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Burnett's Urban Etiquette

Monday, April 09, 2007

Sorry, can't fire Don Imus

Sheesh la frickin' weeze, man. Enough already with Imus.

For the record, let me say that as the son, brother, cousin, nephew, etc., etc. of a host of black women, calling a group of black women "nappy-headed hos" is not good PR. It is not nice. It is not healthy. It is dumb, and mean, and racist on so many levels.

I can tell you that if I had used that phrase in reference to a group of black women, those to whom I'm related would have beaten me like I stole something.

But, as offensive as Imus' comment was, you can't fire him.

Why? Because we're all hypocrites. There is no consistency in this country when it comes to what we "allow" to outrage us.

Don Imus is a shock jock. For 30-plus years on the radio he has taken shots at everyone - white, black, Asian, and Latino, skinny, fat, apparently smart, apparently dumb, and so on and so forth.

And throughout most of his career, Imus, like other shock jocks, has occasionally said something that pushed or crossed the lines of comfort, even in the realm of dark humor.

But he's never been asked to resign. No one ever seriously considered firing him. And that's because his employers were making butt-loads of money on his show and his fans laughed with him, albeit nervously in some cases.

Look, I'm a firm believer in accepting apologies. But even I know that "oops, my bad" has a limited shelf life.

Still, only now, when it's popular to say "oops," and enter rehab or something, do we want to start firing people for saying stupid, mean, offensive things.

Should anybody be fired for stepping over this sort of line? Yes. Elected officials? Fire 'em. Military commanders? Fire 'em. Clergy? Fire 'em. Ambassadors? Fire 'em.

Those are all people entrusted with caring for people. Shock jocks are not entrusted with anything but our attention during morning rush hour. Neither are comedians, who also routinely say mean-spirited things about all sorts of people.

Don Imus is like the cad who meets the nice girl and talks his way in. But instead of telling him up front that he has to change his ways before the relationship can proceed, she nurtures his bad behavior and even encourages it, just so she can keep him. And then suddenly, after years like this, she tells him he's bad and has to go. Naturally the boyfriend is shocked. He wants to know what he did wrong and what he did that she didn't like. The answer is nothing, according to the standards she set for him.

In this case though, the collective girlfriend is the radio network owners, MSNBC, the pundits calling for his dismissal, and some of the general public. No one is shocked. Imus has been talking like this for years. Every now and then he's received a scolding. He's said oops. And the show has gone on.

Now, folks want to get serious with him and say, "OK, now we want you gone?"

Every time a public figure with a massive audience says something racist/sexist/whatever-ist hold them to an even standard. Otherwise, leave 'em alone and let 'em all say whatever they want.

Anyway, I can't take serious the Rev. Jesse Jackson's call for Imus to be fired. Jackson once referred to New York City as "Hymie Town," a racist reference to the city's large Jewish population. Jackson was given a second chance. He was allowed to explain himself. And after his apologies he was allowed to keep on keepin' on. So what can't Imus apologize, feel stupid, and move past it?

What if the public and Jackson's civic "sponsors" and spiritual "donors" had decided he should be cut off back then - no more big money speeches on college campuses, no book deals, no consulting fees or whatever you want to call them? He'd be up the creek without a paddle today.

Going after a radio shock jock doesn't impress me.

You want to impress me? Then gather Jackson, and all the other people who want to Imus fired and hold a protest outside the offices of every major record distributor and protest the albums on which every third or fourth word is bitch or ho and often in reference to black women. Protest those albums and threaten the record labels and distributors with boycotts if they don't stop making/selling that music.

That won't happen though, because we would all gasp and say "But that's hampering free speech! That's interfering with the creation of art, and hindering the creative process!"

So if people can get a pass under the mantle of art, - as in "Hey, I don't really feel that way. I was just being artistic!" - then radio shock jocks should get a pass too.

Don Imus is a doddering old fool. But he's demonstrated that for a long time, with lots of applause. Firing him now only proves one thing: that his employers and former fans are fair weather and willing to turn on him when it's the popular thing to do.

If the folks who want Imus fired are serious, then I call for a two year grace period in which every idiot who gets paid to talk for a living is given a chance to adjust to the public's delicate sensibilities.

