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Free Speech?

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  • Free Speech?

    Imus Debacle Raises Bigger Issue of Our Coarse Culture
    Monday , April 16, 2007
    By Susan Estrich

    Whoís next?

    Tom DeLay is after Rosie OíDonnell. Bob Cesca, on the Huffington Post, is after Bill OíReilly. Everybody is after Rush.

    Free speech anyone?

    Our Founding Fathers had this idea that the marketplace of ideas works best when the answer to a wrong idea is a true one, and not a muzzle. Censorship is the evil to be avoided, more dangerous to a free society than offensive words.

    Of course, the First Amendment applies only to state action. It doesnít guarantee haters a microphone or a mouthpiece. It doesnít prohibit broadcasters and news organizations from exercising responsibility in deciding who they put on, who they pay, who gets their audience. It doesnít require networks to give a forum to those who preach hate, whether from the left or the right, whether itís Ann Coulter or Cindy Sheehan.

    But the line between public action and private action is not always a bright one. Why was Barack Obama calling for Imusí firing? Why did Hillary post the Rutgers team on the home page of her Web site?

    Why were the candidates and contenders all over this one like a wet blanket?

    NBC and CBS didnít just go off on their own and decide what to do about their money-making shock jock. Or, rather, when they did, in CBSí case, they concluded that he shouldnít be fired. So why the change in attitude?


    Some of that pressure came from advertisers, who didnít want to be viewed as sponsoring Imus. Thatís the market. Money talks. Imus probably should have been spending more time apologizing to his advertisers than trying to make things right with the Rev. Al Sharpton.

    But again, it wasnít just advertisers operating in a vacuum, consulting their own consciences, deciding what speech they wanted to support and what they didnít. The advertisers didnít have problems with Imus until Sharpton and Obama and Hillary did.

    With everyone looking over their shoulders, who is looking ahead?

    Imus was fired not for an original comment, but for repeating a popular rap lyric. He was fired for referring to women the same way they are referred to in music, movies and popular culture, for using a phrase I wonít let my 14-year-old son use in front of me, but that I have no doubt gets plenty of use behind my back. He was fired because it was easier to do that than to confront the underlying problems of a culture that is so vulgar and so coarse that it seems almost impossible to find lines any more, let alone draw them convincingly. He was fired because it was easier than taking the heat.

    Will firing Imus raise the level of discourse in America? Will it cause the rappers to think twice before demeaning women, the Imus imitators to go back to the drawing board, the second-tier clones of Sean and Rush to clean up their acts?

    Not likely.

    What is more likely is that activists on both sides will take Imusí demise as a call to action and a road map for suppressing those they disagree with. What is more likely is that politicians will smell an issue with legs and try to ride it. What is more likely is that we will dig in on our separate sides, to get even or get ours, by getting theirs. What is more likely is not that we will end up with better speech, but just less free speech.

    Sharpton, who came to public fame in the Tawana Brawley case, making racist charges that proved to be totally without foundation, has said that he views the Imus affair as the first step in a larger discussion of the permissible limits of public expression. Al and I have many of the same friends, and the same opponents, but hereís the difference. I donít want Al telling them, or me, what we can and canít say. I think we can win the argument, if weíre given the chance. Itís getting that chance that we should be fighting for, not getting rid of those we disagree with. Replacing Imus with Imus-lite is not nearly as great an accomplishment as it would have been to get more diverse voices on the air who could take on Bill and Imus and Rush and Sean. Thatís how free speech works best.
    Editorial Linked Here

    I think Imus is a moron. But I thought that before this whole escapade. I think it is professional suicide to make most any comment that can be construed as negative, derogatory or racist for most people in the US. I think that he should have used better judgement but he didn't.

    Now I think it is time to move on.

    If we all sat around throwing a fit about everything that everyone said that we did not like, did not agree with or found offensive we would never get any work done.
    "To dream of the person you would like to be is to waste the person you are."-Sholem Asch

    "I always turn to the sports page first, which records people's accomplishments. The front page has nothing but man's failures."-Earl Warren

    "I didn't intend for this to take on a political tone. I'm just here for the drugs."-Nancy Reagan, when asked a political question at a "Just Say No" rally

    "He no play-a da game, he no make-a da rules."-Earl Butz, on the Pope's attitude toward birth control

  • #2
    I didn't find his remarks to be very remarkable... you can hear that kind of talk at any local high school or comedy show. What his said was not racist and honestly wasnt that offensive. The only people that should be offended should be those that were called "nappy headed hoes" not others because they "feel for here" or act as if it was them that was disrespected. It is truly ludacrous that he should lose his job over what many people would say nowadays would say just the same.


    • #3
      There is freedom of speech, but he pissed off the people who payed him, and, in America that is truly unacceptable.

      I agree with James though, while what he said was unprofessional, Carlos Mencia will say something just the same every joke.

      Now, Imus is an ******* (pardon my french), and he has been saying stuff like this for a while, but for him to lose his job? My god, America really is all about money.
      "you have enemies, good. That means you stood up for something, sometime in your life"