Friday, April 13, 2007

Imusick of Imus

I have an annoying habit of turning on the "Today" show as soon as I roll out of bed. For the past week, every single morning I have been greeted by yet more hand-wringing over Don Imus's controversial remark, the three-word phrase (or is it two? I assume there's a hyphen in there somewhere) that--if you listen to the media--has all of America in an uproar. I don't mean to minimize the offensiveness of the remark, but I have grown weary of the media's obsession with it. Like everything else they cover on TV's so-called news shows (let's leave Jim Lehrer out of this), their attraction to this story has nothing to do with the politics--just the ratings. Imus's racist, sexist remark is easy to condemn, and easy to get people riled up about. So now, every morning I must be exposed to no less a cultural critic than Al Roker telling me how I should feel. Doesn't everyone turn to their weatherman for political insight? Of course, every time I see him, I can't help remembering a time not long ago when he was describing the weather in "Than Franthithco." I wrote an email to the "Today" show in protest and never heard back. Given that this man has made a career out of adolescent humor, it's quite possible that he was merely doing an impression of Sylvester the Cat, but I couldn't help hearing a twinge of homophobia in that lisp.

Speaking of which--and now I'm getting to my real point--remember when Peter Pace, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, proclaimed that "homosexual acts" are "immoral"? Do you remember it? Probably not, because it disappeared from the TV news faster than Britney's bleached locks. Here we had the highest-ranking officer in the most powerful military the planet has ever known disparaging 10% of the world's population to justify his own bigotry and discriminatory practice. Don Imus, who is, after all, admittedly a shock jock (from whom one should expect offensive, mindless babble--isn't that why people tuned into him in the first place?) has no such power, no such clout. Don Imus has only the power that the media and the non-thinking public give him. If we shut off the radio and the TV, he is completely harmless. On the other hand, we close our eyes and ears to General Pace at our own peril. Which one do you think matters in the long run?

Of course, the real question is: which kind of hate is acceptable in America? Ask Matthew Shepard. Ask Allen Schindler. ... Oh wait, you can't ask them: they're dead.


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