This following article on Don Imus and his firing by was commissioned back in June by Larry Flint’s Hustler Magazine and appears in the current issue. It is reprinted here with the permission of Hustler Magazine and Larry Flint Publications.
Interestingly, an article appeared just recently in The New York Times business section mentioning that Imus had reached a financial settlement with CBS, and speculating when and where he might show up on radio again.
Imus… play with his name a little and you get: I’m us.
And, in a profoundly sad way, Imus is us. He is America.
He is/was/will be again when he gets hired someplace else, an angry, powerful, bigoted, white man.
But at the same time, Imus is also a victim of the culture that gave birth to him, nurtured him and made him a sort of god to begin with. And in the end everybody was in on his crucifixion; His corporate sponsors, the executives at CBS, his lackeys and side-kicks, even, in a way, his listeners… everybody. And, of course, Imus was a victim of his own god-like delusions.
In ancient Rome, when a conquering hero—a general who’d won a great battle or massacred and subdued yet another race of people—returned to Rome, he was feted with a triumphal march through the city, riding on a golden chariot with tens of thousands of screaming onlookers throwing flowers and shouting his name—ultimately to be crowned with laurels by the emperor.
Lest this hero get too carried away by his own magnificence, a man was appointed to ride in the chariot with him and periodically whispered in his ear: “You’re only a man... You’re only a man.”
So who was telling Imus all these years he was only a man?
His CBS employers? No. You’re a god Imus, here’s another contract extension. His sponsors? No. We’re thrilled to be on board your million-listener show.
Was Imus’s sidekick and producer, the slimy Bernard McGuirk, telling Imus anything he didn’t want to hear? No.
And what about Imus’s guests—the authors, journalists, politicians? No again. They needed his listenership to sell their books and to bask in Imus’s reflected glory.
And whose silence was the greatest? His listeners—without whom, ladies and gentlemen, he would never have gotten so carried away with himself. It was like having a non-stop Roman celebration and no one to tell him he was only human.
I think Imus deserved every bit of his humiliation—short of the firing. It was hypocritical. And after all, the man isn’t just a mindless bigot. He’s also an intelligent, generous man who has helped a lot of people.
But whatever the final judgment, Imus is, again, only one man. If we learn anything from this guy’s humiliation we must see that Imus was really a supreme symbol of something particularly American.
This country is owned and operated by shock-jocks.
The biggest shock-jock in the country sits in the Oval office. Surrounded by sycophants and corporate vultures, just as Imus was for thirty years, George Bush—mean-spirited, insulting, and out-of-control—shocks (and awes) the world with his invasions and threats of invasions. Is anyone more more arrogant, insensitive, or hurtful than George Bush? He’s the Shock-Jock-in-Chief.
See him in his crotch-enhanced jump suit on the carrier deck, smirking, strutting and slapping hands, while people—in our own country and overseas—are dying from hunger, disease, poverty and violence; dying as the direct result of his abuse and neglect. Think of Bush’s response to Katrina, or his treatment of veterans. See his military “surges” and crazy efforts to infect the whole government and, in turn, the whole country, with his born-again lunacy.
Given all this, you have to wonder why they’re bothering to pick on Imus, an aging, fake cowboy, spewing petty shit from a radio studio.
America is a shock-jock culture.
Just watch a couple of nights of television. The most popular programs are all about ridiculing and demeaning people, making even bigger clowns of sad losers who see a slim possibility for fame or money. And its not just American Idol, Survivor, Fear Factor and The Apprentice that are to blame—it’s the last two decades of daytime shows, from Oprah to Doctor Phil; shows where poor, disturbed jerks come on and reveal their sad lives to millions of people who are only too happy to see somebody worse off than they are.
It’s not the programs alone, it’s also the commercials—all about nastiness. People are knocked down, blown up, insulted… Roaring machines, spewing pollution, scream across forests, deserts, lakes… It’s all speed and noise, winners and losers, just to peddle useless crap to a junkie culture already trillions of dollars in debt.
And, of course, all of this is incestuously connected. The lust for money from the corporate sponsors informs the content and style of the programs; the programs shape the content and style of the culture at large, which, in turn, spends its money on the products made by the sponsors of the programs. It’s a whirling carousel of predatory consumption in which real thought and feeling, and any consideration of humanity and decency, is utterly lost.
So, why pick on Imus when he is just one more fish swimming in a toxic cultural ocean?
Imus, the poor nasty sap, said the wrong thing at the wrong time about the wrong people—and he’s paying for it.
But before that he was the one getting paid, and paid well.
CBS and Imus’s sponsors made millions from his show and that necessarily included his long-running abuse of powerless people. Now, having encouraged and helped Imus to do this all these years, his employers and sponsors are shocked, shocked!, to discover that he is offensive and people are hurt by his insults.
Well, anyway, Imus is out. But I don’t think he’ll be out for long. Other shock-jocks—not to mention politicians and “commentators”—are still saying worse things on radio and television every day.
For better and for worse, Imus will rise from the dead.
The real question is, will America raise itself up from the toxic soup it has been cooking itself in for the last couple of decades?
Can this country rescue itself from the retro-swamp of power, greed, violence and bigotry into which it has sunk?
Like they used to say in what I like to think of as the good old days of radio… stay tuned.
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