12 April 2007

Don Imus, Duke University, and the Art of Media Persecution:

Since this is a blog, this provides a forum pretty much world-wide in its scope. These opinions are purely mine, though I would be more than happy to enter debate on this matter as well.

Today's subject though may seem recycled to many. I hope that is the case, because I have also reached my saturation point on two issues as well. These two issues, Don Imus and the Duke University lacrosse team, are inextricably linked in my mind. This is because the court of "Public Opinion" has tried and convicted both, and doesn't seem to see any sorts of lesson to learn from one matter to apply to the other.

Firstly, the parable of the Duke University lacrosse team. If many may remember, the Duke University lacrosse team threw a party, and also had some women at this party. One of the women who attended this party leveled allegations against members of this team which resulted in criminal charges to these members. And then the media got involved. Because of shield laws, all the information could not be published, which is and should be absolutely fine. BUT, the same mass media published incomplete accounts. Due to the media's description, everyone became outraged and reacted rather than to take a step back to say, "Wait. These men are innocent until proven guilty, not the other way around."

Now, the last of the charges have been dropped against these men. Now, here's a key distinction: because my information is still incomplete, for all I know they could still be guilty, and the prosecutor may just not have the evidence. I honestly don't know. What I *do* know is that a much more exhaustive investigation than the initial publishing of the charges has happened, and as a result of that investigation charges have been dropped. And in the court's eyes, this does mean that these men are innocent. Following this announcement, the last point of the matter is that the media was completely irresponsible in broadcasting "news" to inform people, they merely attempted to inflame people in order to hopefully justify more coverage and therefore more viewers, so that their profit margins could be satisfied.

Congratulations, mass media. You did it again.

The latest controversy is Don Imus and the comments he made in regards to the Rutger's women's basketball team. I took the time to at least obtain the transcript for his comments. His exact words were "nappy-haired ho's". While this is not exactly respectful and the word choice is poor, the resulting media blitz of blame for Don Imus is morally bankrupt. I'm sure that we as humans have all been in unfortunate situations, and that we do make mistakes. Don Imus has taken many pains to apologize, and whether or not you may believe it is your choice.

People were offended. So be it. However, this is not a crisis. This should not even be a tempest in a teapot. The mass media has constructed yet another crisis out of something that is terrifically and horribly minor. Additionally, how is anyone helping the situation by dwelling on what has happened instead of moving on? He was wrong, and I will repeat that as many times as needed. But this does not justify all of what is STILL going on. I have seen this same topic on NBC's flagship morning program, "The Today Show", at least three days in a row. ESPN was more than happy to discuss it too. This topic has been kept in the public view for days now, and in a number of different ways. And like it or not, this situation is being exploited.

To begin, the mainstream media gives time to people who would normally not warrant national media exposure but who are happy to receive such attention in situations like these Examples include Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton, both "Reverends", who seem not to have heard of the creed of forgiving others as God would forgive. Can anyone name the last time that Al Sharpton appeared for two days in a row on the Today show on NBC? These people are more than happy to continue this idiocy, due to the recognition and national scope they are provided. In other words, they have a *VESTED* interest in keeping this mess rolling, and they are doing an admirable job. Of course, this dovetails nicely into the media's wishes to keep this issue at the forefront of national news, as analyzed below.

Secondly, the media members themselves (namely the anchors) as well as the network (MSNBC, where Imus's show used to be simulcast on television) get to show the viewers how very indignant they are, and therefore superior, fair, and steady mouthpieces who are far more inclusive and sensitive than Imus is. Special mention goes to MSNBC, who first decided to suspend Imus for two weeks, and now has completely pulled his show less than 48 hours after deciding its initial punishment. I would like to mention that it is a good thing that the corporate supervisors at MSNBC are not in charge of our court systems, as I would hate to be the convict who received sentencing, and further sentencing, and further sentencing.

Third, further special note goes to the fact that MSNBC removed Imus from simulcast. Your message to your viewers is so mixed, I can't even decipher it. You knew that Imus was not the most politically correct person to host a radio show, or at least I can only presume that MSNBC has some sort of screening process for the people who appear on MSNBC's airwaves. But when the man says something the slightest bit controversial, not even something that is up to libel standards, you fire him. So, what is your choice? You want controversy, but now you don't? You purport to give your viewers facts and information, but you were broadcasting the OPINIONS of a radio host, and then let him go when his opinions become unpopular. Are you afraid that people can't think for themselves if they hear unpopular opinions? You don't think your viewers are capable of saying, "You know what, he may be wrong about this issue"?

While I believe the above is true to some extent, I believe that the truth lies elsewhere. MSNBC, you have reinforced a valuable lesson to every last one of your viewers. Imus's sponsors pulled their ads due to what he said. What if he had said something extremely unpopular but true? If sponsors pulled their ads due to what he may have said, would he still have been let go? If Snoop Dogg was a guest of Imus and had said the exact same words about the exact same people, would the statement still have been completely false?

Now as a result of all this attention, we have an issue that is at everyone's lips. This is for all the wrong reasons and it is because the media conflated it into a major issue. Congratulations, NBC, and other major networks. I do not know if you feel that this is *gaining* you viewers, but you have just guaranteed to your sponsors that I will NOT be watching the commercials which you have based your business decisions on. Enjoy your pursuit of "news" without me.

The epilogue of this matter is that gross profiteering, especially in organizations that are supposed to be "fair" and "unbiased", is just as shameful as any of the comments that Don Imus uttered.

I am sure that I will be labeled as a conservative purely due to the side that I am taking on this matter, which presupposes that this is not an important matter. I am sure that some people feel that this is an important matter. So be it, I will not argue that point at present. But I do not feel that this matter should have been blown up to these proportions. I am currently arguing for a rational point of view. These comments were uttered on 5 April 2007, and it is now 12 April 2007 and this is still a major news story.

To all who disagree with my stance above, please explain why this is still a major news story. The man has been punished, twice, so when does the story end? Is there nothing else going on that needs the media's attention, such as Iraq or any current legislation that is being passed in Congress? In this situation, I really have to question the motives behind how this issue has been reported by the media, and who really stands to gain the most from what has happened.

Many apologies to the people who live outside the United States who were subjected to the above rant. I hope that your medias aren't as exploitative as ours.

I do not have a lot of time to surf the Internet, so therefore I do not know if this rant is written elsewhere. However I can assure you that these are my words, and any debate they engender would be welcome.

1 comment:

Daphne said...

Well written article.