The Imus Fiasco (or) Who Knew Al Sharpton Was Made the Head of the FCC

Considering how overblown the whole Don Imus event has become, I’m reticent to give it even more attention, but I think I might have a unique view about the situation. Before I do this, I do recommend you read a couple columns on the subject by 2 writers I have a lot respect for.

Jason Whitlock is often pompous and lives to take the contrarian view. No wonder I like the guy so much. One of the few members of the corporate media who you can count on not to be afraid to ruffle feathers. I think his latest column is the best one I’ve read on the subject.

Another excellent view on the Imus case is by Newsday’s Shaun Powell.

While most of you know this already, I’ve been in the comedy business for over 15 years. Besides performing stand-up, I also have appeared on hundreds of radio shows. I’ve actually filled-in as a radio host a few times, so I know the biz fairly well.

Morning radio DJ’s are dissed by the intelligencia more than any group I can think of. In many cases this is fair, as there is some really awful morning zoo’s roaming the airwaves. Yes, low-ball humor is basically the theme that connects most of these shows together.

Having put this out there, let me also defend the best of these shows, as even low-ball comedy has it quality purveyors. I would argue that there is nothing harder in in the entertainment field than to produce 4 hours of quality material day in, day out. This is why the tops in their field like Howard Stern, Bob and Tom, Opie and Anthony, and a few select others make so much money. It has become even tougher to do an entertaining show since the crackdown by the FCC after Janet Jackson acted like a "Ho" during the Super Bowl and exposed her medallion circled nipple.


I can remember doing morning radio in Florida, after the Miss Jackson debacle and the firing of morning radio DJ, Bubba the Love Sponge. At this juncture, all the rules had seemed to change overnight, as no one knew what the FCC would fine someone for and what they wouldn’t. Sadly, things aren’t much better, especially for the syndicated shows who have the thought police monitoring their every word.

So in this new climate, Howard Stern was being bleeped so much by the corporate button pusher that his show became like the game show Match Game. Listen to tapes of morning shows 10 years ago on terrestial radio and the shows were just a lot better. I believe in some restrictions, but when the FCC has no hard and fast rules on what is improper, it sets up for bad entertainment. Nothing kills comedy more than the censoring eye of Big Brother (or Al Sharpton). See the below cut and paste from the Drudge Report.

SHARPTON VOWS MORE: ‘It is our feeling that this is only the beginning. We must have a broad discussion on what is permitted and not permitted in terms of the airwaves’…

Who the HELL does this sleaze bag think he is to believe he has any rights in making policy on what the American public can hear? I’m not going to restate the eloquent offerings linked earlier in this piece by Whitlock and Powell, but come on not particularly Sharp-ton, don’t you have bigger issues to deal with?

Here are my thoughts on what Imus said.

1. They were offensive and dim-witted. In the context of the way they were used, they were very unfunny, as these players have done nothing to deserve such a comment. Truth is always at the core of the best social comedy. This comment was ignorant.

2. The words "Nappy-headed Ho’s", just taken on the surface are pretty damn hilarious, as long if they are delivered by Chris Rock or Dave Chapelle about some Black female version of Paris Hilton. (Interesting that there are no famous Black Whores that I can think of.) Now when some old white guy is uttering these words, it makes them very unfunny.

I’m no expert on Don Imus, as I’ve rarely caught his show. When I have, I’ve been turned off by his voice and haven’t really enjoyed his comedic takes. The one thing that was interesting about his show were the political guests that he was able to score. Network news big-wigs like Tom Brokaw, Brian Williams, Tim Russert, Bob Schieffer, etc. were regular participants on his show. The best part of Imus’ show was getting these news and political types like John McCain and Joe Biden to be more off-the-cuff in their responses.

Since Imus uttered his bigoted phrase, it has been interesting to see how people in DC would respond. The comedically-challenged Hilary Clinton, who was once part of a vicious lambasting by Imus at the annual TV correspondence dinner, I’m sure enjoyed ripping Imus for his misspeak. Barack Obama was the first Presidential candidate to ask for Imus’ outright dismissal. I’m curious after this statement, if Obama didn’t go directly into another summit meeting with Ludacris.

If you are unaware of some of Mr. Ludacris’ work, a few titles include Move Bitch, Hoes in My Room, and my favorite, HO.


Hooooooooo (Ho)
Youza Hoooooo (Ho)
Youza Hoooooo (Ho)
I said that youza hooooo (Ho)
[Repeat 1x]

You doin ho activities
With ho tendencies
Hos are your friends, hoes are your enemies
With ho energy to do whacha do
Blew whacha blew
Screw whacha screw
Yall professional like DJ Clue, pullin on my coat tail
an why do you think you take a ho to a hotel?
Hotel everybody, even the mayor
Reach up in tha sky for tha hozone laya
Come on playa once a ho always
And hos never close they open like hallways
An heres a ho cake for you whole ho crew
an everybody wants some cuz hoes gotta eat too

[chorus x2]

Cant turn a ho into a housewife
Hos dont act right
Theres hos on a mission, an hoes on a crackpipe
Hey ho how ya doin, where ya been?
Prolly doin ho stuff cuz there you ho again
Its a ho wide world, that we livin in
feline, feminine, fantastical, women
Not all, just some
You ho who you are
Theres hoes in tha room, theres hoes in tha car
theres hoes on stage, theres hoes by tha bar
hos by near, an hos by far
Ho! (But can i getta ride?!)
NO! (Cmon, nigga why?!)
Cuz youza

[chorus 2x]

You gotta run in your pantyhos
Even your daddy knows
that you suckin down chocolate like daddy-o’s
You hos are horrible, horrendous
On taxes ya’ll writin off hos as dependents
I see tha ho risin
it aint surprisin
its just a hoasis
with ugly chicks faces
but hos dont feel so sad and blue
cuz most of us niggaz is hos too

[chorus x2]

Muthaf–kas im so tiired of yall niggaz always talkin
bout hos this, hos that, you tha muthaf–kin ho nigga
I wasnt no ho last night

Ho, bring yo ass!

Ok, hold on


Hey, I’m not trying to be some Culture Warrior, but I would suggest that Barack be careful in who he states publicly should lose their job over a few words. I tend to agree with John Edwards response to the question of the Imus fiasco. "I believe in redemption, I believe in forgiveness."

Now on to what I think should have happened in the case. MSNBC should have never been airing the show in the first place, as they are a new gathering operation. A show like this has no place on such a network. CBS radio was in a more sticky situation, as while their radio operations include much more politically incorrect shows than Imus, being a large corporate entity makes it nearly impossible to keep him on, especially after the grandstanding of less than Sharp-ton and Pastor Jesse Jackson.

Truthfully, I could care less about Imus contining on the air, since I’m not a fan, but I do worry about the thought-police blowing this thing out of proportion to the point that we take another step back in what we are allowed to say. While I can’t remember ever saying anything like what Imus said on the air, I know I offend someone every time I open my mouth on-stage or on the air. (Of course offending people at this blog seems to be a way of life.) I’m not crazy about a world where the George Carlin’s are shut-down, with only the Sinbad’s left standing.

Finally, on to the Rutgers’ women basketball team. They didn’t deserve what was said about them by Imus. It was wrong, but a great blessing has come about from this unfortunate event. The nation, which statistically-speaking hardly even knows the sport exists, was able to hear some very eloquent women speak their minds on the subject. This was a blessing in disguise for the Rutger’s women basketball team, as you are now one the radar. I hope when/if the women meet Imus, as both parties say they want to, they will see this is a man who has lost his kingdom over a dumb mistake and they accept his apology and move on. I mean it’s not like the Scarlet Knight women are going to have to wear a Scarlet Letter because of the comments by a man who few listen to.

We have bigger racial divides than what a past his prime disc jockey has to say.

