- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 19, 2007

The Don Imus affair isn’t over.

The “black community” is not set to launch an attack on the First Amendment, as feared by some libertarians and pundits, who, along with the media in general, give too much credibility to Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson as the sounding boards for the “black community.” Neither man speaks for the “black community” anymore than Pat Buchanan speaks for the “white community.”

The Imus affair isn’t over because Don Imus is an EOO (equal opportunity offender), and his voice served as a forum for people in low and high places.

The voice of Don Imus, which used to speak to millions daily, is silent — for now. Don’t be surprised if his voice is resurrected on the airwaves.

There’s a slew of thought-provokers who are in denial about the Imus affair. They don’t see and don’t want to see it for what it is — an influential talk-radio host who used racially offensive remarks. Since his comeuppance, they have either remained silent or pointed stiffened fingers at all manner of distractions and detractors. Many of them continue to point at the “black community” because gangsta rappers chronicle life in the “black community” in misogynistic terms.

Of all I’ve read and heard since Don Imus committed his offense, the Rev. Jerry Falwell painted the clearest picture: “He said the most demeaning thing possible. He not only criticized the players’ appearance. He criticized their character. He might not like black people, but there is no way he knew what the players’ lifestyle was. He just took a malicious sucker punch at the players. He doesn’t have the foggiest idea how they live.”

The argument that rappers use offensive words all the time and aren’t fired by their bosses and corporate sponsors, as Don Imus was, has nothing to do with the Imus affair.

The argument that Don Imus offends Jews and gays and just about everybody else has nothing to do with the Imus affair.

The argument that Jesse Jackson offended Jews when he called the Big Apple “Hymietown” has nothing to do with the Imus affair.

One thought-provoker commenting on the Imus affair opines that a prostitution-rights advocate laments the lack of public debate regarding the use of the term “ho” to characterize whores. Others — numerous others — called Al Sharpton names to make a cursory point that the media are either in bed or breaking bread with Mr. Sharpton.

Al Sharpton has nothing to do with the Imus affair.

The liberal media have nothing to do with the Imus affair.

The conservative media have nothing to do with the Imus affair.

Hate speech has nothing to do with the Imus affair.

The First Amendment? It has everything to do with the Imus affair. Because of the First Amendment, Don Imus has, over several decades, rightly exercised his big mouth, speaking his opinion and cracking funny and not-so-funny jokes for all to hear.

Regardless of his excerta, nobody pushed to shut him down or shut him up.

The “black community” largely ignored Don Imus because Don Imus largely ignored the “black community” — until he used disgusting words that fateful morning after the women’s NCAA tournament.

Laissez faire.

The silent majority.

People who never parse their words.

All three have a lot to do with the Imus affair.

Don Imus put his big foot in his well-paid mouth so many, many times over many, many years that his listeners, his friends and the people in high places who scratched his back ($$$; wink, wink) had become anesthetized to his many offensives. Journalists and politicians alike regularly visited his on-air persona (and it didn’t hurt that MSNBC, which simulcast his radio show, is respected on the right and the left as “neutral territory.”) People don’t listen to people like Al Sharpton and Don Imus and other talk-radio gab hosts for honest dialogue.

Talk-radio preachers don’t care about the choir and the people in the pews. They preach to excite (and incite) the very people who haven’t showed up for church in a long, long time.

Who has the most to lose if microphones grow silent? Imagine Rosie O’Donnell in bed with Bill O’Reilly. The perfect picture of what this newspaper’s editorial page rightly deemed “a let-it-rip media culture.” Commentary isn’t measured on a balanced scale. Commentary just is.

Most important of all are these facts: Don Imus is not a journalist; Don Imus did not commit a cultural faux pas, as some thought-provokers would have you believe; and free speech will not be torn asunder.

Don Imus is an I’m-gonna-speak-my-mind-at-all-costs radio jock who learned the hard way that an open mic is as powerful as it is dangerous.

And the beat goes on.

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