Before the self-congratulation gets any more feverish, here is one splash of
cold water on the destruction of Don Imus. There was a sodden moralism in the
comments on this subject in the New York Times and elsewhere that bodes ill for
discussion of less worked-up issues. Imus is a known quantity--a drawling wit,
vulgar entertainer, holder forth and pretend-lowbrow, a misanthrope and churl
who over many years adapted himself to the gutter medium of talk radio. He is
also the only interviewer who ever put John Kerry at ease (the subject, once,
was basketball). He had corrosive things to say about the Iraq war, and his
references to the president were often in a class with his sprawl of words
about the Rutgers team. A non-denominational hater and, like certain other
misanthropes, fearless as well as feckless. Can anyone believe his replacement
will be made of finer stuff?
The occasion was arbitrary, the penalty outsize, the author of the majority
opinion that stern moralist, Al Sharpton. In concurring, Barack Obama spoke
some politic but unconvincing words about the harm that patter like Imus'
could do to the self-image of his daughters. A more constant menace to habits
of respect throughout the culture is the self-contempt of the rap verbiage that
Imus in his studio daze could not have copied more faithfully if he had been
hired to do so. This is a slang any parent of a teenager can recognize has sunk
deep roots in the insult arsenal of Americans of all colors. The absurdity of
the notion that Imus picked up his language from Ku Kluxers and not from 50
Cent will eventually be noticed.
Another view of the matter has been expounded by a well-qualified judge:
"It's a completely different scenario. [Rappers] are not talking about no
collegiate basketball girls who have made it to the next level in education and
sports. We're talking about hos that's in the 'hood that ain't doing shit,
that's trying to get a nigga for his money. These are two separate things.
First of all, we ain't no old-ass white men that sit up on MSNBC going hard on
black girls. We are rappers that have these songs coming from our minds and our
souls that are relevant to what we feel. I will not let them muthafuckas say we
in the same league as him."
Snoop Dogg distinguishes the cases. Is that all right then? Imus is totally
gone. Snoop Dogg is still with us. Are we happy now?