Sunday, April 8, 2007

"The I Man Cometh, Racism, and Rutgers"

Don Imus has made a very good living for a very long time being a
ass-hole. Imus's gimmick, similar to his "great competitor" Howard Stern(
never to be confused with the Howard K. Stern who is a figure in the world
historic Anna Nicole Smith cable news television story) is to hang out
on radio with "street corner punks" who then insult anyone they think
they can get away with insulting, particularly women and anyone who
appears to be different.

The I Man and his gang (the entourage who exist to egg him on and smirk
with him) usually attack well known people in the news, as I remember
because I am not now nor have I ever been a regular listener, but this
time they attacked the whole Rutgers University Women's Basketball team
following their defeat in the National Championship game to the
University of Tennessee.

These are female students and basketball players who made what was the
greatest achievement in Rutgers college sports history by getting to a
National Championship game. They were essentially minding their own
business and playing their game and being students and they were
viciously slandered by the I Man and his gang, called "nappy headed hos"
and other outrageous things as if they were prostitutes and the I Man
and his gang were pimps.

The Tennessee women who beat them were called "pretty" which I guess,
given the I Man and his gang, meant that they conformed to "Caucasian"
standards of attractiveness(even though they like the Rutgers team were
majority African American). Actually the I Man, whose sallow face and
generally broken down appearance shows the ravages of a lifetime of
drugs and alcohol, might look in a mirror and visit a plastic surgeon if
he is interested the "Caucasian model" of a good looking man.

The I Man's bosses issued a corporate apology that reduced his gang's
vicious racism and sexism to "insensitivity". Me criticizing a student
with a major personal problem for being late to class at Rutgers, where
I have taught for thirty-six years, is insensitive. The I Man gang were
racist and sexist in a society where those prejudices are no longer
accepted as normal, but can still be expressed in a variety of ways in
mainstream commercial media.

Vivian Stringer, the sophisticated African-American coach of the
Rutgers Women's Basketball team issued a well reasoned response to the
I Man which defended not only her team but all women of color who could
only be hurt and humiliated by the comments. Al Sharpton, whom the I
Man and his gang have insulted for decades, struck back hard, and called
for punitive action.

But at this point it appears that IMUS in the Morning will continue to
do its number, waiting perhaps for a short time before returning fully
to his Archie Bunker of the air game when the heat is off. Unlike
Archie though, who always had characters to challenge and make fun of
his racism, the I Man only has interlocutors to make him go further and
further, as if there is nobody around to tell the big man that George
Corley Wallace and Bull Connor are no longer among the living.

IMUS by the way isn't a right-winger, unlike the legions of "talk
radio"haters and baiters who reach a "free market" audience of shut-ins
and couch potatoes who probably fantasize that they are John Wayne or
worse. From time to time, the I Man pops up on the side of liberal

But he makes a living pandering to people who want to be left alone with
their prejudices and their scapegoats. His humor to the best of my
knowledge never leads anyone to seriously explore in reasoned way
anything, like the best of Comedy Central today or groups like Second
City or Britain's Beyond the Fringe in the past.

There is nothing creative or imaginative in the IMUS in the Morning
show, just a bunch of jerks talking irreverantly and irrelevantly about
anything that they want to talk about. Progressive sociologists might
say that they a group of people being paid handsomely for acting like
failures and losers in any social system, socialist in regard to doing
cooperative labor and making constructive criticism to help people, or
capitalist in terms of being competitive and developing real skills and
abilities that will make you into a successful business or professional

Howard Stern and IMUS are in their own way great examples of the
advance of capitalist consumer culture since the Reagan era(where IMUS
by the way, had his greatest moment when he smashed the window of a New
York liquor store selling Stolichnia Vodka when the Soviets shot down a
Korean airliner over their airspace in 1983, perhaps the only time in
that era where he sought to destroy rather than consume alcoholic
beverages). Both make fortunes out of acting the way old fashioned
psychiatrists portrayed small children smearing feces in order to get
attention from adults by defying adults.

I grew up with people like the IMUS gang in the tenements of the South
Bronx(not the great majority of people, who disliked and avoided such
people, but some). I especially remember one of them , a nasty kid who
snuck up and watched through the window as an attractive young Puerto
Rican girl in his building got into a bath tub. She screamed and he
went into hiding as the girl's father scoured the neighborhood for him.
Eventually the affair blew over. Most of us didn't like him, but we
didn't squeal on him.

This kid, whose nasty, low income right-wing parents made him bring
money into the home by searching everywhere for Coca Cola deposit
bottles, liked especially to feel superior by insulting Puerto Ricans,
whom he called "bongos."

Many years later,I heard that there had been a Radio report that he had
been badly beaten up in a poor Puerto Rican South Bronx neighborhood(he
had left the neighborhood long before). The radio report made it appear
that he was just a middle class white person attacked by violent
minority people, but many who knew him from the street figured that
he had finally gotten what he always deserved.

But those punks on my street never made a good living out of their
personal failures and their scapegoating of others. They didn't call
their insults a comedy show, like Imus in the Morning. They would run
away when people stood up to them, but never apologize for their
"insensitivity" because they never pretended to be sensitive in the
first place or even understood that concept. I doubt the IMUS does either.

I don't say that IMUS should be censored from the air, which he of
course would be if he were using his show to advance socialist and
communist critiques of society, or even any progressive analysis which
would upset his sponsors.
But people who really oppose racism and sexism should stop listening
to such shows and tell their friends and coworkers to stop listening to
such shows Also they should perhaps tell their friends that people
who really like the IMUS's and the Howard Sterns of radioland don't
deserve to be their friends because they are better than that and have
better things to do with their times and their lives.
Norman Markowitz

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