Friday, April 13, 2007

The Martyrdom of Don Imus

Even in his demise talk show host "nappy-headed hos" Don Imus has attained a form of popular martyrdom. Read any of the many comment boards or blogs or gauge the reaction from commentators and regular citizens alike, and Imus is painted as a scapegoat—a sacrificial lamb (albeit a tainted one) that was vilified by a hypocritical black lynch mob that does not speak out equally against the use of derogatory language towards black women in rap music. Black commentator Earl Ofari Hutchinson even advocates that Don Imus is rapper Snoop Dogg’s “Frankenstein Monster." But did Don Imus really die for our Black sins? Or is the media elite protecting one of their own in order to restrict and limit our discussion?

Click to see the full blog, and judge for yourself:

The Martyrdom of Don Imus
The Devil Wears Hip Hop

A Martyr and the Devil ?

Did Don Imus really die for our black sins?

Even in his demise talk show host Don Imus has attained a form of popular martyrdom. Read any of the many comment boards or blogs or gauge the reaction from commentators and regular citizens alike, and Imus is painted as a scapegoat—a sacrificial lamb (albeit a tainted one) that was vilified by a hypocritical black lynch mob that does not speak out equally against the use of derogatory language towards black women in rap music. Imus had as much to say. "That phrase [nappy-headed hos] originated in the black community….I may be a white man, but I know that these young women and young black women all through that society are demeaned and disparaged and disrespected…by their own black men and that they are called that name." This defense has been cited repeatedly by defenders of Imus, and by those who assert it is rap music that is to blame for his slur. Increasingly conservative commentator Earl Ofari Hutchinson even advocates that Don Imus is rapper Snoop Dogg's "Frankenstein Monster."

However there is a glaring problem with the impending martyrdom of Don Imus—it rests on a series of omissions.

"Nappy Headed Hos:" Chances are if you heard the news story repeatedly, you mostly got the abridged version. Here's the larger context. Imus began by saying the women on the Rutgers team were some "rough girls" with "tattoos." It is the executive producer of the show Bernard McGuirk who interrupts to say, "Some hard-core hos." Imus responds, "That's some nappy headed-hos" and begins to compare them unfavorably to the women of the Tennessee team. McGuirk then jokes, "The Jigaboos vs the Wannabes," alluding to Spike Lee's School Daze. He and Imus go on to talk about the lack of femininity of the Rutgers players. A fellow regular on the show, sports announcer Sid Rosenberg, adds "It was a tough watch. The more I look at Rutgers, they look exactly like the Toronto Raptors." This larger context brings up an entirely different angle. What we have here are several white men indulging in an age old intersection of sexism and racism that degrades black women as either sexually exotic or physically unattractive—at least in comparison to white women. Put together, along with words like "Jigaboo," we have a story more offensive than the "nappy headed hos." But the media inexplicably leaves this context on the cutting room floor. And now our conversations and debates are restricted to, "well don't rappers use ho' too?" and "why is Imus being singled out?" Perhaps it's because "Jigaboo" wouldn't fit into the "it's the rappers fault" theme.

"Bitch is Going to be Wearing Cornrows:" Executive producer Bernard Guirk, who instigated the disastrous remarks about the Rutgers team but goes unmentioned in news stories, just weeks ago made comments that were even more inflammatory. Just one month ago, on the March 6, 2007 edition of MSNBC's Imus in the Morning, executive producer Bernard McGuirk stated that Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY) was "trying to sound black in front of a black audience" when she gave a speech on March 4 in Selma, Alabama, to commemorate the infamous 1965 "Bloody Sunday" Civil Rights march. McGuirk added that Clinton "will have cornrows and gold teeth before this fight with [Sen. Barack] Obama [D-IL] is over." Earlier in the program, in reference to Clinton's speech, McGuirk had said, "Bitch is gonna be wearing cornrows." McGuirk also said that Clinton will be "giving Crips signs during speeches," alluding to the infamous Los Angeles-based street gang. The entire time McGuirk is stating this, denigrating an important moment in Civil Rights history, Imus jokes along, never stating the words himself but urging on the comments and certainly never calling McGuirk out for them. Although all of this happened just a month ago, and McGuirk was intricately involved in this current controversy, somehow he escapes mention in most media depictions of the story. So, again, we are presented with no context by which people can make a sound examination of both the initial controversial event and the very recent history of the show.

