The Imus Issue: Ratings vs. Rightness

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I'll leave it to greater (and lesser) minds to decide whether radio shock jock Don Imus should be fired. There are strong arguments on both sides.

On the pro side, I'd love to see a self-imposed code of conduct for mainstream media denizens that banished use of derogatory terms against women, minorities, men, the disabled, and so on. Maybe Imus's firing would involuntarily shove such a code into effect. But then again, who believes Howard Stern is going to neuter his offensive shtick just because Don Imus gets fired? And would it matter to either of these guys or their voluminous progeny if they were fired, given the size of their personal fortunes? And wouldn't either of them end up with an even more successful syndicated TV show? (Or am I getting just a bit too cynical here?)

On the con side, there's the "everybody's doing it" excuse. And it's true. There is all-too-much info-tainment on radio, TV, and the Internet disguised as quasi news (Imus does, after all, talk politics and interview politicians regularly) that debases women and contains racist content. But some of that content is generated by members of the groups being denigrated. Why should Imus have to stop using the term "ho" if black female artists appear in hip-hop music videos in scanty outfits with hips rotating to the point of frenzy?

Let's hope this incident serves as a turning point that at minimum turns down the volume on abusive, degrading content in mainstream media. A person can always hope. But up against the forces of money, mass marketing, and ratings, hope isn't much of a weapon or a shield.