Friday, April 13, 2007

The Rutgers Women's Basketball Team, and Kathy Sierra

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I am very disappointed at the overwhelmingly celebratory response on the left to the news that MSNBC and CBS both fired Don Imus for calling the Rutgers' women's basketball team "nappy-headed hos." I am revolted to open my e-mail and find Eleanor Smeal cheering:

Dear Kathy,

Congratulations! We did it! Minutes ago, CBS Radio fired Don Imus. Now, both CBS Radio and MSNBC have finally gotten the message: women and African Americans have had it with hate speech.

But, Don Imus is not alone. We must keep the pressure on to ensure that radio and television airwaves stay free of ugly hate speech. Write a letter now to CBS Radio and MSNBC to thank them for taking this action and ask them to eliminate hate speech from all their programming.

For Equality and Justice,

Eleanor Smeal

This is a victory for equality and justice? A radio shock jock who was hired to... uh, shock listeners with outrageous comments losing his job for doing just that?

My apologies to those who think it's some huge victory for women in general and African-American women in particular that "nappy-headed hos" is now not merely an insulting and demeaning way to refer to black women, but also a grave threat to women's mental health and physical safety. I'm very glad that this point of view did not hold sway back when Dan Aykroyd was opening Saturday Night Live's Point-Counterpoint parody with "Jane, you ignorant slut!" I would have missed one of my favorite rolling-on-the-floor-laughing memories.

Alan Stewart Carl nails it in a post at Donklephant:

At first the Don Imus imbroglio amused me. Then it irritated me. Now I’m mad. CBS and MSNBC have both fired Imus for his bigoted comments. Sure, they have the right to fire whomever they choose. But that doesn’t make their decision anything more than a sad commentary on the failings of modern society and modern media in particular.

Imus has been a so-called shock jock for a long time and has uttered an uncountable number of insensitive remarks over the years. CBS and NBC knew who he was and what he was likely to say. Yet this mildly racist, undeniably sexist comment gets him axed? Why? The answer is simple: the media needed the next sensationalistic story. Once that story was running nonstop, advertisers got scared and pulled away. CBS is just following its advertisers who are following the media who are following the immature, irresponsible, narrow-minded ideology that far too often masquerades as journalism these days.

Not only is this a complete overreaction to the crime committed, but it sets a horrible example. First, Imus’ quick and seemingly sincere apologies are being completely ignored. The lesson? It’s best not to speak at all than risk saying something you regret – your apologies will not be accepted.

The second horrible lesson is summed up in the statements of Les Moonves, the president of CBS who said: “There has been much discussion of the effect language like this has on our young people, particularly young women of color trying to make their way in this society. That consideration has weighed most heavily on our minds as we made our decision.”

So that’s how it is now? Instead of teaching our youth to stand up to adversity and shrug off the idiots of the world, we’re telling them that they must be protected from all slights less their poor fragile egos will crumple and die. The women Imus insulted are incredibly talented, college-educated women who had the strength to pull off a Cinderella basketball season. We don’t need to protect them from the likes of Don Imus. Please. That’s horribly insulting to these young women.

Really, I couldn’t care less about Imus. I’ve rarely listened to him and consider him no better than a more political, less scatological Howard Stern. His comments were abhorrent. I have not the slightest desire to stand near the man. But I can’t stay silent. Just because I don’t care for the man doesn’t mean I shouldn’t call a wrong a wrong.

Imus is being unfairly punished by a nauseatingly righteous bunch of media mobsters and their cohorts. What’s worse is that those leading the pitchfork-and-torches charge are ostensibly from the left. If liberals no longer have the stomach to stand up for free speech (even when that speech is insulting or idiotic), then who will?

The whole thing makes me sick. My apologies for the rant. Some events simply demand an outraged blog post.

John Cole says much the same thing -- but these two are among the few who have (other than the usual suspects on the right, of course).

By way of contrast, consider the feeble response in the blogosphere (outside of some feminist and other progressive blogs) and the mass media to the kos post, "Death Threats and Blogging," in which Markos Moulitsas Zuniga sneeringly dismisses the concern in the blogosphere -- especially among female bloggers -- about the vulnerability of women who publish on the Internet to extreme verbal sexual attacks and even death threats. Whether a "Blogger Code of Conduct" will effectively address this problem is certainly open to question; but what is not reasonably arguable is that death threats need to be taken seriously, on or off the Internet -- and that women are not only far more likely to be subjected to extreme forms of verbal abuse -- sometimes to the point of being terrorized -- than are men; but also have more reason to fear that such threats might be carried out.

So what does it say about our own sense of perspective; about our ability to make sensible distinctions; about our capacity for picking our battles, that a radio disc jockey who was hired for his ability to offend and did just that by calling a female college basketball team "nappy-headed hos" creates more of an uproar on behalf of women than does an extremely influential blogger who asserts:

Look, if you blog, and blog about controversial shit, you'll get idiotic emails. Most of the time, said "death threats" don't even exist -- evidenced by the fact that the crying bloggers and journalists always fail to produce said "death threats".
... For my part, I've gotten my fair share of such vile emails. Some of them have threatened my children. One or two actually crossed the line into "death threat" territory. But so what? It's not as if those cowards will actually act on their threats. For better or for worse, this isn't a country in which media figures -- even hugely controversial ones -- are routinely attacked by anything more dangerous than a cream pie.

Email makes it easy for stupid people to send stupid emails to public figures. If they can't handle a little heat in their email inbox, then really, they should try another line of work. Because no "blogger code of conduct" will scare away psycho losers with access to email.

I'd say a lot of lefties out there need to get their priorities straight.

Cross-posted at Shakesville.


Chief said...

I didn't and don't watch Imus. I guess he has been around for some 38 years. Like the Grateful Dead and Pink Floyd, Imus is a slice of Americna that I missed.

But the reaction has been 'political correctness' gone amuck. I saw some of his appearance on the Reverends radio show. Imus made no bones about his screwing up and apologized. He showed remorse.

Should he have been fired? I'm ambivilent on that. But he is certainly a bright enough person to re-invent himself and come back in a form that can make up for a lot of the insensitivity he has displayed over the years.

Kathy said...

Well said, Chief.

Chief said...

Why defend Kos? It is easier than thinking. Kos has made it. He must be right.

My first serious girlfriend had been raped by her older brother when she was 12. At the time we both were 17. I did notknow how to deal with it. I wish I could have showed the compassion to hhelp her work thru it. She was a nice young lady.

Really, Kos doesn't have a clue. Who annointed him to be the "Arbiter of the Rules"?

garampani said...

He is not in trouble for saying the politically incorect words nappy headed ho. If he had called say Judith Miller or Wolfowitz's girlfriend, a nappy headed or graying or hennaed,or whatever might apply, ho he would not have lost his job . He would simply have made a comment in his usual cutsie-pie style.

He got in trouble because he called people, who are through no stretch of the imagination hos, hos and their straight hair nappy. Which allowed a little day light into the situation people could pause and think what is he blathering about ,once that happened the whole house of cards collapsed very quickly.

Should he have been fired? I don't know ,probably there is no should about it just 'the same way you got it , the same way you lose it." I imagine in any case he will be OK.