Saturday, April 14, 2007

Killing Joke

Nobody is going to ask me, but I am glad that Don Imus was fired. Before the discussion of free speech commences, and the banners of racism and bigotry get unfurled, let's back up a step or two. Don Imus was the employee of CBS Radio. He had a boss. He was doing a job. His boss didn't like the way he was doing his job. He was fired.
Special circumstances? You bet. Don Imus is a massive cultural icon with a drive-time radio career that extends back to 1979. He was somewhat of an institution. He is part of a group of "pioneers" in his field. Howard Stern (the radio personality, not the creepy "husband" of Anna Nicole Smith) is probably better known, mostly for his ability to take moments such as these and turn them into self-promoting gold. Howard insists that Imus is merely a pretender to the crown, but they are both whittled from the same block of cheese.
The "shock jock" phenomenon dates back to the 1970's, a time when disc jockeys were searching for a way to get listeners back to the radio. Provocative, irreverent, confrontational, abrasive, and always looking for a fight with the FCC, these folks made their careers living on the edge of acceptability. The more offensive, the better.
Don Imus is sixty-six years old. He has been doing his job for decades, and we would all guess that he has a working knowledge of the regulations and limits of his free speech. The only radio show that I listened to regularly with this particular bent was Alan Berg's show on KOA back in the early eighties. On one particular occasion, the very liberal Jewish Berg chose to take on the white supremacist group The Order. On June 18, 1984, Alan Berg was shot thirteen times in the driveway of his home next to his Volkswagen Beetle. Members of The Order were widely suspected of the crime, but no one was ever convicted of the murder, though a number of its members were found guilty of conspiracy, including David Lane, the getaway driver. When asked about the murder, Lane, denied any involvement in Berg's death, but has repeatedly expressed no sorrow over it: "The only thing I have to say about Alan Berg is: regardless of who did it, he hasn't mouthed his hate whitey propaganda from his 50,000-watt Zionist pulpit for quite a few years."
Don Imus was fired. He can, and probably will, get another job. Alan Berg wasn't so lucky.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

> His boss didn't like the way he
> was doing his job.

If you equate Imus' job to attracting ad dollars (via the currency of listener ears as measured by ratings), then yes, the loss of advertisers clearly made his bosses unhappy. But the week delay between the incident and the firing shows that his bosses didn't give a second thought to the content of his offense, only the economic impact on their business. (EM)