Saturday, April 14

The Unintended Consquences of Rutgers/Imus

This certainly has been an interesting week for college sports scandals, where we've had the defrocking of radio legend Don Imus as well as the complete punking of DA Nifong.

But exactly what have we learned from all this?

Has a serious message been sent that callous attacks for the purposes of bad humor won't be tolerated on the public airwaves, and that a prosecutor should have a credible witness actual evidence before making defamatory pronouncements of a defendants guilt?

Quite a few interesting comments have been made on this subject , even on Real Time with Bill Maher last night.

Dana Carvey: What he said was ridiculous.

Scott McClennan: Where was the joke there? There was no joke.

Maher: Imus broke two major rules of comendy. It wasn't true and he picked on not the powerful, but the weak. Everything I got in trouble for was true

We have to remember that Maher has been directly in Imus' shoes after ABC pulled his show "Politically Incorrect" off the air in the weeks following Sept 11th.

"I do not relinquish - nor should any of you - the right to criticize, even as we support, our government," Maher said. "This is still a democracy and they're still politicians, so we need to let our government know that we can't afford a lot of things that we used to be able to afford. Like a missile shield that will never work for an enemy that doesn't exist. We can't afford to be fighting wrong and silly wars. The cold war. The drug war. The culture war."

What Maher said later in the show, however, is what made headlines. Panelist Dinesh D'Souza mentioned that he didn't think the terrorists were "cowards," as George Bush had described them. Maher replied: "We have been the cowards. Lobbing cruise missiles from two thousand miles away. That's cowardly. Staying in the airplane when it hits the building. Say what you want about it. Not cowardly. You're right."

At that time both Limbaugh and O'Reily supported what Maher said, arguing that he wasn't insulting our troops, but was instead criticizing President Clinton.

Unfortunately the reality is that Clinton wasn't the one who was "cowardly", he had requested special forces be sent into Afghanistan after Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda and it was the joint chief's who had cold feet as has been documented by Richard Clarke's Against All Enemies - Clinton told then Joint Chief's Chairman Gen Shelton...

"Hugh, what i think would scare the shit outof these al Qaeda guys more than any cruise missle... would be the sight of U.S. commandos, Ninja guys in black suits, jumping out of helicopters into their camps, spraying machine guns. Even if we don't get the big guys, it will have a good effect."

But Shelton wasn't down with that.

Shelton looked pained. He explained that the camps were a long way away from anywhere we could launch a helicopter raid. Nonetheless, America's top military oficer agreed to "look into it".

And "look into it" is all they ever did - until after 9/11. Since that time D'Souza has come forward to make the ridiculous claim that The Left was responsible for 9/11 - but where is the backlash to that?

Maher paid a severe price for his comments at the time, one which he has bounced back from well - as Imus will most certainly bounce back.

Why? Because Imus isn't a racist - he's a dumbass.

First Unintended Conseqeunce: True Racist and Sexists will be driven even further underground than they already are.

As Pericles points out in his recommended Dkos diary today, there is a generational difference in how older people, those who predate the Civil Rights movement, view what racism is and how it is expressed.

60 Years ago most of the teams in the Major Baseball League theatened to go on strike if they had to play with and/or against Jackie Robinson. Even after the strike failed, many of those players would attempt to slide into him during plays and injur him with thier cleets. That's the kind of racism that my mother faced while my grandmother struggled to raise six children and purchase a home in Northern Lousiana on $40 a week.

Talk is talk - but Doing is DOING!

To this day, I actually think that those of us who struggled against discrimination had a clear and obvious advantage over some those who have followed them - because back then Racism Was Blatant. It was IN. YOUR. FACE.

You didn't have to wonder where you stood or why something odd was going on. It was clear that the schools, drinking fountains, hotels and restaurants were segregated. You didn't have to wonder if someone had any hidden animous towards you - they would put it up on the wall in a big bright sign plain for everyone to see. Those who managed to scale the hard stone wall of Jim Crow should always be admired, be it Jackie Robinson, Jesse Owens, or the Tuskegee Airmen - but the challenge that faces those that follow them through the hidden minefield that the remnents of racism have become should be commended as well.

