Monday, April 09, 2007

Sticking It Up Imus' Gravitas

I listened to Don Imus and watched him on MSNBC faithfully for 10 years, feeling his show is what I would have aspired to do had I taken another fork and gone into radio. I promoted him to everyone I could, because his morning zoo kind of show was about books, politics, entertainment and intellectual pursuits – all under the overarching umbrella of comedy and satire. You laughed and you thought. And you got mad. Which, to me, is the purpose of a good communicator and entertainer.

But I stopped cold more than a year go after he mentioned something positive my old colleague Helen Thomas had done or said and added a bunch of gratuitous insults that had nothing to do with the substance of whatever she had said. About the same time, I got tired of his and his trophy wife’s ill-informed rants about autism, his use of the show to promote his and his wife’s pet books and causes and his constant bragging about a son who is likely to end up in therapy as a result.

Now, the rest of the world is catching up to the fact Imus and his band of ugly-spirited sidekicks are tres passe and that making fun of minorities does not need to include random racial name-calling. To me, funny is funny no matter who is hurt by it. But Imus commits, and condones by his cohorts, ad hominem attacks based on what people look like, not what they say or do. Not funny.

The mere fact that Al Sharpton, the guy who gives pestilence a bad name, wants him fired make me want to support Imus even more. For one thing, Imus is not what is wrong with talk radio. His occasional lapses of taste are at least done in the name of humor. Rush Limbaugh, Bill O'Reilly, Sean Hannity, Michael Savage, Laura Ingraham, Anne Coulter and Glenn Beck, to name a few, are the really dangerous ones because they either believe the garbage they spew or, worse, don't believe it.

Look, if you make money for your employer by being edgy, then you will fall off the edge a few times. The question here is how many times are you allowed to do it.

Imus' reputation for penetrating and newsworthy interviews of the biggest name politicians is offset by all the apologies he has had to make over the years for being offensive.

The problem is not with him or his fans. There should be the free-est marketplace of thought with the penalty for excess being loss of listeners, as it is with me.

The problem is that Imus gets the fame, power and ability to be racist because of the roster of big name politicians from both parties and big name journalists, starting with the suckup king of the world, Tim Russert, who appear on his show and give him gravitas. They should stop appearing or suffer the slings and arrows of their employers, who sometimes are the same people who employ Imus – CBS and NBC among them.

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