58 thoughts on “The Imus Fiasco (or) Who Knew Al Sharpton Was Made the Head of the FCC

  1. 1.  A few observations…

    1) “MSNBC should have never been airing the show in the first place, as they are a news gathering operation.” – This is the the best summary of the entire situation I’ve seen.

    2) Jason Whitlock’s column would be a compelling argument against the hypocrisy of Sharpton and Jackson if it was accurate. It’s not. 5 minutes with Google will reveal both Sharpton and Jackson were consistent and vocal opponents of sexist language and the n-word in hip-hop prior to the latest Imus incident.

    3) Ludacris and other modern artists didn’t invent sexual stereotypes. The most famous ‘nappy headed ho’ in history is Sally Hemings, a quadroon black slave woman owned Thomas Jefferson. It’s as ridiculous for Imus to blame contemporary music for his choice of words as it is to blame our 3rd President.

    4) Imus can still work. He might not make $10 million dollars a year but he won’t go broke. Like you said, he should have never been on MSNBC in the first place. MSNBC put CBS Radio (business) in a tough spot. One news outlet can’t say Imus hurts their credibility and not make it’s competitor look very bad by keeping the same talent.

    5) Lots of fellow NBC employees complained to NBC management about past incidents with Imus after this latest Rutgers comment. I see his firing as more related to workplace issues than censorship. Anybody that ever worked in a corporate office can tell you that sexist or racist language just isn’t tolerated. One lunchroom comment can get you fired. I understand Imus is ‘talent’ but he’s also an employee of MSNBC. If you are a woman or minority and have to work with the guy it makes it uncomfortable to do your job. There is no ‘it’s just comedy’ provision in EEOC law.

    6) This whole incident is less about Imus and his remarks than Imus’s guests. John McCain, John Kerry, Joe Liebeman, Rudy Giuliani, editors of Time and Newsweek – why are these people appearing on a show that continually makes fun of people with the most tired ethnic and sexual humor? In order for the ‘But rappers say it too!’ line of argument to hold true Joe Lieberman would have to be a regular guest on Hot 97 with Funkmaster Flex. That’s just not the case.

    7) This incident isn’t about about PC or free speech. The public broadcast spectrum is like parkland, a public resource. Broadcast companies get a gift worth about a $500 billion dollars and broadcast in the public interest. Broadcast in the public spectrum is far more restrained than speech in a private space or in a public square. Broadcast is more like a national park complete with rules and regulations for use. These rules often suck for performers. That is why Howard Stern left for satellite.

    8) Once Proctor & Gamble, American Express, GM and a slew of others companies pulled their ads Imus was toast. That’s commerce. Imus was lucky to have those kinds of ads in the first place with his content. Most morning radio DJs advertise diet programs and used cars.

    9) Obama never said Imus should be fired. He said what you said above, ‘MSNBC shouldn’t be carrying those kind of remarks’ and when pressed about firing Imus said ‘Ultimately you guys [MSNBC and CBS] are going to have to decide but he would not be working for me’. This is a minor point but the same stupid press that has been appearing on Imus for years and not noticing the content can’t get a simple quote correct.

    10) To repeat, “MSNBC should have never been airing the show in the first place, as they are a news gathering operation.” Bingo.

  2. 2.  I’m reposting what I wrote from the last thread, as this seems to be more of an appropriate venue for it. Let me also add that it’s interesting when people start pointing fingers at each other, as opposed to examining what was said or done and understanding why it may have effected so many people in such a way. When a group of people who previously had little to no power to respond to issues that effect them “suddenly” start getting people fired for what others think is innocent or entertaining, it has nothing to do with “political correctness,” a sarcastic and ingenuous slap at minorities by people who were otherwise oppressive and irresponsible with their power.

    Also, when people listen to a comedian or other entertainer perform, no matter what type of material he or she has, more often than not they pay for the privilege to listen. On terrestrial radio, you don’t pay, but if someone else wants to listen to it loudly, you may be forced to hear it. And since that person is free to listen, but you are not free to tell them to lower it or turn it off since they more likely to ignore or retaliate rather than understand sensitivity,
    the next best thing is to turn off or relocate the source. Imus can go anywhere he wants, particularly on satellite radio, and say and do what he wants to a ready audience of subscribers. He cannot control his listeners, nor should he have to. Yet part of the problem is the effect on those who listen to him, whether they support or reject him; it’s divisive and hateful. Imus is not the crux of the issue, it’s what he and his colleagues do, not to mention the corporations who enable them and revel in the “rewards” that makes this a controversy.

    Am I supposed to sit back and say, “oh, but he entertains so many millions of others who believe what he says about people like me, plus he’s protected by the First Amendment” in order to please people who obviously and consistently don’t care one iota about what happens to me and would likely revel in my demise? I have rights, as a citizen, and though I try not to impose my beliefs on others, I don’t want others to impose so freely on mine.

    I’m rejecting your argument, not to be contrary or to make a point, but because it is not convincing or compelling enough to stand up to the question. Still, I respect you for your articulate opinion and won’t hold it against you since we have never met and you have not personally offended me. Please don’t take that as condescending; I mean it with genuine respect. I reiterate my post from the previous thread:

    “I think some of you are missing the point with the Imus vs. Rappers thing…

    Imus was allowed to perpetuate his garbage because of the money that it brought in.

    “Rappers” (and that means a certain commercialized segment of them) are allowed to perpetuate their garbage because of the money they bring in.

    Both are equally cognizant and ignorant of the cause and effect of utilizing this hateful imagery of women and minorities. They sell/sold mass quantities of nihilism and bullshit, and their corporate parents reaped the lion’s share of the reward. But…

    You have to realize who identifies with these people, and who’s buying their crap. Record companies are selling to people who have the money to buy, and sorry, but that money’s not coming from the ghetto. It comes from the suburbs, where a majority of the concert-goers and album purchasers and merchandise hoarders are young white men and boys. What is Snoop reporting his version of reality to? Me? I don’t have any money to buy his crap, and even if I did, by his definition I’m not seeing anything I already haven’t seen. It’s the “curious” folk who swallow the legends and stereotypes because they’ve never seen or heard anything like it in their ordinary lives. Rappers are heralded for things that essentially aren’t real.

    Imus, on the other hand, is reaching out to grown men who have strong-set opinions about certain issues that agree with what he’s pandering to, as well as the unknowing immigrant from ANY country who wouldn’t know better because again, it’s something out of their ordinary lives. What Imus says is not so much different than what Snoop says. It’s a matter of who he says it too. He says it to people who are the movers and shakers of society, who have the influence to shape policy and public opinion. If you don’t believe me, check out what Rudy Guiliani said before Imus was fired (and he’s likely to be the next president; the current administration wasn’t self-centered enough).

    This issue with Imus is deeper than what he alone said, and comparing it to what rappers say diminishes the efforts and achievements of what the Rutgers team has done and is truly about as individuals. NONE of these things should be acceptable. The fact that it exists clearly states that there are really serious problems that people ignore about our country. Justifying ignorance by pointing fingers at other ignorance is lunacy. If you only show outrage about certain issues when it directly or vicariously effects you, then you are part of the overall problem. You don’t like what the rappers say? Stop buying their shyt. March down to the record company and protest. Protest the rappers at their concert stops. By the way, that’s happening and has been happening for more than a while, which is why Snoop feels compelled to justify what he says and does. He could be next for all he knows.

    Imus was fired for quite a few reasons; the sponsors abandoning him and the networks was probably the biggest reason, but understand that their are deeper issues than what Imus said at stake here. If you want to make a difference in this argument, then put your money where your mouth is. Put your foot down. Identify who it is and what bothers you. Do not generalize, be specific; that way you can get not only better answers, but a clearer path to a solution. And don’t hate someone for doing something you don’t have the courage or inclination to do, like speak up on behalf of outraged people who need a voice that can be heard and listened to.

