From this evening's edition of New York Times:
CBS brought the tumultuous weeklong crisis over racially insensitive remarks by the radio host Don Imus to an end late this afternoon when it canceled the “Imus in the Morning” program, effective immediately.
In a statement, [CBS head Les] Moonves said, “Those who have spoken with us the last few days represent people of goodwill from all segments of our society — all races, economic groups, men and women alike. In our meetings with concerned groups, there has been much discussion of the effect language like this has on our young people, particularly young women of color trying to make their way in this society.”
Bob Herbert, New York Times employee and a guest on tonight's Countdown, called Imus' comments "toxic" and not even funny. "What's the punchline?" he asked Olbermann. No punchline, just stupidity masked as edgy, envelope-pushing.
Imus is gone for now. How does this bode for the other mouth-breathers, like Glenn Beck, Sean Hannity, and the Sauron of them all, Rush Limbaugh, who have had unfettered access to the public airwaves for the past six years? Media Matters sets out an exhausting (but hardly exhaustive) list of offensive comments uttered by these bigots and bullies.
And it is curious, indeed, that at this very point in time, Tim O'Reilly (who thinks it's really important that people know he coined the term "Web 2.0") has called for a bloggers' "civility" pledge, some sort of Hippocratic oath for the blogosphere. Promise to be nice, or else. Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh and John Gibson can spew the most heinously vitriolic crap and take home a fat paycheck, but bloggers are supposed to hold their tongues and be civil. From Tuesday's New York Times article:
"Mr. O’Reilly said the guidelines were not about censorship. “That is one of the mistakes a lot of people make — believing that uncensored speech is the most free, when in fact, managed civil dialogue is actually the freer speech,” he said. “Free speech is enhanced by civility."
Try selling that Orwellian bar of soap to Rush Limbaugh, Tim. When he stops being so morally repulsive, I'll stop using curse words. Sadly, No!'s HTML Mencken encapsulates this whole issue when he cites Sidney Blumenthal:
Like the politicians [George] Will set out to study, his words must be taken seriously. Two words are key to his thought — “decent” and “civility” — his shorthand for different political mentalities. “Decent” arises in his language as something bad about Democrats: “There hangs about the Democratic party an aura of moral overreaching. A symptom is the use of words like ‘decent’….as in ‘a decent society requires this or that.’” “Civility,” according to Will, is what will be restored when the Iran-contra scandal is swept away. But the meaning of these words, as Will uses them, is broader.
He uses “civility” to mean manners masquerading as morals, a category of form referring less to the rule of law than to the rule of etiquette; it is more an unspoken social, rather than ethical, code. Correct behavior may make the good possible, it is not goodness itself.
By contrast, “decency,” which Will belittles, actually is about morals…. “Decent” connotes a tempered moral position, one that carefully avoids righteous absolutism; it also suggests compassion and patience. The word is precisely the opposite of elite condescension, the opposite of hauteur.
MSNBC and CBS, undoubtedly torn between the loss of advertising revenue and the money that Imus generated with his anachronistic racism and misogyny, opted to do the decent thing and fired him. Now let's see how the networks handle their other albatrosses.
[I'm going to be in this space for the next few months, and will be, god help us all, setting Rudy Giuliani in my scopes. Had something ready, but thought that Imus' firing outweighed a brief history lesson in Giuliania.]