After Brown V Board of Education, and the passage of the Civil Rights, Voting Rights, and Public Accomodations Act - public displays of that kind of racism essentially became a crime. We didn't see it anymore, not neccesarily because the sentiment of those baseball players for 1947 and those restaurant owners from 1957, and Bull Conner from 1963 had completely and utterly vanished as Dinesh D'souza would argue - although some of it had - some of it had simply gone underground.

President Reagan would pack the Civil Rights division with those who didn't believe in the mission it was performing, effectively making it a non-entity. He appointed Clarence Thomas to the Equal Oppurtunity Employment Commision - the organization responsible for implementing and managing remedial actions against employement discrimination - when Clarence didn't even believe that such discrimination even existed.

That's what I would call - taking discriminatory actions, not just using the "N-word."

Meanwhile others, somewhat like Imus, who may not have ever actually done anything negative towards any particular ethnic group have taken advantage of the creeping feeling of being stiffled by greater and greater ethnic and gender sensitivity - Like walking through a field of egg-shells with jack boots on.

The voices of incivility have grown sharp, even shrill - railing against "political correctness". These people have muddied the waters, they may or may not be bigots based on their actions - but their words make this problematic.

However, real racists know that openly revealing negative racial comments just might get them into serious trouble because it would betray the otherwise hidden bias of their actions. Trying to combat these people is much more difficult than Bull Conner because like the insurgents in Iraq, or the Al-Qaeda fighters in Afghanistan - Stealth is their primary tool.

This is why the importance of the Maccaca Moment by former Senator George Allen shouldn't be ignored.

  • He knew damn well that he was on camera.
  • He knew that the person filming him, was a member of the Jim Webb campaign and they'd use it against him.
  • He thought he was too cool for school by using an obscure racial slur from North Africa.

This is a guy who kept a noose and a confederate flag in his office and still managed to get away with it. He was sure he'd get away with this too- but he didn't.

Next time, he'll say something even more obscure - but he'll still feel the same way and mean the same damn thing.

We might not hear Ann Coulter railing at John Edwards for being a "Faggot" or the Jersey Girls for being "Harpies" on national TV again anytime soon. But I'm pretty sure they she and her flock a followers still feel the exact same way, and will continue to support policies based on their bigotted views.

Second Unintended Consequence: Those who try to increase efforts to catch these people in the act of bigotry are more likely to be attacked as "Race Baiters".

Hypersensitivity to this issue can cause innocent people to be accused of having attitudes they may not actually possess, or of perpetrating acts bigotry they didn't commit. Just as we've seen in the Duke Rape case, going off half-cocked when your accuser actually is a "Ho", with psychological problems no less, can actually add more fuel to people like Rush Limbaugh and MIchael Savage.

Duke has been like the Tawana Brawley case all over again.

(Be that as it may, I'm glad that DA Nifong did at least look at the allegations seriously although he jumped the gun and should have used a grand jury to investigate the issue in secret to allow all the possible defendants the best benefit of the doubt.)

Another example of this was shown by Lindsey Graham as he asked Sam Alito:

GRAHAM: ...Are you really a closet bigot?

ALITO: I'm not any kind of a bigot, I'm not.


GRAHAM: Let me tell you this: Guilt by association is going to drive good men and women away from wanting to sit where you're sitting.

You see, it's the fault of all those people who noticed that Alito was a card-carrying member of a racist and sexist organization at Princeton, it had not nothing do to with the fact that the organization openly attempted to continue the legacy of segregation against blacks and women right into the mid-80's.

They're going to blame Jessie Jackson, and Al Sharpton for all this. They're going to blame Media Matter's for correctly pointing out that It's Not Just Imus!