    It’s our own fault that we let it go this far, with Imus and with the rappers, but it’s not too late to turn it around. And the next time it happens, nip it in the bud quickly. Stop pointing fingers at each other and make the solutions happen.”

  3. 3.  Long, good column.

    This commenter joejoejoe is massively incorrect on two points:

    1) Only an ignoramus or a dishonest person would dispute the impact of gangsta rap on black culture since 1989, the meteoric rise of NWA and the hundreds of acts that have followed. Did you read any accounts of NBA all-star weekend in Vegas? Sally Hemmings? Give me a break.

    2) The defense of Sharpton is transparently weak. Because he may have said a few things about rap lyrics immediately qualifies him as our societal arbiter on race? After Tawana and Freddie’s Fashion Mart?

  4. 4.  And since this is the baseball toaster, it’s strangely ironic to note what Jackie Robinson and Hank Aaron had to go through to achieve their respective milestones.

    Compare their experiences (and Robinson’s/Aaron’s reaction to them) with Ms. Stringer’s characterization of the effects of a 67 year old radio host’s comments on her team.

    I leave it to you to figure out if that represents progress.

  5. 5.  3 So what exactly is the impact? I’d like to know what YOU think, if you think he’s wrong. I believe you guys actually agree, but neither of you have articulated your exact point. For the record, I think NWA set a significant and negative precedent in the focus of Hip Hop.

    But back then, I was neither cognizant, nor grounded enough to know how negative that was, much like Richard Pryor did not know how much impact the N-word and his consistent use of it had until he took a trip to Africa, and returned vowing never to use the word again.

    But there WERE adults who knew better, or should have, and could have nipped that in the bud before it became what it is. So, what is your point?

  6. 6.  3 Don’t put words into my mouth.

    1) I didn’t say rap wasn’t a cultural influence. I said sexual stereotypes predate rap.

    2) I didn’t say Sharpton was ‘our social arbiter on race’.

    Whitlock said, “We need leadership that is interested in fixing the culture we’ve adopted. We need leadership that makes all of us take tremendous pride in educating ourselves. We need leadership that can reach professional athletes and entertainers and get them to understand that they’re ambassadors and play an important role in defining who we are and what values our culture will embrace.

    It’s time for Jesse and Al to step down”

    Here’s an excerpt from a NYT editorial from 2005:
    “The criticisms of Lil’ Kim were launched amid an anti-rap movement that began in March, soon after shots were fired by the rival entourages of 50 Cent and the Game outside a New York radio station. Al Sharpton demanded that the Federal Communications Commission ban violent rappers from radio and television, and he launched a boycott against Universal Music Group, which he accused of “peddling racist and misogynistic black stereotypes” through rap music. Sharpton expressed special concern about white perceptions of African Americans. Rappers and their corporate supporters “make it easy for black culture to be dismissed by the majority,” he said, and the large white fan base “has learned through rap images to identify black male culture with a culture of violence.” Jesse Jackson’s Rainbow/PUSH Coalition signed on to the boycott, as did Princeton professor Cornel West, who issued a statement claiming that music companies and rappers made it easy for whites to “view black bodies and black souls as less moral, oversexed and less intelligent.”

    Jason Whitlock implied that Sharpton and Jackson are uninterested in fixing the racist and misogynistic stereotypes in black and the record shows that’s inaccurate. Whitlock could honestly argue that he thinks Sharpton and Jackson could do more, or that they are the wrong men for the job but he didn’t do that. Whitlock either failed to check his facts or didn’t want the facts to get in the a way of a good column.

  7. 7.  4 Just a minute… progress is also defined by what you’re able to do, not just by what you’ve already done. These ladies were not thin-skinned prima donnas, they were people who’s achievements were marginalized in front of millions by someone who abused his power. The fact that he had that much power speaks volumes about us as a society. Their response was felt by millions more. That also speaks volumes. Are they supposed to just take it because they don’t have the same access to the masses as he does?

    On equal ground, he didn’t stand a chance, not because they outnumbered him, but because they are more intelligent and sensitive to others than him. They did what our parents or grandparents could not or would not do, they spoke up AND they were heard.

    If you want to read that as them playing the victim, then the court system should eliminate victim-impact statements at criminal trials. That way, they’ll learn to deal with the trauma as just the way things are.

  8. 8.  8 Besides that, Neither Jackie nor Hank were shrinking violets concerning their treatment while pursuing their goals in baseball. Jackie had tremendous will-power and restraint, borne of good training and good parenting. He was an inspiration to Aaron, who while he’s still bitter about the circumstances leading up to his record-breaking performance, he has also exercised tremendous restraint. It was on that front that they not only achieved their own goals, but gave freedom for others to be ABLE to speak about our treatment.

    The struggle, for lack of a better term, to be held as equal to any man or woman in this nation was achieved on many fronts, and they were successful in theirs and maintaining their dignity in doing so. They didn’t just take it lying down; they had a higher purpose in mind.

  9. 9.  6 ‘…the racist and misogynistic stereotypes in black’

    That should read ‘in black culture’. I omitted the word ‘culture’ above.

  10. 10.  2 “Justifying ignorance by pointing fingers at other ignorance is lunacy. If you only show outrage about certain issues when it directly or vicariously effects you, then you are part of the overall problem.”

    Well said, Chyll.

    I’m not a conspiracy theorist, but the systematic portrayal of black culture as violent and outside the law in all our media would almost turn me into one. (It sure smells like a strategy decision!) As you pointed out, the record companies, et. al. have a choice what to publish and they choose based on revenues. Those revenues are not being driven by people below the poverty line…they are being driven by middle class dollars.

    So who’s fostering the sterotypical portrayals in rap music again? Washington Heights? Or is it Madison Avenue?

  11. 11.  Good stuff here. Just a few comments to clarify.

    If Imus was saying things to employees specifically OFF THE AIR, this would qualify for firing, but what he says on the air is a bit different. What any political commentators says on radio is offensive to someone in the company, but when they are the air, freedowm of speech laws protect then from any type of lawsuits.

    Now, a dismal statement like what Imus made completely changes the impact in the workplace and employeees do have a right to argue against it, but it still should be a case where management decides if he should stay or go. They decided he needed to be pulled. Fair enough. My problem is that Al Sharpton and his ilk were the ones who got it done. Pretty scary thought that these guys can have that power.

    Joejoejoe, your comment about Obama is correct but it also makes my point.
    Obama never said Imus should be fired. He said what you said above, ‘MSNBC shouldn’t be carrying those kind of remarks’ and when pressed about firing Imus said ‘Ultimately you guys [MSNBC and CBS] are going to have to decide but he would not be working for me’.

    Pretty shaky ground to say “he wouldn’t be working for me”, when he has held meetings with Ludacris. I’m all for Ludacris saying what he wants to, but I don’t think a Presidential candidate should be meeting with him, until he does a mea culpa about his past work. Ludacris and others in the rap game have done far more damage than anything an old white DJ has caused to young, black women.

    My biggest problem with this whole Imus fiasco was the lack of perspective involved. Imus had small ratings.
    He had scant listeners in the black community.
    What he said was a throw-away comment, which despite how vile it was, would have made little or no impact with the Rutgers women, if the media wouldn’t have made a circus of it.
    Since this did happen, he took complete responsibility for his actions and apologized profusely.

    The time for these Rutgers women’s players to feel the part of the victim from my point of view is over. As time as went by it has become a very positive situation, as no one really knew who they are. They demonstrated class in the whole situation and now people have a very positive feeling about Rutgers women’s basketball.

    My only problem with them (and especially Vivian Stringer) was how vitally importatnt they made the thing out to be. If I’m on the team, I would have had a bit of sense of humor in saying “what Imus said was stupid and bigoted, but than I didn’t even know the bushy headed old man who wears a cowboy hat in the middle of Manhattan even existed before this, so if he sincerely apologizes, on to the bigger issues in life.”