"Whitey plucked you from the jungle"…and "took away your spears:" Bernard McGuirk made those statements just one month ago, on the same March 6, 2007 edition of Imus in the Morning mentioned above. He was doing a mocking imitation of African-American poet Maya Angelou. Don Imus, playing along, urges McGuirk to do his imitation of "that woman…the poet" who another guest (Rob Bartlett) compares to "Esther Rolles from Good Times." McGuirk eagerly indulges with a poem where he jokes about slavery and the stereotype of blacks being lazy: "Whitey plucked you from the jungle for too many years, Took away your pride, your dignity, and your spears, With freedom came new woes, Into whitey's world you was rudely cast, So wake up now and go to work? You can kiss my big black ass." It's only after a good laugh that Imus playfully warns McGuirk to stop because "I don't need any more columns."

"Bernard McGuirk is there to do 'nigger' jokes:" That was a quote attributed to Don Imus by producer Tom Anderson in 1998. Imus was speaking to CBS journalist Mike Wallace. At first denying that he had said so, when called to the carpet about it by Wallace, Imus laughed and admitted it—but said it was "off the record."

"That Animal [Venus Williams]….She's an Animal:" That was sports announcer Sid Rosenberg, a regular guest on the Imus show in June of 2001, talking about tennis player Venus Williams. Rosenberg was also part of the crew involved in this latest controversy [comparing the Rutgers women to a male basketball team] who disappeared from the headlines. "That animal…" Rosenberg says of Venus Williams in her appearance at the 2001 U.S. Open, "She's an animal." Commenting on the Williams sisters together, Rosenberg says, "I can't, I can't even watch them play anymore. I find it disgusting…They should play with the men." In his normal way, Imus calls this stupid, but allows Rosenberg to continue with his disparaging remarks. "A friend, he says to me, 'You know what,' he goes, 'Listen, one of these days you're going to see, find Venus and Serena Williams in Playboy.' I said, 'You gotta better shot at National Geographic." To this Imus responds, "That'll be fine." After a small furor erupted over this, Imus fired Rosenberg but re-hired him within a week after an apology was made on the air. Rosenberg would insist that his comments about the Williams sisters weren't racist, "just zoological." After a string of later offenses, including referring to Palestinians as "stinking animals" and mocking singer Kylie Minogue's cancer, Rosenberg was let go in 2005. However earlier this year he returned, and picking up on his old habit of demeaning women, especially black women, he referred to the Rutgers team as "a tough watch" and that "they look exactly like the Toronto Raptors."

As the above illustrates, the Imus show's problems with gender and race are not new. It was part of a larger pattern, one that had long been noted by others like Media or FAIR, though glaringly overlooked by the mainstream media and tolerated by both CBS and MSNBC. Imus often walked a delicate tightrope, never straying directly into the most inflammatory remarks himself, but encouraging and allowing it from both Sid Rosenberg and Bernard McGuirk (the one hired to do "nigger jokes."). A May 30, 1996, column in The News & Observer of Raleigh, North Carolina, protesting the show's treatment of Maya Angelou, summed it up thusly:

"As the show's resident racist, Bernard [McGuirk] allows Imus to remain above the fray. When he wants to. For instance, they recently discussed poet Maya Angelou, who said she no longer watched 'Jeopardy' because the TV show seldom had black contestants. The reason for that, Bernard opined, is because 'Jeopardy' doesn't recruit contestants in prisons or have an affirmative action recruiter. Imus' response? A feeble, insincere 'Stop that.'

In 2000, the show's treatment of blacks became so dismal, that African-American Chicago Tribune columnist Clarence Page appeared on the show and asked Imus to pledge to "cease all simian references [to] black athletes" and "references to noncriminal blacks as thugs, pimps, muggers, and Colt 45 drinkers." Imus responded, "I promise to do that." Page also asked that Imus put an end to black minstrel-like "Amos 'n Andy cuts," to stop the "comparison of New York City to Mogadishu," and cease with "all parodies of black voices." Imus joked, "I think Bernard should be doing this," but accepted the pledge, only to break it almost immediately.