If they act up after that, fire 'em all and kick 'em where the good Lord split 'em as they walk out the door.

In the mean time, don't act shocked by the actions of shock jocks. They call 'em that for a reason.

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  • Great post - although I personally wouldn't mind if all shock jocks were dismissed. My way of dealing with it - I don't listen to any of them.

    By Blogger Michael C, at 10:28 PM  

  • Perfect. That's about the way I see it too. I don't like any of the shock jocks.

    A few short years ago howard stern had a spoof song on his show called "my ni**a" nobody called him out on that.

    I wonder why some things become such a big deal?

    By Blogger Hammer, at 10:32 PM  

  • I don't listen to them either... I hate morning talk shows.

    By Blogger Erica AP, at 1:29 AM  

  • I'm learning new words every day.
    Now I want to know why Halle Barry is starring in a movie about a woman who loses her hair and it's called "Nappy"

    I'm just so confused

    I've never listened to Imus... by choice.

    By Blogger Pamela, at 1:39 AM  

  • NBC has done it before and they'll do it again. Jackson has done it before and he'll do it again.
    Its all repetative bullhockey.

    its just sad that we as a society in general have more mood swings than a 25 year old bi polar female during pms. geez. <~~~ oh crap. is that gonna get me fired off of blogger? lol

    By Blogger Yas, at 3:59 AM  

  • I can't belive that old coke head is still at it. Still, he shouldn't be fired.

    By Blogger captain corky, at 6:01 AM  

  • You guys all gotta get better radios. I've got HD radio and am one of the few who know what he REALLY said. It was "happy-wedded vogues."

    By Blogger The Sarcasticynic, at 7:02 AM  

  • I have two words for the talking heads offended by Don Imus.

    Carlos Mencia.

    The only difference between the two is Carlos is on late at night and Imus is on in the morning.

    Same kind of insult-humor. Vastly different response.

    By Blogger SWF41, at 9:04 AM  

  • Thanks Michael. I don't listen to them either. But I admit sometimes in the mornings getting ready for work I've watched Imus on MSNBC for a few minutes here or there - depends on who he had on as a guest during that segment.

    Hammer, it remains a mystery to me. Your point is excellent. By the standards suddenly being sprung on Imus, Stern should have been banished to another country years ago.

    Erica, when driving to/from/during work I listen to music CDs in the early morning, talk radio in the late morning/early afternoon, and books on CD in the evening.

    Pamela, nappy is a comic insult reference to tightly-curled, uncombed hair. Maybe some folks would call it kinky hair.

    Yas, no new thing under the sun...

    Captain, he's still at it. I think it's been a while since he's done coke though. But who knows? Maybe it caused permanent damage.

    Sarc, you win. Yours was the funniest comment I've seen in weeks. That cracked me up, "happy wedded vogues." I want an HD radio.

    SWF41, good point. I don't think Mencia's funny. But I won't lie. I laughed my behind off at Dave Chappelle and no one - black, white, Asian, Latino, other - was safe on his show. Only thing I can think about the different responses is guys like Mencia and Chappelle present themselves as comedians and nothing more. Imus, on the other hand, cashes in on his sense of dry/dark humor sometimes. And other times he goes for the respectable audience by interviewing serious newsmakers and politicians. So it's like he wants to be taken seriously part-time. If he'd always presented himself as a buffoon, sort of like Howard Stern does, then Imus would probably never get called out.

    By Blogger James Burnett, at 9:47 AM  

  • I sorta rambled at the wife along the same train of thought you 'verbalized' here. Much more coherent than me.

    However, since I've never listened to Imus I would not miss him if he goes (much like professional hockey)...

    By Blogger dennis, at 10:43 AM  

  • I agree about Imus, but his act is geting old. I also agree that it's ALL of these morning radio shows. All over the country these "morning zoo" shows and what have you are doing the same thing. Bathroom humor is the norm. Name calling, borderline racist, homophobic rants happen every single day.

    If Imus just stuck to calling elected officials, celebrities and professional athletes miserable dirtbags he's be okay. It might be more about his target being not just women, but a COLLEGE team that got some people fired up.

