Letters to Holly

Friday, April 13

Let's Get Newsy

The Imus scandal has crafted a national dialogue on race and free speech that quickly became an abstract argument on propriety and fairness. "Why can they say those words but we can't? Isn't this the creeping fascism of political correctness?" The most often repeated argument I hear is that it's OK for rappers to say this stuff. That's a question that removes all context. You can't say that stuff on broadcast radio music. All such words are edited out on my local radio channels, anyway. MTV certainly removes it. If a rapper uses it on a CD or single, and you hear it, chances are you paid to listen. You know what kind of language to expect in that rap. You know what the intended audience and message is. Chances are you paid to hear it because the radio stations bleeped it out. If you hear it in concert, chances are good you paid to attend.

But free broadcast, syndicated radio like Imus -- whose show was also simulcast on MSNBC -- has two things rap doesn't: media credibility and a predominantly white audience. Imus's show, while it does feature broad humor, plays host to journalists and politicians. He has a cache of respect that, say Howard Stern, doesn't. And, yes, Imus has said similar things in the past while still retaining this clientèle of guests. It could be easily argued that Imus didn't go one step too far with his comments about the Rutger's team but that his cumulative commentary finally caught up with him. And let's not forget he said this during a news segment, not a comedy skit. Context is vital. A 19-year-old black rapper lives in a different realm of obligation than a 40-year white veteran of talk radio.

I still say this is a matter of chivalry. These women did nothing to earn such remarks. They didn't hire a stripper, they didn't throw a kegger, they didn't do anything that college kids could do to garner national news and catch flack from comedians looking to score easy laughs. A 70-year-old man taking potshots at a women's college athletic team is rude. But would the backlash have gathered such career-ending momentum had he called them lesbians? I doubt it. He played the race card, and he got bit by it. You put your neck in that guillotine, you can't whine when you get cut.

And, you know, if a double standard does exists -- "those people" can say "those words," but "we can't" -- I can live with that. The civil rights act isn't 50 years old yet. We're not that far removed from federally-approved separate facilities. I can live with consensus-mandated separate vocabularies. I don't feel in any deprived by a polite inability to call someone a crude slang word. This is hardly a cruel yoke which we can deem a white man's burden.

To all those talk radio people who decry such censorship and call out for a universal patois, I say this: If you think your shtick is hampered by a lack of access to such language, you're in the wrong business.

+ + +

As mentioned here a few weeks back, the administration has employed a shadow email server to avoid federal laws denying the deletion of official communications. Some of these emails apparently dealt with the prosecutor scandal, and despite White House claims, the Democrats say those emails haven't been deleted. They still may exist on a Republican party server, they say, and should be subject to subpoena. This expands further the argument of executive privilege and Congressional checks and balances. The administration claims previous White House staff as have done the same, an obvious admission of guilt that one usually outgrows after elementary school. At the center of this growing ugliness is whether the justice department and White House discussed the firing of prosecutors because they were investigating Republicans connected to lobbyists or voter fraud.

Picture of the Day
Everyone needs a home-security octopus.

No comments: