Thursday, April 12, 2007

Essay 1986

From The New York Daily News…


Crock jock has burned thru too many chances


Don Imus, now in free fall with yesterday’s cancellation of his lucrative MSNBC television deal, is a casualty — and he should not be the only one — of a culture war being fought by Americans who are sick of being asked to silently look the other way while vulgarity, obscenity and hate speech poison the public airwaves.

Big advertisers such as Procter & Gamble, Staples and General Motors spent a week taking the national temperature and yanked their support after concluding that a critical mass of Americans — not all of them black, by any means — would not forgive the sight of 10 talented college athletes being cruelly slandered on national television as “nappy-headed” prostitutes.

Imus didn’t help his case by insisting he’d slipped up this one time and deserved another chance. The man has burned through second, third and 10th chances over the course of his 30-year radio career.

MSNBC recently apologized to an Islamic group after an Imus segment referred to Iraqi “ragheads.” Around the same time, Imus allowed a staff member to tell disgusting jokes about singer Kylie Minogue’s battle with cancer, then fired him when a public uproar ensued.

But the Imus commitment to vulgar insults has never changed. He once admitted to hiring a staffer whose main job, according to a profile of Imus on “60Minutes,” was to concoct “N-word” jokes for the show.

While Imus was off plying his ugly trade, a little-noticed national movement has been forming — documented by my colleague Stanley Crouch and me in the Daily News — that repeatedly challenges the demeaning and offensive lyrics, images and real-world violence of gangsta rap.

Web sites have started that call for an end to use of the N-word. Women’s groups have formed to blast rappers for using sexist, degrading lyrics and images. And grassroots coalitions succeeded in getting deejays at Hot 97 and Power 105 suspended or fired in recent years for crossing lines of basic decency.

Imus was probably unaware that a small but determined army of people has been mobilizing every few months to push back against one form or another of gutter-level bile disguised as entertainment.

The same groups are about to turn their attention to CBS Radio, which produces the Imus show, and make clear that advertisers and their customers have just as much free speech as deejays do. And we’re using it to say we refuse to support disgusting and demeaning programming.

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