14 April 2007

Draining the swamp

I have never listened to Imus in my life, and have managed to ignore the whole "nappy-headed ho" imbroglio -- to the degree that it is possible, given the saturation media coverage. Yet there has been a bright spot because I have heard much less about someone named Sanjaya in the interim.

Vaguely annoying though the media circus has been, yet another bright spot has been the focus on bigoted language in public discourse, and the clarification of the bounds of what is acceptable. There are a whole host of right-wing hate-mongers to whom the standards should be applied and from whom accountability should be required. Just to start, I refer you to Media Matter's compilation of just a few of the more egregious comments of Messers Limbaugh, Beck, O'Reilly, Savage, Bortz, and Coulter. Selected highlights:

  • Boortz: Rep. McKinney "looks like a ghetto slut"
  • Boortz also declared Islam a religion of "violent, bloodthirsty cretins" and called Prophet Muhammad a "phony rag-picker"
  • Boortz suggested that Katrina victim turn to prostitution
  • CNN's Beck to first-ever Muslim congressman: "[W]hat I feel like saying is, 'Sir, prove to me that you are not working with our enemies' "
  • CNN's, ABC's Beck on Clinton: "[S]he's the stereotypical bitch"
  • Beck has a warning for Muslims "who have sat on [their] frickin' hands" and have not "lin[ed] up to shoot the bad Muslims in the head"
  • Coulter refers to Edwards as "faggot," has smeared Dems in similar fashion many times before
  • Savage: CNN's Blitzer and King "would have pushed Jewish children into the oven"; "curry favor with the turbanned hoodlums"
  • Limbaugh handicapped races in new Survivor series, suggested "African-American tribe" worst swimmers, Hispanics "will do things other people won't do"
  • O'Reilly to Jewish caller: "[I]f you are really offended, you gotta go to Israel"
And these are only comments from the past eighteen months or so. Limbaugh and Coulter have a track record of racism and slander going back well over a decade. As long as cretins like these are considered credible and praise-worthy on the right, they incriminate by association, by their silence, and by their implied support all the reasonable conservatives (and they do exist) who shudder at such brazen attacks. Kos has asked "what does a conservative have to say to not get invited back on the TV as a pundit?" I don't know - I can't think of it happening. You can advocate the assassination of supreme court justices, the destruction of the New York Times, the execution of journalists, and on and on, and the conservative establishment will support you and ensure your meal ticket continues to get punched.

Conservatives who fail to denounce these vile human beings are at the least complicit.

PS: Just for the record, if anyone would like to bring to my attention comparable slanders by liberals, I will be happy to add their names to the list of shame.
PPS: And, no, anonymous commenters on blogs, vacuous celebrities, and obscure university professors don't count. I am referring to major media figures and respected pundits.


  1. Thank you for talking about this subject. Although I think that Imus needed to have his mouth washed out with soap, I have always thought that many others in the media needed a kick in the pants, too.


  2. I'm a huge fan of 100% unfettered speech and of the opinion that complete wastes of carbon like Coulter damage themselves and their causes more in the long run by being allowed to spout and spew while the world blithely dismisses them. Really, the majority of the comments you cited (the exceptions I think being the assumptions of the terrorist affiliations of any and all muslims) were no different than a standard Daily Show joke, with the difference of the speakers having no noticable sense of humor. Conservativism and fundamentalism seem kinda of anathema to funny. So, I'm anti-political-correctness. On the other hand, I also have no sympathy for most of the complaints against the "PC-police," because there's precious little evidence that political correctness is silencing any voices, and the hippies have just as much right to bitch and moan as the fascists. So, everybody into the fray.

    As for the Imus imbroglio, I've never listened to his show, so I have no idea of the "long record" of obnoxiousness that he was supposedly guilty of, but in the context of the complete segment that I youtubed, I have to say I don't think he did anything wrong in this instant except exhibit poor taste. Not even especially bad taste, just below average.

    The show segment was referencing the NCAA women's bball finals, Tennessee vs. Rutgers, and the exchange in question began by commenting on the decisive Tennessee victory. Then a comment on the "rough" look of the Rutgers players [paraphrasing], "they got some tatoos... some hardcore ho's... nappy headed ho's..." which then segued into a comparison with the relatively clean-cut players from Tennessee. Imus and his cohosts made references to Spike Lee characters which utilized the same stereotypes in School Daze (though they inaccurately thought it was from Do The Right Thing). On the TV simulcast highlights of the game played under the comments. The final comment on the clip I saw compared the Rutgers girls to the Toronto Raptors NBA team (saying they were not just as tough as men but probably playing to the joke that NBA players are one step away from thugs and gang members).

    I can't possibly interpret the segment as any sort of racially demeaning or insulting speech. It's a pretty tame and dull joke about tough-girl, tomboy stereotypes, or maybe urban northerners vs. genteel southern ladies. Especially since the "nice" Tennessee team had just as many black players as any other.

    I don't particularly care that Imus got fired over all this. What irks me, just barely but enough to comment, is that this has somehow become the cause-celebre for every talk-show guest, host, or pundit with a racial aspect to their political agenda, no matter how distant and tenuous the relevance. It's one in an infinite line of examples of people's capacity to completely ignore the world in front of them and its actual problems for whatever "crisis" they've latched onto in their own minds. Annoying.

  3. I listen to the Randi Rhodes show on Air America occasionally. Her vitriol against Bush and the administration is remarkable. I think her favorite word is Nazi. Isn't that as bad as anything else?

  4. Bill -- Good point. I'm not sure where it falls in the spectrum of hate speech. Certainly there are prominent democrats and republicans who have compared their opponents to Hitler in one form or another. I suppose I would draw a distinction between demagoguery and bigotry. Demagogues simply want to demonize their opposition and Nazis are the demons par excellance. Bigots, OTOH, target specific minorities for disparagement. While there are demagogues aplenty on either side of the aisle, there seem, IMO, to be more bigots on the right.

    I would also point out Godwin's law, which states that As an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches one. and its corollary, that whoever first invoked the comparison automatically loses the debate. So for Rhodes, Delay, and any other Hitler-invokers -- it makes you look stupid, so knock it off.

    James -- you are spot on: Conservativism and fundamentalism are anathema to funny. Well said.

  5. You have to distinguish between attacking public figures and private figures. So, if Beck calls Hillary a bitch, and someone else call Bush an idiot, whatever. The problem with Imus is that he was attacking innocent people, based on their race.

    Now, attacking black and muslim public figures because they are black and/or muslim is different but evil. There is no way Glenn Beck should be on TV. I mean, Glenn Beck being on CNN is the greatest victory FoxNews has had. When a hate monger like that is mainstream? Wow.

    And btw, this is not an attack on free speech, and neither was getting angry at the Dixie Chicks. If you piss people off, stuff happens. That's the way it is.

  6. It’s nice to see that Shadowfax’s moral posturing in the post itself seems mitigated by the comments he makes here.

    Incrimination by association? Incrimination in what?

  7. Anon -- no argument. I was unhappy with the tone of this post. Why? Because it was meant to be a rant but wound up sounding just preachy. I am not sure how to fix that. The rant is not exactly my forte, really. I majored in cutting remarks, contempt, and condescension (the three C's). Which is fine when you speak from a position of authority but not too useful in trying to convert the unconvinced.

    Oh well. Guess I'll just have to work on being a better writer. One nice thing about being a blog is looking back on your posts of a year ago and seeing the evolution.


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