    And of course we now have all these white people in media being offended on behalf of black people. I always get a kick out of that. Just check with people like Jay Mariotti if you're not sure if you should be offended or not, James.

    By Blogger Jay, at 10:44 AM  

  • Oh yeah, I almost forgot. If you're still not sure if you have been offended or not, you can check with the women on "The View" or, if that doesn't work there are always white liberal bloggers. They will always let you know when to be offended and when not to.

    By Blogger Jay, at 11:21 AM  

  • Thanks for mentioning the hypocrisy there, James. That was a good point to add to what has already been discussed over and over.

    What I want to know is why all white men who get publicly excoriated for foolish comments on race automatically go to the Revs. Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson?

    It's getting really old. This happens, like, every other week. If I ever need to apologize for similar transgressions, I'll go talk to some real black people, rather than those two characters.

    By Blogger Matt, at 11:30 AM  

  • (standing on soap box and applauding)

    Shock jocks are just so much societal fluff. Calling for Imus to be fired is kind of like asking for the resignation of a school janitor who says something racist when the principal and students are doing the same thing.

    By Blogger Queen of Dysfunction, at 11:35 AM  

  • Well said.

    Good to see you back.

    By Blogger thirdworstpoetinthegalaxy, at 2:35 PM  

  • I think Imus should get fired, but not because he called the Rutgers team a bunch of "nappy headed ho's" (since when did being nappy headed become so derogatory? If you don't comb your hair for a few days, you are nappy)--he should get fired because his show sucks. He's never been funny. Howard Stern was funny when I was 16 and his show served as the aural equivalent to watching Porky's.

    Guys like Imus, who believe there is only one type of 'Merican serve as foils for guys like Rev. Jesse Jackson and Rev. Al Sharpton, two so called "civil rights" leaders who have been capitalizing on Dr. King's struggle since 4/4/68. Al and Jesse need ignorant guys like Imus to say stupid things as much as he needs them to rile up the other 'Mericans who are agin' everthang that gives them Blacks some kind of special treatment. All three are equally worthless. (although I must give Jesse some props for his voter mobilization and registration efforts). Some would disagree with Jesse or Al, but let me ask you this--do you ever see these guys unless it is in furtherance of their shameless art of self promotion? Jesse Jackson has always been an opportunist without a congregation; Al Sharpton will come out and protest any cause involving Black people that will get his name in the paper for some other cause that Black people didn't even know they had a problem with.

    Neither man is without flaws or a very personal agenda. Jesse has appeared so desperate for America to regard him as the next great messianistic leader that it makes you wonder if he hired James earl Ray himself.

    Al Shartpton was a willing dupe of the Republican party in the 2000 and 2004 presidential elections, allowing a Bush insider to bankroll his campaign and ensure that neither party would address issues of importance to Black people. Some friend...

    Which I now go back to my criticism of both men--who died and made them the arbiter of issues of importance to all Black people? Certainly Dr. King did not name either man as a successor pastor of his church. None of the church elders of Ebeneezer Baptist Church nor Dexter Ave Baptist Church voted to hire either man to lead their organization as pastor. Aside from being the celebrated boy preacher, where has Al Sharpton made a make outside of the camera's eye?

    When one live's in glass houses, they should throw no stones. I think Don Imus should disappear, but it should have absolutely nothing to do with the synodic duo of Jesse and Al (did he get rid of the process after JB passed? he always said it was for JB since he toured with him briefly--let's see how fullashit Sharpton is--prolly more than Tawana Brawley's garbage bag!)

    By Anonymous Big Daddy, at 3:21 PM  

  • now, James, tell us how you really feel!! :)

    I hate talk radio. They're all a bunch of windbags.

    By Blogger Claudia, at 7:27 PM  

  • The public relations office where I work has been burned by Don Imus. He is just a dumb sh*t all around.

    Furthermore, I don't see how talk radio is entertaining.

    By Blogger Matt, at 9:02 PM  

  • James, stop spoiling our moral outrage with logic.

