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Monday, April 23, 2007
McGuirk fired, too
CBS fires Don Imus' perennially offensive longtime producer and sidekick, Bernard McGuirk, more than a week after Imus got the boot. McGuirk, who started the whole "ho" diatribe, will have to do his Ray Nagin and Cardinal O'Connor impressions elsewhere. Meanwhile, Jason Whitlock is publicly cool to the idea of replacing Imus at the FAN. ... the operative word being publicly. I know how hard it is to get a radio job, let alone a nationally syndicated show. If Whitlock has half a brain, he's seriously considering. ...


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posted by JReid @ 8:12 AM  
Saturday, April 21, 2007
Now wouldn't THAT be ironic...
CBS Radio is reportedly interviewing Jason Whitlock, an African-American sports columnist for AOL Sports and the Kansas City Star, to take Don Imus' old spot on WFAN as a syndicated national radio host. Conventional African-American Wisdom: That's great!

Um. .... you DO know I mean this Jason Whitlock:
Jason Whitlock, the columnist for the Kansas City Star and AOL Sports, has been one of the most vocal opponents of the effort to get Don Imus taken off the air for calling the Rutgers women's basketball team "nappy-headed hos." Whitlock isn't defending what Imus said, but he is saying that in many respects, Imus's critics are worse than Imus.

And in an appearance on Tucker Carlson's show on MSNBC, Whitlock lashed out at Imus's two harshest critics, Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson. Whitlock said, "I would say to CBS, don't negotiate with terrorists...
Conventional African-American Wisdom: damn ...

Meanwhile, the KC Star has Whitlock playing it coy. And CBS Radio sues an L.A. radio station for its defiant airing of Imus reruns.


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posted by JReid @ 9:20 PM  
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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posted by JReid @ 7:32 AM  
Friday, April 13, 2007
My troublesome doubts
The "I'm sick of the Imus story rant" Part One:

The question of whether hip-hop culture, and its characterization of women, is as damaging -- if not more so -- than Don Imus' petty tirade against the Rutgers womens' basketball team, is now center stage. With Imus gone, the white folks whom Blacks would like to see finally "get it" on the subject of why racial insults are so hurtful, are in reality saying "are you freaking KIDDING me??? The guy gets fired for some stupid comment??? Give me a break!" Many are also crying hypocrisy, since the Black community that has declared itself so mortally wounded by a geriatric misanthrope with a microphone and a really poor imitation of "cool", routinely tolerates the debasement of African-American women in music, films, comedy, magazines, and on and on.

I am among a very small minority of Black folk who are not interested in doing a victory dance over Imus' ouster. I'm not exactly crying over his firing, either, mind you. People get fired in talk radio all the time for saying or doing stupid things that get their stations or networks in hot water. Imus must live by the same rules. I also think the National Association of Black Journalists, and its vocal membership, including people like Gwen Ifill and Al Roker, had every right to press their case with NBC and CBS News. If I were still working at NBC, I would have been in those meetings saying exactly the same thing -- namely, that as a journalist, I had no interest in working under the same roof with a non-journalist shock jock who feels free to spew that kind of vitriol against a bunch of college girls. I would have wanted MSNBC to do something, quickly! ... before we turn into Fox News! I in fact, am fully in support of the NBC cable network's cancellation of his simulcast. What was good for Michael Savage and Rush Limbaugh, who were canned by, or resigned from, respectively, MSNBC and ESPN after going over the line of taste, is certainly good for Imus. Hell, I'm for pulling the equally race-baiting Glenn Beck off of CNN Headline News, after his slaps at Keith Ellison and others. But the yanking of Imus' show from CBS is, in my opinion, another matter. That was not about punishing him for crossing the line. That was about shutting him up entirely, or proving that "we" could "get him." Somehow, I'm just feeling kind of queasy about that.

I know I'm going to get slammed for saying this, but I think the vehemence of many in my community to "get Imus" lacked a certain, how shall I say, sense of the larger picture. Okay, so Imus is gone. Now what? Do we debate the cultural setting that made him feel comfortable aping what he clearly thought was hip, Black slang as a way of denegrating the looks of a bunch of girl athletes? Do we ask where a geriatric white man gets the term "nappy headed ho," if not from Black slang? Do we ask whether BET is broadcasting far worse denigrations of Black women every freaking day? While we're at it, should we seek the firing of Bob Johnson, for abusing our sensibilities with "butt naked" videos for 20 years? What about the other shock jocks? Do we fire them too? Do Asians get pumped up to fire Rosie O'Donnell for disparaging them on the public airwaves? Will there be anybody left to fire when we're through? Would Imus, thoroughly cowed, have been more useful on the air, forced to confront the issue of race seriously, rather than as a punchline? Like the question about the Tootsie Roll center of a Tootsie Pop, the world will never know.

