Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Beast of the Month - May 2007

Beast of the Month - May 2007
Don Imus, "Shock Jock" Radio Host

"I yam an anti-Christ... "
John Lydon (aka Johnny Rotten) of The Sex Pistols, "Anarchy in the UK"

"That's some rough girls from Rutgers. Man, they got tattoos and... That's some nappy-headed hos there. I'm gonna tell you that now, man, that's some -- woo!"
Don Imus, showing his clever sense of humor

Who would have guessed at the start of April Don Imus (The Konformist Beast of the Month) would be dumped from radio before Sanjaya or Alberto Gonzales got their asses booted from American Idol or the DOJ?

(Okay, we'll try to keep the Sanjaya jokes to the minimum. True, he lacks the singing talents of fellow Idol competitor Melinda Doolittle, and frankly the male Konformist staff doesn't get what all these teenage girls see in the guy - although we appreciate the amazing skills of his sexy sister Shyamali, which consists of her boobs jiggling in slo-mo during a widely viewed YouTube clip. In any case, somehow The Konformist suspects if the American public's outrage over Gonzales' blatant disregard for the US Constitution matched the hysteria surrounding the Sanjaya backlash, Alberto - along with, among others, Rove, Cheney and Bush - would have been frog marched out of power and into prison long ago.)

The fall of Imus was fast and furious, coming just eight days after his crudely insulting cracks about the Rutgers female basketball team on his April 4 show. That Imus, a rich old white guy, could dismiss a group of dedicated young women of mainly African-American descent who managed to reach the NCAA championship with racist taunts comparing them to prostitutes received a widespread backlash, and soon his ass was off the airwaves, his $10 million a year contract null and void.

The reaction by the korporate media to the Imus affair was pretty revealing: while none would actually defend what he said, there was much lamentation that a nearly four-decade career on airwaves could be ruined by a single solitary incident. In this respect, he became linked to Mel "Mad Max" Gibson and Michael "Kramer" Richards, a trinity of victims to a new political correctness.

Of course, there's a problem with this viewpoint, starting with the sympathetic portrait of victimhood. Imus, like Gibson and Richards before him, is responsible for what he said, and has nobody to blame for his own words but himself. That said, there was nothing in Richards' career before his failed "He's a nigger!" comedic rant to suggest a man with any hatred of African-Americans. Gibson, for all the controversy surrounding The Passion of the Christ, had likewise never revealed any overt hostility to Jews before his drunken anti-Semitic ramble. Both Richards and Gibson, to their credit, afterwards exhibited clearly sincere regret and shame for what they had said. Contrast that with Imus, who seemed more annoyed that he now had to feign regret for his inflammatory joke. In a predictably self-pitying moment, he declared on his show, "I don't deserve to be fired. So, I should be punished and I'm being punished - and not insignificantly, by the way." He ended his whine by declaring "I'm not whining." Hardly a convincing case of contrition.

Furthermore, Imus' insult followed a track history of offensive behavior by the radio host. Among his "greatest" hits itemized by FAIR.org :

* Referred to African-American journalist Gwen Ifill as "a cleaning lady"

* Called New York Times sports reporter Bill Rhoden a "quota hire"

* Referred to tennis player Amelie Mauresmo as "a big old lesbo" on air

* Described Washington Post reporter Howard Kurtz a "boner-nosed... beanie-wearing Jewboy"

* Dismissed a disabled colleague as "the cripple"

* Nicknamed an Indian men's tennis duo as "Gunga Din and Sambo"

* Declared the New York Knicks to be "chest-thumping pimps"

* His sometime sidekick Sid Rosenberg called African-American tennis star Venus William an "animal" and cracked that she and sister Serena would be more likely photographed for National Geographic than Playboy

* Insulted onetime show newsreader Contessa Brewer by calling her a pig, a skank and dumber than dirt on air

* Boasted in a 60 Minutes interview that he picked one of his producers to do "nigger jokes" on air

Even more telling is his nasty "jokes" involving those of Middle Eastern descent, which puts his "nappy-headed hos" comment to shame. As noted by FAIR and the World Socialist Web Site, he regularly refers to Arabs as "rag-heads" and "goat-humping weasels" on air. During the funeral of Yasser Arafat, he and others on his show referred to the mourning Palestinians as “stinking animals” who “eat dirt” and declared the US "ought to drop the bomb right there, kill ’em all right now." When a civilian Iranian airliner crashed and killed 43 people, Imus charming response: “When I hear stories like that, I think who cares.” For these comments, he was given in December 2004 a P.U.-litzer Prize from FAIR's Norman Solomon, yet there was no punishment of Imus for his overtly racist tirades.

