For sheer idiocy, today’s prize goes to the infamous radio “shock jock” Don Imus for his racist rant against the Rutgers women’s basketball team. Don’t know about this? I won’t repeat it here, but you can find the gist in this AP wire story. Washington Post TV columnist Lisa De Moraes devoted her media column to this on Saturday, but otherwise, perhaps because of the holiday weekend, the Associated Press seems to be the main source of coverage. I learned about the fracas from the Philadelphia Inquirer when I was home over the weekend.
Where’s the outrage? Why isn’t this front page news? Or, is this yet another example of the studied indifference of pop culture to the ignorant, depraved behavior of celebrities? Newsweek’s Mark Starr wrote in his online column this week, “…while Imus should not be spared any blame, we are undoubtedly complicit. It is our dubious taste that has spawned America’s prevailing entertainment culture. We have countenanced the insult industry into which talk radio has devolved. We have allowed humiliation to become a centerpiece of network TV programming. And we encourage cutting-edge humor, without much concern that women and minorities endure most of those cuts. These dubious entertainments all share one currency: unabashed delight in cruelty and debasement. And we the audience laugh and laugh and laugh until somebody hits us over the head and we realize—or somebody tell us that we should realize—that this time it was way out of line and actually not all that funny.”
My friend Donna Lopiano, president of the Women’s Sports Foundation, succinctly called the Imus rant “racism at its core” in a message to sports and education leaders. I agree with Donna: regardless of the apparent indifference of mainstream media to yet another “bad boy” story about Imus, we must demand more than a pro-forma apology. There can be no place for racist, sexist, degrading commentary about women, women athletes, women of color among professional communicators. This is not a question of freedom of speech; it’s a matter of professional ethics for the radio station owners, sponsors, producers and talent.
The “usual suspects” are demanding that Imus be fired, and the other “usual suspects” are ignoring them, once again. Maybe it’s time for some “unusual” suspects to step up and demand a permanent end to the exaltation of racist rants. And let’s not just stop with ending the Imus reign — what about the people who employ him, who pay to advertise on this “all-insults-all-the-time” show?
Let’s also extend our support and solidarity to the women of Rutgers. They went all the way to the Final Four. They played a valiant title game, losing to Tennessee. Their accomplishments deserve praise and respect.
Watch Donna Lopiano’s blog for more at www.aforceforchange.org