet with Mr. Imus, in a setting arranged to avoid the media glare, they decided as a team to forgive him.
One can hardly claim that Don Imus, a wealthy, politically connected media star, was employing satire when he chose to direct his ugly, demeaning comments towards a group of young, mostly black women. The principle vices or weaknesses on display in this episode are those of Mr. Imus and his misguided defenders; he and they richly deserve the ridicule and scorn they have brought upon themselves.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Rick Jensen put up a post in the middle of these events and before it was clear what outcomes we'd end up with.
He slams the coach and team.
Hubris of tightwingo-media has no bounds.

7:00 AM, April 17, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

He must be "trying" to stir up controversy. Wasn't Rutger's coach originally next door to Delaware at Cheney University's womens basketball? Just five miles from our border?

I understand, from local sources who avidly follow this area's sports, that she is one of the best coaches, all around, to have come through this area within the last decade?

I think we can conclude that her team's performance, in the national championship, prove my source to be correct?

11:30 AM, April 17, 2007  
Blogger Tom Noyes said...

From her official bio at

"Stringer began her teaching and coaching career at Cheyney, a small, historically-black school outside of Philadelphia, PA, in the early 1970s. Even before the seeds of Title IX had truly started to take root nationally, Stringer and her Wolves were playing to packed houses and creating a name for themselves on the East Coast. In 1982, the NCAA sponsored its first-ever national championship for women’s basketball, and Cheyney did the unthinkable by advancing to that first Final Four, losing to Louisiana Tech in the championship game. For Stringer and her charges, Cheyney’s postseason run put the small university on the national map, as well as on par with the national powerhouse programs."

1:18 PM, April 17, 2007  

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