Crappy-Headed Joe

Don Imus has been suspended for two weeks for referring to Rutgers’ female basketball players as “nappy-headed hos.”

Pam’s on fire over the, uh, minimalism of the response and the “shows of solidarity” expressed by the good ol’ boy network that is Imus’ guest list – including GOP presidential candidates John McCain and Mike Huckabee.

One of the quotes Pam pulled from the coverage really stuck out to me. Senator Barack Obama commented: “The comments of Don Imus were divisive, hurtful and offensive to Americans of all backgrounds. With a public platform comes a trust. As far as I’m concerned, he violated that trust.” The part about violating the trust is spot-on. The part about being hurtful and offensive to Americans of all backgrounds is also correct – particularly because these comments weren’t just racist; they were deeply misogynistic, too – but Obama’s comment highlights how shockingly not universal the offense to a phrase like “nappy headed hos” is. Imus’ defenders are practically tripping over each other to defend him.

Digby has a great post after “listening to alleged journalists falling all over themselves on television to assure all of us that Don Imus is a really great guy underneath all the ugliness and that he’s really, really, really sorry. Even David Gregory is vouching for him like a brother while that paragon of integrity Armstrong Williams is begging that he be given another chance.” Hilzoy also weighs in on Imus’ defenders – and their defense that he just lost control of his riff, just ran off the rails: “[T]here is no perfectly good conversational curve that, if misjudged, might lead normal, decent people to go off the rails in this way. It’s not as though decent people might start out discussing real estate or the weather, get things slightly wrong, and suddenly, to their horror, find themselves describing hard-working and successful female basketball players as ‘nappy-headed hos’. That just doesn’t happen.

No, it doesn’t. Of course, decent people don’t use phrases like “nappy-headed hos” in any context; nasty epithets aren’t even a part of their most private lexicon. Imus doesn’t particularly strike me as one of those people. He strikes me as someone who – even taking into consideration his most outlandish public statements – uses language in private he would never use on the air. And his parade of defenders signal with their support not only that this is probably true of Imus, but true of them as well. They talk about women and people of other races in unflattering terms at best, in what most decent people would likely find to be hateful terms. So when they suggest that Imus simply “ran off the rails,” what they mean is that he lost track of where he was and what was appropriate in which sphere.

And they’re defending him because they know they could do it, too.

One horrible day…relaxing their fierce vigilance for the merest moment…and out could slip something they’d usually only say in private…one of the things they only say to the other doodz…

Aw, shucks. It happens, they say.

Yeah, well, it only happens to people who believe that rubbish, who have that shit on the edge of their wicked tongues.

It’s there because it’s a habit they won’t let go. They belligerently defend against the marauding horde of “language police” their right to describe black women as “nappy-headed hos” – it’s a fight they wage mostly in their minds, harrumphing to themselves each time they hear some dumb bitch complain that she is a spokeswoman or spokesperson, not a spokesman. They resolve not to give up calling another guy a “pussy” or a “fag,” because fuck those people!

Some people can’t help but throw tantrums when faced with the evidence of their waning privilege.

Recently, a Shaker emailed me to request that I shouldn’t use “McLame” to refer to “McCain,” because it could be offensive to some people with disabilities. It was a fair point. Naturally, I had intended it to mean “stupid,” not “disabled,” but it took me about a nanosecond to realize I was ignoring the etymology of the word in the same way as people who insist on using “gay” to mean “stupid” – so I jettisoned it from my blogcabulary. (And from my personal speech.) Done and dusted. But here’s the thing – I don’t want to make nasty commentaries about people’s intrinsic qualities. I don’t feel a pressing desire to be able to make sweeping generalizations about a whole race, or a whole sex, or a particular sexual orientation with impunity. So I don’t resist letting go epithets which do so directly or indirectly.

There are people who do.

Why shouldn’t I be allowed to use the n-word? Why shouldn’t I be allowed to call another guy a pussy? Why shouldn’t I be allowed to say all men are dogs? Why shouldn’t I be able to do a funny Asian accent when I talk about Kim Jung-Il? Why shouldn’t I be allowed to call something gay? Why shouldn’t I be allowed to say all straights hate gays? Fuck you and your hypersensitivity!

They pout. And then they refuse, like a stubborn two-year-old, to give up their offensive language. They just move it to the locker room, or the press room, or simply off the air, as the case may be. But no matter how small the sphere in which such things are still acceptable gets, they won’t let go of it, won’t excise from their minds and mouths words that are a nostalgic reminder of days when men like them could do and say whatever they wanted. (“It’s a different time, Imus. … And some of the stuff that you used to do, you probably can’t do anymore,” mused Howard Fineman.) And so this language remains on the tips of their tongues…and sometimes it spills right out and into a microphone.

23 Comments

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23 responses to “Crappy-Headed Joe

  1. the part where obama missed the boat is that the comments were not offensive to americans of all backgrounds. there are millions of racist assholes who tune that shitheel in every fucking day, and they expect to have their racism, their bigotry, their predjudice validated constantly. i quit using imus even for background noise in the morning because of the vile way he was going after ray nagin of new orleans. he had his sound dude (i never watched enough to even put names on these bastards) doing an “impression” which made stepin fetchit look like martin luther king. the problem as i see it is that all americans are not outraged, all americans are not insulted by this. if americans of all backgrounds were insulted they wouldn’t tune in. as long as they are tuning in, as long as they are buying the products advertised, imus will be allowed to do exactly what he has always done because he makes money for the suits.

