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Monday, April 16, 2007
Hypocrizzles on the dizzle
Two people who should never, ever, ever, ever say another word about Imusgate: Snoop d-o-double-jizzle and Bob "BET" Jizzle. Read on, if you have a strong stomach...

Fresh from his plea of no contest to gun charges, Snoop Dogg has added his two cents to the Imus debate, stating that the broadcasting legend should indeed have his job yanked for calling the Rutgers University basketball team “nappy headed hoes.”

The rapper has referred to women as “b**ches” and “hoes” in his music since his first album, “Doggystyle,” in 1993. But the Long Beach MC says there’s a difference between the sexist terms used in hip hop and the way Imus said it last Wednesday during his broadcast.

"It's a completely different scenario. (Rappers) are not talking about no collegiate basketball girls who have made it to the next level in education and sports,” said Snoop, according to the Web site Female First. "We're talking about hoes that's in the 'hood that ain't doing s**t, that's trying to get a n**ga for his money. These are two separate things.”

"First of all, we ain't no old-ass white men that sit up on MSNBC going hard on black girls,” he continued. "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 muthaf**kas say we are in the same league as him. Kick him off the air forever."

Ugh ... wait, wait, there's more...

Meanwhile, BET has been accused of perpetuating the use of “ho” by airing rap videos that contain lyrics and images that are brutally misogynistic. The network’s founder, Robert Johnson, was a guest on MSNBC Thursday in the space that had been occupied by “Imus in the Morning” just 24 hours earlier - before the cable channel canceled the radio simulcast late Wednesday.

David Gregory asked Johnson via phone: “You are the founder of Black Entertainment Television, which over the years, has been a platform for hip hop artists and videos – particularly late at night, which are graphic, which feature this kind of language – the word ho, the b-word, the n-word – that sexualize women, black women, white women. You provided that platform. Do you think there’s something different about that in this case?

Johnson responded: “I absolutely do. As I said David, when you look at artistic expression, you look at creative freedom, it’s coming from artists who are expressing their particular content. …And for the record, I think if you call anybody in the record industry, they will tell you that as the founder of BET and the person responsible for putting on music videos, I absolutely encouraged every artist and every record label to tone down the sexuality, tone down the misogynistic lyrics, to provide content that was appealing to everybody. But as I said earlier, in this kind of debate, if it’s going to have any traction in all, we’ve got to recognize artistic freedom. We’ve got to recognize creative expression. …I make a clear distinction between a comedian saying something in a comedy platform, an artist saying something in an artistic platform, versus a political commentator talking to the power elite of this nation and feeling because he engages with the power elite, he can say things against a disadvantaged class with impunity.”

Here's a thought. Why don't the both of you go away, and never speak publicly about this subject again.

Meanwhile, Rev. Jesse Jackson has been high fiving all over the place about having ousted Imus. He and Reverend Al Sharpton have also been fielding death threats. Sharpton was supposed to be here in South Florida over the weekend to lead a march by groundskeepers and janitors at Nova Southeastern University, who have been the victims of what looks like a major league case of union busting. He was a no-show, and we heard that death threats may have played a part (although the official reason for the cancellation was scheduling conflicts.)

Gwen Ifill is taking a bit of the school marm route, appearing on the Sunday chat shows to tisk tisk her fellow reporters for not committing to never, ever speak to Don Imus on the air again. This story is thick with hypocrisy, and the moralizing and high horsedness on the part of some, by no means all, African-American pundits is starting to become grating.

And then there is the potential for Imusgate snowballing into the tit-for-tat silencing of voices that cause discomfort. From Frank Rich's recent NYT column:

What Imus said about the Rutgers team landed differently, not least because his slur was aimed at young women who had no standing in the world of celebrity, and who had done nothing in public except behave as exemplary student athletes. The spectacle of a media star verbally assaulting them, and with a creepy, dismissive laugh, as if the whole thing were merely a disposable joke, was ugly. You couldn’t watch it without feeling that some kind of crime had been committed. That was true even before the world met his victims. So while I still don’t know whether Imus is a bigot, there was an inhuman contempt in the moment that sounded like hate to me. You can see it and hear it in the video clip in a way that isn’t conveyed by his words alone.

Does that mean he should be silenced? The Rutgers team pointedly never asked for that, and I don’t think the punishment fits the crime. First, as a longtime Imus listener rather than someone who tuned in for the first time last week, I heard not only hate in his wisecrack but also honesty in his repeated vows to learn from it. Second, as a free-speech near-absolutist, I don’t believe that even Mel Gibson, to me an unambiguous anti-Semite, should be deprived of his right to say whatever the hell he wants to say. The answer to his free speech is more free speech - mine and yours. Let Bill O’Reilly talk about “wetbacks” or Rush Limbaugh accuse Michael J. Fox of exaggerating his Parkinson’s symptoms, and let the rest of us answer back.