    I attended the University of Iowa when Vivian Stringer was the coach there. She conducts herself with a lot of class, but I can’t remember her ever smiling, let alone cracking a joke. This is not the type of person who is going to try to understand someone doing a wacky morning radio show. This is no fault of hers, of course, but wow did Imus really pick the wrong person to make these comments about.

  12. 12.  I think my biggest issue with the Imus circus is that it IS NOT a story. Racism is an important national issue, but assigning this much publicity to Imus’ comments trivializes things. Having said, I offer the following observations:

    1) I agree with the firing of Don Imus IF, and ONLY IF, CBS has decided to eschew the shock-jock format on all of its radio stations. Don Imus has said scores of more insulting/outrageous things in the past, but Les Moonves never moved to suspend him. Well, maybe this event has served as an epiphany for him. If so, the move was a wise one. If his decision is not applied across the board, however, then that means Don Imus was fired for one ignorant statement, and that would simply be unfair.
    2) Now that Moonves has decided CBS must uphold the moral fabric of the nation, I also hope he is going to be asking Sumner Redstone, his boss at Viacomm, about the types of videos shown on MTV and BET. Also, maybe Comedy Central should pull the plug on those Chappelle Show repeats? Like it or not, you CAN NOT divorce Don Imus from other media entities. Target audience and the race of the offenders does not justify making distinctions. Either “Ho” is offensive, or it’s not; and either entertainers can use the word “Ho” on a CBS property, or they can’t. Now, the cynical side of me thinks that maybe CBS isn’t sad to see Imus go, considering his declining ratings and five-year contract. By all accounts, he brought in about $20 million in revenue, but his salary alone was $10 million. Perhaps this episode was a way for CBS to cut ties with a declining margin product?
    3) Joejoejoe’s contention that Sharpton and Jackson have been at the forefront of battling the negative imagery of rap is silly. Sure, both men have touched on it in the past, but they have hardly made it a focus. That is where Whitlock is dead on. This issue should be foremost on their agenda. Unfortunately, that cynic in me realizes that such a crusade would probably not be popular and therefore not garner the necessary attention (which ultimately transcends into financial support) desired by Messrs. Jackson and Sharpton. Secondly, did Jesse Jackson not refer to New York City as “hymie town” and say he used to spit in the soup of white customers in a restaurant at which he worked? Also, didn’t Al Sharpton call a Caucasian business man in Harlem a “white interloper”, only months before his clothing store was burned down? Were these not racist statements? Have Sharpton and Jackson been forgiven? The sad irony is it these kinds of statements that probably created their public profile.
    4) How exactly were the Rutgers basketball players “hurt”? Sure, the comments were obscene, but I don’t see how they could have a direct impact on individuals, mostly because: (1) the comment was generally applied to the whole team; and (2) no one even knows who they are (even after the furor, will anyone remember one name or face by next month). Once again, that cynic in me sees “hurt and anguish” in a way similar to the “pain and suffering” that usually precedes a lawsuit. The idea that Imus and the Rutgers basketball team had to have a mediated meeting at the Governor’s Mansion strikes me as ridiculous. The saddest part of the whole deal was that Governor Corzine was seriously injured in a car accident enroot to the meeting. Now, that’s real pain and suffering.
    5) I also think the conspiracy theory of “Madison Avenue” perpetuating stereotypes as part of a plot is baseless. First off, if I am not mistaken, not every Rap/hip-hop record label is owned by corporate entities. Aren’t more and more labels being started by “artists” themselves? Regardless, the bottom line for a company is to make money in the highest margin way possible. Right now, rap and hip-hop, with all of their vulgarity and obscenity, sell very well in this culture. Secondly, even if “70% of rap/hip-hop consumers are white” (says who anyway?), that would mean white consumers represent a disproportionately lower share when compared to the general population (and presumably black consumers represent a larger share). All of this doesn’t matter because if you think rap/hip-hop is bad, then those who make it, listen to it and distribute it all should share in the blame (and those people are both white and black). And, if you don’t, then what was wrong with what Don Imus said?

  13. 13.  Very good post, Scott.

    I think Imus represented an easy target for Jackson and Sharpton. While, as joejoejoe, pointed out, they have spoken out against rap lyrics in the past, their opposition hasn’t been nearly as strong as it was for Imus.

    Not to be cynical, but I think there is a reason why they haven’t ridden Ludacris’s record company until he lost his contract: It would be really unpopular in the black community if Sharpton and Jackson started calling for rappers to lose their record deals.

    To me, Imus’s statement is small beer compared to 1) what rappers say and do and 2) other statements made by radio hosts.

    Fucking Limbaugh routinely refers to Obama as a “Halfrican American.”

    To me, that’s about 100x worse than Imus’s NHH comment. And, while I am neither an expert nor a fan of Imus, I think his persona is that he’s a curmudgeon that hates everyone. While that’s not an excuse, I think it provides context.

  14. 14.  13 I don’t want to get into defending Limbaugh, but when you have black commentators arguing that Obama is not really black, then “Halfrican American” is actually an appropriate bit of satire. Without having listened to the show, I’d imagine the reference is a dig at the inane focus on what race Obama really is than a racist commentary.

  15. 15.  7 These ladies were not thin-skinned prima donnas, they were people who’s achievements were marginalized in front of millions by someone who abused his power.

    Marginalized their achievements? He magnified their achievements. Sure, he said stupid things about them, but I doubt anyone outside their immediate friends and families and a few ESPN analysts knew that these people existed.
    Now, I’m not condoning Imus’ comments. But if I was in an organization, and some clownish national personality brought me and my organization attention, I’d be happy about it, even if he merely used the opportunity to make some unfunny slight a two-year old could see through.
    I know this will seem extremely unsensitive, but based on my peripheral knowledge of this event, I now view the Rutgers womens basketball team as a bunch of insecure individuals. I wish I didn’t.

  16. 16.  15 That is something else that Jason Whitlock spoke about in his piece, how Rutgers (and Vivian Stringer) certainly made use of all the free air time given to them over the issue. A cynic might suggest that all this controversy aids Rutgers’ recruiting efforts, and thus it was in their best interests to use it.

    I’m not saying they did or they did not – I don’t know, I’ve paid very little attention to all this – but it sure makes me wonder.

    Honestly, I’m damn tired of the wall-to-wall media coverage of the whole situation. Yes, is spurred important conversations among the public at large – what is appropriate in terms of language over the public airwaves, the content produced by artists and entertainment – these are good things to discuss. But how long did these conversations go on for in the coverage? A couple of days at most? Most of the little I’ve seen is posturing and ranting, which is also all-too-typical of the current media. And will the discussions continue? Maybe for some small parts of the public, but my guess is no for the public at large. The media has done its now-typical oversaturation, gotten huge ratings off it, made their money, and by Sunday, it will be forgotten while the hunt is on for the next story they can barrage us with for 2 weeks of wall-to-wall coverage.

    What sad is that these conversations SHOULD continue. They are important and far more worthy of discussion on the public airwaves than, say, who the dad of Anna Nicole Smith’s baby is. And yes, I’d say they are even more important than baseball. IMHO, its worthwhile to continue to think about, and talk about, these things with the kind of attention I know I usually reserve for baseball. I’m glad Scott (and Ken) have given us a forum where maybe the discussion can go on.

  17. 17.  13 Whitlock makes the point that Jackson and Sharpton are grandstanding but that’s what they do – get media attention for causes they support. I suppose they could work quietly behind the scenes but why should they? You can agree or disagree with the causes (or their motives) and you can dislike Sharpton and Jackson but it’s not their fault they get attention. Blame the media that is too lazy to search out other black leaders to put on TV. If you have a problem with Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson being on TV write the station and tell them to book new guests or cover new people. But I saw plenty of other black leaders saying the same thing as Sharpton and Jackson. Robert Johnson of BET, former NAACP chair Bruce Gordon, National Association of Black Journalists President Bryan Monroe, 24-year NBC employee Al Roker, and PBS anchor Gwen Ifill all had the same message – enough with Imus and the racial humor. Does Jason Whitlock think all of them should go as well?