Exhibit A) Glenn Beck:

On the March 21 broadcast of his nationally syndicated radio show, The Glenn Beck Program, Beck called Rosie O'Donnell, co-host of ABC's The View, a "fat witch," claimed that O'Donnell has "blubber ... just pouring out of her eyes," and asked, "Do you know how many oil lamps we could keep burning just on Rosie O'Donnell fat?" On the March 23 edition of his radio show, Beck said, "I'm a little ashamed" for calling O'Donnell "a fat witch" -- then added, "But she's so fat."


On the May 17, 2005, broadcast of The Glenn Beck Program, Beck said he was "thinking about killing [filmmaker] Michael Moore" and pondered whether "I could kill him myself, or if I would need to hire somebody to do it," before concluding: "No, I think I could. I think he could be looking me in the eye, you know, and I could just be choking the life out -- is this wrong?"

Exhibit B) Rush Limbaugh

On the February 1 edition of his radio show, Limbaugh responded to a Reuters report on a University of Chicago study that found that "a majority of young blacks feel alienated form today's government" by asserting: "Why would that be? The government's been taking care of them their whole lives."

Exhibit C) Bill O'Reilly

While discussing the rape and murder of 18-year-old Jennifer Moore during the August 2, 2006, edition of his radio show, O'Reilly appeared to suggest that the clothing she was wearing at the time helped incite her killer. O'Reilly discussed several factors that contributed to the "moronic" girl's rape and murder, including that she was drunk and wandering the streets of New York City alone late at night. But in addition to those factors, O'Reilly added: "She was 5-foot-2, 105 pounds, wearing a miniskirt and a halter top with a bare midriff. Now, again, there you go. So every predator in the world is gonna pick that up at 2 in the morning."

Exhibit D) Michael Savage:

On the March 30 broadcast of his nationally syndicated radio show, The Savage Nation, Michael Savage stated that he "agree[d] 100 percent" with a caller who said: "I'm very concerned that the Jews are now accepting gays as rabbis. And as a Catholic, I can tell you it almost destroyed our church when we accepted gays as priests." The caller added, "[T]hey were raping teenage boys, and if you allow them to come into your churches, I'm sorry, your synagogues, I have no reason to believe they're not going to do the same thing." Savage responded: "The idea of a gay rabbi is an oxymoron. Think about it: 'Rabbi' means teacher. You cannot have a homosexual teacher teaching boys how to be a Jew," adding, "I'm not going to mince words for fear of offending homosexuals. They're everywhere, anyway, trying to tell me what to say and what not to say and what to think. I know what's right and what's wrong. And that's all there is to it."

I for one wouldn't cry if the corporate backlash continued and eventually blew all four of these nitwits off the air, but you see - they aren't the real problem. The real problem IMO is all the other dimbulbs and closeted bigots who not only believe what these guys say and feel legitimized for their own bigoted beliefs when they hear them echoed this way - it's the fact that they're going to become deeply aggrieved if they lose their heroes, just like the cowards that sent death threats to the Rutger's ball players.

People have to remember that the real shock jock that started most of this prior to Imus or Stern or O'Reilly was Alan Berg in Colorado. A Liberal curmudgeon who sturred up so much dust he was eventually murdered in 1984 by neo-Nazi Skinheads from Idaho who called themselves "The Order", echoing some of the so-called heroes from the hyper right-wing novel "The Turner Diaries" - a book which also inspired Timothy McVeigh to bomb the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City.

At a certain point empty words and rhetoric may turn into not so empty actions.

I'm not endorsing anything these guys have said, or excuse the action of murderous racists, in fact I recommended in my last Dkos diary that the FCC begin to fine these guys for profane and defamatory hate speech, but simply the fact that they have been caught on the record allows us to protect ourselves from them better than if we were still wondering where they stood or who they are.

One of the good things about this entire situation is that a frank and honest discussion of all these issues is being had - very few people seem to completely agree. The worst thing that can happen is for that discussion to be shutdown and taken out of the light, back into the darkness where it can fester.


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