Friday, April 13, 2007

The Media Is The Massage

Finally, the Imus flap is over, to no one's great relief, except maybe Imus. A minor uproar in the American social dialogue has closed, and has seen the fall of a broadcasting icon, as well as the near death of a governor.

Not much positive comes out of this mess, except perhaps the vow by Al Sharpton that Imus will only be the first to go. Praise God if Sharpton keeps this vow, but Sharpton has been a little less than diligent in filling his promises. Lots of mouth, little action, and the scale is more than counterbalanced by how badly he has hurt the African American community with his own hijinks.

And I say that as someone who very nearly voted for him for governor a few elections back.

See, here's the thing: the media gets away with what it gets away with because, in truth, it sells. Imus was not a radio personality. He was a vehicle through which GM and GE and Staples and others pushed product. You listened to Imus and for free, you got more advertising pushed at you. Imus knew this and was not afraid to utilize this equation to his advantage, legally even.

Imus had been on the air 35 years or so, between his New York and Cleveland gigs (among others), and has been fired before for unbecoming conduct, usually centering around the fact he was an addict and just never showed up for work. He must have been doing something...well, not right, but profitable, for big corporations like RCA and Viacom, and later, GE to take chances on his behavior.

Roll the dice. For the last twenty years or so, people have managed to look the other way, or even offer enough grudging support to keep him on the air, toiling in the name of Mammon.

IF the firing of Imus creates an opening that leads to the wholesale clearance of "personalities" from our airwaves like Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, Michael Savage, and Ann Coulter (among many others), then I say "Huzzah!" for in truth, Imus was the least among these and probably the easiest to get rid of.

After all, technically, his was a sports show, and partisan politics was a secondary topic. His listeners were less rabid enthusiasts of his views than the Dittoheads and Hannitybots, and put up less of a fight.

These other, filthier, more disgusting proselytizers for perverse pulchritudes, espousing viewpoints of "correctness" that would be more at home in Stalinist Russia than America, won't go as quietly as Imus did.

But go they must, if we are to be true to this mission of making the airwaves safe for democracy. Al Sharpton seems to be vowing to take this boycott movement to the advertisers, taking a page out of the neo-conservative playbook of "if we don't like something, we'll force it off the air," a la Terry Rakolta, and Focus on Family.

I don't see it happening, because what should come out of this incident, the dialogue that really needs to be held, is about respect for people, for differences, for tolerance. And moreover, for understanding that this nation is undergoing an unstoppable transformation from a bastion of white male uberpower, shifting the balance of the world's resources --both physical and ethereal-- to a minority (on a global basis), to one that recognizes that people of all nations and cultures have an equal say in the future of this planet, and that this planet cannot be artificially divided into arbitrary political boundaries.

Ironically, it was the founding of the United States that signalled this evolution.

The media will b a powerful tool in this. We've seen the slow evolution on our TV screens (and its not nearly enough and not nearly fast enough) of anthropologic evidence of this transformation. Right now, it's mostly token gestures, but in the not too distant future, we'll stop seeing tokens and start seeing reflections of the world as it exists outside of our isolated island of immunity from the world's reality.

Firing Imus may, oddly enough, be the trigger for this, but given the power of his voice, if he had truly seen the light (and I suspect he has), silencing that voice may eventually do more harm than good.

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