    11 I grew up in Connecticut and women’s basketball is very big there. There was a controversy a few years ago with about some Uconn supporters calling the Rutgers team ‘thugs’. Stringer acted exactly the same way in that incident as she did with the Imus remarks. She directly confronted it and made pretty much the same comments she’s making today – she’s not going to tolerate her student-athletes being called names. She’s been a coach for 35 years and started at a historically black college. Why should she put up with ANY crap in 2007? People can think she’s grandstanding or full of it but she’s consistent in my book.

    11 I didn’t know Obama met with Ludacris. It was HIV/AIDS awareness thing in Chicago. It’s not exactly the same as broadcasting the music of Ludacris or sanctioning it. The news story said Obama had no comment on the private meeting. If Obama made some public comment that Ludacris was a great leader of the youth then I would say you had a valid criticism. The Ludacris meeting is worth following up if anybody in the media is reading this. Did Obama criticize Ludacris for his language in private? Somebody ask Obama or Ludacris.

  18. 18.  To comment 14.

    Interesting point, but I disagree.

    Imus said some bad things that don’t belong in polite society, but the words were/are pretty hollow.

    Limbaugh’s term, to me, is politically charged. There’s the implication of being only half American, because his father was not an American. There’s the implication that he’s not really an African-American, because his mother’s white. And, it’s got the stigma of calling someone a half-breed, which is really not cool. And, it’s designed to make Obama seem inauthentic.

    I’m not saying that “Halfrican American” is or is not an accurate term or a pointed satire, but it’s a charged term directly made for political gain. And, there’s a world of difference between that and the inappropriate comments of Don Imus.

    And, here’s the quote from Media Matters. To me, this uses race in a demeaning way:

    LIMBAUGH: Hey, Barack Obama has picked up another endorsement: Halfrican American actress Halle Berry. “As a Halfrican American, I am honored to have Ms. Berry’s support, as well as the support of other Halfrican Americans,” Obama said.

  19. 19.  To joejoejoe:

    I don’t begrudge Jackson’s and Sharpton’s efforts to get racist language off the airwaves. I applaud them. They just hit a really soft target with Imus.

    They don’t go after the hard targets(e.g rappers) because there’s going to actually have to be debate in this country if they do. The free speech issues are tougher and they aren’t guaranteed a favorable outcome.

  20. 20.  I don’t have much regard for Jason Witlock, Larry Elder, Armstrong Williams and other apologists for the Black community because they always tend to minimize our argument to a sensitivity issue, as if to say we’re whining for no good reason and should be happy for having what we have. Booker T. Washington was another figure who told the Black community to crawl before walking, before W.E.B. Dubois (another “Halfrican American”, by the way) told him that the issue wasn’t about crawling and walking, but about humanity and modern civilization, and being allowed to be a part of that.

    Again, when you point fingers at what others are doing wrong, you’re only deflecting blame from yourself, not addressing the issue. And it’s even worse when someone jumps in front of me and says, “don’t listen to him, he doesn’t know what he’s talking about, but you can talk to me instead because I understand you and what you want from him.” Disgraceful.

    Tavis Smiley and Cornel West are holding on lines 1 & 2…

  21. 21.  19 They do go after the rappers, but in a more civilized manner than the mainstream media cares to report. However, if you read the community newspapers, you’d know exactly what they said, where they said and how they reacted. Funny that no one has mentioned how Oprah attacked rappers on her show and they reacted strongly to it. And why hasn’t Condeleeza Rice said anything yet, while Obama has already said something? Trust me, the rapper issues are being strongly addressed in our neck of the political woods.

  22. 22.  I want Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton fired from their posts (not that they really have any) for their comments and actions regarding the Duke Rape Case. I’d have accepted an apology, but they didn’t even offer us one of those, and thus should be fired.

    Seriously though, where are they to apologzie when they’ve been wrong? Never mind though, the girls on Rutgers were put through more than those guys from Duke anyway…

  23. 23.  12 “Secondly, even if “70% of rap/hip-hop consumers are white” (says who anyway?), that would mean white consumers represent a disproportionately lower share when compared to the general population (and presumably black consumers represent a larger share).”

    Just so you know…you are totally, utterly wrong about the demographics. 70%? Try 95%. (Full Disclaimer: I work for the largest research corporation in the world — I can’t give you the demographics for free, but trust me I have seen the Soundscan profile and you are so far off base it’s not even funny.)

    From the Village Voice:
    “My audience has gone from being over 95 percent Black 10 years ago to over 95 percent white today,” laments Boots Riley of the Coup, whose 1994 Genocide and Juice responded to Snoop Dogg’s 1993 gangsta party anthem “Gin and Juice.” “We jokingly refer to our tour as the Cotton Club,” he says—a reference to the 1920s and ’30s Harlem jazz spot where Black musicians played to whites-only audiences.

    He isn’t alone on this — try googling rap music demographic and reading the stories from marketing people, demographic researchers, and rappers. The demographic is skewed heavily toward white males between the ages of 15 – 34.

    And if you think it through for a moment, you will understand why. This is the same demographic that spent the 80s listening to hair metal bands and then moved on to Marilyn Manson in the early 90s. They are angry, alienated and feeling strong as they emerge into manhood. Thus they like violence, think of women as weak second-class citizens, and generally view society as an institution to be railed against.

    I’m not speculating here — 95% of Rap music revenues come from the white 15 – 34 demographic and within that segment, it is skewed towards the high-end of the income profile as well. You have bought into the big lie just like everyone else.

  24. 24.  19 Agreed. I’m would support Imus’s right to do his show exactly the same way with the same content on satellite radio or in a club or on a street corner. But there is some element of ‘broadcasting in the public interest’ that is sufficiently vague but real enough that monster corporations like NBC and CBS have to be careful where they tread.

    I think there are 5 elements to this story and people are reacting differently to all five.

    1) the recent racist sexist Imus reference
    2) the fact that powerful people like John McCain and John Kerry have gone on Imus for years and not noticed he makes racist and sexist comments all the time
    3) a quiet group of Imus’s peers in the media (Roker, Ifill, etc.) who finally spoke up
    4) the always vocal Sharpton and Jackson can be divisive figures
    5) the not-quiet analogous to Imus but very real misogynist and racial sterotypes in modern black culture

    For me the aspects I focus on are 2 and 3. I don’t care about Imus but I do care that I have to get lectured to by Joe Lieberman about morality 10 minutes after he appeared on Imus who was talking about Janet Reno in crotchless panties. 3 is just a workplace issue – people have employee handbooks that they have to follow that all over the country – you may think these handbooks are BS or they provide a fair, equal work environment for all – but you still have to follow the same stupid handbook. Why should Imus be on the air making jokes that would get a janitor fired for making the same joke in breakroom?

  25. 25.  23 THANK-YOU! That needed to be put out there, and I’m glad someone with direct access to the demographics could confirm it. I remember when Chuck D said the same thing when they gave a concert in Poughkeepsie, NY (next to my hometown of 18 yrs which is the center of a Sharpton issue that keeps getting thrown up as a finger-pointing defense; by the way I was peripherally involved in this event since I was a classmate and good friend of hers), that 95% of the audience at the Mid-Hudson Civic Center was white. Given that this was back in 198-something, that was quite an eye-opener at the time, but now it’s old hat. You are correct and I applaud you for bringing that forward.

  26. 27.  But, 60% or 95%, I am not really sure what those numbers mean anyway. That is, I am not sure what the larger point is. Anyone care to give a look inside?

