Imus bye-bye

So Imus is cooked, apparently. Good riddance. (My letter to the stations in favor of canning him appears below the fold.) Major advertisers have bailed, and now MSNBC has pulled the plug on the TV “simulcast” of his radio show. I would expect that given the nature of the uproar, CBS will throw in the towel by Friday and announce the cancellation of his radio show as well. I hope they do, in any event. Even if they don’t, Imus’s influence will be greatly muted henceforward, as the pressure will be on his guests, and many of them will decide that an appearance on his show isn’t worth the crap that will go with it.

Some people have come to Imus’s defense with either personal or pragmatic arguments. Others have attempted to change the topic with Chewbacca gambits. I give my reactions to these below the fold also.

The letter I sent to his producer and station manager

Pimps and Hos? Is this the kind of language you use to sell your
advertisers’ products?

Racism and sexism have no place on the air.

I ask you to take immediate action to remove both Don Imus and Bernard
McGuirk from any role that permits them to continue spewing hatred and
bigotry over our airwaves.

The time is past for silly kabuki rituals where Imus “apologizes”, goes on
vacation for a few weeks, and comes back to do it all over again.

Anything less than their permanent, immediate dismissal will be nothing
more than a cynical attempt on your part to ride out this storm. Either
dismiss them or endorse their racism and misogyny. There is no middle
ground on this one, sorry.

“A good guy said something bad”

Imus’s show has featured a steady stream of infotainment celebrities (virtually all of them white and rich) from the corporate “news” shows. Andrea Mitchell, Tim Russert, James Carville, Tom Oliphant, David Gregory — all the usual suspects. Some of them are so-called liberals. (Indeed, Imus himself, who endorsed John Kerry and makes a point of bashing Bush, is sometimes called a “liberal”.) Many of these people have come to Imus’s defense, saying that while his calling the Rutgers student-athletes “nappy-headed ho’s” was reprehensible, he really is, deep down, a “good guy” & should therefore be forgiven. For who among us has never said anything regrettable?

The problem with this argument is that Imus’s whole “shock jock” shtick is built around saying “regrettable” things. Take that away and you have no reason for his show to exist. He has a long history of being a racist, misogynistic, bile-spewing bully cut from the same cloth as the Republican leaning hate-speakers like Coulter and Limbaugh.

The big difference between Imus and the other shock-jock bigots like Limbaugh and Coulter is that he’s the darling of the media elite, the insider’s club of the corporate media who try to control, and largely do control, our nation’s discourse. Tim Russert is seen by millions every week; his “Meet the Press” helps set the Washington, DC agenda. Andrea Mitchell is Mrs. Alan Greenspan, for the love of God. These are people who are regularly seen on TV telling us “that’s the way it is.” They really are the voice of the oligarchy/plutocracy, and are enormously influential precisely because they have access to the airwaves that you and I do not. Most of those people won’t go on Limbaugh; he’s too hot. But they’ll go on Imus, which is much more damaging.

Russert and Gregory et al are not journalists, of course; they’re court jesters on short tethers. Russert admitted under oath at the Libby trial that he won’t speak without the junta’s permission, and David Gregory literally danced to Karl Rove’s tune at the recent White House Correspondent’s Dinner. These people really are whores, by their own admission. Nevertheless, tens of millions of people, maybe more, are not in on the joke and think these people really are journalists. Which is precisely why, when Imus gives us a chance to weaken them, we must grab it.

I agree with my friend Ande, who wrote that Imus gives the impression of somebody who “sleeps through his own daily verbiage,” and probably did not even realize what he had said until it became a stink. His own views are actually incoherent — self contradictory and constantly changing. The only thing that stays the same is the gruff curmudgeonly persona. He is a guy with a long history of alcohol and cocaine abuse, and I really do think his brain is damaged. But I’m not Bill Frist, so I probably should stay away from offering a definitive diagnosis.

In calling the Rutger’s women’s basketball team “nappy-headed ho’s” (in the context of some ugly banter with other members of his show), Imus was speaking as a chartered member of the media elite. As Spiderman learned, with great power comes great responsibility. His perch earned him millions and millions of dollars. If he didn’t realized how high it was, that’s just too bad on him.

Please see Digby and Atrios for more on Imus as a member of the Kewl Kidz Klub.

The “pragmatic” argument — he’s on our side; we can’t afford to lose his voice

I’ve seen comments on DailyKos and elsewhere to the effect that Imus, as a Bush/Cheney basher who puts Democrats on his show and even the occasional progressive, should be tolerated–because without him, those voices will not be heard. If not Imus, goes this line of reasoning, then who?

Well, I think that that’s a good question. And now that we’ve got Imus on the run, we should continue to press for somebody more appropriate to balance out the horrible right-wing, Republican dominance of talk radio. Somebody suggested Sam Seder of Air America. Sounds right to me.

But the main point is, you cannot advance the progressive values of decency and tolerance by making common cause with a misogynist racist bully. That’s what’s called making a bargain with the devil–a fool’s proposition, for the devil does not keep is bargains, as is well known. We have to invent and protect a new network of voices, which is why preserving the Internet is so important. But that’s a topic for another entry.


Thank those funny obnoxious cranks of South Park for giving us the notion of the Chewbacca Defense. We see it now with calls from Imus dopplegangers like Michelle Malkin who are trying to turn the discussion about Imus into a discussion about Al Sharpton, or rap, or hip-hop culture, or whatever. But Imus is the one with the radio show to which all the pundits gravitate, and Imus is the one who called the Scarlet Knights “nappy-headed ho’s” in the context of some ugly racist, misogynist banter. This is not about Al Sharpton and it’s not about Chewbacca either. It’s about Imus, and that’s just the way it is.

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