Friday, April 13, 2007

Speak No Evil

As you may have noticed I've remained mum on the subject of Don Imus' racist and sexist remarks aimed at the Rutgers Women's Basketball team. I don't need to rehash the incident, what was said, or the team's response here. I assume you've all seen the news and the reports ad nauseum on the subject. His remarks have landed Mr. Imus out of a job having been dropped from both CBS radio and MSNBC.

While I applaud these major news outlets for taking a stand, I can't help but wonder if their decisions are based on true anti-hate speech principles or the loss of sponsorships for Mr. Imus' show. Call me cynical, but as a gay American who has to filter out homophobic remarks from the media on a daily basis even from some of my favorite programs (See red7Eric's comment on yesterday's post), the swift and immediate response to Imus' remarks have left me scratching my head. Why start having principles now? Why over these particular remarks? Why Don Imus?

Don't get me wrong, I think what Imus said was despicable, inexcusable and a painful reminder that no matter how much women or minorities achieve they are still reduced to the basest name-calling and insults by old, white men. But what's different this time? It's been a bad year for hate speech, so is Don Imus simply a victim of bad timing? Why the call from the black community (and others) for the immediate dismissal of Mr. Imus from his media outlets, yet when Isaiah Washington uses an ugly gay epithet he is not only allowed to keep his job on one of the top rated TV shows, he is then awarded an NAACP Image award of all things!

I guess I was waiting to hear the whole Imus debacle discussed from a gay point of view before I commented. Surely I'm not the only one to be confused and disappointed by the duplicitous behavior on the part of the American public and the media over this particular hate speech. Thankfully, leave it to Harvey Fierstein in today's New York Times Op Ed piece to sum up not only his own feelings on the subject in a most eloquent and succinct manner, but mine as well. Here's a quote:
The real point is that you cannot harbor malice toward others and then cry foul when someone displays intolerance against you. Prejudice tolerated is intolerance encouraged. Rise up in righteousness when you witness the words and deeds of hate, but only if you are willing to rise up against them all, including your own. Otherwise suffer the slings and arrows of disrespect silently.

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At 5:07 PM, Blogger Matt said...

I am so with you on this, Michael. I hadn't posted any thoughts either - partly because it's being beaten to death by everyone with and without an honest opinion. I do believe that he was fired because of the loss of sponsors (I'm cynical too), but whatever the reason - no big loss. I agree, why now? Why wasn't there ever an uproar about his many, many past hateful comments?

And to those who think he should have been kept on in the act of protecting "free speech" - I'm all for freesom of speech. He can say anything he wants to. I don't want that taken away from anybody. But - one must realize that there are consequences for speaking ignorantly. His freedom of speech is still just as intact as ever. He just doesn't have the same public forum in which to promote it. He'll find another, I'm sure.

At 8:11 PM, Blogger Y | O | Y said...

Somewhere someone more intelligent than me pointed out that "freedom of speech" means stating opinions without fear of reprisal from the government. It doesn't mean you can say anything you want without a backlash from your family, friends, or the public at large.

At 11:05 AM, Blogger Glenn said...

Michael, Michael, it's all about the dollars.

At 12:29 PM, Blogger Red7Eric said...

The firing was TOTALLY a result of the loss of advertisers ... and to me, that's a beautiful thing. This was about people and organizations rejecting racist and sexist crap of their own free will.

Don Imus still has his free speech, he just doesn't have a radio show anymore. And the Constitution doesn't guarantee anyone a radio show or the MSNBC simulcast to go with it.

As for Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson -- to me, these are minor characters in the larger debate. I don't believe that they had much of a role in the way this all played out, as much as either of them might want to take credit for it or offer themselves up as a mouthpiece for African-Americans everywhere.

Okay, I'm going to read Harvey's piece now. Thanks for the link.

At 9:20 AM, Blogger LSL said...

I'm glad you posted about this. I think it's great that he lost sponsorship and was fired, but comparing this with the Isaiah Washington situation totally depressed me. I echo your questions - Why now? Why these remarks? I still think Washington's award must have been just a bad dream. I at least felt good that Fierstein's Op Ed told it like it is. We all have a long way to go, don't we?


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