Lately a lot of the talk on sports roundtables has been about the ignorant comments of Don Imus, who managed to insult the entire Rutgers University women's basketball team as well as black women everywhere. Imus is (was) a "shock jock" with a syndicated program on MSNBC and CBS radio. He has since been suspended by CBS for two weeks and apparently suspended indefinitely by MSNBC.
I've been fascinated by the entire exercise partly because of what it reveals about us as a society. Anybody with a pulse and a social conscience recognizes that what Don Imus said was unacceptable. What is remarkable is that the man has been so successful for so long doing basically the same thing. His "schtick" is to use vulgarity and insults to put-down anyone with whom he disagrees or whom he might not like. For this he is paid big money and draws large crowds. He has done so well, in fact, that for years politicians and authors have practically begged to appear on his program. Why?
Are we this starved for so-called entertainment that we enjoy seeing others put down and insulted? The answer obviously is yes.
Perhaps the best point was one that I heard on a radio station as I was driving through Michigan this week. The talk-show host was not questioning whether Imus was wrong, what he was questioning was this: why is Imus wrong and the rappers featured on BET say much worse every day and no-one says a word. It was actually an impassioned statement from a young black man that brought up this point. He was enraged that the black community would put up with the degrading comments directed towards young black women every day on BET and radio by hip hop artists.
I think it's a great point, and it should not be limited to rappers - it's everywhere. There is a general lack of respect in our society that is reflected in everything from basic manners to language to basic TV fare to music. When and why did it become cool to use the "f" word in public? When did we lose the ability to disagree politely with people and, rather, loudly tell them off? When did we lose the ability to produce a good movie with a sound storyline without filling it with gratuitous sex scenes and vulgar language? Why do we feel that we have to try to offend the sensibilities of those around us as if we were all 15 years old? Why is it that you can't just flip through the channels on your TV set without finding something that is completely inappropriate for your children?
I think it's time we started saying "no" to the Imus' of this world by tuning them out. Let the ratings tell the networks to drop these guys. If we continue to listen to this junk, buy these CD's and videos, then whose fault is it really? The responsibility lies with all of us.