Sam Smith: Welcome Back, Imus

Published: Mon 3 Dec 2007 10:18 AM
Welcome Back, Imus
By Editor Sam Smith
Don Imus is returning to radio. While he was away, Ann Coulter's stock seems to have risen markedly but I guess liberals can only deal with one hater at a time.
Actually, Imus isn't really a hater so much as a poorly acculturated old grouch who never learned when to shut his mouth up. The first time he was fired from a show was when he said "hell" on the air. He's not really a racist; he's a globist - he puts down just about everything in this world except his wife's environmental efforts and their ranch for kids with cancer.
You don't have to listen to Imus for more than a few minutes to figure out what's wrong with him. What's a bit harder is to figure out what's right.
For one thing, he's a recovered alcohol and cocaine addict.
For another thing, he's spent a lot of time in recent years being nice to people who need help. His suspension from the air was delayed by the network so he wouldn't have to cancel the annual non-profit fundraising show he did. Imus helped raise over $6 million for a rehabilitation center for Iraq war veterans and he boosted the criticism of conditions at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center.
When he says things like "hell" and "ho" on the air he's thinks he's just being funny, but when he does things like help veterans or kids with cancer you can tell his heart is in it, In fact, he's happy to bore you to death proving it.
In short, Don Imus is your run of the mill, totally contradictory American character. Like the little girl with a little curl on her forehead, when he's good he's very, very good and when he's bad he's horrid.
On the other hand, whom has Lindsay Lohan or Britney Spears or anyone else featured on TMZ helped lately? The fact is, the number of American characters worthy of both affection and disgust is rapidly declining; the pendulum no longer swings between good and evil but between good looks and bad behavior.
And that's another thing about Don Imus. They don't let people like him on TV much any more. He's too unfinished, too unbranded, too plain, too inconsistent for a media trying to get us to join the single race of corporate consumerism.
When famous people were on the Imus show you heard them say things you wouldn't hear elsewhere. Imus and a knack for finding the human in them, even - as with the host - when it wasn't all that admirable.
There are scores of people on radio and television who are more ethnically prejudiced than Don Imus; they just know how to hide it.
In fact, that's what modern civil rights is all about: acting like we don't have a problem by not saying anything the wrong way. Not the right economic and social opportunities; just the right words.
I keep thinking of the young man from South Carolina sitting next to me on a plane as he flew to visit his brother at an Ivy League college. "How's he liking it?" I asked. "Well," the brother replied, "he's having some problems with the liberals up there but he's learning to keep his mouth shut."
From the civil rights movement to learning to keep your mouth shut and punishing Don Imus. So much for progress.
One of the things that made the Imus show fascinating was that people didn't keep their mouths shut. You saw the good and the bad and you watched people react to it, for better or for worse. The network didn't react well at all; they should have burdened Imus with some black, latino and women colleagues who could have given as well as they got. Instead, they just let it get out of hand. But it was still the most real reality show on television.
There's a crazy idea that liberals have that you can eliminate prejudice by treating it like it was jaywalking or speeding. In fact, people get along with each other because they like it, not because they'll be fined if they don't. The trick to improving cultural relations is to find reasons for respect and friendship. That why sports teams and shopping malls are among the true but hidden models of multicultural relations. Everyone on the team or at the mall is getting something out of it.
It was like that on the Imus show. It's been forgotten but Rep. Harold Ford received more national airtime on the Don Imus show than anywhere else. What sort of racist would help a black guy become senator from Tennessee? Ford was eventually defeated thanks in part to a Republican ad that featured the comments of a white blonde talking about meeting Ford at a Playboy party. Didn't hear much from Al Sharpton about that.
One other thing: the liberal critics of Imus better check the mote in their own eye. The assault on Imus began with Hillary Clinton's outsourced spin center, Media Matters. Hillary Clinton hated Imus for calling her "Satan" and other misdeeds. It was clear that the Clinton machine was anxious to get rid of Imus before the 2008 election.
But it was curious that they would use ethnic slurs as a reason. For example, in August 2000, the NY Post reported:
"The Arkansas man who accused Hillary Rodham Clinton last month of uttering an anti-Semitic slur in 1974 has passed a lie-detector test arranged by The Post. Paul Fray, who has charged Mrs. Clinton called him a "f- - -ing Jew bastard" after Bill Clinton lost his race for Congress, cleared the polygraph exam administered Sunday near his home here. . . That same year former Arkansas state trooper Larry Patterson claimed that in their frequent arguments, Bill and Hillary Clinton would use such expressions as "Jew motherf*cker," "Jew Boy" and "Jew Bastard."
