I don’t care that Imus was fired – but it’s worth noting that this was not a “freedom of speech” issue with respect to a question of STATE censorship. It was more a question of “pay speech” or commercially viable hate speech or perhaps “contempt speech.” Imus and his bosses made millions off a viable paradigm for decades. Sure there was more to the show than its anti-Black fundamentalism. It was the essentialist curmudgeon’s wet dream. It was anti-everything in a way that only Archie Bunker could have truly appreciated. But Imus never had a Michael Stivic or a George Jefferson to counter his message. It was all Archie, all the time – and it worked. America loved Archie more than Norman Lear may have ever known (maybe not)…and maybe some of that love was because “Archie” was more than funny – he was Uncle Bud or Cousin Bob or neighbor Jim – and he was a safe television character. Don was real, sort of – because he was on the radio – and you could talk to him and vibe and connect. There is no mistaking how much America loved Don Imus. The era of boob tube characters like Archie had passed and there has been no possibility of an over the top leftist tag team like Mike and Gloria in mainstream media. Don may have been ranked #14, but he set the trend and mapped the hard ground to verbalizing contempt for Black folk and so many other things. But, the more things change, the more things change, the more things change.
At this point in time, that paradigm is not viable. Democracy in a capitalist society is often about the extent to which citizens can get the ear of corporations on ethical issues. Sometimes those efforts work better than others. Sometimes, no effort is needed at all. Sometimes corporations choose a course of action that is aligned to public sentiment. Sometimes corporations ignore the public because the bottom line is more important. In this instance, the paradigm had run its course for Don Imus. He had to be fired. If he lives long enough, he may survive this period and have a show the next time hate speech is profitable. What does that mean? Three things:
- Avoiding depression induced by this public humiliation.
- Continuing to avoid cocaine and alcohol.
- Developing sharp new hate material for around 2019.
I suspect this is the last we’ll hear of Don Imus until his obituary. And that’s just how unforgiving public life can be. Sad isn’t it. I’ll try to keep this in mind the next time I want to glibly insult some person or group of persons. It doesn’t mean I’ll hold my tongue, but I’ll certainly think – and I’ll be sure not to hire a sidekick who talks about “hardcore hoes.”
It’s not all bad for Don. He has cool shades and his riches, if not his bitches.
“Those Were The Days”
by Lee Adams and Charles Strouse
Boy, the way Glenn Miller played. Songs that made the Hit Parade.
Guys like us, we had it made. Those were the days.
Didn’t need no welfare state. Everybody pulled his weight.
Gee, our old LaSalle ran great. Those were the days.
And you know who you were then. Girls were girls and men were men.
Mister, we could use a man like Herbert Hoover again.
People seemed to be content. Fifty dollars paid the rent.
Freaks were in a circus tent. Those were the days.
Take a little Sunday spin, go to watch the Dodgers win.
Have yourself a dandy day that cost you under a fin.
Hair was short and skirts were long. Kate Smith really sold a song.
I don’t know just what went wrong. Those Were The Days.