Sunday, April 15, 2007

free speech??

You knew I would eventually get around to this one, didn't you? Don Imus called the Rutgers women's basketball team "nappy headed hos". He has been fired, after a public uproar. I am not sure how I feel about this.

I think his comments were unexcusable. The girls did nothing but excel. They did not deserve to have their achievements diminished by a very public slur. They were owed an apology, and they received one, with very good grace.

I think Imus' employers were being hypocritical in the extreme. They pay the man to be nasty, they pay him to say outrageous things, and they have profited by it. Now they fire him for what he has been doing all along.

I hate his style of radio. To me, a microphone is not a license to be a pig. "Free speech" isn't really free. People fought and died for it. I doubt they imagined the way that phrase would be used as a shield for intolerance, bigotry and general ugliness. And free speech ends where you do real harm to others. It doesn't allow you to say anything that pops into your head. The concept applies to the exchange of IDEAS. It is supposed to protect citizens from government oppression, not to protect asshole talk show hosts from being boorish to pump up ratings.

A co-worker of mine had an interesting spin on the Imus comments. Her feeling is that his comments were fine, because the comments were nothing that African-Americans are not already calling themselves. My reply was that it is equally wrong when 50 Cent does it as when Imus does. People shouldn't allow themselves to be treated that way, by anyone. And that kind of behaviour shouldn't help anyone line their pockets. Why buy records that denigrate you? Why idolize men who call you a ho? Hopefully the conversation on this will continue, and perhaps some real change will come from it.

We really could do better. Maybe try treating each other with dignity and respect, see what happens. Who knows -- we might just like it.

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