Friday, April 13, 2007

Vox Populi, Vox Dei

I'm going to go in a few different directions here, so bear with me. Don Imus was fired yesterday, and it seems as if that was the will of the people. Imus said something stupid, insensitive, and playing on overarching stereotypes. It was a remarkably stupid thing to say, and an incredibly stupid move on a national radio and TV show. I've met the man, and while I don't think he is a particularly evil person, but I don't think he has a real diverse group of friends either, if you know what I mean. His radio show has thrived for 30 odd years on mass generalizations and short sighted rhetoric. In short, I think he's kind of a dick... but there's no way he should have been fired for what he said. Docked a few weeks pay, maybe, but fired? Not in America.

Do I think what he said was hurtful and damaging? Yes. Do I think the world would be a better place if less people went to him to help form their opinions? Absolutely. Are there 20 other broadcasters who do far more damage with out stepping on feux pas landmines? You bet. Fire Nancy Grace, Bill O'Reilly and the rest of the oversimplifying fear mongers first, and leave the bigoted old men to fade out preaching to a bunch of other bigoted old men. It's not as if Imus was reaching a hip and impressionable demographic.

Why won't people start using their voice in the correct way? We are far more powerful then we ever give ourselves credit for. Turn off the TV, change Radio stations, pick up another news paper and subscribe to another magazine. If you just turn away from these people they fade away and stop having power enough to sustain their reign. As we learned from a classic Simpsons "Tree House of Horrors" episode: "Just don't Look." At least not when it comes to stupid, short-sighted losers like Don Imus. If we stop pumping these douche bags up, then they will just get fired because they aren't relevant anymore. By axing Imus under these circumstances he's just become a martyr to a group 0f people who make it a point to blame the decline of society on Political Correctness, and the coddling of minorities.

Actions like these, and the over-blown media coverage of this stuff, is having the opposite effect of what we want. We want a world were people are more accepting and respectful of one another, but we'll never get there this way. That's because 70% of the people out there are already very respectful of those who are different from them. And most of that 70% teach their kids to be the same way. The problem is the other 30% who feel like there is a movement afoot to give all the benefits to Blacks, Latins, Women, Jews and Gays and want some one to blame for it. They see the Imus firring as proof that the PC police have gone too far, and they lionize him like some kind of Ned Kelly or Billy the Kid.

We all need to remember the old adage we learned in grade school. Stick and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me. Words can and do hurt, but name calling and stereotyping only picks up speed when it is over reacted to. It's also important to understand intent and differentiate between someone who has true hate in their heart and those who make dreadful choices in what they choose to say. That goes hand in hand with the idea that if its not OK for some to use the word, it's not ok for anyone.

If you are going to yell at Imus for saying 'ho' then yell at Flavor Flav too. I don't advocate that, mind you, because I think it is all about intent. I don't think that black comics hate whites when they make over arching generalizations about them, and I don't find the use of words like Wop, Guinea or Dego offensive. Because they are only words. Say you're going to hurt someone I care for and you've got a fight on your hands, but call me a Wop and I'll just laugh.

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