Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Al Sharpton is Right

I think the Rev. Al Sharpton has really been in the zone the last day or so on the Don Imus flap. His argument is that there must be some sort of standards, formal or otherwise, for speech in the national news media. If community standards aren't enforced informally, by news executives, sponsers, commentators, and viewers, then sooner or later legislation would be proposed. I for one would be against that. Imus should be fired. Meanwhile some of the conservative reaction on the cable news shows has been perplexing. Apparently conservatives think of Don Imus as a liberal. I guess anybody who isn't a card-carrying, self-proclaimed conservative must be a liberal by default. I flip back and forth between Imus and C-Span's "Washington Journal" show over coffee early in the morning, so I've seen him quite a bit over the past couple of years. He's not really an ideological person. He goes after anything he sees as hypocritical, or inauthentic, or weasly, but he's not a crusader; he has no aura of righteousness. He's just as likely, so far as I can see, to attack Democrats as Republicans, and he spends a lot of time talking about "American Idol." But a commentator on Fox claimed he'd get off easy because he wasn't conservative. First, he's not getting off easy, and second, is it the "conservative" position, then, that anybody who disparages blacks on the air should be fired? That's news to me. Tucker Carlson, on Imus's own MSNBC, claimed he saw a double standard between the reaction to Imus and the reaction to George Allen's "macaca" gaffe. I think there is a double standard there: we think differently about these things when the man is running for president, for heaven's sake. Does Carlson think Imus and Allen both ought to be left alone to spout off as they please? Presidential candidates can make racially disparaging remarks? Carlson's position is incoherent. Or maybe not: a few weeks ago he tossed off the "observation" that the Congressional Black Caucus hadn't endorsed anyone because they were "too cowardly." Never mind that almost noone else is endorsing candidates this early in the season. I think Carlson has come a long way (like Sharpton has, in fact), but his hostility to blacks and women is real and evident. As to Imus, I remember going on talk radio in Denver a long time ago (a friend couldn't make it to his spot on a right-wing talk show and knew I wanted to try it, I'm no media personality). The host was so aggresive, so irrational and irresponsible, that I afterwards regretted participating, even in the role of liberal whipping-boy. I expressed my distress to the staff at the studio and they said, eagerly, "Did you say that? Did you tell him on the air?" Well no: in my family we didn't learn to throw things up in people's faces, or to make a scene. But that was why I didn't wow them on talk radio.

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