I have to admit I am in a quandary on this one. I listened to the clip of Imus' slur. I found it objectionable. I am also aware that there are many people on radio, Limbaugh et. al. that say junk like this all the time. On the one hand I do not believe that talk show hosts need to be inoffensive all the time, on the other I think radio hosts should tend to raise the level of public discourse. Like I said, I am in a quandary.
I do think that Matt Stoller has made a very good point on the issue:
Where do we come into this picture? Well, Imus and these other simpering idiots are getting rich on our backs. As FCC Commissioner Michael Copps pointed out, we give these media and telecom oligarchs $500 billion in public spectrum. Why should they act responsibly when we subsidize them like this? If our culture says that Imus shouldn't be racist, public policy decisions that grant huge subsidies to the people that employ him say otherwise. The problem is Carville, Oliphant, Begala, etc are the beneficiaries of an immoral system that allows cultural gatekeepers like Imus immense power. So let's not be surprised when they defend it.
In the next few weeks we will have the opportunity to really go after these media structures on a public policy level. We've already done it once with some success, by defending net neutrality last cycle. And with the FCC considering how to auction off an immense amount of high quality spectrum that could be used to build an entirely new wireless broadband national network accessible to everyone, there is an opportunity to dismantle these subsidies. The internet shows what is possible when a diverse and open media system takes power from top-downers like Don Imus, James Carville, etc. Bringing this system to everyone, everywhere, and building a new media model on top of it is the way to fix the Imus problem, permanently. It's time to end the redlining that is so obvious all over TV and that is written into the very landscape of modern America.
They are our airwaves. Let's reclaim them.
This is a point I have made repeatedly. The big media outlets are subsidized by the public to the tune of 500 billion per year. They give nothing back. They make a lot of money and simply regurgitate talking points in the name of "news." I do not think, in the grand scheme of things, that the Imuses of the world are the big problem. I think that the public settling for a big media that spends all its time catering to the lowest common denominator in the chase for a buck is the problem. If they get our airwaves for free then they need to be responsible in there coverage of hard news. They need to be responsible for good programming that has at least some educational value. They need to work to promote an educated and enlightened population.
On these measures media has failed us for years. We need to hold them accountable. If the public discourse is raised then the Imuses of the world will die the death they deserve, their fans will stop listening.
As always Digby says it better:
So I make myself some coffee and open my dead tree version of the NY Times this morning only to see a call for blogger ethics on the front page. How interesting. Another call for "managed civil speech" (which is claimed to be "freer" than unfettered free speech.) There was no word on who would be the managers of such speech, but I think we can count on those who call for it to be the ones who feel they are most qualified to define and enforce it. (Apparently, this will all be done "voluntarily" and will be dealt with through purges and link boycotts and the novel concept of moderated comment sections. Or something.) Meanwhile, on the media page is a story about the execrable Don Imus and the fact that he routinely makes racist, misogynistic and eliminationist jokes on his show while half the Washington press corps spends time there kissing his ring. For some reason that kind of "incivility" doesn't upset the journalistic prima donnas half as much as the uncivil blogosphere does. So what's up with this? The blogosphere is admittedly an uncivil place. Nobody disputes that. But it is comprised of a bunch of disparate individuals who are arguing amongst themselves with varying degress of seriousness and talent as part of the national (and international) dialog. There is a corner of it that is despicable and revolting, as the misogyny that set off this latest debate clearly demonstrates. But for inexplicable reasons it's the liberal blogosphere that is being particularly attacked for our alleged incivility by the mainstream media. (I suspect it's the fact that we drop the "F" bomb too much, which is simply shocking in American life) However, for almost two decades now, talk radio has been spewing vile racist, misogynistic and eliminationst spew --- and their stars have been feted and petted for it among the highest levels of the capital cognoscenti. I don't know for sure why that would be, but I have my suspicions. First of all, I suppose it's possible that the media insiders all share the politics and beliefs of Rush and Imus and O'Reilly and Hannity and Savage. They could be crude racists and misogynists and haters of all forms of liberalism who love to make vulgar jokes at others' expense. I have no way of knowing except for the company they keep. So that's one theory. The other is that they are, like a lot of people in this culture, drawn to anyone who makes a lot of money, and lord knows, these spewers of rightwing filth have made billions from selling their hate over the years. Many of the media insiders are extremely wealthy themselves, so perhaps they see Rush and Imus as being part of their social class and therefore are willing to give them a pass. That's another theory.Or maybe it's because they all work for big media companies and there's a certain synergistic pressure on all of them to kiss each others asses. Or maybe it's a combination of all these things and more.Whatever the reason, it's quite clear that mainstream media have either ignored, pandered to or actively embraced hate radio for almost two decades now. Nary a peep has been said about the relentless, daily drumbeat of demogoguery and loathing of their fellow citizens that these talk show hosts vomit onto the public airwaves for anyone with a radio to hear....
The discourse that everyone is so shocked to see is now uncivil and "nasty" was polluted decades ago by a bunch of rich, white businessmen who saw that they could make a very nice profit at exploiting the lizard brain of the American rightwing and help their political cause at the same time. The media thought it was all in good fun (and good for their bosses) just as they do today.