As of today, Don Imus is gone from MSNBC and CBS Radio. Given the magnitude of the most recent event combined with his history of hate jokes, it is an unfortunate but likely justifiable end to his terrestrial broadcast career.
Keep in mind, he wasn't fired for saying the things he did. He was merely suspended for that. He was fired because his advertisers abandoned his program.
Like Howard Stern before him, Imus may very well have a future in uncensored satellite radio, but his situation lets us look at several points of view surrounding his dismissal.
THE “TOO POLITICALLY CORRECT” ARGUMENT
Imus is a comedian first and foremost. He jokes, the argument goes, not much differently than Chris Rock.
Do we hold Imus to a different standard than Rock because he’s not in front of a live audience like Rock? Do we hold Imus to a different standard because he’s not black like Rock?
No, we hold Imus to a different standard because his humor is designed with the intent of producing insult in a way that actually brings harm to a segment of humanity. Rock’s humor is designed to make people laugh – period.
Intent. Rock harbors no ill intent for the people he uses certain words to describe.
It’s not the words that are said, it is how they are used.
Bullets don’t kill when they’re held in one’s hand. They don’t kill unless they’re fired from a gun pointed at another living being.
THE “FIRST AMENDMENT” ARGUMENT
Some backers of Imus argue he has Freedom of Speech.
Indeed, they are correct. Imus had every right to say what he said – provided they were not said over the public airwaves.
Broadcasters are regulated by the FCC, and are not allowed to say certain words in any case. What Imus said is not included in those words banned from the public airwaves, but it doesn't mean they were acceptable.
Private citizens may not say certain words even simply in public because of their intent to bring harm to others. The classic example is that a person may not scream “Fire” in a crowded theater.
When people can likely be hurt, freedom of speech is suspended.
THE “WHAT ABOUT RAPPERS?” ARGUMENT
Rap music artists use insensitive words in their art, but like the “First Amendment” argument, the broadcast airwaves do not allow these rap songs to be played over public airwaves. For those that do get broadcast, that still doesn't make it right.
A growing number of people are protesting lyrics in rap songs that are harmful, and their message is getting across. The two ways they do so are verbally by speaking out against these lyrics, and economically by not buying works from these artists.
Imus was fired for similar reasons. Verbally, he was protested against, and economically his advertisers pulled their ads to prevent his show from being cost productive.
THE “EVERYBODY DOES IT” ARGUMENT
This is beyond any doubt the vilest argument of all.
The overwhelming theme of conservative talk radio and television is to promote hate speech based on white supremacy as long as it’s male, Christian, and heterosexual white supremacy. The argument is that such talk must be acceptable across the board because no one else is being punished for it.
Conservative talk show host Rush Limbaugh has referred to Senator Barak Obama and actress Halle Berry as “Halfrican-Americans.”
Conservative talk show host Michael Savage questioned whether the Voting Rights Acts intended to combat discrimination at the ballot box was trying to “put a chad in every crackhouse.”
Conservative talk show host Neal Boortz said that Representative Cynthia McKinney looked “like a ghetto slut.”
Conservative talk show host Glenn Beck referred to Hurricane Katrina victims as “scumbags”, and told Representative Keith Ellison that he wanted to say to him, “Prove you are not working for our enemies,” because Ellison is also Muslim.
It goes on every day in conservative talk radio. The idea is produce fear of some other group of people simply because they are in some way different.
Fear is so closely associated with hate as to produce a warlike, primitive response in simple minds. That is why "ism" and "phobia" are in the words "racism" and "homophobia".
But those other groups are not really so different from their conservative hatemongers. They are, after all, fellow Americans.
Progressive talk show hosts also espouse their own viewpoints, but don't appeal in the same way to fear and hatred. They don’t fear and hate men. They don’t fear and hate heterosexuals. They don’t fear and hate Christians. They don’t fear and hate white people.
Conservativism is based on exclusion ("You wouldn't want your sister to marry one of them" - 'them' meaning a different race or similar gender) while progressivism is based on inclusion to work for a common goal as a consensus unit. Guess which is easier to manipulate and exploit among weak minds.
Imus wasn’t a conservative. Some even called him liberal although his political guests spanned the spectrum of politics from democrats like John Kerry to republicans such as Rudy Giuliani. A particular favorite of Imus’ was the very conservative Independent, Joe Lieberman.
But Imus used a slightly different tactic than the Sean Hannity, Ann Coulter, Lou Dobbs, Bill O'Reily, etc. While their hate talk is serious and specific in their attacks against the groups of people they hate, Imus used humor.
Still, the intention of Imus’ humor was no less harmful.
The real unknown is how much longer we will have to wait before broadcasted hate speech begins to dwindle.
With Imus’ dismissal, America may soon see the dwindling begin.