The scandal of this week is, of course, Don Imus’ racially charged comments about female basketball players from Rutgers University.
I’m not here to defend Imus’ comments. I don’t watch or listen to the guy; I don’t do talk shows at all. And I seriously don’t think a guy with freakish hair like that should really be commenting on anyone else’s. (No sour grapes here, honest.)
I can understand why the players were offended by his remarks. Their outrage over unwarranted personal comments is certainly justifiable. And activists such as Al Sharpton are correct when they say that, free speech aside, there have to be limits on “hate speech” on the airwaves.
But I’m not sure how to determine what is hate speech. I am reminded of Michael Richards’ racist outburst during a standup gig in California last year. At that time I stated that I felt comedians were given more leeway than others with their words, and that it should be that way.
For entertainers in general, actually. I’d never tell (the late) Richard Pryor that he shouldn’t use the “N” word; ultimately, he came to that realization on his own. Likewise, I’d never tell a rapper not to use that word, lest they pop a cap in my sorry ass. All kidding aside, maybe one day they too will come to the same realization Pryor did.
Imus has apologized, and insists his comments were “comedy.” Were they? I don’t know. He has a track record with questionable comments. And what’s funny to some is not funny to all.
But I have also written that “offensive” is subjective, and that the offended shouldn’t automatically be given victim status. Just look at those Middle Eastern nuts who threw a shit-fit over a cartoon. (News flash: Blogger Bogs Under Fire For Referring To Middle Eastern People As “Nuts,” Rejects Calls For His Resignation, Cites Alcohol For His Woes)
If someone read back through all my posts they certainly might find something to be offended by. I do consider myself a satirist (and somewhat of a “satyrist” - hehehe), and I don’t wish to change that.
I’m not certain firing is appropriate in the Imus case. I prefer to reserve the ultimate punishment for corrupt and/or inept public officials. Imus has been suspended, and maybe he should be fined and put on warning that further comments of a similar nature might end his career. I don’t think we should be too hasty in trying to end anyone’s career, unless they are, say, a career criminal or a habitual offender.
Not to flippantly toss anyone’s feelings aside, but I’m hoping this issue will soon die down so we can return our attention to issues like the ongoing catastrophe in Iraq.