“Slime Us in the Morning”

4/15/2007

“So it goes.”
Kurt Vonnegut (Nov. 11, 1922-April 11, 2007)
Slaughterhouse Five, 1969

A couple of years ago, in May of 2005 to be more precise, I tuned in to a cable news channel one morning to find out what was doing in the world. The program was wrapping up a sports segment and somehow the topic turned to Australian pop star/actress Kylie Minogue, who had recently undergone surgery for breast cancer. And the sports announcer said this to the host: “Kylie ain’t gonna be so beautiful when the bitch got bald head and one titty.”

I’ll pause here for a moment if you need to let that sink in. I know I sat slack-jawed for a while trying to get my mind around it. It was the single most appalling, heartless, inhumane thing I ever heard uttered on a broadcast of any sort, let alone on a “news” program. I didn’t feel like writing a letter to the FCC, I wanted to ram my fist down the bastard’s throat.

That story is relevant because the program that presented this vicious inventive to the public was none other than Imus in the Morning. The same program taken off MSNBC and CBSs’ airwaves this week for calling the Rutgers women’s basketball team a bunch of “nappy-headed ho’s.”

Host Don Imus’ slur against those accomplished young women ignited a controversy that spread like prairie fire. Once the blaze started scorching sponsors, it was over for Imus and, for that, we should be grateful. Imus’ drug-sodden, dry-drunk, bigoted shtick has no place on a program that purports to have news and information value.

Like a senile Stanley Kowalski menacing Blanche DuBois, Imus happily pounced upon any easy target with sadistic glee, all the while kissing-up to that broad cross-section of the power elite that was willing to lend his show just enough credibility to warrant nationwide radio syndication and a prime spot on a television network.

Years ago, the program became no more than an incestuous orgy in which highfalutin guests blew kisses to the host as they ran for office and flogged their books and never seemed to notice that the time in between interviews was filled with racism, misogyny and virulent attacks on the defenseless. Doesn’t speak well of Tim Russert, Rick Santorum, Chris Dodd, J.D. Hayworth, Orrin Hatch, Frank Rich, Brian Williams, Harold Ford, John McCain, Andrea Mitchell and so many others that looked the other way, now does it?

But this is America, forget the devil, around these parts the price for a soul is face time on the TV.

There are those that will argue that rap singers, comedians and shock jocks say heinous things in the course of their work. If Imus is to be silenced, why shouldn’t they be shut down as well? Well forgive me if you’ve managed to arrive at that rationalization, but I’ve vomited more cohesive reasoning than that.

When was the last time you turned to Snoop Dog to find out if the U.N. Security Council passed a resolution on Palestine? And the last time I looked, music lyrics, movies and dramatic television programming were covered with labels, ratings and parental warnings concerning the content found within. And then there’s the matter of context and expectation.

Imus passed himself off as a public affairs program and in doing so violated and degraded the genre by filing it gratuitous and demeaning insults. It’s the “Imus rules,” you see, he’s allowed, well, because he’s Imus and he insults everybody. You know, I didn’t catch George Stephanopoulos this morning, but I bet you a beer he didn’t call Condoleezza Rice a nappy-headed ho.

If you have a beef with hip-hop, God bless you. Speak out, protest to the retailers that sell it and the music channels that show it and send a letter to the editor so we can read all about it. But be glad that editor doesn’t play by the Imus rules, else you’d be called a “gutless, lying weasel,” an Imus favorite for people with whom he disagrees.

I wish there was another way. I wish there was a way to roll back the clock to when his show started to attain a political/public affairs audience and temper the kind of humor it was employing. I wish there was a way that Imus’ stupidity would not derail the good works he does for veterans and sick children and the like.

Most of all, I wish Imus could feel first-hand the pain he’s caused. And I don’t mean the pain of losing a career–I mean the belittling, horrific pain of getting blindsided by being called a whore or having your mastectomy mocked by a powerful media figure who has the ear of Senators and CEOs.

Imus rose above his humble beginnings, beat the bottle and endured through seismic shifts in the broadcasting industry. But he could never outrun the boorish side of him that made him so cruel, and now it’s caught up with him. As the late, great Kurt Vonnegut might have said, “so it goes.”

Imus, you’ll slime us in the morning no more.

Ho’ no! Looks like the joke’s on Don: “Punishment: Imus Agrees to Become Nappy-Headed Ho” An EWM parody.

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