Web Letters | The Nation

Web Letter

“Be careful of the words you say,Keep them soft and sweet,You never know from day to day,Which one’s you’ll have to eat.”

While I believe that Mr. Imus should have been disciplined and that the two-week suspension—which should have begun immediately—would have been sufficient as the start of progressive discipline procedures against him, I believe that MSNBC and its parent company, NBC-Universal, reacted in the extreme in firing him.

Since his show's inception, both the parent company and MSNBC have been complicit in Imus’s verbal abuses and outrageously vulgar discourses on Jews and other minorities and women. The network has used his show as a showcase venue for up and coming broadcast journalists like David Gregory, as well as those already established within the network, like Matthews, Williams and Russert, to say nothing of the myriad local and national policymakers appearing on the show.

Just last month, MSNBC increased Imus in the Morning's air time by a half hour, thereby acknowledging his economic clout on the network while giving implicit approval to the shenanigans consistently emanating from his broadcast.

I've often watched Imus, occasionally boycotting him for weeks because of his predilection for insulting any and everybody while incorporating humor that, at best, could have been deemed as mean-spirited.

I’ve also watched Hardball on numerous occasions when Matthews has not only exhibited boorishly poor behavior toward his guests, (i.e., a university town hall meeting with John and Elizabeth Edwards) he’s also repeatedly used expletives. Yet, to this date, no one in NBC news management has put him in check either.

How does one go from no previous progressive disciplinary actions to an abrupt firing, and deign to call it fair? Had NBC News begun disciplinary proceedings back when Imus first stepped over the line, then his reprehensibly vulgar comments about the Rutgers University coed-athletes would have been fair cause for dismissal. As it stands, NBC’s reaction is way over the top.

How does NBC News reconcile firing Imus with their pandering to self-appointed black leaders Jackson and Sharpton, who never met a camera they didn’t like and who, over the years, have used morally abhorrent incidents like this to increase their visibility — and, quite probably, their coffers?

I know that the self-described Christian ministers are only doing their jobs—the only jobs they've ever had, though Rev. Sharpton was a roadie for the late James Brown—yet, as a baby boomer black woman, they do not speak for me and never have. Besides the fact that they often demonstrate major moral lapses and verbal gaffes, their visibility only becomes at its highest when there is some possibility of self-aggrandizement and prominence in mainstream media.

Were they truly interested in progressing race relations, they would be seeking to avert future inappropriate utterances of degrading obscenities that pollute our society at every level, whether TV or radio airwaves or in everyday life. There is literally no place left these days where one’s sensibilities aren’t being assaulted by odious pejoratives issuing from the mouths of our populace, whether men, women, black, white, Asian or Hispanic, whether adolescents or teens.

On the job or at play, moment by moment, we are bombarded with nasty, mean-spirited, demeaning cuss words that have infiltrated and inundated our American culture. Just weeks upon their arrival here, foreign nationals learn the most profane expletives in our language before they learn to communicate fluently in Basic English. Rather than being the tipping point for negativity, I heartily wish that this incident would be the catalyst by which we begin to honestly and consistently examine our "say anything anywhere about anybody to anybody" attitude of the 21st century.

Even the most listener-friendly music produced today, with few exceptions, contains inappropriate lyrics. Will NBC Universal and CBS-Viacom also chastise those musicians they record whose lyrics contain words as mean-spirited and degrading as the ones Imus spoke?

By terminating Mr. Imus, NBC News demonstrated that it reacts based on economics and global embarrassment rather than following acceptable Human Resources disciplinary rules. Had NBC News progressively disciplined Mr. Imus for previous offenses, his termination from MSNBC would be justified.

“There is nothing from without a man that entering into him can defile him: but the things which come out of him, those are they that defile the man. If any man has ears to hear, let him hear.” ~ Mark 7:15-16

"Even so the tongue is a little member, and boasteth great things. Behold, how great a matter a little fire kindleth! And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity: so is the tongue among our members, that it defileth the whole body, and setteth on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire of hell. For every kind of beasts, and of birds, and of serpents, and of things in the sea, is tamed, and hath been tamed of mankind: But the tongue can no man tame; it is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison." ~ James 3:5-8

Yvonne Shine

Los Angeles, CA

Apr 12 2007 - 7:30pm

Web Letter

In 1992 I was on the picket line with more than 70 professors at the University of Bridgeport for two years--the longest faculty strike in U.S. history, and the only time tenured professors were permanently replaced. Despite the unheard of length of the struggle, and the fact that the strike had pushed the school into bankruptcy and a buyout by the Unification Church, we had trouble getting anyone to notice us--including The Nation. That year, UB invited Don Imus to be the graduation speaker. We told him about the strike and asked him not to accept the invitation. He did refuse the invitation, saying publicly that he was a union man who did not cross picket lines. The school eventually went down its list and found actor Bill Smitrovich, another union man who had no problem crossing our line. If Imus had come and accepted his honorary degree, it would have cost him nothing in negative publicity; who cared? But he stood by his principles. I mention it now because anyone who has followed his career knows that Don Imus is not the shock-jock low-life hate monger Dave Zirin has suggested he is--lumping him in with Coulter and Limbaugh. He offends people, but he also has done more good in the world than most of his detractors. Yes, he stepped over another line, and it looks like you have a chance to make an example of him, and that is almost irresistible. But don't say it's to advance the cause of women's sports or racial justice. Limbaugh is laughing at you.

Alexander Kulcsar

Fairfield, CT

Apr 11 2007 - 11:09pm

Web Letter

I agree that it is time for Imus and other potential Imuses to be forced to contend with the damaging statements that make on a daily basis. These statements or catcalls, more like it, have nothing to do with freedom of speech. They are the equivalent of drive-by shootings--intended to do damage, but quickly and without recourse for the victim. Radio listeners are a block of media audience that has paid attention to these kinds of assassins because they provide an outlet for smoldering resentments throughout the country, resentments based on ignorance and in many cases illiteracy. The authority to say anything about anybody gives them a chance to vent their frustrations...and generally it's all about bringing successful people down.

Imus is a perfect example of the small town bully yelling insults from the sidelines as the world moves on unaware of this wannabe cowboy and his red-neck pals taking potshots. He knows how really insignificant he is, and that's why he is so intimidated by people who succeed in whatever field, be it athletics, politics, journalism, or any area of life that requires intelligence and hard work.

The fact that well-known figures appear on his show is not because they admire him, it is to use him as a way of getting publicity, of being in the spotlight--and appearing like an all-round guy's guy. Imus is really a pathetic figure, more to be pitied, than sanctioned. But he needs to go, nevertheless, because his remarks are unacceptable to a society that prides itself on the values of self-respect and civil behavior.

stephanie rivera

Richmond, Rhode Island

Apr 11 2007 - 3:05pm