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Steve Scanner

Where Do Ya Draw The Line

I’m guessing the name Don Imus means something to you all these days. Let’s face it, media storm clouds massed over the guy’s head recently and emptied themselves in a frenzy of opinions, criticism, insults and support. What Imus said was, without question, unforgivable. It was sexist and racist on a base level. Further thought on the subject could suggest his comment debased the black woman’s femininity by covertly suggesting that a black woman could never be of equal beauty as that of her European counterpart. Bullshit.

Don Imus, for those who are unaware, is a radio shock-jock. His job is to cause controversy. On 4th April 2007 he ‘crossed the line’ of bad taste and marched into the realms of insulting bigotry. On his show, Imus In The Morning, he described the predominantly young African-American Rutgers (state University of New Jersey) Women’s Basketball team as, "nappy-headed hos." Charming huh? Those words are as subtle - and as damaging - as a midday mugging.

Quite rightly, the Rutgers coach, C. Vivian Stringer, responded stating the comment transcended the basketball team and attacked women as a whole. Imus publicly apologised, was suspended for two weeks and eventually fired by show owners CBS. I would have thought that would have been the end of the matter. I mean, Imus IS a shock-jock after all. What is the point of a shock-jock who has to be careful of just who he can offend and how?

It does seem odd as to why the furore surrounding this piece of white trash has only now occurred. He and his vulgar abuse endured with impunity when he slated Hilary Clinton as a "buck-tooth witch." And again when he called TV journalist Lesley Stahl a "gutless, lying weasel". Even the usual suspects that cause both moral and social outrage failed to register as a negative for this radio-active dirtball: he slated Arabs "ragheads" and Jews "money-grubbing bastards". That’s not even considering the Washington Post writer he branded a, "boner-nosed, beanie-wearing Jewboy." So what made this racist, sexist slur so notable when the above failed to even raise an irksome eyebrow?

It seems that it’s OK to deride the rich and the famous - it’s expected. This time Imus’ target was a group of vulnerable University students. That, it seems, was a breach of shock-jock etiquette. Is this where the invisible line stands between acceptable deprecations and outright, indignant humiliation?

I certainly do not approve of what the guy said, or what he stands for. It doesn’t offend me (although, if I were one of the Rutgers girls, or Jewish, I may have a different outlook). I pity Imus and his limited intelligence that requires him to target others for vicious ridicule; but he has received - finally - his comeuppance. It’s tragic that people tune-in to this juvenile and rather retarded form of locker-boy-mentality ‘humour’ - I guess that says something about society today. It’s interesting to know that, in the wake of this furore, both Republican presidential hopefuls John McCain and Rudolph Giuliani said that they will appear on his show again. "I believe that he understands he made a very big mistake," said Giuliani. That exemplifies Imus’ core listener group I reckon. Imus’ schtick is all cowboy-hatted swagger of white middle-class America; his ‘humour’ sets him up as superior - the alpha dog to supplicant targets if you will.

The other shock-jock of international renown, Howard Stern, can seemingly get away with much more. While he is equally offensive, he is also self-deprecating making fun of his own satyrism. Is there another invisible line that says humiliation is fine, as long as a percentage is fired back on the protagonist?

What I DO support about Imus though is his right to say what he did. You know the old adage, "I may not agree with what you say, but I’ll fight to the death for your right to say it." I believe in that totally. But those who make most use of it have to live with the repercussions. As Punks, we - I hope - pour disdain on those white-power, sexist, racist homophobe bands. I just hope no one who calls themselves ‘Punk’ is shouting that these bands should not be stating their opinion, or that, heaven forbid, they should be ‘censored’. If that is the case, then it was perfectly correct for the SEX PISTOLS’ ‘God Save The Queen’ to be banned. Or the court case against Biafra and DEAD KENNEDYS for the ‘Penis Landscape’ poster that came with ‘Frankenchrist’ was totally legitimate. If you want mass censorship, maybe a move to Iran or North Korea should be on your list. We live in a Democracy where freedom of speech is a right - and one we should all make use of.

Is it not better to have right-wing bands - and individuals - exposed as the pondlife they are? I remember seeing BLINK 18turd years ago supporting LAGWAGON and PULLEY. BLINK said some kinda shit about wanting to see the tits of the girls in the front row and a few other sexist comments. I thought it was cool; not because I approved of what was said, but because I now knew for sure that the band was little more than three prepubescent morons that were riding a Punk Rock wave to stardom and I could now officially know in my own mind that they as people sucked as much as their vacuous sub-standard pop tunes. Likewise Right-Wing turds like Combat 18, the BNP and Le Pen over in France; it’s better we know the ideals of these virus-like creatures than have it all hushed-up and continuing anonymously.

Their right to free speech also allows us to berate - publicly - those bands and people who share such ideals. Even better, it allows us to INFORM others as to the evils of such Neanderthal thinking.

This all goes someway to answering the question of just where the line is drawn between simple ‘bad taste’ and outright offence. There are many lines and through discussion those are constantly being re-drawn as society’s taboos progress, alter and even sometimes, retrogress. Sacha Baron Cohen’s character and film ‘Borat’ I find boorish. Yet, if critics are to be believed, the brilliance is in his ability in offending us to point out the absurdities in our society. A modern day Lenny Bruce is what some suggest. I think that’s an insult to the legacy of Bruce.

The right of free speech ultimately provided retribution for the Rutgers players. It was a catharsis to hear Kia Vaughn at the Rutgers press conference state, "I am a woman, and I am someone’s child. I achieve a lot and unless they’ve given this name, a ‘ho’, a new definition, then that’s not what I am." She stood for a few moments alongside her teammates, heads upright and confident. It was an empowering sight. For just a few moments, those girls drew a line - the line. It was a line that anyone who believes in equality, respect and the right to respond openly to public slurs should have been glad to stand behind.

23.04.2007