Sunday, July 06, 2008

The humorless Imus escapes another mess

"No white man with a radio program has talked about race more than I have over these last few months," said the whimpering Don Imus, the day after his latest faux pas concerning the black athlete Adam "Pacman" Jones. And he's right. No one has been foolish enough to think that the way to put to rest a controversy concerning race is to emphasize and hype the subject throughout entire shows. And, the foolish man proudly added, "We talk about it all the time!" And, indeed, he does. When he and his new employers, ABC Radio, sat down to plot out the new show's format, how did they come up with the idea to turn it into an excessive veneration of blacks?

When Imus returned to radio last December, after his eight-month hiatus, he came armed with two black monitors, a man and a woman, at his side, obviously, to help keep him on the correct track. These two watch keepers, respectfully called "co-hosts" (Imus has never had a co-host), are known in some benighted circles as "comedians," a designation either has yet to prove on this morning show. In fact, in its new incarnation, it's hard to listen to any more than a 5- or 10-minute segment of any part of the show. Imus has gone so overboard on the subject of race, and blacks especially, that his once playful satire has turned into nauseating pandering. He now provokes mockery and ridicule among many who once made up his faithful listener base.

In his recent "explanation" of his Pacman comments, he recited a list of blacks (whom he incessantly calls "African-Americans"), who appear on his new show as guests, on a frequent or irregular basis. Among these is Professor Debra Dickerson, whose dialogues with Imus border on the innocuous and trite. If you have ever read or listened to Cornel West, you will have an idea of what semi-coherent, hackneyed commentary sounds like. In this case, it's noisy chattering, designed to tell happy stories about blacks and their outstanding accomplishments. It's like listening to Farrakhan-lite, that is, minus the claims of flying machines buzzing around pharaonic Egypt. It is b-o-r-i-n-g!

Imus's effusive and exaggerated flattery of the comedian Dick Gregory, another recently invited guest of the show, has reached the level of the absurd. Eager to court this man whom he obviously thinks of as some sort of black icon with influence, Imus raves on endlessly about how "brilliant" Gregory is, what a "genius" he is, what a"credit to America." He plays clips of Gregory's senseless verbal meanderings, and actually interrupts conversations with other guests, in order to sing the praises of Gregory.

Gregory, who is still caught up in a 1960s time warp of rants designed to make him a Preacher and Scold to white folks, and whose shtick was already outdated by the early 1980s, comes off as a remnant of a thankfully bygone era. If he was ever funny, you certainly would not know it from the verbal flim flam he engages in today.

In his terror of making a misstep, Imus has rendered the show humorless. Worst of all, his fear is palpable. The restraints that he has placed upon himself, in order to conform to the correctness to which whites like him are now consigned, jump right through the radio. You can almost see the short leash to which he is tied.

His recent dumb comments make it clear that he's not quick-witted enough to hear what he's saying and to understand the possible implications and misinterpretations. When one lives in his terror zone, one needs to be quick on the draw at every minute, and then capable of backtracking immediately, in order to stave off charges of "racism" from the usual suspects. But his overweening desire to please makes him so hyper that he goes from inadvertently making a crypto-stereotypical remark unfavorable to blacks, to claiming that all black men are unjustly arrested and set upon by the system. Thus, the six-time arrested Pacman becomes a "lovely kid" -- on the basis of no reasoning given.

This year, on January 21, Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, Imus turned the show into a predictably sappy, sentimental homage. Predictable, not because he had ever devoted any time in the past to King, predictable due to Imus's current state of mind and his determination to absolve himself of his past racial sins. This was surely the day on which to do it.

The fact that he did not take this day off was most unusual. In all the years I listened to Imus, I never remember him broadcasting on a holiday. He always seemed eager to take the time off, and "The best of . . ." replays were common. But, in his present state, he could not miss this opportunity to demonstrate his reverence for the Great Reverend. It hardly did him any good, however, since the Pacman remarks set off another firestorm, with calls, once again, for his firing. Al Sharpton wasted no time in expressing doubts about the sincerity of Imus's earlier apologies and seemed poised to dive bomb into action, if necessary. Deja vu.

You might sometimes feel embarrassed for Imus's two black sidekicks, until you remember that the station is paying them big bucks to act as a kind of cover for the Crazy, Old White Man. These two have lucked out and are the end result of the NAACP's most successful campaigns – i.e., blacks being paid just for being black – a form of Reparations.

One might ask, What will some white men do to hold onto a job? Well, it's not just Imus's job that's at stake. At about the time of his first debacle last year, his wife Deirdre had just launched her very worthy line of "green" products, and had published a book on the subject. She was poised to do all the conventional talk shows, public appearances, etc. And then Imus dropped the "Nappy-headed" bomb. I don't think we want to know what went on in that household once the public uproar took hold. No doubt his abject groveling is as much an attempt to restore Deirdre's credibility, which was tainted by his intemperate remarks, as to save his own neck.

I once accused Senator Trent Lott of being the ultimate exemplar of those who engage in the White Man's Crawl, with radio personality Doug Tracht as a close second, but this baton has got to be passed to Don Imus. You just can't get any more prostrate at the feet of Political Correctness than this guy.

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