Saturday, April 14, 2007
Notes on a scandal. posted by Richard SeymourDon Imus. No, I don't know who he is either, much less care. Apparently some sort of radio personality, or possibly a weather balloon. But you might, even if you don't live in America, have caught the recent controversy over his racist and sexist remarks, which led to him being fired by his employer CBS. Over at Counterpunch, Dave Marsh notes that some reacted by demanding that hip hop artists get their act clean before Imus has to apologise for anything. Because apparently, in order to qualify for basic respect, you have to be considered part of a pristine culture that has never actually existed. There is also a terrible amount of bullshit about free speech, as per this atrocious image: as if CBS are somehow obliged to pay Imus a salary; as if they extend free speech on a regular basis to anti-racists and lefties.
But that wasn't what I wanted to mention. Because, you see, I do know a tiny little bit about who Don Imus is. I know he repeatedly describes Arabs as "ragheads". I know that he has suggested that he rather liked Rudi Giuliani because he is "somebody who's willing to take three big ones and drop one on Mecca, one on Jeddah, and one on Riyadh." I know that he has repeatedly made racist comments about black people and Jews, and admitted that one of his co-hosts was hired to perform "nigger jokes". And so on and on, with the usual sexism and gay-bashing to boot, a history as rank and grotesque as you can imagine. So, never mind "free speech", how come this scumbag was employed for more than five minutes to spout this shit? Because, despite the hand-wringing and apologies, the reality is that it is mainstream: for instance, if Thomas Friedman can advocate genocidal violence against Arabs, why can't Imus recommend a nuclear holocaust? It is good that Imus was fired, and it reflects a critical mass that anti-racists were able to achieve. But it has given some yet another opportunity to reflect the prevailing mythology that racism is something happenstance and accidental, something that the dominant culture is assiduously separating itself from. Having ascertained that, it remains only to chastise hip hop artists for being the real problem.