And so the show has long operated. What was different this time was that Imus broke his own rule. Rather than letting McGuirk and Rosenberg make derogatory comments for him, he jumped into the fray, calling the Rutger's team "nappy headed hos." At first refusing to recant, when the heat was turned up he invited himself onto activist Rev. Al Sharpton's show to apologise. And it wasn't long before the media elite--from The Boston Globe's Tom Oliphant to Newsweek's Howard Fineman--rallied around him. However this time it wasn't enough. Key advertisers began to abandon him. MSNBC and CBS, perhaps fearing of opening a Pandora's Box into the show's sordid history, decided to finally cut ties with Imus and take their losses.

This has happened before. Right wing radio host Rush Limbaugh was invited in the summer of 2003 as a Sunday sports announcer for ESPN, even despite a long history of insensitive racial comments. By October of that year Limbaugh found himself mired in controversy when he made disparaging comments about black quarterback Donavan McNabb. Fearful of bad publicity, ESPN jettisoned Limbaugh quickly. Why was Limbaugh axed for what was normal fare on his radio show? Because what is usually allowed in right-wing radio commentary cannot be tolerated on a big name mainstream television station like ESPN.

For Imus, a great deal was tolerated by CBS and MSNBC for a long time. But unlike Snoopp Dogg and the other purveyors of derogatory and sexist "thug" rap, or the radio landscape of insensitive commentary by Rush Limbaugh, Michael Savage and Laura Ingrams, Don Imus was able to have a program on mainstream television outlets that reached millions of viewers. Unlike the explicit drug-dealer glorifying Young Jeezy or the violent fictional mob boss Tony Soprano, Imus interviewed members of the media elite, presidential candidates, influence peddlers, and more. 50 Cent is derogatory in nearly every aspect of his lyricism, no doubt. But much like soft-core porn stars on Cinemax, he and other pushers of smut and violence, aren't afforded these privileges. Imus was. And when he crossed that line—wanting his cake and eat it too—he fittingly had his "ho" card pulled.

Special thanks to Media for the invaluable information.


Thursday, April 12, 2007

Black Radio Host Calls Volleyball Team Stringy-Haired B*tches

A furor erupted last week when black radio host Ron Immons referred to members of the Wilmington College Beach Volleyball Team as "stringy haired b*tches." The comments took place on-air, as millions listened to the popular morning show. Immons, joking with his fellow black producers and several guests, disparaged the Wilmington all-woman, mostly white, collegiate team—going as far as comparing their match against Cal State to the movies Once Upon a Time in America and The Godfather. "It's like the Hymies vs. the Guinea-wops," Immons producer joked.

Controversy Rages On- But is the Sex Industry and Mass Media to Blame?

At first defending his actions and refusing to apologise, Immons has recently done an about face, and today appeared on the white community action network FOX News channel to make amends to white community leaders. Immons called his comments "insensitive and ill-conceived," adding that "[i]t was completely inappropriate, and we can understand why people were offended." However, after being pressed by FOX hosts, Immons became irate, saying he was being held to a double standard.

"This phrase that I used didn't originate with me," Immons stated in his defense. "It originated in the white community. I'm not stupid. I've seen porn before. Pornography in America is a multi-billion dollar business. White men consume most of it. Most of it, not all, but most of it—stars white women. And in those films they use those kind of words…b*tch…slut…whore…all the time, towards other white women. I know that these young white women all through that society are demeaned and disparaged and disrespected by—by their own white men and that they are called that name, and I know that doesn't give me, obviously, any right to say it, but it doesn't give them any right to say it. That didn't give me a right to use it, but that's where it originated."

A frequent white community activist at FOX News had this to say in response:

"Just because white men use that term towards white women, doesn't mean everyone has a right to do so. It's wrong when white men do it. It's wrong when black men do it. And it was wrong when Immons did it."

Some in the white community however, aren't so sure.

"I've been called b*tch numerous times by other white men, at bars, or even during sex," one online white blogger Buffy137 said. "And I know where it comes from—the porn industry, the sex industry, our whole societal obsession with white women as sexual objects. You see it everywhere—beer commercials, movies, rock-stars with flashy women. I don't see how we can get mad when some black radio host says it, but we don't get mad when our own white men say it? We're just being hypocrites!"