And I'm really growing weary of watching television personalities of the Caucasian persuasion doing the obligatory hang-dog look and "Imus' comments were racist and wrong" tagger before launching into whatever it is they really want to say. I just don't buy that most white people really "get" what it is Black folks are so riled up about. Some do, and are equally riled (Keith Olbermann comes to mind...) but most of them are uber-liberal and reacting to a very general sence of outrage over everything that smacks of an 'ism. More generally, I happen to believe that most white people are embarassed and disgusted by the idea of racism and don't want to be associatd with it, and thus, don't want Imus hanging around stinking up the joint. That said, I think that if you promised never to tell the P.C. police on them, most white people also think Imus was the victim of a bunch of high horse Christians who don't happen to quite believe in forgiveness, and the mob that followed them to church...

I think the more sincere white talking heads on the tubie are those like Craig Crawford, David Gregory and Joe Scarborough, who, after doing the obligatory "Imus' comments were racist and wrong" mantra, actually admit to being baffled as to why a chastened Imus could not have been allowed to remain in his job after serving his two week banishment and perhaps giving a healthy donation to a Title IX charity, and why there had to be a jihad against his very employment in this world. Or those like Bill Maher and Pat Buchanan who are calling the Imus flap "ridiculous" and overblown and an attack on free speech. Call me cynical, but I suspect that the Imus flap won't bring about better healing and racial understanding. It will touch off a cross current of wars against liberal talkers, conservative talkers, unacceptable white talkers, unacceptable black talkers, and possibly, a renewed sense of terror over the existence of Youtube. At least until some bubbly starlet strokes out in rehab, adopts a Malawian child or wins American Idol...

The "I'm sick of the Imus story rant" Part Two:

My sister and I just had a long telephone conversation about this, which is why I'm riled up enough to blather on about it. After talking with her for nearly an hour, (I feel the need to reveal that she's an actress, and wears her hair natural, which makes for a double dose of adventure in her life...) I finally hit on what's really bugging me about this whole exercise. I keep wondering if it's at all helpful to see those Rutgers girls paraded across the national consciousness as victims, so delicate in constitution that they were ready to crumble upon hearing, second hand, that some old geezer called them a name? (What ever happened to "your MAMAs a nappy headed ho!?" Okay, maybe that wouldn't have sounded as good in that one hour presser...) And then, to have those same, "pretend outraged-but not quite getting why they're supposed to be" white commentators, not to mention Mrs. Imus, declare breathlessly -- and daily -- that after all, the girls really, really ARE pretty, aren't they? Just look at their perms! Sorry, but somebody please pass the air sickness bag. These girls are powerful, tough athletic and academic stars. They don't need a weeping nation to approve of their fresh new perms, and white people to tell them they're really so very beautiful, do they? Have we gotten that soft? Is this the same community that survived slavery, lynching and Jim Crow? (Okay, sorry, I guess that was the savvy P.R. way to handle the situation, and I applaud Rutgers for their strategery ... oh, and Oprah was a nice touch -- beyond that, the girls have been hermetically sealed from media...) To illustrate my point, Condi Rice has said she's glad Imus was fired for his "disgusting" remarks. But then she said this:

Asked how she handled racist, sexist comments directed her way, Rice laughed and
replied: "I'm a big girl. I can take care of myself. And I really don't care because, you know, I'm a mature woman."

Exactly, Condi. Shouldn't we be encouraging these girls to be as tough as you are?

If we're going to have a conversation about assaults on the femininity of Black women -- something which goes back, not to Don Imus, but to the very formation of this country -- let's have that conversation. Don Imus was taunting those girls because in his mind (just like his buddy Stu's reduction of the Williams sisters to "animals") tall, athletic, dark skinned women aren't really women, and definitely aren't feminine or attractive. You really need to look as much like a white woman as possible if you want to make it around here, dear... We could have had that conversation with Imus in his chair. I really woudn't have cared. But that conversation would have had to include a whole lot of Black men, too.