    By Blogger GrizzBabe, at 9:20 PM  

  • Second blog I have read that mentions this today. I am from Down Under,and until now I never knew who this man was. But, I agree, and so does the other blog I read, you can't fire the man. He did apologise, far as I have read, so give him another go.

    By Blogger Cazzie!!!, at 12:41 AM  

  • This article is funny as hell and makes a completely ugly situation somewhat light. The reality is that Imus’ comments are completely embarrassing, insulting and revolting. I’m a white guy. It doesn’t make a damn bit of difference what color you are. It hurts my soul to hear someone who has the benefit of a well-distributed public voice abuse his privilege by stating such ridiculous obscenities. If he is not banned forever from the ability to comment in a public forum, it will call into question our society’s ability to make a clear decision about what is right.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 1:12 AM  

  • James Burnett, do you think Don Imus would be willing to go out with me?

    I like to pick a man up when he's down. Way down. Like, low down as a dog. A stinky, sweaty dog with fleas and worms in his poop.

    On second thought, even I don't want to date Don Imus. Oops, my bad.

    By Blogger 123Valerie, at 1:30 AM  

  • Bravo! I think you said it perfectly. A pox on all of them; the dumb ass on the radio and all the indignant wavers of the bloody shirt. What would they do without each other.

    By Blogger Fathairybastard, at 2:08 AM  

  • I wasn't going to comment here...I believe that commenting just keeps this nonsense going on longer. HOWEVER....

    Why does this thing have legs? People who would never listen to IMUS are running around screaming for his blood. Why? No, I don't want to hear about Imus or this incident, I am talking about a sociological trend which is happening. I'm not sure what it is. I was willing to turn my head from it when people were pounding Ann Coulter...but I think it is worth looking at. I will think on this some more and write something later..perhaps a seperate posting. But I think people should consider what the meaning behind the furor is. And don't tell me that people are just intolerant of bad words.

    By Blogger Stewart Sternberg, at 11:25 AM  

  • Slow news day, Stewart.

    James, you are right on the mark as usual. This is stupid, but a non issue. When Al Sharpton does time for inciting to riot, and Jesse loses his gig for "hymietown", I'll worry about Imus. Meantime, I haven't any use for the lot of them, and if they fell down a well, I wouldn't notice for days.

    By Anonymous og, at 12:25 PM  

  • Totally agree with you on this, James! Seems like a person says ONE WRONG THING, and BAM! Everyone is calling for him to be fired. And like you said, Imus has been saying stuff like this for years. Doesn't make it right, but hey - what happens to freedom of speech if Imus isn't allowed to be an ass on his own show?

    Of course, some folks are just getting downright crazy over this thing - and it is making me want to throw up.

    BTW, I always thought it was "knappy-headed" - but what do I know?

    By Blogger Tiggerlane, at 12:47 PM  

  • Spot on, James.

    Besides, what's the old saying ... keep your friends close and your enemies closer? It's better for shock jocks to be mainstream, don't you think? How else to keep an eye on them?

    By Blogger Manola Blablablanik, at 1:42 PM  

  • *stands* *applauds*

    By Blogger Turnbaby, at 2:49 PM  

  • James, on a related note, can I ask you to visit and express your opinion of the post and comments of "If you don't like it, turn it off" at

    By Blogger The Sarcasticynic, at 5:25 PM  

  • This is the first time I've ever read you blog and I agree with you 117%.

    After seeing this 'issue' in the newspaper for more than one day, it's clear that this whole controversy is absurd.

    It's really sad how big a deal race is in our society so many years after we should have moved on and accepted that we're basically all the same humans underneath (sp?). Everyone's got their skill: basketball, running, swimming, comedy, talk radio, ect.
    May the best human win.

    I think you're the only person with a reasonable opinion on this topic.
    Especially in an age when the NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People) is probably mad at people who call other people colored, despite the word being in their own title.

    By Blogger Alexander, at 11:03 PM  

  • Dennis, I feel ya. This was much ado about small potatoes. In the radio world, Imus isn't even among the top 20 talk hosts in his home market of NYC.

    Jay, I would shove spikes in my ears before I waited around to hear what any of these numbnuts thought I should be offended about. Don't get me started on Mr. M and his opinions of what I should care about. And I've actually been scolded by folks before for not being offended at certain things or for being offended by others. They can all kiss me where the good Lord split me.

