Thursday, April 12, 2007

Imus fired. Now WFAN will get really dumb in the AM

CBS has canned Imus. Now undersand that he can probably go to satellite radio very soon if he chooses. The Imus affair brought some interesting ideas into the national discussion:
Race is still a problem in America.
There's plenty of animosity toward Sharpton and Jackson (see previous blog comments).
Rap's purveyors have a piece of the blame in this, since the Imus group was repeating terms common in that lexicon.
Good thing: This lets people know the culture can and will draw the line at hateful speech. There is a line on racial intolerance that even humor can't cross. (If it's bad humor especially.)
The anatomy of the offensive joke is thus: Rap's black artists have a preoccupation with misogynistic lyrics, which has proved lurcative, so it's funny when those words are said by old white guys. It's been funny for its shock and timing before, but it was unfunny and insulting this time.
Special interests all jumped in to push their own causes. The Parents Television Council, before MSNBC dropped the show, pointed out that we all subsidize offensive cable channels because there's no a la carte choice. The cable news channels had a simple, hot-button story they could ride. Sharpton could play his well-worn race card (even though he bungled the Duke situation by grandstanding). Author Lauren Powers said the remark was an example of statements coming out of the subconscious "rat brain" that she talks about in her book.
The coarseness of our culture continues, but you get a free pass if you're on cable (where people do technically pay to be offended).
WFAN will choose a show far more annoying and less informative than Imus. Another media giant has fallen (by his own hands, of course). But probably only temporarily.
My old pal Rich Hanley, a Quinnipiac prof and media expert, pointed out the irony of NBC pulling Imus from MSNBC: "The lyrics to some of the material recorded by the rap act 50 Cent are impossibly cruel in their intention to do violence to women yet he has appeared more than once on NBC Universal’s 'Saturday Night Live' program. To date, the news media have yet to question NBC Universal officials on whether they plan to ban such acts from their air in the future."
Given the abundant apologies of Imus, I think the firing by Les Moonves is hypocritical. At a press conference I once attended, Moonves was asked if he let his preteen daughter watch the racy "Friends" that he had helped popularize at Warner Bros. "Of course," I recall he said as if 10-year-olds should view sexed-up material, and right then I knew he was a lyin' weasel. (That's my homage to the outgoing shock-jock.)

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