Dick Morris also recalls that on one occasion HR Clinton said to him, "Money, that's all you people care about is money." Morris says he responded, "By money, Hillary, by you people, I assume you mean political consultants?" And she said, 'Oh yes, of course that's what I mean.' But it wasn't what I thought she meant."
What is far more clear, because it is on tape, were Bill Clinton's view of Mario Cuomo as expressed when Gennifer Flowers told Clinton: "Well, he seems like he could get real mean . . . I wouldn't be surprised if he didn't have some mafioso major connections." Clinton replied, "Well, he acts like one."
Trooper Patterson also claims he heard Bill Clinton use the term nigger when talking about Jesse Jackson and local black leader, Robert 'Say' McIntosh.
Hillary Clinton shouldn't have to drop out of the race nor Bill Clinton give up his presidential library because of what they said. But Imus denigrators should show a bit more humility about this topic.
Don Imus, when his show was cancelled, still had a long way to go. But, as his struggle over addictions has shown, he is a man capable of getting better, something you don't find much in politics these days. And I'll take a struggling sinner over a hypocritical fake saint any day. Welcome back, Don.
FLASHBACK - SAM SMITH, GREAT AMERICAN POLITICAL REPAIR MANUAL - It is hard to imagine a non-discriminatory, unprejudiced society in which race and sex matter much. Yet in our efforts to reach that goal, our society and its institutions constantly send the conflicting message that they are extremely important.
For example, our laws against discriminatory practices inevitably heighten general consciousness of race and sex. The media, drawn inexorably to conflict, plays up the issue. And the very groups that have suffered under racial or sexual stereotypes consciously foster countering stereotypes -- "you wouldn't understand, it's a black thing" -- as a form of protection. Thus, we find ourselves in the odd position of attempting to create a society that shuns invidious distinctions while at the same time -- often with fundamentalist or regulatory fervor -- accentuating those distinctions.
In the process we reduce our ethnic problems to a matter of regulation and power, and reduce our ambitions to the achievement of a tolerable stalemate rather than the creation of a truly better society. The positive aspects of diversity remain largely ignored and non-discrimination becomes merely another symbol of virtuous citizenship -- like not double-parking or paying your taxes. Martin Luther King said once:
"Something must happen so as to touch the hearts and souls of men that they will come together, not because the law says it, but because it is natural and right."
Sorry, Martin. Our approach to prejudice and discrimination is not unlike our approach to drugs: We plan to simply rule them out of existence. In so doing, we have implicitly defined the limits of virtue as merely the absence of malice.
The most important fact about prejudice is that it's normal. That isn't to say that it's nice, pretty, or desirable. Only that suspicion, distrust, and distaste for outsiders is a deeply human trait. The anthropologist Ruth Benedict wrote that "all primitive tribes agree in recognizing [a] category of the outsiders, those who are not only outside the provisions of the moral code which holds within the limits of one's own people, but who are summarily denied a place anywhere in the human scheme. A great number of the tribal names in common use, Zuni, Dene, Kiowa . . . are only their native terms for 'the human beings,' that is, themselves. Outside of the closed group there are no human beings."
Many attempts to eradicate racism from our society have been based on the opposite notion -- that those who harbor prejudice towards others are abnormal social deviants. Further, we often describe these "deviants" only in terms of their overt antipathies -- they are "anti-Semitic" or guilty of "hate." In fact, once you have determined yourself to be human and others less so, you need not hate them any more than you need despise the fish you eat for dinner. This is why those who participate in genocide can do so with such calm -- they have defined their targets as outside of humanity.
What if, instead, we were to start with the unhappy truth that humans have always had a hard time dealing with other peoples, and that much ethnic and sexual antagonism stems not from hate so much as from cultural narcissism? Then our repertoire of solutions might tilt more towards education and mediation and away from being self-righteous multi-cultural missionaries converting yahoos in the wilds of the soul. We could turn towards something more akin to what Andrew Young once described as a sense of "no fault justice." We might begin to consider seriously Martin Luther King's admonition to his colleagues that among their dreams should be that someday their enemies would be their friends.
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