Friday, April 13, 2007

No Freedom of Speech for Don Imus?

Imus 2

"I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it." - Beatrice Hall

Something troubles me.

It's not that I liked Don Imus. Frankly I despised him for his adolescent insensitivity. I still remember that obscene gesture that he did with a wet cigar around 1998 during the Lewinsky scandal. Despite whatever Bill Clinton did in the White House, he did not deserve that kind of treatment on national TV, even from a detractor like Imus. Captain Cowboy Hat and his crew has a long record of such abusive behavior of which the Rutgers incident was only the latest. He should be shunned. He should be ostracized. He is pond scum.

According to MediaMatters, Imus has a rap sheet on both arms. This year alone, he was accused of at least echoing a phrase that he attributed to his executive producer, "Besa mi culo," in reference to Gov. Bill Richardson. In March, executive producer Bernard McGuirk in character as "Cardinal Egan," equated Barack Obama's topping Hilary Clinton's fundraising to a stereotypical view of black criminals.

Imus & Co. are also is said to have cast racial slurs on Jews, Arabs, Latinos, you name it.

And women from all walks of life were special targets for Imus. The stronger, more powerful the woman, the more they got the Imus treatment.

Still, despite all that, his career shouldn't have been ended.

If Imus was fired because of something he said, and those girls were deeply offended, then we shouldn't castigate Bill O'Reilly's attempts get Keith Olbermann fired, because after all, despite the fact that Olbermann was being honest, O'Reilly was offended by what he said, and how he portrays O'Reilly. And what about Rosie O'Donnell?

Can we afford what may turn into a witch hunt?

Bill Maher is a man who may well understand the position that Imus is in because also lost a show for saying something which at the time, (somewhere after September 11, 2001,) was assumed to be contrary to the tensions and overwrought sensitivities of the time. According to Radio Ink, Maher rushed to Imus's show, and defended him with these words:

I just think there is so much in this country about making people go away for a mistake. It's a mistake, you apologized, and you know you don't lose your livelihood - I don't understand that people have to lose their livelihood because they made one rotten joke. It's like nobody in this country can have one moment of discomfort. If you were made to feel one moment of discomfort, the person who caused it has to go away and that's just ridiculous.

Yeah it was a bad joke, it was real creepy but after that people move on. You know? Don't listen to you any more. You will lose some black listeners and that should be your punishment.

Of course, Bill didn't take into account that Imus & Co. are repeat offenders, but essentially, he is right.

People on the Left have as much to fear from this business as well as the Right. While not nearly as caustic as a Michael Savage, Limbaugh and O'Reilly, radio Left of the dial has many provocative and envelope pushing talents that might one day go too far. Stephanie Miller mentioned fears of "a slight chilling effect." And I'm sure Mike Molloy his offended somebody with his acid tongue. Did I mention the outspoken Randi Rhodes? So many people ion the Left have been attacked and smeared for their speech by the Right, that we should be the first to defend anyone’s freedom of speech. And yet, sometimes even we turn on the A.C.L.U.

I really hate to say this, but there has always been a slight totalitarian streak in many on the Left. It manifests itself in their ability to dismiss out of hand ideas that they are opposed to. It gave rise to political correctness. It also manifests itself in uncalled for bullying, harassment and head hunting.

For this very post I fear there will be a very caustic reaction. Once again, I DO hate the sinner, and would consign him to a very special circle of Hell, as well as hate the sin. To those who tout all of Imus's charities and big heart I would say:

Forget it! He hurt people, and many of them were weaker than he!

But I would not consign freedom of speech to the shredder! just because someone abused it. That the Rutgers girls were deeply hurt and offended by what Imus said, I have no doubt, but those girls are at a point in their live where they can overcome this adversity. Imus, at his age lost his career.

I wonder if anyone remembers how many times certain groups tried to take a few library books off the shelves because they found some words or passages in those books to be objectionable? Some books I’m sure were like Mein Kampf, or maybe somebody didn’t like O’Reilly’s books. But then, some people didn’t like Mark Twain’s books like Huckleberry Finn, or Tom Sawyer, because they had the “N“ word in them. No one remembers what a great thinker Mark Twain was, or that his books were written with the best of intensions.

Freedom is only freedom if the least of us can have it. Otherwise it’s only privilege. And privilege only serves to control people.

Bill Maher

Huffington Post - Michael Fauntroy, PhD "What's Next Al?"

A Poem about Don Imus

New York Times - Networks Condemn Remarks by Imus

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