bad Imus, bad channels, bad us…apologies not accepted

don imus

OK, Imus has been fired.

I don’t care about that so much because I really didn’t listen to him. The stuff I heard on his show I didn’t care for so I turned the channel. That’s what grown-ups do.

What Don Imus said about the women’s basketball team was stupid and offensive…to everybody. Depending on your social or political persuasion, you could argue that most of his show was usually either or both. He’s been doing some sort of inane or “shock” radio for 30 years; what’s the surprise about? People have been free to tune in or tune out Imus’ on-air belligerence for a long time

Controversy is pretty much the only ratings card morning radio has to play any more: A. all news or sports B. all music or C. comedy/stunting/controversial. So on average about 3.5 million people thought Imus’ controversial act (and some political chat) was worth listening to in the morning. Who’s blaming the listeners?

Imus’ employers didn’t care what he said or did as long as sponsors were happy. His sponsors didn’t care what Imus’ said or did as long as the audience and ratings were there. The audience either endorsed or was apathetic to Imus’ shtick (maybe they waded through the obnoxious stuff to get to the heady political interviews).

Then a political group gets wind of an Imus comment (that was stupid and offensive), a dust storm builds up into a tornado and repeated, likely heartfelt Imus apologies become mere interruptions in a diatribe which seem to be about social justice (a good thing) but more often are really about political and/or celebrity gain (a bad thing).

Sponsors and broadcasting companies who have long endorsed Imus’ shtick suddenly distance themselves as if ignorant to his previous work on their air. Who are they accountable to? Don’t say the government because in matters of broadcasting and any word that rhymes with “decency” our government is useless.

I don’t know if Imus is a good person or not but I do know he said a dumb thing, had his apologies summarily ignored and is now out of a job (two words: satellite radio). He gets most of the blame on this to be sure but not so much that dismissal was the only option. Shall we also fire the listeners, sponsors and networks? It seems they should shoulder much of the blame here too.

But we’ve become so comfortable with our scapegoat culture (protest here, finger point there) that once we’ve set our collective laser beams on a target (big or small) we fire at will. Then after the explosion, we move on with no perceptible improvement in OUR behavior.

Do we as a society even know how to accept an apology any more? Are we getting to a place in time where even saying “I’m sorry” is pointless?

Over at CBS, Dick Meyer presented some other points (some similar to mine) on how our culture thrives on building up then tearing down celebrities. I don’t think we’d have to look to far to see how we do this in our own personal and professional lives as well.

Man, I hope we stop doing this soon.

5 Responses to “bad Imus, bad channels, bad us…apologies not accepted”

  1. Peter,

    We have the same feelings on this subject. Good post!


  2. Kara:

    Thanks for your post. While Imus’ behavior certainly gave us all reason to be disappointed, this whole scapegoat culture that each of us (inclusive of all ethnicities) are likely to be a part of seems just as bad as racism. And none of it is acceptable.

    Maybe if we all talk about it and work on it, we can all do better.

    Best always,

  3. Peter,

    Thanks for this excellent and thoughtful post.

    Be well,

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