I like this analysis. There are parallels with Trent Lott. Where the two affairs diverge is to Imus’s detriment. Lott was only trying to say nice things about an old man who was at death’s door. The slurs on the Rutgers players were mean-spirited and gratuitous.
This is not an isolated incident with Imus and Co. That raises the question of why the media and political elite were so eager to appear on his show for so many years.
Maybe some of them should be asked that question. It might make for interesting reading if their responses today are compared to their statements about Trent Lott.
One thing is for sure, the two controversies show that brazenness pays. Lott and Imus apologized which only increased the demand for more apologies. Al Sharpton never apologizes and now the media treats him as a moral arbiter.
Sharpton’s rise is a sign of our degraded public culture. I do not see the problem as only political; economics also plays a role. Conservative Sean Hannity promotes Sharpton as much as any liberal. Hannity may disagree with Sharpton but he is willing to give him a platform because it makes for “good television.”
Imus used to be edgy. Now he is a bigot. I think that it is easy enough to parse those definitions:
Edgy-- insults people I do not like
Bigot-- insults me or people I do like.
CNN, Fox, and ESPN have devoted truckloads of time to denouncing Imus. It is a two-fer for them. They get to flaunt their moral superiority and tear down a competitive network. Their hypocrisy is just more evidence that brazenness wins.
CNN provides a home for Nancy Grace while Fox is always willing to give Wendy Murphy camera time. In the Duke lacrosse case both women were happy to traffic in rumor, slander, and character assassination. ESPN is the TV home of Selena Roberts , John Saunders, Steven A. Smith, and William Rhoden whose comments on the case were venomous, obtuse, and nearly fact-free.
ESPN also has its own Imus in Tony Kornheiser. One of the running gags on PTI and his radio show is his disdain for the contestants in the National Spelling Bee. He refers to them as “twitching little freaks.” This is mean-spirited and gratuitous and every bit as bad as Imus’s crack about Rutgers. While it lacks the racial element that sends a frisson through the MSM, it has an extra loathsomeness because it is directed at kids who are twelve and thirteen years old.
Imus has been suspended and fired. ESPN is building its brand around Kornheiser. Maybe someone should ask the suits at Bristol about that.
I don’t expect that to happen. The “Imus Scandal” is just an opportunity for a bunch of hacks to preen in front of the cameras. It makes for cheap television and cheaper self-satisfaction.
Tom Wolfe, who really is a prophet for our age:
From the outset the eminence of this new creature, the intellectual, who was to play such a tremendous role in the history of the twentieth century, was inseperable from his necessary indignation. It was his indignation that elevated him to a plateau of moral superiority. Once up there, he was in a position to look down on the rest of humanity. And it did not cost him any effort, intellectual or otherwise. As Marshall McLuhan would put it years later: 'Moral indignation is a technique used to endow the idiot with dignity.