Thursday, April 12, 2007

No Justice, No Speech

The fact that I have to make the following statement is an indicator of just how irrational, overwrought and childish our discourse in America has become: What Imus said about the Rutgers basketball team was stupid, offensive and he deserves to be punished for it. He was bad.

Bad Imus! Bad Imus!

What we're talking about now isn't Imus's 10 seconds of stupidity, but rather the tidal wave of overreaction and hypocrisy that has followed. We are living through a moment of media insanity.

When a guy who tells a racist joke is a bigger story than a prosecutor who sends
three guys to jail because of their race, you know that you're living in Bizarro Land.

In addition, when MSNBC pulls Don Imus over concerns about racial division and replaces him (as they did this morning) with Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton (!), the loonies are truly running the asylum.

The media's coverage, conversation and conclusions from this story have been humiliatingly juvenile and ill informed. To borrow a phrase from a prominent and successful African American, this has been a "high-tech lynching" driven entirely by special interests groups--not by news judgment.

Seriously, how big a story should this be? Front of the entertainment section maybe? Once Imus apologized and the players agreed to meet with him, what's left of significance to say?

But Sharpton, Jackson and Co. know how to keep a political ball in play long after rational people have lost interest in the game. They pushed, and MSNBC caved.

MSNBC could easily have put Imus back on after two weeks, his lesson learned. Imus would have almost certainly added more black voices to his show, and we know from past experience he would have continued to deal with issues important to black Americans.

Yes, it's also likely that Imus would have eventually said something Jesse Jackson didn't like. So what? If Jackson doesn't like it, he can get his own cable TV show.

Oh, wait--he did. It tanked. Nobody watched, because it was so lousy.

Meanwhile, Don Imus--whose TV ratings were beating CNN's morning show--is off TV.

Was this a victory for free speech and open discourse? Obviously not. Was it a victory for racial progress? Nope, unless you think making Jackson and Sharpton more powerful is "progress."

The only winners are the people who believe they should have the power to tell you what you can and cannot say.

That's why the real loser is all of talk radio.