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"I prefer to believe that the CBS corporate rulers listened to the show, read the transcripts, and simply decided that they'd had enough: that as the governing body of a major media corporation, they no longer wished to be associated with the ideas and attitudes expressed by Don Imus and Bernie McGuirk."
—-Andy Schwartz on the firing of Don Imus
IMUS BLOWBACK: OUR READER(S) RESPOND
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Three responses to the Don Imus "Gripe of the Week" in today's Trakin Care of Business:

Andy Schwartz ([email protected]) writes: I read your Imus-inspired "Gripe" with interest. Although I've only heard him on radio a handful of times (and those by accident), I've been following the controversy and have appended my thoughts to portions of your text.

His arrogance is unbearable, and certainly he appears to be getting his just rewards for what many say is a career marked by racism, anti-Semitism and sexism. Thing is, I've heard a lot worse on morning radio, and last time I looked, there was a little something called the First Amendment.

Whether or not other morning jocks are "a lot worse" is irrelevant to the present case. Since those idiots not employed by CBS Radio and/or MSNBC, those companies are not responsible for their on-air conduct.

Imus' firing is not a "First Amendment" issue. He and Bernie McGuirk are free to stand on any street corner and spout whatever racist, sexist, and/or homophobic remarks may cross their warped minds. (Surely it will come as no surprise if said "corner" turns out to be a prime slot for the pair on Fox quote-News-unquote...) The question is whether the corporations that employ Don and Bernie want to be associated with the prejudices and attitudes embodied in comments about "nappy-headed hos" and the like.  

And while Viacom and NBC Universal are certainly within their rights making the decision they did—under intense pressure from sponsors—I question the motives of people like Jesse Jackson and the Reverend Al Sharpton, who used the occasion to wield the threat of an economic, or worse yet, emotional boycott of corporate America. Call it blackmail, or in the spirit of political correctness, African-American-mail.

(1) I don't know what you mean by an "emotional boycott." (2) To call for an economic boycott of Imus' sponsors is not "blackmail." My dictionary defines this word as "Extortion, as of money, from a person by the threat of exposing a criminal act or discreditable information." Ergo, (3) if Sharpton and Jackson have called for a boycott of Imus sponsors, it's not for their personal gain; nor are they threatening to "expose" anything about Imus that's not already a matter of public record. You're wrong to use "boycott" and "blackmail" almost interchangeably.

Again, the real issue is whether or not the sponsors and advertisers want to be associated with Imus' ideas and attitudes—and to bear the potential cost of that association. 

Despite Constitutional guarantees, in a capitalist society, the pocketbook rules, and if the bottom line is threatened, that's when action takes place.

In other words, the threat of a sponsor boycott was the best and most effective tool that Imus' opponents could employ—since it's the only thing that could impact on the sacred "bottom line."  I must admit, this sentence sent a mild shudder down my spine: "Constitutional guarantees" are given offhand passing acknowledgement before we all hasten to bow to the almighty profit motive as the ultimate arbiter of social relations in a democratic (not just a "capitalist") society.  

And even though Imus brought in millions to his employers, the threat of a blacklash was enough to send him out the door, which is certainly one of the quirks of our free-market system.

I don't believe that "the threat of a backlash" caused Les Moonves and the CBS board of directors to fire Don Imus. Contributions to Imus' current "Radiothon" fund-raiser have soared in the days since the controversy broke; a number of prominent political and media personalities have come to the jock's defense, in tones ranging from tepid to hearty. I prefer to believe that the CBS corporate rulers listened to the show, read the transcripts, and simply decided that they'd had enough: that as the governing body of a major media corporation, they no longer wished to be associated with the ideas and attitudes expressed by Don Imus and Bernie McGuirk.  

I may disapprove of what Imus is saying, but, like Voltaire, I will defend to the death his right to say it.

It's an understandable error—one I might have made myself—but guess what? Voltaire (Francois-Marie Arouet, 1694-1778) never said or wrote these words. In fact, the phrase "I disapprove of what you say but I will defend to the death your right to say it" first appeared in a book entitled The Friends of Voltaire, written by one Evelyn Beatrice Hall and published in 1906. Hall was attempting to summarize, in her own words, Voltaire's attitude towards the controversial book De l'esprit. Her first-person expression has been mistaken ever since for an actual quote from Voltaire himself.

And, of course, his subsequent right to suffer the consequences of his actions.

I don't know how suffering the adverse “consequences of one's actions” translates as a "right." The question is whether those who condemned the remarks by Imus and McGuirk had the right to call for their dismissal, and whether CBS/MSNBC had the right to punish the two jocks as it did.

Keith McCarthy ([email protected]) writes: “Despite Constitutional guarantees, in a capitalist society, the pocketbook rules, and if the bottom line is threatened, that's when action takes place. And even though Imus brought in millions to his employers, the threat of a blacklash was enough to send him out the door, which is certainly one of the quirks of our free-market system."

I'm sorry, did you say "one of the quirks of our free-market system?"

Roy, I love you to death, but come on, regardless of your stature, fame or wealth, when you threaten your employer's bottom line you threaten your own. This has ALWAYS been true PARTICULARLY in the entertainment business (Fatty Arbuckle, Kate Moss, Michael Jackson, the list is imposing.)

Also, it's one thing to yell “Fire” at a swimming pool, and another when you yell it inside a theatre. Imus was a radio DJ, fer Christsake, and he knew that 25 million+ people would hear him.  That's a big dif from First Amendment rights, my friend, a very big difference.

The Wednesday he made the remarks he should have acknowledged the error, and announced his retirement (at age 66).  The whole incident would have evaporated, and he would be remembered for the guy who did the right thing and was a great broadcaster for 4 decades.  Instead, he goes out in flames and will FOREVER be remembered for this one incident that he can no longer do anything to change.

Stu Cohn ([email protected]) writes: Are we seeing the beginnings of a sea change in media? Perhaps you can't just say whatever you want anymore. Maybe people are growing tired of this. Witness the recent Ann Coulter backlash. People are sick of her shit. It's not funny anymore. CBS would not take Imus off if they weren't sensing this. I think anything-goes shock-radio is going to move to the Internet and XM/Sirius. The so-called mainstream media are going to be held to a higher standard.

Ken Weinstein ([email protected]) writes: African-American mail...NICE!

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