  27. 28.  23 With all due respect, I think your guesstimates are inaccurate (even if you do work for a research company). Also, a few anecdotes from a rapper lamenting that white people listen to his music doesn’t make much of an argument (except maybe that Boots Riley is a racist…does he give the money back?)

    I think the article (which I also came across) cited in 26 refutes your unsubstantiated claims. It’s interesting that you offered “Soundscan” as a source of your information, yet the following refutes your claim that they provide race-based demos. Here’s an excerpt for those to lazy to click the link:

    “As it turns out, Bakari isn’t the only person interested in this statistic. Back in May, the Wall St. Journal published a very similar article that examines the same issue except, in the case of author Carl Bialik, he discovers that going by what data-measuring services are out there (namely Mediamark Research Inc., and not SoundScan, who doesn’t track racial information, despite assumptions otherwise), as it turns out, the percentage of rap buyers in 1996, 1999 and 2001 were indeed, white. However, Bialik goes on to say that when MRI changed their data collecting methods – asking people to self-identify by race instead of having the collectors make that determination (what do they use? A color wheel? Genealogy charts?), the number of white consumers actually slipped to 60%. ”

    21 Oh I get it…Sharpton and Jackson protest in a more civilized manner when the offenders are the same race as they are? That sounds to me as if they are racists. Of course, there are several examples from each’s history to draw you to the inference.

  28. 29.  I’ve always been a critic of Limbaugh and actually wrote the 2 most (IMO) satirical comedy sketches about him that ever aired on Network TV. (First year of the NFL on Fox pregame show).

    I put this out there as I think the whole halfrican american line is funny. Considering his general points of view on race, I don’t think he is a particularly good person to deliver the line, but it’s pretty clever. As I said before, much of satirical comedy will offend someone. Censorsing such comedy is a real tricky thing.

    As I wrote in an earlier commentary, my daughter is autistic. My favorite radio show to listen to is Ron and Fez, who on a weekly basis make some joke about “retards.” It’s hurtful in some ways to me, but I appreciate the rest of their show so much that I’m able to look past it. I think most people are able to do the same, if the show entertains them enough. (see Chapelle, Carlin, Howard Stern, etc.)

    If you aren’t that funny and you don’t have a very large audience, like Imus, you better be more careful in what you say. Limbaugh has said and done things that are truly amazing in regards to keeping his gig. It comes down to the guy has the biggest audience in radio. He will have to commit a violent felony to lose his job. If Imus worked for someone besides MSNBC and CBS, I would guess he would have his gig as well.

  29. 30.  28 Noooo… if you cared to do any research on the issue, you’d know that they have actually taken strong stances against misogyny and self-denegration among Black people in Hip-Hop. But if you prefer to remain with your Wall Street Journal point of view, be my guest, the country is still free enough to choose what you want to think. I don’t consider you a racist for that, any more than I would hope you don’t consider me a racist for my point of view. It’s just that I have more to offer on this point if you actually care to listen. I don’t believe Sharpton and Jackson are perfect role models (nor should they be considered the best or only ones in the Black community), but if you have any suggestions of who better I should look into, I’m all ears.

  30. 31.  29 There’s always satellite. If he loves radio as much as he says he does, there’s a place for him. Or as one of my business teachers told my class, “build your own damn network.” >;)

    Halfrican American is a clever line, which would seem funny coming from a comedian (White, Black, Latino, Asian, Venusian, Mole People, etc.), but from a political commentator, there is more of an inference of maliciousness, especially compared to the comments he’s made in the past. That’s the difference. And not to justify this at all, but I posit that the rampant use of the N-word in the Black community has to do with the lack of maliciousness in the term when used among people friendly with each other. Or, that’s the logic that has always applied to it.

    Let me make this absolutely clear: it’s just better to stop using the word altogether, because it was borne and bred from hate, and the use of it and other terms we’ve discussed so far that carry a derogatory connotation still have a strong stigma that hurts and demeans people, no matter what the intention. Good judgment and a check of the national pulse would dictate that it’s far better to drop the terms from your lexicon altogether. However, as so many people have made a habit of using those words, it is a difficult task to ask of anyone, especially the consistently idiotic. Not that it’s impossible; we should encourage people to express themselves in clever and imaginative ways that don’t need to rely on hate as opposed to general negativity, but it is an understandably difficult task that may take a generation or two to eliminate altogether (the casual use of N-word, B-word, etc.-word). The fact is, the strong reactions here to this issue is indicative of the changes that many people have been striving for.

    It’s not too hard to craft a thoughtful post and I hope that I’ve introduced some talking points that can be respectfully spoken about, but if you choose to be spiteful, that’s up to you and honestly, that’s all on you.

  31. 32.  30 My “Wall Street Journal” point of view? That kind of seems like a pejorative statement to me…

    What do you define as a “strong stance”? Al Sharpton (and Jackson) can be relentless in pursuit of an objective, yet I would hardly call his condemnation of the “misogyny and self-denegration among Black people in Hip-Hop” prolific. I am not the one saying this is an important issue…he is. If getting Don Imus is so important to him, I’d like to think his mission would be to put every vulgar rapper out of business. You seem to be satisfied with his efforts, whereas I think they fall way short (and pale in comparison to his pursuit of other less noble pursuits).

    As for Sharpton and Jackson even being consider role models, does the racist comments/incidents from their past bother you at all? Do you not think it lessens their credibility on issues pertaining to race? As for suggesting new models, the best advice I could offer would be to not look for one. What’s wrong with being an individual?

  32. 33.  30 Tavis Smiley and Cornel West still holding on lines 1 & 2… George Carlin is waiting in Room 3 and August Wilson on Cloud 9; Athol Fugard stopped by to say hi…

  33. 34.  25 23 Yeah that’s more significant than people want to admit. I think that it impacts young white culture’s perception of black culture more than it impacts young black culture itself. (using ‘cultures’ as very broad almost useless terms).

    I really appreciate Scot’s piece and everyone’s comments here. It’s interesting to me that it took alot of words until Duke showed up. From my own perspective what Nifong did was more damaging than all this Imus stuff, though I’ve thought for a long time that Imus was an idiot and this whole circus comes as no surprise to me.

    Coming up on Jackie Robinson day, I’m a little encouraged by this discussion that seems more interested in getting different viewpoints than in staking out ground. I’ve been real encouraged by Sherwood’s thoughts on his fellow team mates and the whole deal, and by some of my friends who seem to have grown up quite abit dealing with the Duke case.

    There seems to be a slight political divide that surrounds this (which I guess should not be surprising). For me personally, I really hate the notion perpetuated by Sharpton, Jackson and Spike Lee that racism only works one way. I understand that for them there are reasons for their positions, but I don’t think it helps in the long run.

  34. 35.  32 My sincere apologies, friend. I don’t normally let people get under my skin.

    There is nothing wrong with being an individual, as long as you have substance to create with. I can make a discovery and share it, but how seriously would you take it if I didn’t correlate this discovery with known premises or theories? That’s another issue.

    No, I’m not satisfied with their efforts and their past actions will always hinder them in many people’s minds, more than Dr. King’s infidelity hurt his image as the greatest leader of the Civil Rights movement. Or Bill Cosby lecturing the Black community to make concerted efforts for themselves as opposed to blaming the White community for all the problems and expecting assistance. He was accused of infidelity, too.

    No, if you want to be an individual, you have to have substance, and with substance there is nothing wrong with a little guidance along the way. Why should I not teach children what I know if what I know will serve them well in being successful and well-adjusted enough to constructively challenge society’s norms? I don’t have to look for one myself, the question is rhetorical. But if I had kids, I hope they choose positive, successful and well-grounded people to learn from. People who are proud and powerful, yet modest and benevolent. That’s not too much to ask, is it?

  35. 36.  My browser hung. After I reposted 34 alot of ground staking came along. 🙂

    Trent Lott moved to line 6 (permahold with the NWA sountrack).

