Friday the Thirteenth

April 13, 2007

Not so bloggy today because of real world obligations that are keeping me busy. Hey, it’s better than being chased by a maniac in a hockey mask. I’ll throw out a few links and some quick thoughts and call it a day.

  • It’s not about you: Torii Hunter and C.C. Sabathia are missing the point of having players wear number 42 to honor Jackie Robinson on Sunday. Why would it be watered down to have more teams and players join in the tribute? They seem upset that they will get less attention for being good guys and wearing the number now that so many others will be too. But this isn’t about them. It’s about honoring Robinson, and the more people involved the better.
  • He shouldn’t have messed with those hard-core hos: Don Imus was fired by CBS after the national media firestorm over his uncouth comments on female basketball players. As I’ve said before, Imus is a fool who said dumb things, but I think firing him is going too far (I agree with the Letterman take on this). He said something on par with what he and plenty of other radio hosts have said for years. The suspension would’ve been sufficient to put him on notice that he needed to be respectful from here on out. I guess once advertisers pulled out the writing was on the wall.
  • Ewww: Paul Wolfowitz in a sex scandal. Bad images coming to mind.
  • That explains the rush: Atrios posits that Bush wanted Congress to rush back so that he could veto the Iraq spending bill before extending troops’ tours. That way he could blame the soldiers’ harships on the Democrats.
  • (Not) turning the corner: The latest idiocy from Charles Krauthammer looks especially stupid in the wake of yesterday’s news.
  • Mike Nifong’s non-apology: Memphis Bengal has a good take on Durham DA Mike Nifong’s so-called “apology” to the former Duke lacrosse players yesterday. They basically responded by telling him where he could stick that apology and now they are considering suing. Corrupt DAs like Nifong should take notice that it’s only a good idea to press made-up charges against poor people who can’t fight back; wealthy people can, and they will make you pay.
  • So it goes: I am a big fan of Kurt Vonnegut’s writing and saddened by his passing. His official web site is currently adorned with a lone image of a birdcage with the door open. There’s also an excellent tribute over at In These Times, the web site that published a lot of Vonnegut’s essays in recent years.

Obama Has Bigger Fish to Fry

April 11, 2007

The fact that Don Imus hurt the Rutgers basketball team’s feelings isn’t exactly at the top of the agenda for Barack Obama’s presidential campaign, and some blacks are upset about that, the Boston Globe reports.

The episode is the first test of how Obama — who is of mixed-race background — is handling the contentious issue of race in his presidential campaign. Even as polls have shown other Democrats attracting a large share of the black vote, Obama has steered clear of the kind of activism symbolized by Sharpton and the Rev. Jesse Jackson, who were both highly visible in the Imus episode but whose aggressiveness on race issues has alienated some white voters in the past.

But with Obama battling other Democrats — most notably Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York — for the support of black voters, the candidate’s reticence on the Imus issue set off alarms yesterday among some black activists who are anxious to see him more forcefully push for racial justice.

The Globe’s analysis sees this approach as a conscious choice by Obama to be different from Sharpton and Jackson, but I would suggest that it might just be that there are more important things happening in the world and in his campaign — for instance, the spat with John McCain over Iraq this morning.

Selena Roberts Draws the Wrong Lesson

April 11, 2007

The Imus comment is getting far more attention than it deserves, but I feel compelled to pass along what Selena Roberts thinks the less is from all this:

Ho is the new bitch. And bitch is the old sissy. But whatever the label, women are always first to be part of the gag when sexism and misogyny are publicly sanctioned and celebrated — particularly in sports.

Shaquille O’Neal, in his Lakers days, referred to the Sacramento Kings as “Queens.”

And in this sanitized version, a top Division I football coach was once overheard telling his team after a particularly big win: tonight, you guys deserve to take whatever woman you want.

In Johnny Damon’s long-haired Boston days, a punch line used to circulate: He looks like Jesus, throws like Mary.

These comments are red herrings. Leaving aside what the football coach allegedly said, the jibes at the Sacramento Kings and Johnny Damon are entirely different from the Imus/Rutgers imbroglio. They were meant to criticize the male athletes by comparing them to women, who are not as good at sports as men. O’Neal felt that the Kings were an easy opponent, and Johnny Damon is known for having a weak throwing arm. The point is to insult the men being discussed, not to denigrate women as a class.

Relying on these examples, Roberts could be read to be advocating the end of any recognition of differences between men and women in sports, which is ludicrous. There is a reason the Rutgers women were not playing the Florida men in the NCAA championship, and there is a reason no one had heard of the Rutgers women’s team until Don Imus made fun of them.

Don Imus might call them “publicity whores”

April 10, 2007

The Rutgers basketball team is currently holding a news conference to tell us how wonderful they are and how evil Don Imus is. Is this really necessary? Isn’t this somewhat below the pay grade of the president of Rutgers University? Maybe I should get someone to insult me on the radio so that I can tell the media how great I really am.

I’m sorry they were insulted, but no one cares about women’s college basketball. There are plenty of people who are talented at various things and work hard and never get recognized. These young women are only in the spotlight because a famous radio host used some inflammatory language to call them ugly, and I’m sure that was upsetting. But again, I ask, why has this episode received so much more attention than various other insults that fly about on talk radio routinely?

Which Insult Is Unlike the Others?

April 9, 2007

The WaPo editorializes:

NEW YORK radio host Don Imus is an equal-opportunity insulter. He called noted African American journalist Gwen Ifill a “cleaning lady.” He called a columnist at the New York Times a “quota hire.” He’s labeled Vice President Cheney a “war criminal.” But none of those comments has landed Mr. Imus in as much hot water as the offensive, racist and sexist remarks he made last week about the women’s basketball team from Rutgers University.

How does calling Cheney a war criminal enter into this discussion about racism?

What good is talk radio if you can’t call the Rutgers basketball team a bunch of nappy-headed hos?

April 9, 2007

I am half joking with the post title, let me explain.

First off, I have no use for Don Imus. I have despised him and his ilk for years, and I don’t listen to such radio programs. The comments at issue are pretty obviously in poor taste.

That said, I don’t see why this episode is really that much different from the bile that talk radio hosts spew every day in this country (here are some of the past remarks from Imus). The shock jocks get paid to say mean-spirited, off-color things, and the trick is to go right up to the line without crossing it. If that’s how the industry is structured, it’s understandable that radio hosts will cross the line from time to time and people will become upset.

Furthermore, I think you could interpret Imus and his sidekick’s exchange about the “nappy-headed hos” as being a mockery of rap music and it’s typical misogynistic references to women. That’s not a phrase that an old white dude like Don Imus would come up with on his own. His basic message — that the players on the Rutgers basketball team are ugly — is certainly an impolite thing to say, but not the equivalent of burning a cross while wearing a hood either. Plenty of people listen to Imus, apparently, so there’s clearly an audience for his insulting commentaries.

I won’t cry for Don Imus if he loses his job or suffers some lesser punishment for this. Even so, I think there are some broader issues in talk radio and the people who listen to it, and Imus is just a symptom of a deeper infection in popular listening preferences.