Politics & Policy

Imus Stepped on a Tripwire

But oh the lowbrow we love.

He supposedly earned about $10 million per year for such delightful entertainment as flinging racist epithets around. America does reward the lowbrow, doesn’t it?

Don Imus’s show was heavily promoted here in Washington, D.C., where I was subjected to the ads because I listen to Laura Ingraham’s show on the same channel. One assumes that the excerpts chosen for advertising were among his greatest moments on the air. One featured Imus complaining about his inability to reach his producers on the phone when he wasn’t feeling well. How interesting.

Others were as follows (I paraphrase): “Shut up and get a stomachache,” “He had fat rolls on his neck that looked like hot dogs.” One more, which I will not repeat, was a vulgar reference to Imus’s sex life with his wife (kids whose parents had the station on in the car would be exposed to it again and again).

Now he has stepped on the tripwire that is guaranteed to excite days and days of hubbub, protests, and demands for this and that. Frankly, he should grovel and beg forgiveness for his foul mouth. What he said about the Rutgers women’s basketball team was vile. I can say without fear of contradiction that the man is a jerk. And let’s not waste time (as we did with Mel Gibson) on probing whether he really is a racist or whether he just said a racist thing. Whatever. He’s mean-spirited and low. How’s that?

But now comes Act II. Perhaps because he is such a shallow fellow, Imus chose to play out his contrition at the feet of the “Reverend” Al Sharpton. If Imus has made a handsome living being a stinker, Sharpton has to answer for worse. And while Imus has apologized (however skeptically such things may be received), Sharpton has pointedly declined to apologize for his many disgusting theatrics, such as falsely accusing several white cops of raping a black teenager, inciting an anti-Semitic race riot in Harlem that killed seven people, and falsely accusing police officers in the Abner Louima case of declaring “It’s Giuliani time” before they tortured a man in custody.

Now Sharpton is playing his role as racial conscience to the hilt, declaring himself unsatisfied with Imus’s cringe and declaring that “a broad discussion” of what should and should not be permissible speech (with himself as arbiter, no doubt) is now in the offing.

Sharpton is not qualified to participate in such a discussion. But serious people who care about the culture may be able to use this spectacle to some good ends. Let’s consider, for example, the absolute mainstreaming of the terms “ho” and “bitch” by hip-hop stars and their corporate enablers and profiteers.

Snoop Dogg has helpfully explained that his use of the term “ho” differs from that of Mr. Imus: “First of all, we ain’t no old-ass white men that sit up on MSNBC going hard on black girls. We are rappers that have these songs coming from our minds and our souls that are relevant to what we feel. I will not let them [expletive] say we in the same league with them. . . . [Rappers] are not talking about no collegiate basketball girls who have made it to the next level in education and sports. We’re talking about ho’s that’s in the ‘hood that ain’t doing [expletive], that’s trying to get a [expletive] for his money. These are two separate things.”

Someone, ideally his father, should have told that degenerate that just because something comes out of his mind and soul does not make it legitimate or edifying. In fact, his principal job in life is to see to the hygiene of his soul. But no one tells the young that anymore. We’re too busy pushing wads of cash into their hands for being “as nasty as they want to be,” to quote a now-passe rap album.

In 2005, the winner of Best Original Song at the Academy Awards was “It’s Hard Out Here for A Pimp.” The level of misogyny and vulgarity in the song is impossible to convey in a family newspaper. Sales of rap music are apparently declining — but it remains a billion-dollar industry. Its influence is far more damaging than the sniping of one radio shock jock.



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