Of course, Imus is just one of many: the radio airwaves have long been dominated by so-called "shock jocks" who have turned bigotry and intolerance into a crude form of mass humor. Ever since Howard Stern (and to a lesser extent, Imus) popularized the shock jock shtick, numerous others have copied the formula. With the exception of Stern, there is little comic talent among them, but they all make up for it with shock value. Opie and Anthony had their show cancelled by Infinity Broadcasting in 2002 for egging on a couple to have sex in St. Patrick's Cathedral. (They moved to XM Satellite Radio in 2004.) Mancow has contests where contestants eat kitty litter and try to impersonate being a murderer and a carjacker in public to frighten onlookers. Bubba the Love Sponge had a pig slaughtered with sound effects implying it was being tortured on a "Road Kill Barbecue" special, shaved a man's genitals and sprayed them with carburetor cleaner, and has an annual "Shit Your Pants Contest" where participants try to hold in their feces after being given multiple laxative treatments. One similar contest that got out of control: in January, there was a water-drinking contest for a Nintendo Wii (cleverly titled "Hold your Wee for a Wii") in Sacramento by the local Morning Rave show. Though a nurse called warning that drinking too much water is hazardous and potentially deadly, the shock jocks laughed it off, mocked the contestants’ pain and offered no medical assistance. The next day, one of the contestants was found dead, a victim of water intoxication. (What a knee-slapper!) Needless to say, those involved with the stunt were fired by the station for their charming prank.

Imus, along with Stern and the others, claim they are the heirs of Lenny Bruce, but any true fan of Bruce knows this is a lie. True, Bruce used foul language, gags on racial stereotypes and scatological humor in abundance, but his purpose was to challenge the public's minds. It is unsurprising to note that for all their "shock" value, the jock’s politics (unlike the radical Bruce) is almost uniformly the ugliest elements of reactionary beliefs. Howard Stern has devoted much energy defending the beating of Rodney King. In 2005, after Howard Dean declared the Iraq War unwinnable, Mancow ranted on Fox News that "Howard Dean is a vile human being... this guy is bloodthirsty. He is evil." He would add that Dean "ought to be kicked out of America" and "tried for treason." Do either of these stances sound like something Lenny Bruce would advocate? In essence, the shock jocks take Bruce's shock without his deeper purpose, and one has to look at the korporate media's embrace of the shock fad as an attempt to neuter the true rebellious message of Bruce and his peers.

Looking at the evidence, it's clear Imus is no Lenny Bruce, nor even a Don Rickles, who cleverly used prejudice and hatred as a comic tool to made light of it. He isn't even a Mad Mel or Kramer, the popularity of both being despite their infamous tirades that have tarnished their reputation. Instead, Imus is closer in spirit to former Virginia Governor and Senator George Allen, making a career out of exploiting the ugliest prejudices in society, doing so in a way to comfort the prejudices rather than challenge them. And like Allen, Imus has now had his Macaca moment.

Perhaps other moments of accounting are on the horizon. After highlighting the "Nappy-headed hos" controversy, the Website MediaMatters listed other crude and offensive statements by numerous other personalities within the right-wing media. Among them are Glenn Beck, Neal Boortz, Ann Coulter, John Gibson, Rush Limbaugh, Bill O'Reilly and Michael "Weiner" Savage. Their comments were at least of equal offense. It has also been noted by FAIR and MediaMatters, among others, that Imus long has received a free ride in the press because many news personalities guest on his show for his impressive history of hawking books. Among the guilty: Jonathan Alter, Tom Brokaw, Maureen Dowd, Howard Fineman, Jeff Greenfield, David Gregory, Howard Kurtz, Tom Oliphant, Clarence Page, Dan Rather, David Remnick, Frank Rich, Cokie Roberts, Tim Russert, Bob Schieffer and Evan Thomas. But the accounting goes even higher, as the following political figures have appeared on the Imus show: Richard "Donkey Dick" Cheney, Christopher Dodd, Harold Ford (an African-American, no less), John Kerry, Joe Lieberman, John McCain and Mitt Romney. Note that the list has multiple members of both parties, many of which are involved in the 2008 Presidential election race. And then there's the billion-dollar accounting question: how could giant korporations such as MSNBC and CBS Radio back a man for so long with such a sordid history? We at The Konformist can't wait for more Macaca to hit the fan.

In any case, we salute Don Imus as Beast of the Month. Congratulations, and keep up the great work, Donnie!!!

Thanks to FAIR.org, MediaMatter.org and The World Socialist Web Site ( WSWS.org ) for reference material used in this article.

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