  2. the part where obama missed the boat is that the comments were not offensive to americans of all backgrounds.

    Well, yeah–they were. Just because there are some, say, white straight male Americans who weren’t offended by Imus’ comments doesn’t mean that no white straight male Americans were offended by them. The point Obama is making is that decent people of every demographic took offense, not just black women.

    But, as I pointed out in the post, which is what you’re saying, too, the offense wasn’t universal–and that is both pathetic and infuriating. And, as you say, precisely why Imus still has a fucking audience.

  3. Ivory Bill Woodpecker

    Shoes. Shoes. Heavy shoes. Soles caked with dogshit. Throw ‘em at Imus.

  4. What absolutely shocked me to the core when reading the transcript was how quickly they went from tatoos…

    to “ho’s”

    to “nappy-headed ho’s”

    – must have taken all of about 2 seconds.

    Earth to Imus:

    LOTS of women have tatoos- especially but not confined to younger women, and the VAST majority of those women never have and never will charge money for sex. PERIOD.

    *asshole*

    2 weeks suspension is NOT enough, he should be retired.

  5. See a tongue-in-cheek visual of Imus and his newfound buddy, Michael Richards, hanging out and counting sheep…here:

    http://www.thoughttheater.com

  6. Imus is an absolute moron, on top of everything else. He has the proven ability to raise money for worthy causes and raise awareness of things like the Walter Reed debacle (he’s been mentioning it on virtually every show, nonstop, since the story broke; he’s vowed not to let it drop until every veteran is cared for properly and all the red tape is done away with).

    But his despicable racism and misogyny (he derides any woman who doesn’t fit his Playboy Bunny ideal, and even some who do) are what people will always think about when they hear his name. How sad.

    Time for him to retire, I think.

  7. Constant Comment

    Imus is a racist, misogynist, bigoted asshole who should’ve been fired years ago. However, my question is, why is he being singled out?
    Where are Beck, Limbaugh and the entire Fox Noise channel? Why the outrage only for him?

    I’d love to see all those vitriol-spewing idiots that pass for news/entertainment off the airways, but why just Imus. Sorry, don’t get why the outrage stops there…

  8. I rather hope that some or all of those women sue him for his remarks – after all, it wasn’t just that he was being a sexist racist, saying offensive things about women of color in general. He was saying these insulting, slanderous things about a very specific group of individuals.

    In either case, he’s a turd.

  9. i have been to the ranch he has in new mexico. he’s a different guy there. still a jerk who says stupid shit trying to be funny, but he’s a different guy around those kids. he, and his family do good things there. that’s where he should go. jesse jackson said that we need to take the profit motive out of racism. i agree. i just saw the rutgers’ team, what class, what dignity. imus should be even more ashamed of himself. he should apologise to the girls privately and then go away. go away. go away. go the fuck away.

  10. Kathy A

    Last night on Countdown, Keith Olbermann said that he had made the decision years ago to not appear on Don Imus’s show (even though it’s on his own network, MSNBC) because of his continual habit of saying really offensive things. His last appearance on Imus’s show was back in 1998, and he’s stuck with his principle in not giving Imus the time of day since then.

  11. nightshift66

    I neither listen to nor financially support Imus in any way. His schtick never appealled to me.

    That said, I am pleased to see that no one here is called for the government to take action against Imus or his broadcasters. Free speech is also, even more vitally, for speech we hate. Public repudiation, counter-speech, economic boycott, refusal by the public to patronize… these are the appropriate responses to bilge, because the power to use today against your enemy will be used against you tomorrow.

  12. However, my question is, why is he being singled out?

    Because his show pulls in, for whatever inexplicable reason, “legitimate” guests from both sides of aisle.

    That means plenty of people have a vested interest in defending him, too.

  13. nightshift66

    CC,
    I wouldn’t necessarily say Imus is ‘singled out’ so much as he violated a social more against racial stereotyping. I note that no one is complaining that he called them a ‘rough-looking bunch’ or denigrated their tattoos. Had he stuck to that vein, he’d have still been a shallow, offensive loon, but he would not have generated the backlash that he did.

  14. Constant Comment

    I can’t remember where I read this, but the conversation regarding “nappy-headed hos” did not end there. His producer threw in a few choice epithets after that but because Imus himself didn’t say it, you don’t see much about it.

  15. Atrios put up the entire conversation, not just the bit that’s being excerpted.

  16. MisFit Farm

    I agree with Constant Comment above – my read of Imus’ statement was that he was responding to a statement instigated by a producer. True, he took the initial statement one step further, and this isn’t an isolated incident for him, but it looks to me that he was just building on the idea put out there by his “leadership” at the network.

    Imus is just another Coulter-cog in the hate propoganda machine.

  17. As Barney Frank said when a Congressional colleague referred to him as “Barney Fag”, “it wouldn’t have slipped out if it hadn’t been in there”.

  18. As Barney Frank said when a Congressional colleague referred to him as “Barney Fag”, “it wouldn’t have slipped out if it hadn’t been in there”.

  19. CLD

    Imus insulted all African Americans, all women and all people of conscience.

  20. CLD

    Imus insulted all African Americans, all women and all people of conscience.

  21. CLD

    These pundits who call this “entertainment” need to be held responsible for what falls out of their mouths.

  22. CLD

    What is going on with the comments? Sheesh… I’m not a noob; sorry for the multi-postings!

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