I Welcome Imus’s Lawsuit

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Don Imus plans to sue CBS, contending that language in his contract—agreed upon with CBS—gave him the green light to wade into the sewer and make the kind of racist, sexist comments that he spewed on the Rutgers women’ basketball team.

Great! Mainstream media deserves this spotlight and scrutiny.    

It’s an understatement to say that the media have been pretty pathetic for sometime now. True, they have never ever championed the cause of regular folks. They have always aided and abetted racism, especially against Blacks. But over the last five years or so, they have been increasingly used as instruments of obfuscation instead of illumination. Microphones and cameras have been firmly in the hands of ignoramuses like Don Imus.

In his pending lawsuit, Imus points to language in his contract that states his “irreverent� inflammatory style was consistent with company standards. When the company standard is to voraciously pursue exorbitant profits at whatever cost, we get a media landscape where unreality television and hate radio rules.    

We should all welcome Imus’ suit against CBS, because it will help expose the hypocrisy of these media magnates. The fact of the matter is that Imus is only the tip of the iceberg of the bigoted and exclusionary policies that ushered in the poison now contaminating the airwaves.

Does anyone really believe the CBS executives who hired Imus were really surprised by the foul utterances that cost him his job? This is the same man who referred to Gwen Ifill, a former New York Times reporter, as the “cleaning lady.� No, what they didn’t expect was the groundswell of outrage—including the actions of the NABJ (National Association of Black Journalists)—along with boycott threats that scared away advertisers like mega-company Procter and Gamble.

Now, there are two things to consider as we analyze the Imus lawsuit: money and race. First some history: The depiction of Black people in the mainstream media has always been, largely, negative. During the lynching era most white southern newspapers inflamed the passions of ignorant, redneck types with false stories about Black men molesting and raping white women. These media-perpetuated lies gave rise to the fear of the sexually rapacious Black “Mandingo.� Crusading Black journalist, Ida B. Wells, demolished this myth—in the pamphlet Southern Horrors: Lynch Law in All Its Phases—showing that many Southern white women were willingly bedding Black men.

Black people are still frequent targets of media manipulation and greed. A few years ago ESPN inexplicably hired the racist drug addict Rush Limbaugh. At the time, I asked myself what the hell does Limbaugh know about sports? Yet, controversy makes money. ABC figured Limbaugh would boost their ratings; while also appealing to bigots and crackpots. Yet, ESPN executives acted surprised when Limbaugh concluded that Philadelphia Eagles’ star quarterback Donovan McNabb was over-rated simply because he was Black. Then we also have the case of the very learned Bill Bennett, who offered Bennett’s Final Solution, when he told his radio audience that reducing America’s crime rate was simple: abort Black babies.

At the end of the day, the main problem with the mainstream media is consolidation and the “dumbing- down� of content.

Simply turn on your television for confirmation. Channel after channel filled with uniform nothingness. Debasement has morphed into “pop� entertainment. In this new media environment, is there any wonder that people like Imus rise to the pinnacle?

Imus is nothing but a mirror reflecting some ugly realities afflicting America.


Extra: Paul Wolfowitz, one of the central architects of the Iraq War should have been fired. He had claimed the Iraq could “finance its own reconstruction and relatively soon� with oil profits. Instead of dismissing Wolfowitz, the Bush White House put him up as the head of the World Bank. He pledged to fight corruption. Yet, he set up his girlfriend, Shah Riza, with a fat pay raise of almost $60,000, when he moved her from the World Bank to the State Department. The penultimate in hypocrisy.


Extra extra: Did you hear about Barbara Jackson, a 71-year-old great-grandmother who was arrested recently for buying two dime bags of Marijuana? Jackson, a cancer survivor, asserted that she smokes it to alleviate the ill effects of chemotherapy and to spur her appetite. She has gained weight since she started smoking, she told a judge.

The case was dismissed on a “technicality.� It always amazes me how many people are intellectually inconsistent when it comes to the matter of drugs. Many will say they support abortion, but think drugs should remain illegal. But if we argue that abortion should be a woman’s right to decide, because it’s her body; then how can we justify locking away people for ingesting drugs into their bodies?

We must ask ourselves a fundamental question: in a democracy, should the state be allowed to dictate what an individual does with his or her body?

Benjamin is a member of The Black Star News’s Editorial Board.

To subscribe to or advertise in New York’s leading Pan African weekly investigative newspaper, please call (212) 481-7745 or send a note to Milton@blackstarnews.com


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