Liberals are kidding themselves if they think the Imus firing won’t have a potentially chilling effect on comics who push the line. Let’s not forget that Bill Maher, an Imus defender last week, was dropped by FedEx, Sears, ABC affiliates and eventually ABC itself after he broke the P.C. code of 9/11. Conservatives are kidding themselves if they think the Imus execution won’t impede Ann Coulter’s nasty invective on the public airwaves. As Al Franken pointed out to Larry King on Wednesday night, CNN harbors Glenn Beck, who has insinuated that the first Muslim congressman, Keith Ellison of Minnesota, is a terrorist (and who has also declared that “faggot” is nothing more than “a naughty name“). Will Time Warner and its advertisers be called to account? Already in the Imus aftermath, the born-again blogger Tom DeLay has called for the firing of Rosie O’Donnell because of her “hateful” views on Chinese-Americans, conservative Christians and President Bush.

If that happens, then Don Imus, who is already rich, near retirement age, and thus set for life, won't be the only loser.

Rich makes another great point about the "free speech" argument, the "let's talk about race" platitudes, and about the perennially identity challenged MSNBC:

corporations, whether television or radio networks or movie studios or commercial sponsors, are free to edit or cancel any content. No one has an inalienable right to be broadcast or published or given a movie or music contract. Whether MSNBC and CBS acted out of genuine principle or economic necessity is a debate already raging. Just as Imus’s show defied easy political definition - he has both kissed up to Dick Cheney as a guest and called him a war criminal - so does the chatter about what happened over the past week. MSNBC, forever unsure of its identity, seems to have found a new calling by turning that debate into a running series, and I say, go for it.

The biggest cliché of the debate so far is the constant reiteration that this will be a moment for a national “conversation” about race and sex and culture. Do people really want to have this conversation, or just talk about having it? If they really want to, it means we have to ask ourselves why this debacle has given permission to talking heads on television to repeat Imus’s offensive words so insistently that cable news could hardly take time out to note the shocking bombing in the Baghdad Green Zone. Some even upped the ante: Donna Brazile managed to drag “jigaboo” into Wolf Blitzer’s sedate “Situation Room” on CNN.

If we really want to have this conversation, it also means we have to have a nonposturing talk about hip-hop lyrics, “Borat,” “South Park” and maybe Larry David, too. As James Poniewozik pointed out in his smart cover article for Time last week, an important question emerged from an Imus on-air soliloquy as he tried to defend himself: “This phrase that I use, it originated in the black community. That didn’t give me a right to use it, but that’s where it originated. Who calls who that and why? We need to know that. I need to know that.”

My 22-year-old son, a humor writer who finds Imus an anachronistic and unfunny throwback to the racial-insult humor of the Frank Sinatra-Sammy Davis Jr. Rat Pack ilk, raises a complementary issue. He argues that when Sacha Baron Cohen makes fun of Jews and gays, he can do so because he’s not doing it as himself but as a fictional character. But try telling that to the Anti-Defamation League, which criticized Mr. Baron Cohen, an observant Jew, for making sport of a real country (Kazakhstan) and worried that the “Borat” audience “may not always be sophisticated enough to get the joke, and that some may even find it reinforcing their bigotry.”

So if we really want to have this national “conversation” about race and culture and all the rest of it that everyone keeps telling us that this incident has prompted, let’s get it on, no holds barred. And the fewer moralizing pundits and politicians, the better. ...

Great points.

At the end of the day, I remain a libertarian when it comes to speech. As Rich said, there's no constitutional right to have a radio show, and Imus suffered the vicissitudes of advertisers and shareholders, even if that meant that his considerable audience didn't have their views taken into account. But if there is a demand for what he does, he'll come back. And if not, some other peddler of vulgarity will take his place. And that's the way it's supposed to work. The last thing we need is some team of reverendly and media schoolmarms becoming the gate keepers of what can and connot be on the air. Because believe me, if the right has its way, it won't just be racially offensive speech that goes down the chute, it will be inconvenient political speech too. As Scott Long at the Juice Blog puts it:

Those that are joyous of [Imus'] downfall should be really careful about thinking that the next few targets will be as quick and easy, as the backlash will get stronger when they go after the next groups on their list.
Like, maybe, the violent, misogynistic strains of hip-hop, perhaps?

Don Imus is a dinosaur, who apprently didn't see the ice age coming. But he has spawned a generation of foul talking smart mouths who are now the core of talk radio. The only difference with Imus is that he became politically important and he sold tons of books for people, sort of like a demonic version of Oprah.

I would love to see the hip-hop community, the comedy community, et. al. clean up their act and lay off the Black jokes. But I want to seem them do it because they get that the world has changed, rather than because they're being forced to do it.

And by the way, questions over whether the Imus death penalty was, in fact, overkill, aren't just being asked by white people:

I know that I personally don't carry the weight of black America on my shoulders, since every racist comment (vs. blacks) is not directed at me - similar to the way white citizens don't carry the burden of history on their shoulders and an insurmountable sense of guilt.

The Imus situation would be very different if he blatantly said "black women are nappy-headed hos who deserve to die" (sounds remotely Chappelle-esque), and in that instance of course Sharpton would be warranted in attacking Imus. The Rutgers incident is solely between the women of the Rutgers basketball team and Imus - he apologized and they accepted. Granted, he only apologized once the media firestorm began, but at least he apologized to whom he insulted.

In order to be successful in life, you have to be comfortable with yourself. I know that people's racist comments have only hurt me when clearly directed at me (far beyond stereotypes and generalizations), and the Imus situation seems like another case of an individual's commentary affecting more than his intended "target" thanks to the media exacerbating commentary that I never would have even heard in the first place.
Well... she does have a point...


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