by Rick Rockwell
Don't you love how our media culture works sometimes? Don Imus insults the women's basketball team at Rutgers in a commentary filled with derogatory racial overtones and in the end, he's rewarded.
Sure, you may remember his headline grabbing firing from CBS and MSNBC in the spring.
But maybe you missed how CBS had to pay Imus as much as $20 million in a settlement over his contract. Or maybe you also missed the announcement this past week that Imus will be back on the ABC Radio Networks come December. Likely Imus will again be paid in the tens of millions of dollars to spew his hateful messages.
Some may mistakenly say Imus has the First Amendment right to say what he thinks even if what he thinks is racist and borders on hate speech. He does have the right to speak whatever horrible thoughts course through his synapses. But he shouldn't have the privilege of using the radio airwaves to amplify those thoughts.
The law from the 1930s onward has said the airwaves are a limited national resource and thus speech on the radio is a privilege, not a right. (And for those who think in the modern age that those laws are antiquated, please go tell the firefighters, police and other first responders in your part of the country why they can't get all the radio frequencies they need to make us safer in the age of terrorism.)
So who's responsible for putting a racist back on the air to pollute those airwaves?
You can blame Citadel Broadcasting, the company that owns the ABC Radio Networks, which distribute programming to 243 radio stations across the U.S. As predicted here immediately after Imus was fired, greed wins out again. Citadel Broadcasting wants to put Imus in the talk radio chair at WABC in New York to attempt to win that market, and of course, his time slot elsewhere. Never mind if he spouts a few racist remarks along the way to earning ratings points and millions in advertising revenue.
You can also blame all the listeners who tune into Imus. And of course, the advertisers too. When advertisers pulled their ads from CBS Radio and MSNBC that's when those networks fired Imus. Anyone listening to Imus when he returns and anyone advertising with the ABC Networks should be ashamed for supporting this racist.
Imus isn't the only offender. Rush Limbaugh, the king of talk radio, has also trotted out racial stereotypes for his own gain in the past. Although ESPN asked him to leave for his comments about black quarterbacks in general and Donovan McNabb in particular, he still kept his radio show. The hundreds of stations which run his program did not drop him. And he continues in his insulting ways, not just smearing military critics of the Iraq War in September, but also running more racially insensitive material. Not only did Limbaugh use stereotypes in discussing the controversial Survivor episodes, which featured racially segregated teams, but his program has also featured an inappropriate song about Sen. Barack Obama. Again, the corporate structure that keeps Limbaugh on the air and his rabid listeners are equally at fault for continuing to support a program that tears down our society and our democratic system, while using racial stereotypes.
If we want racism to recede, we need to pull the plug on the likes of Imus and Limbaugh, who both continue to stoke the fires of prejudice in America.
(The photo of Don Imus is from the talk show host's former employer CBS.)
Add to Technorati Favorites
Subscribe in a reader
by Rick Rockwell