Another anonymous white blogger, Megan36, however countered:

"Just because there are shortcomings in the white community doesn't mean someone in the black community can join in. I'm not a b*tch. I'm not some bimbo in a beer commercial, or a rock and roll video, or some online porn star. And neither were those women at Wilmington. If I want to perm my hair curly, that's my business. If I want to wear it natural and stringy, that's also my business. Using the porn and sex media industry is a cop out. Immons needs to be fired."

And today just that happened, as both advertisers and broadcasters dropped Immons. With a history of insensitive remarks on his show, many think this recent flap was considered as too much of a liability. But even with his dismissal, a controversy rages on in America, and especially within the white community, over the use of language in our culture.

© 2007 Your Ass Has Just Been Satired! Institute. All rights reserved


Friday, April 6, 2007

Dancing with the Devil

Recently the Congressional Black Caucus Institute agreed to air a series of debates on black issues on FOX News. For anyone who has watched the right-wing conservative turn in the media, it should be well established that FOX News is the mouthpeice of the Empire. FOX News is run by Roger Ailes, who engineered the political campaigns of Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan and George Bush Sr.--and was also responsible for the racist Willie Horton type ads of the 1980s. When it comes to black America, as evidenced in the above video, FOX News is deplorable. The CBC's decision to partner with it is a bad move that sense a terrible message.

Fox News is part of the global media empire run by right-wing corporatist Rupert Murdoch--who in 2005 even bought myspace. In 2000, it was FOX News consultant John Ellis (cousin to George W. Bush Jr) who called the election in favor of George Bush and against Al Gore. It was FOX News after 9/11 who championed American jingoism that has led to the colonial misadventure in Iraq. During Hurricane Katrina, it was FOX News that first and foremost focused on false reports of black rampaging criminality rather than on the thousands of victims. It was, and still is, FOX News policy to remain the media darling of the Bush White House, the GOP, right-wing pundits, institutions and advocates. FOX News is the only channel Vice President Dick Cheney demands upon his arrival anywhere in the world. Despite being repeatedly called out for blatant misrepresentation, outright lies and disinformation by its core of right-wing bullying pundit like Bill O'Reilly and Sean Hannity, FOX News remains unrepentant in its propaganda. And its affect on the overall journalistic news media--who in order to get ratings have attemtped to simulate it--has been to lower the standard of the profession whose responsibility it is to keep the citizenry informed about its leadership and those in power.

When it comes to black America, as evidenced in the above video, FOX News is deplorable. If the regular news media helps push negative depictions of blacks, FOX News takes it to extreme heights that can only be compared to the Old South of Jim Crow. It is mean-spirited diatribe dressed up as journalism, that exploits tragedy, glorifies stereotypes and pulls on white America's fears of the "other."

When the Democratic National Convention signed on to partner its debates with FOX News earlier this year, there was immediate resistance from grassroots Democrats and progressives--who recognize FOX News for what it is. The DNC pulled out of its partnerships, after realizing that any Democratic debate on FOX News would be spun and twisted to favor the right-wing. It is hard to imagine that a debate on issues of sensitivity regarding the black community would fare any better. Why the CBC cannot see this is hard to understand. So perhaps, we should make them understand. Below is a letter and links to a petition, urging--demanding--the CBC drop its partnership with FOX News, who is not worthy of their presence.

In support of the petition, I submit the following from

Fox News has consistently attacked Black people, Black leaders, and Black cultural institutions. Despite this, the Congressional Black Caucus Institute has announced that it will partner with Fox to co-host presidential debates.

The Congressional Black Caucus is letting us down at a time when Black Americans need strong and strategic leaders more than ever. We are beginning a campaign to make it clear to key CBC leaders, and the voters in their districts, that the majority of us are not with them. We must keep raising our voices, making it clear beyond a shadow of a doubt that Black America is speaking out against this kind of irresponsible and disrespectful representation.

While we work to shame the CBC Institute into dropping out of this embarrassing partnership with a network that consistently denigrates our people, we will also focus on the presidential candidates. The candidates should take the stand that CBC members have been afraid to take—refusing to participate in debates sponsored by a network that is hostile to the interests of Black America.

Please add your personal thoughts or simply sign the petition, stating your opposition.

UPDATE: Following Senator John Edwards, Sens. Hillary Clinton and Barak Obama have pulled out of the debate. However the CBC is still defending their partnership.

