Imus -- Truth AND Consequences

NBC News pulled the plug on Don Imus' Imus In The Morning TV simulcast of his CBS radio show yesterday putting an end to our long national agony -- having to listen to sanctimonious and scared media companies and advertisers try to act like Mother Teresa.

NBC -- the same multimedia company that was even later than Imus in recognizing that it had a problem.

The same NBC that only a few days earlier issued a two week suspension of Imus' show as appropriate punishment. Now, NBC News President Steve Capus was trying to pass off NBC's concern for its internal family and reputation as the reason they fired Imus.

I saw Jesse Jackson on "Countdown With Keith Olbermann" on MSNBC last night and he didn't seem as impressed as Olbermann was with his boss, Capus. The Reverend Jackson rightfully took on the issue of lyrics in music, not hiring enough minorities and other things. Jackson said if a black person worked along with Imus on his show the remark may never have happened.

One of my readers blamed the advertisers:
"The REAL hypocrisy is from the advertisers. They're the ones who support his show, they're the ones who demand the ratings, and now they're the ones deserting him for bad publicity".
This situation has brought out the worst in the entire industry starting with Imus' insulting, hurtful and racially charged comments.

By the way, it seems people talking on this subject can't miss an opportunity to repeat the racial slurs over and over. We heard it. We got it. Just call them racial slurs instead of using Imus' comments to further your own agenda. Someone think of the women on the Rutgers basketball team. Your making them objects and not people.

But I'm thinking that the truth is hard to come by and the consequences are either in the hands of spineless media and advertising execs or the perpetrator himself. Neither should he acceptable.

So, it's time to play Truth AND Consequences.

Truth: Don Imus hurt those young women, Rutgers and the black community. He's apologizing like crazy, but advertisers and media execs are running for the shelter of their mother's little helper -- their spin doctors.

Consequenc: Let the women of the Rutgers basketball team decide Imus' fate. If Don Imus is truly sorry he knows there will be a price to pay. He's gone over the line before. He doesn't have an automatic right to get another chance. After he meets with the women, if they want his head, he should resign. If they are in the mood to forgive, he should be given another chance. The trouble with our society today is that we head for rehab when we've done a destructive act as if that solves everything. If Imus is really sorry, ask the women for forgiveness and abide by their wishes.

Truth: Imus is also right -- black rap artists get away with degrading women -- particularly black women and companies like Viacom's BET play the videos. They're not alone. My students tell me this Nelly video called Tip Drill is even played in the afternoon when kids are watching. Be warned: this video shows a lot of naked women and ends with a credit card getting swiped between the cheeks of a black woman's behind. And I'm linking to a less explicit version of the song! If you won't take my word for it, see how much of you can take. Imus is using this hypocrisy as a pseudo defense for his bad behavior and that is wrong. But he's right about the double standard.

Consequence: All you activists -- once you succeed at getting Imus fired at CBS Radio, ramp up your efforts to raise the consciousness of all people who would degrade women.

Truth: Free speech is at issue once again. Rev. Jackson says it's not about free speech -- it's about decent speech. But with the FCC rearing its ugly and useless head again and the outrage turning to how to prevent these incidents by in effect censoring artists and performers, be very afraid.

Consequence: We have to put up with a lot of things we don't like to live in a free society. The KKK gets permits to rally all over the country. What it represents is odious and yet they are permitted the right to speak. Spend more time holding the big money media magnates responsible. They are the problem. They employ and reward and encourage the type of behavior you see on TV, in music videos and on radio. They are the bosses. The buck stops with them. You don't need censorship. They need to be more responsible and not send mixed messages. When I started in radio, we (performers, programmers) were afraid of the FCC and were afraid of running afoul of our employers. Who is afraid of CBS or NBC?

Truth: There is a free pass for Rush Limbaugh and right wing talk show hosts. Limbaugh can call Barak Obama a "Hafrican American" and its business as usual. Ann Coulter can go on the very air Al Sharpton sees as sacred because it is regulated and can spew her venom about gays and others.

Consequence: While you're cleaning the house of Imus, take Limbaugh with you. You don't dare, do you? Radio in particular has seen better times. Yeah, yeah -- consolidation sucks. It hasn't helped. But what passes for radio talent these days is disgraceful. And I have news for you. Enjoy these "brilliant" talkers all you want, but the next generation -- the young people I teach and spend a lot of time with -- are not interested in them or in radio. My friend Walt Sabo and other good programmers have invented talk for modern stations and have done so responsibly. Radio -- find your way. Look to your roots and the proven talent who can elevate what you're putting on the air.

CBS has a lot at stake in this Imus mess. Westwood One needs the morning show to syndicate to stations. That's their business. The New York Times says Imus generates $20 million on CBS' WFAN in New York. I don't know if Les Moonves will cave to the pressure to fire Imus but he has more money on the line than MSNBC had. Didn't he lose a ton of money when Howard Stern bolted to satellite radio? Isn't CBS still not yet recovering from the Stern loss?

But these guys need to look in the mirror. They are the problem. They employ these edgy talkers. They are the ones who are talking out of both sides of their mouth.

This entire Imus mess sickens me and a lot of us who love this industry.

Have we sunk to the level of hurling racial slurs at impressive young women?

Have the media conglomerates lost control or are they dictating the conditions that allow a serial repeater like Imus to offend once again?

Can't we do better than this?