Monday, April 09, 2007
Hey, Must Be The Money
So I make myself some coffee and open my dead tree version of the NY Times this morning only to see a call for blogger ethics on the front page. How interesting. Another call for "managed civil speech" (which is claimed to be "freer" than unfettered free speech.) There was no word on who would be the managers of such speech, but I think we can count on those who call for it to be the ones who feel they are most qualified to define and enforce it. (Apparently, this will all be done "voluntarily" and will be dealt with through purges and link boycotts and the novel concept of moderated comment sections. Or something.)
Meanwhile, on the media page is a story about the execrable Don Imus and the fact that he routinely makes racist, misogynistic and eliminationist jokes on his show while half the Washington press corps spends time there kissing his ring. For some reason that kind of "incivility" doesn't upset the journalistic prima donnas half as much as the uncivil blogosphere does.
So what's up with this? The blogosphere is admittedly an uncivil place. Nobody disputes that. But it is comprised of a bunch of disparate individuals who are arguing amongst themselves with varying degress of seriousness and talent as part of the national (and international) dialog. There is a corner of it that is despicable and revolting, as the misogyny that set off this latest debate clearly demonstrates. But for inexplicable reasons it's the liberal blogosphere that is being particularly attacked for our alleged incivility by the mainstream media. (I suspect it's the fact that we drop the "F" bomb too much, which is simply shocking in American life)
However, for almost two decades now, talk radio has been spewing vile racist, misogynistic and eliminationst spew --- and their stars have been feted and petted for it among the highest levels of the capital cognoscenti. I don't know for sure why that would be, but I have my suspicions.
First of all, I suppose it's possible that the media insiders all share the politics and beliefs of Rush and Imus and O'Reilly and Hannity and Savage. They could be crude racists and misogynists and haters of all forms of liberalism who love to make vulgar jokes at others' expense. I have no way of knowing except for the company they keep. So that's one theory.
The other is that they are, like a lot of people in this culture, drawn to anyone who makes a lot of money, and lord knows, these spewers of rightwing filth have made billions from selling their hate over the years. Many of the media insiders are extremely wealthy themselves, so perhaps they see Rush and Imus as being part of their social class and therefore are willing to give them a pass. That's another theory.
Or maybe it's because they all work for big media companies and there's a certain synergistic pressure on all of them to kiss each others asses.
Or maybe it's a combination of all these things and more.
Whatever the reason, it's quite clear that mainstream media have either ignored, pandered to or actively embraced hate radio for almost two decades now. Nary a peep has been said about the relentless, daily drumbeat of demogoguery and loathing of their fellow citizens that these talk show hosts vomit onto the public airwaves for anyone with a radio to hear.
Imus seems to have garnered some tepid attention with his "nappy headed hoes" comment, although it's not substantially different from the kind of racist, misogynist offal he's featured on his show for years. So, in addition to having to apologize, he got a gentle little lecture from one of his "gang" today, mainstream journalist Howard Fineman of Newsweek magazine.
FINEMAN: Just before I came on the show, I was coming upstairs and my cell phone rang, and it was some listener who called me out of the blue. I'd never heard of the guy before. I'd never heard his name. He called me and he said, "Are you going to go on the show and finally confront this Imus guy? Are you going to quit enabling him?" And, you know, I thought about that, and I said to the guy, "You know, I'll puzzle that through on the radio." And I would like to continue to enable you to do a lot of the good things you do. Including, you know, talking about stuff happening in the world, which you do a very good job of on this show.
You know, the form of humor that you do here is risky, and sometimes it runs off the rails. Most of the people who listen to this show get the joke most of the time, and sometimes, you know, as David Carr said in The New York Times this morning, sometimes you go over the line so far you can't even see the line. And that's what happened in this case. And I think of all the stuff you've done and do do, and, you know, you make your mistakes -- we all make our mistakes. We all make mistakes. This was a big one. And I thought that the way you handled it just now -- and I'm not blowing smoke here -- I believe it, you know, was very heartfelt. And I know you well enough to know that that's the case and you're going to do everything you can to set it right.