What others are saying about the CBC-FOX News Partnership:

"I am disappointed by the Congressional Black Caucus Institute's partnership with FOX, and strongly encourage them to reverse that decision. Why would presidential candidates, or an organization that is supposed to advocate for Black Americans, ever give a stamp of legitimacy to a network that continually marginalizes Black leaders and the Black community? FOX moderating a presidential debate on issues of importance to Black Americans is literally letting the Fox guard the henhouse – FOX should be rejected."--- Jesse Jackson

"There is a difference, however, between compromising preference and compromising principle...The latter is what happens when you represent black interests in the U.S. Congress, but get in bed with a television network that has a history of rank disregard for black interests because you want to be a player in the presidential primary debates. Principle, along with integrity and prestige, is what the Congressional Black Caucus Institute has laid on the line in its partnership with Fox News...So far, it only seems to be another misstep by a group that thinks that 'forgive and forget' are words to live by. That may apply to normal human relations, but not in politics. Not these days. It's a blood war now, and the Congressional Black Caucus, in all of its constructs, would be wise not to let its guard down for a minute."--Tom Joyner's

"Why would the Congressional Black Caucus co-sponsor presidential debates with Fox News? How much does it really cost to rent the CBC Institute?... The CBC-Fox News scandal clearly illuminates the bankruptcy of corporate funded black leadership. The CBC Institute and the CBC Foundation are "not for profit" money pockets created to receive corporate contributions."-- Black Agenda Report

"What were they thinking? What possible justification could the Congressional Black Caucus Political Leadership Education Institute have for picking Fox News to partner with on an upcoming presidential debate? 'Fox News is not a "fair and balanced" source of information or political debate, and it has repeatedly proven itself hostile to the interests of Black Americans... Fox on-air personalities and regular guests consistently marginalize Black leaders, culture, and institutions,' said ColorOfChange in a letter to activists. And they are right. ... Case in point: Fox's recent sustained stain campaign against presidential candidate Barack Obama-they place undue emphasis on his middle name 'Hussein,' say he went to a fundamentalist Islamic school and question his religious affiliation, suggestively characterizing his church as having 'unusual doctrines.' And the network's framing and interpretation of Black (and Brown) issues and culture are often bigoted and lacking in any attempt to truly understand and present a fair picture."--Afro American Newspapers

"Fox has a long history of treating Black people unfairly. They are not a trusted news source for most Black Americans."--Benjamin Todd Jealous – former executive director of the National Newspaper Publishers Associations (NNPA), a 98-year old federation of more than 200 Black community newspapers.

"Why is the Congress Black Caucus condoning the anti-Black and, specifically, anti-Obama onslaught waged by the Fox New Channel, and remaining silent on the CBC Institute's recent announcement to collaborate with Fox to air two presidential debates?"

"Anyone who has been watching the news the past few years should know that Fox News is nothing but a right-wing platform for conservative Republicans. So if that's the case, why were the Democrats even thinking about holding a debate on Fox News in Nevada? I understand the whole idea of reaching out to the other side, but Fox News is not just the other side. They are the opposition. It's one thing to debate Bill O'Reilly or the Fox News anchors. Everybody knows what's going on there. It's another thing to give Fox News a forum it doesn't already have where they can pretend to be 'fair and balanced.' But if the Democratic Party gets it, why doesn't the Congressional Black Caucus?"--Keith Boykin

"I don't think the explicit bias of Fox News is in line with the mission of the Congressional Black Caucus Institute, which if you are wondering, "is to provide political education and training to the next generation of African American leadership"...the prejudices and biases should outrage Black people regardless of their political persuasions. And for that reason, I will make my voice heard to let the Congressional Black Caucus Institute to cancel their agreement with Fox News...Please help us Lord."--Black Blog - SuperSpade

"Why on earth would the Congressional Black Caucus choose to align itself with a network that has proven itself to be racist as a course of normal business operations? As part of their branding strategy? If the Ku Klux Klan or Council of Conservative Citizens had a cable news network, would it be appropriate to collaborate with them on hosting presidential debates, particularly when one of the candidates is black, a CBC member and a consistent target of the network's hatred and misinformation? Like Jesse says, why let the Fox guard the henhouse?"--Jack and Jill Politics