  36. 37.  32 One more question: who, in your opinion, has adequately addressed the issues of racism and sexism in recent years? If Jackson and Sharpton have fallen well short of the noble effort, who qualifies as true leaders on these issues? And if no one can pass muster in your opinion, who do you believe should be contacted, persuaded or otherwise pushed to address these issues to the public on a mainstream and perhaps worldwide platform?

    I am genuinely interested in knowing who should be in the forefront of these efforts, noble as they are, if the present leaders are too flawed to responsibly lead the charge?

    Should I be filling out an application? And would you join me if I did?

    (I’ll be right back; I can’t wait to hear back from you >;)

  37. 39.  38 Sorry, Andy Dick is Tuesdays, Ice Cube is Fridays, but he’s not done yet, so today he’s getting covered by Emo Phillips… Jerry Heller won’t be happy I’m sure, but neither is Suge Knight these days…

  38. 40.  We’ve had a pretty good discussion here, I think. That’s surprising for an internet message board, no?

    I can’t answer the question posed by Chyll in 37, but that’s because I don’t know what adequately addressing the issues of racism and sexism would look like. So, I guess I would ask Chyll (or anyone else out there) how racism and sexism in contemporary culture should be addressed.

  39. 41.  I’d like to think that millions of Americans positively confront the issues of sexism and racism every day. Why do we need political opportunists such as Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson to lead the way? Personally, I think leadership on moral/community issues is best offered on a local level. I simply don’t think there can be “leaders” in communities as large as entire racial and ethnic populations.

    Having said that, it doesn’t hurt to have prominent people give voice to moral issues. On the issue of rap/hip-hop vulgarity as well as the general vulgar tone of many forms of popular entertainment, there aren’t many people whom I would credit with being effective “leaders”. I think Joe Lieberman, for example, has given an honest effort, but can’t really think of too many other people who have taken a worthwhile stand. Maybe we should stop looking for someone to follow and simply take the lead in our own daily lives?

  40. 42.  40 Yes, and honestly it needs to continue in other areas and not be brushed under the carpet or simply dropped from public interest as so many issues are. That way, there can be some activity that won’t necessarily be scoffed at as opportunistic, but genuine efforts on a local effort. That’s a good place to start.

    41 Good answer. The only problem is how do you get people to start looking themselves? Someone has to get people started on that effort, and I would hope that someone would step forward that many people have respect for that can inspire local leaders to spearhead those efforts on their own. It doesn’t have to be government official or a celebrity, just someone who is results-oriented and motivated, someone who has the capacity to inspire and motivate others one-on-one and en masse. I’ve been pretty open with my opinions on the matter, and I would take up an effort like that on a local level. It’s not simple, but it’s necessary. And I don’t say this to be opportunistic, as there are plenty of issues I have to deal with in my life that the community can’t or won’t help with, but I offer what I can.

    The fact is, since we’ve all been pretty passionate about the issue, we’re already making a difference. Good work, I hope we can take something from this debate and do some good with it. Keep it up…

  41. 44.  43 Hey buddy, killing threads is my job around here!!

    Seriously though, nice discussion….makes me proud—sniff—to hang around here.

  42. 45.  It doesn’t bother me that Imus got fired for saying something that was pretty unacceptable. His show had pushed the boundary on race too many times and a show hosted by a white person can’t do that.

    Sharpton and Jackson on the other hand, only come out when the cameras come out as far as I can tell. Sure they’ve given lip service to mysgonistic rap lyrics and the like but I’ve never seen them ask for any of the corporations to ‘fire’ any of the rappers.

    I am a real believer in free speech, and Imus or Ludicrus have the right to say anything they want, however the consumer/corporations have the right not to consume, broadcast or make money with things that are racist/mysoginistic.

    They have made the right decision with Imus, I doubt we will see any change in the rap world.

  43. 46.  Scott, I think the main difference that you’re getting at between a political commentator, a comedian, and what you’re doing here, is the level of irony involved.

    Here, no matter what you write, even if on initial reading I get upset, I remember your explicitly stated project is to push boundaries and challenge the reader to think in new ways. I wouldn’t be surprised if, in reality, I were to find you more moderate and restrained in beliefs that you state forcefully and to an extreme here. Not saying you probably are, but that by stating that you’re engaging in a mission, the door is open to the possibility of taking license.

    A successful comedian is ALWAYS operating under an ironic layer, even if s/he’s so-called just telling it like it is. That’s why Ari Shaffir can do what he does and people laugh, and why Michael Richards inspired no laughs. Sure, maybe Richards didn’t know how to handle hecklers, but the reason the slurs went over so badly was because it was too real; people didn’t doubt he plainly meant what he said.

    A serious political commentator’s credibility rests on clearly articulated messages and opinions. Therefore, using irony and outrageousness for effect is tricky business. Once Ann Coulter crossed the outrageous line, how much credibility has she retained when commenting on serious subjects? People can’t be sure anymore when she’s saying what she means or saying something just to get a rise out of folks.

    So, when we bring up Chappelle, what exactly is he saying when he airs “When Keeping It Real Goes Wrong”? Take it a step further, and I ask, who is he lambasting in “The Black Real World”? In music, 50 Cent and his ilk are infamous for waffling on whether or not they’re “performers conjuring fantasies for profit” or “storytellers telling their honest truths” via their rhymes. I don’t think anyone who goes full-bore down the “honest truths” path takes words and potential slurs lightly. So, as for Imus, he’s said worse things before, and this was probably just a tipping point. However, it was made worse for him because the audience didn’t/doesn’t know whether he actually meant what he said or if, like a morning zoo host, he was performing, had an ironic layer protecting him, and said what he did for outrageous effect.

    Also, on the the question of 95% or 60% of rap buyers… Describing sales of rap albums invariably fails to illustrate the rap audience because of the mixtape/bootleg tradition. Who “buys” and who “listens” are very different questions, even before taking into account downloading.

  44. 47.  Some awfully well written stuff here; just a great thread.

    My contribution:

    a. Ludacris seems to be getting mentioned alot here, along with Sharpton and Jackson. I didn’t catch the rule that black people should be responsible for what other black people say and I fail to see what rap music has to do with Imus.

    b. Don Imus has a history of racist, misogynistic comments. Yes, comedy is comedy and often the funniest comedy is at someone else’s expense. There will always be a debate over whether a particular brand of comedy is truly harmful to others (using the “N” word, making fun of gay life, etc.) but there should be no debate over Imus’ comments. They were denigrating, meant to belitte their subject and he paid the right price for it.

    c. You think Imus got fired because some black leaders criticized him? Uh-uh. He lost his gig because the sponsors bailed on him. If the sponsors stuck around, he’d still be there. See Scott’s comment above about Rush Limbaugh who has said things far worse but he’s still got the gig. If Rush’ advertisers walk, he’s done.

    d. Whenever I take exception to Rush, Coulter or in this case Imus, I’m called a limp-wristed politcally correct liberal. In truth, my wrists are not that strong but why political correctness? Does anyone know what that means? I think it’s being used by some as an excuse to verbalize their racism and sexism. I take exception to what Imus said because whenever I tell people I teach in Watts, people ask how I can possibly survive. I try to tell them it’s not that way, that the city is filled with good people and a-holes, just like any other city but they don’t believe me–they think I live in the Wild West.

    Imus said a group of black women looked like nappy headed hos. He said it because they were black and weren’t pretty, I guess. Do y’all have any idea how many people heard his comments and thought, “Damn straight because that’s what they are!” Nobody on this thread, I’m sure. But too many people hear a comment like that and think there’s an element of truth to it. Imus’ problem is that he delivered it like he believed it to be true. Personally, I think that’s why he said it. Others think he was only kidding. Either way, I’m fine that he lost his job over it. People see the kids I teach and assume the worst all the time pardon my shouting. Sometimes they’re right–I sure as hell don’t like all of them. I think Imus would look at my school and see a bunch of nappy headed hos and gangsters. Whether he says it for comedic effect or whether he actually believes it, he doesn’t deserve a job on the public’s airwaves. Good riddance.