You know, I don't know what'll happen. I think -- you know, it's a different time, Imus. You know, it's different than it was even a few years ago, politically. I mean, we may, you know -- and the environment, politically, has changed. And some of the stuff that you used to do, you probably can't do anymore.
IMUS: No, you can't. I mean --
FINEMAN: You just can't. Because the times have changed. I mean, just looking specifically at the African-American situation. I mean, hello, Barack Obama's got twice the number of contributors as anybody else in the race.
FINEMAN: I mean, you know, things have changed. And the kind of -- some of the kind of humor that you used to do you can't do anymore. And that's just the way it is.
IMUS: But I would say, in the spirit of charity, that the same black journalists who are calling for me to be fired had the option -- and the same black leaders -- they had the option to call me when I was asking for weeks about help in trying to get more information about sickle-cell anemia, about what the government was doing, about what could be done about research. And nobody -- nobody -- called me.
I'm not looking to get patted on the back for that, but those are the facts. So we -- people can write and say whatever they want to say about me, but they have an obligation to respect the facts of my life and what I do. And I'm not trying to excuse or weasel out of anything. But a context and a proportionality to who I am and what I do and what my wife does is crucial. So, anyway, thanks.
FINEMAN: Well, I hope the women from Rutgers will meet with you, and -- although I can understand if they won't, but I hope that they do. This is what they call a teaching moment, you know, in child-rearing, they call a teaching moment. This is a teaching moment for us all. For everybody. You know, all of us who do your show, you know, we're part of the gang. And we rely on you the way you rely on us. So, you know, you're taking all of us with you when you go out there to meet with them, you know.
IMUS: Well, these people at CBS Radio, Les Moonves on down, have known me for years. I wouldn't be on the radio this morning if they thought that I meant this or if they thought that I was a bad person. They know what the deal is with the show -- everybody understands that. Same with -- I've been on MSNBC for 10 years. I know everybody over there. From [NBC Universal president Jeffrey] Zucker on down. So --
FINEMAN: Well, we'll see how it goes.
IMUS: They're not fools, you know.
FINEMAN: We'll see how it goes. Good luck with it.
You have to hand it to Imus. He knows very well what he brings to the table. And so does his "gang."
I'm almost speechless at Fineman's comments, though. A rich white man derisively calling black women "nappy headed hoes" has never been acceptable among decent people --- never. Howard Fineman just lowered himself to the level of the most rank, putrid racist by implying that Imus is just a little bit behind the times with his bigoted remarks. I'm surprised he didn't come right out and say that Imus should have used "less inflammatory" language to describe his racist revulsion for the Rutgers University women's basketball team. You just can't say those things, you see. (Maybe he could have given him some pointers on proper racist code like: "those are some rough looking, affirmative action queens.")
Meanwhile, the Washington Post's Howard Kurtz publicly derides liberal bloggers as racists for being rude to poor little Michelle Malkin, author of "Invasion: How America Still Welcomes Terrorists, Criminals, and Other Foreign Menaces to Our Shores" and "In Defense Of Internment." And the NY Times uses its front page to issue a call for blogger ethics. From where I sit as one of those loathesome pseudonymous bloggers, this looks a bit odd. In fact it looks as if the mainstream press is living in an insular little universe populated by rich rightwingers who either lead them around like pied pipers --- or have welcomed them into their ranks. Either way, they continue to fail their readers with this increasingly difficult to sustain disconnect from the world in which the rest of us are living.
The discourse that everyone is so shocked to see is now uncivil and "nasty" was polluted decades ago by a bunch of rich, white businessmen who saw that they could make a very nice profit at exploiting the lizard brain of the American rightwing and help their political cause at the same time. The media thought it was all in good fun (and good for their bosses) just as they do today.
We bloggers didn't make this toxic, fetid environment, we just live in it. And toxic and fetid it is. At some point the prim and proper MSM are going to have to put down the smelling salts over the uncivil blogosphere and deal with the fact that the world they enabled with their convivial chuckling and snorting at Rush and Imus over the years has brought us to this place. The rest of us are little busy fighting off the neanderthal thugs they helped create.
Update: Et tu, Oliphant?
digby 4/09/2007 01:07:00 PM