Meanwhile, the possibility that the jihad will turn next on the hip-hop nation has riled up the MTV generation. Russell Simmons released this statement today, after Snoop Dogg and other artists started getting calls from media on whether Don Imus was, in fact, pimping their ho's. Said Simmons (and his Hip Hop Summit Action Network partner Dr. Ben Chavis). I've put the glaring ironies in bold italics...:

"Hip-Hop is a worldwide cultural phenomena that transcends race and doesn't engage in racial slurs. Don Imus' racially-motivated diatribe toward the Rutgers' women's basketball team was in no way connected to hip-hop culture. As Chairman and President of the Hip-Hop Summit Action Network (HSAN), respectively, we are concerned by the false comparisons some in the media are making between Don Imus and hip-hop. We want to clarify what we feel very strongly is an obvious difference between the two.

"HSAN believes in freedom of artistic expression. We also believe, with that freedom, comes responsibility. Don Imus is not a hip-hop artist or a poet. Hip-hop artists rap about what they see, hear and feel around them, their experience of the world. Like the artists throughout history, their messages are a mirror of what is right and wrong with society. Sometimes their observations or the way in which they choose to express their art may be uncomfortable for some to hear, but our job is not to silence or censor that expression. Our job is to be an inclusive voice for the hip-hop community and to help create an environment that encourages the positive growth of hip-hop. Language can be a powerful tool. That is why one's intention, when using the power of language, should be made clear. Comparing Don Imus' language with hip-hop artists' poetic expression is misguided and inaccurate and feeds into a mindset that can be a catalyst for unwarranted, rampant censorship."
Pardon? Are these artists seeing THAT many bitches, tricks and ho's around them?

Damn, the streets are tough! And how's this for poetic expression (editorial on: the pic above is of Snoop, and please don't post a comment pointing out that the lyrics below are not his... they're from Ludacris, and I know he has a song out about runaways, k? editorial off.):

Shake your money maker
Like somebody's bout to pay ya
Don't worry about them haters
Keep your nose up in the air

You know I got it
If you wanna come get it
Stand next to this money
Like - ey ey

[Verse 1]
Shake, shake, shake your money maker
Like you were shaking it for some paper
It took your momma 9 months to make ya
Might as well shake what your momma gave ya
You, you lookin good in them jeans
I bet you'd look even beter with me in between
I keep my mind on my money - money on my mind
But you's a hell of a distraction when you shake your behind
I got *** on my right side pourin' some cups
My whole hood is to my left and they ain't givin a fuck
So feel free to get loose and get carried away
So by tomorrow you forgot what you where saying today
But don't forget about this feeling that I am making you get
And all the calories you burn from me making you sweat
The mile highpoints you earn when we taking my jet and
How everywhere you turn I'll be making you wet

... [Verse 2]
Switch, switch, switch it from right to left
And switch it till you running right out of breath
And take a break until you ready again
And you can invite over as many friends as
You want to but I really want you and just
[ these lyrics found on ]
Be thankfull that Pharrel gave you something to bump to
Luda - I'm at the top of my game
You want my hands from your bottom to the top of your frame
And I - just wanna take a little right on your curves
And get erotic giving your body just what it deserves and
Let me give you some swimming lessons on the penis
Backstroke, breaststroke, stroke of a genius
Yepp call me the renissance man get up and
I stay harder then a cinderblock man
Hey I;m just a bedroom gangster
And I've been meaning to tell that I really mus thank ya when you

Shake your money maker
Like somebody's bout to pay ya
I see you on my radar
Don't you act like you're a faker


You know I got it
If you wanna come get it
Stand next to this money
Like - ey ey

Yep. Pure poetry, bitches. And now that CBS has purged itself of Donald Imus, they can get back to squeezing big bucks out of their Viacom unit's hit VH1 spin-offs of "The Flavor of Love"...

Now, keeping it real, I blame myself along with everyone else. I happen to like the above song. Great track. And I love and listen to hip-hop -- have done for most of my life at this point. And I know that there are still great artists out there putting out music with real lyrics, and no bullshit. But there's also a pervasive culture of degradation, and we can't run away from it, just as the majority culture has to deal with its drunk and disorderly starlets, Girls Gone Wild sluttiness and promiscuity cults, and various other cultural ills we all share. But denying that there's any connection between the culture we create and the culture others absorb, when we share this county in increasingly close quarters, is just damned disengenuous.

How much hypocrisy can you fit into one story???

Related: The Times Alan Davieson has some 'advice for whitey...'

Also related: The Hatemongers over at Wizbang ... no, that's really their name ... also are tired of the hang dog cable news white people ... and they remember the forgotten victims on the Tennessee women's basketball team (talk about having your 15 minutes stolen...)

The University of Tennessee Lady Volunteers ... the ones who actually won the tournament...

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posted by JReid @ 7:52 PM  
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