    Matt, if you ever feel the need to apologize, come to me and give me money. I'll give you absolution.

    Queen, here here. He's insignificant. Trying to can the guy is so disingenuous.

    ThirdWorst, thanks. I'm trying to be back consistently.

    BD, do you realize this is one of those rare posts where you and I see just about 100% eye to eye? Those to phonies need to be called out and fired for spinning their wheels and collecting money while doing it.

    Claudia, I feel ya. Talk radio on all sides can be hard to take. I do listen sometimes though, 'cause it gives me a little insight to how some folks think. And in my game the more I can learn about what compels people the better off I am.

    Grizz, I know it. Takes the fun out of a gripe session, right ;-)

    Cazzie, forgiveness is definitely a virtue. Though my dad used to always tell me not to assume all is forgotten just because it's forgiven. Still, in this case I think it was enough.

    Anonymous I understand your point. And I certainly don't want to make light of the words. They were bad. Like I said, if I'd uttered them my female relatives would have killed me. But I just don't think this incident can be a real guage of us as a society. This guy is small potatoes. He earns his radio station and formerly his TV network $30 million to $50 million a year. The record labels that produce all the tunes with racist, sexist lyrics make billions each year. The retail corporations and food/drink manufacturers that sponsor concert tours for the artists who make those records spend hundreds of millions to put on those shows. Putting Imus in check is like swatting a mosquito. Now, putting those music industry guys in check would be like swatting a poisonous viper.

    123V, I'll make some calls ;-) D.M. might need some tender loving care when this is all over.

    FatHairy, without each other they'd have to get real jobs.

    Stewart, I'll be looking forward to your thoughts on this.

    Og, I agree. They can all amscray as far as I'm concerned.

    Tiggerlane, we have to let everyone speak - smart folks and fools alike. At least if we let the fools speak they can't hide among us. They'll expose themselves. And it actually is "nappy." Knap with a "K" is more along the lines of knapsack.

    MB, we're on the same page. Like I said to Tiggerlane, I'd rather hear the idiots so I can identify them better and know who to stay away from.

    Turnbaby, I humbly accept your applause ;-) Thanks!

    Sarc, I'll be over in about 5 minutes.

    Alexander, welcome. We all still have a lot to learn about just getting along. I never intend to suggest there aren't race-related issues that need to be addressed. However, red herrings like this thing with Imus are sort of like the whole boy who cried wolf thing. If we make BS like this a major issue, people's senses will be dulled and we won't take it seriously when there really is something major to discuss.

    By Blogger James Burnett, at 3:24 PM  

  • It never ceases to amaze me. Why are so many people surprized that a jackass brays?

    Don Imus and his like are paid to be jackasses. They've lots of practice BEING jackasses.

    Therefore, they will bray.

    I do my part to not support such jackasses by not listening to them and by providing them with no portion of my attention. I don't know which companies sponser them, and if I happened to find out, I might question thier corporate decision making skills and, by extension their products...and stocks.

    If people really want the jackasses to stop braying, you'll just have to stop listening to them.

    humm. If a jackass brayes in the forest and there's no one there to hear him, has he brayed at all?

    By Blogger Nancy, at 12:30 PM  

  • Well said, sir. Well said.

    By Blogger The Other Mike S., at 12:53 PM  

  • Hi James

    Well said indeed.
    you said: "instead of telling him up front that he has to change his ways before the relationship can proceed, she nurtures his bad behavior and even encourages it, just so she can keep him".

    This is a wonderful analogy and so true...


    By Blogger jack rensimer, at 6:20 PM  

  • This whole incident has ruined sex for thousands.

    Used to be, if someone said "Nappy headed hoes", we'd get a woody.

    Now you get a Don Imus.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 1:07 AM  

  • While I totally understand your stance here, I still firmly believe Don Imus should have been fired ---long, long ago though! Him and a few others should have at least been brought to task well before now and take some of the ones who persist in using the gross, chauvinistic language in so much of the popular music today along with them!

    By Blogger Jeni, at 6:15 PM  

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