Thursday, April 19, 2007

The Imus Fiasco:

I was never interested in Don Imus. He always seemed like a mulish aging teenager to me, too well pleased with his own image as a heedless and rakish "bad boy". So romantic. So rich. So frowning. So gum-chewing. So buccaneerish! So... damned if I care poseur. When the last scandal broke, I thought it was about time. No more no less. But then I surfed the internet and got another flash insight into American bigotry.

How shall I say it?

Well, it seems that Imus's bigotry was not news to anybody. But it became a launching pad for sanctimonious outrage when he made this offensive, gratuitously malicious comment about a nice group of black female athletes.

Dissent magazine published this opinion article on its website:

The Gotcha Game: Don Imus and his Critics, by Nicolaus Mills.

In it, Mills tries to puncture the moralistic posturings by the reverends Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton by reminding us of their own past bigotted expressions against Jews. Who are they, asks Mills, with their own history of dismissive contempt and even activist hatred, for the Jewish community, to point the finger at Imus?

"The search for common standards of decency becomes irrelevant, and the winners and losers never look to change who they are. They are too busy putting new notches in their belts and leaving the rest of us to figure out how we keep score in a fight in which the rules keep changing and double standards are the norm."

I'm a little astounded by Mills' account of the main characters in this cheap drama. I'm astounded that he ignores the "common standards" that Imus, Sharpton and Jackson do share. Is there any difference in the venom, prejudice and contempt manifested in any of the following expressions speaking of Jews?

"these money-grubbing bastards" "their scummy little heads.”

“that boner-nosed . . . beanie-wearing little Jew boy”

“thieving Jews” is “redundant.”


The bigotry that Mills decries is much more layered and problematic. While Imus was reprimanded and punished for his insult to a group of black women, while his main accusers have an history of no less vicious bigotry of their own type, an eerie silence remains over the lack of outrage at Imus' past antisemitic invective which he shares with his detractors.

What does it mean? That a new rhetorical coalition will undoubtedly emerge as a consequence of this fiasco, dictating extreme care in the use of language when directed at people with certain minimum level of pigment in their skin. This re-invigorated code of speech will further serve to harmonize and consolidate black and white solidarity, while united by intrinsic antisemitism.


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