  45. 48.  46 (Every time I try to get out, they keep pulling me back in >;)

    I agree with you wholeheartedly on everything except the rap audience composition, deadteddy. The difference between the purchase of rap albums and mix tapes is very big. Mix tapes are often made without the permission of the record companies that control the artist’s rights, and therefore are subject to lawsuits and raids like one that occurred in Atlanta a month ago when popular mixtape team’s studio was raided with the assistance of the RIAA and the DJs arrested and hauled off to jail. Rap artists and recording studios often have a gentlemen’s agreement with the mixtape producers to place product on their compilations as a marketing technique, but the ones who reap the profits are ususally only the mixtape producers; something some artists and definitely the RIAA is not happy about.

    All that to say this: it’s hard to measure the measure the economic representation and impact of the mixtape industry as a whole because most of it is below the radar and not necessarily legal, whereas copyrighted materials that are distributed in legal means is easy to trace. And if there is such numbers by Arbitron or another accounting standard that can pinpoint the demographics, chances are that the margin of error is nominal, because there is a whole lot you can do with that information besides push product.

    But to me, the issue is far beyond pointing the finger at the buyers and listeners. What we find acceptable now versus ten, twenty, thirty years ago is unbelievable. When Run-DMC rapped “Those dumb mutha%$@#as can’t mess with us” and when LL Cool J rapped “I wanna take my gun and shoot you in your mutha@#$%in’ face” it was considered extremely edgy and prompted outcry from Tipper Gore’s PMRC and Rev. Calvin Butts steamrolling a pile of rap records on the Harlem streets.

    People laughed at them then, but the point is, there was an outcry from the outset about the music content that has been overwhelmed by the corporate push to maximize profits, as well as the general disdain of responsibility and accountability that was modeled by Madison Avenue and the civic and government leaders of that time. A lot of things came together to create this type of environment, and that people are so outraged by it now only indicates that there are a whole lot of things as a society that we have to look at and change; Imus and rap music is just one thing.

    My friend asked me though, “If you do it to Imus, where do you stop? Where do you draw the line?” Well, what does your conscience tell you? It depends really on who you’re talking to. As someone earlier noted, the free-radio range is almost like a parkland that is shared by many different people, and with that comes a responsibility to keep it in shape for everyone to enjoy. That doesn’t mean censorship, that means keep it to your area and clean up after yourself when you’re done. Imus, if he really loves radio that much, would do fine in satellite where people can subscribe to listen to him and he can say or do whatever he wants because those people choose to listen.

    What angers me is that no one has noticed the effects that Imus has had on people. Excuse me, but why are you sending death threats to young women who were insulted by the man and forgave him, but neither called for nor had anything directly to do with him being fired? That is what really needs to be addressed. Who sent death threats to anyone when Howard Stern left K-Rock, or when DJ Star was fired from both Hot97 and Power-105.1? Who is going to explain this as rational behavior and who is going to be accountable if something does happen?

    That’s why this is a hot topic and that’s why it needs to be addressed. The ten or hundred assholes who takes it too far because their favorite person is bumped off the air could be the ten or hundred that run you or me off the road or do something random to any one of us. We can’t control that, no, but we can identify it at the beginning; Imus’ wife did what he could have done years ago and told those idiots to back off and blame him, not them… I give her props for that.

    Enough is enough. This is not a crusade against vulgarity, it’s a movement to bring back conscious thinking and self-accountability. If you believe in what you say, you shouldn’t have to hide behind the 1st Amendment, you should be intelligent enough to articulate your opinion and be prepared to defend your point of view if it’s a real conviction. As far as jokes go, Scott could probably tell you, a good joke doesn’t have to be explained. I have no problems with clever satire and even vulgarity in humor as Shakespeare and especially Oscar Wilde were considered vulgar at times, and lets not even get started with Richard Pryor, George Carlin or Jackie Mason… the difference with them being, their jokes were bred from experience and articulate convictions. See, intelligence is worth something, even in comedy.

    Scott, I should have said this earlier, but I applaud you for stirring up a great debate that was intelligently presented and moderated so well (it hardly needed it, so that’s good), keep up the good work. Thanks for putting up with my long-winded ranting, now I have to fold laundry (responsibilities, sigh… >;)

  46. 50.  Scott, I should have said this earlier, but I applaud you for stirring up a great debate that was intelligently presented and moderated so well…

    Second that.

  47. 51.  great thread, indeed!…..I agree 100% with Chyll Will at #48. Just a couple quick points here:

    I think the question of “hate speech” vs. satire gets obfuscated a lot, and that it’s really pretty simple. Ask the question, “is this language being used to criticize the powerful and challenge the status quo, or to mock the powerless?” The former is satire, the later is just contemptible hate. And people who attack “political correctness” know this on some level; that’s why they need to create the imaginary Monster of PC, so that they can see themselves as brave knights slaying it. In fact, there’s no monster, and these are really just people who pick on the weak, because they’re scared of losing their own authority. What could Imus’ line possibly be except an attempt to put a bunch of talented successful young women “in their place”?

    Second, for Scott. I appreciate the comic’s perspective, but I’m curious: do you really think “nappy headed ho” is comedy gold if Chris Rock says it about some black Paris Hilton type? For me, this is a little too close to saying: “Yeah, we can put women down as long as we aren’t racist while doing so” for me. Misogyny and racism aren’t so easily separated….

    A final thought: African-American humor/satire has always dealt with the white acting/status seeking equation (think of LeRoi Jones / Amiri Baraka back in the 60s and 70s always putting down black ‘bourgeois’ women for not being black enough) But it’s no accident, historically speaking, that we have a tough time thinking of dumb-ass, over-mediated, ultrarich, African American socialite heiresses! It’ll be a sign of progress when a black Paris Hilton is possible…..and when she comes along, I hope the comics will be ready.

  48. 52.  I don’t want to give the impression that I’m not paying attention. I’m telling jokes to drunks in west virginia this weekend and my laptop is on the blink. Since I don’t want to add to my thumb arthritis from pounding away on my sidekick, I will just mention that we have a lot people here bringing their A game. I will participate more on sunday, when I get back home.

    I thank everyone for their efforts here. I’m stoked about baseball season being here, but I never try to force a post on the subject, if I don’t have anything I think has a unique voice. Since the readers at the Toaster are such a literate group, I like to pose things out there and see how I might become better educated.

    Kind of like a utopian version of talk radio.

  49. 53.  Suffering bruin teaches in watts.

    I present comedic ideas to drunks in west virginia.

    To some this would require hazard play. To suffering bruin and me, it’s just another day at the office.

    Athletes make millions, while teachers and standup comics are grossly underpaid. C’mon America, we are the educators of your youth, time for you to step up and pay us for it!

  50. 54.  Imus told what is, I think, the funniest Pat Buchanan joke ever: “[I]f he gets elected President, two weeks later somebody’s going to come knockin’ on the door at three o’clock in the morning: ‘Just checking. What kind of a name is Imus?’ ”

  51. 55.  54 That’s cold.

    Free speech is protected from only gov’t intervention and no more. Outside of that, the consequences wroght by your words and actions are your own damn problem.

    This time around, due to “thorough” coverage, Imus’s rant offended people in CXO, and Board positions. They chose to boot his ass to the curb. In their calculus, he wasn’t worth it. He’ll move elsewhere. Someone else will fill his headphones.

    So it goes.

  52. 56.  Andrew makes a nice point with his post.

    In my comedy book a joke that someone else says is “cold” is often times the funniest.

  53. 58.  56 I used “cold” in the most admiring sense of the word – complete with a squint and askance smirk.

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