Since I've been laid up for most of the past few weeks, I'm probably about the only blogger around who hasn't taken a shot at l'affaire Don Imus. Now that the blade has dropped on the grizzled talk show host, it's probably too late anyway, but there are a few things worth noting.
First, things must be pretty tangled if I find myself disagreeing with Hugh Hewitt and agreeing with Don Shelby. I had that happen yesterday and it made me wonder if my meds were off. Needless to say, nearly every radio commentator around has been weighing in on Imus, who is a genuine giant of the industry despite all. Hewitt, to my mind, is one of the smartest, most pragmatic guys on the right wing side of the dial, and his take on Imus is that he had it coming. Hewitt went out of his way to praise his advertisers and to note that when Imus's corporate sponsorship started drying up, Imus was going to be toast. While that is almost certainly true, I found myself feeling a little less blithe about the efforts undertaking by race-baiters like Al Sharpton in drumming up this controversy. Sharpton abjured a victory lap yesterday, but he is clearly more powerful than ever as a result of taking down one of the biggest voices on the airwaves. I don't see how that can be a good thing.
Then there was Don Shelby, lovingly known as "DFL Don" for his barely disguised sympathies for all things that would increase the size and scope of the Leviathan state. Shelby has for the past year been an amazing shill for those who would use global warming/climate change/"wait, the focus group is trying to come up with a better name" to control our lives. Shelby's 90 second homilies generally are paeans to such nonsense. But there was Don, condeming Imus's specific remarks but also calling out, forcefully, the hypocrisy of Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson in this matter. Shelby actually did something useful - he reminded his viewers that Sharpton's public career began with his active propagation of the Tawana Brawley hoax back in the 1980s. Then, for good measure, Shelby dug back and called out the Reverend Jackson for his infamous "Hymietown" remarks from distant 1984. Shelby actually seemed disgusted about it. After watching this, I looked at the lovely Mrs. Dilettante, shrugged my shoulders and began applauding the television screen. Haven't done that in years, and never for DFL Don before.
So what does this all mean? Ultimately, I think there's a little more going on. The coincidental timing of the complete implosion of the Duke lacrosse team scandalette, which has more than a few parallels to the Brawley matter, adds another dimension to this discussion. You have also seen, if you watch and listen carefully, that there's a certain amount of scrutiny coming to those who are responsible for producing the hip hop culture that makes using terms like "ho" seem less, well, unacceptable. For pale males such as myself, there are certainly limits to the available discourse, but determining where the boundaries are is increasingly difficult. My great fortune is that I've essentially stopped worrying about what's going on in popular culture for the last 20 years or so, but for those who live in the pop culture vortex, especially fusty ol' dudes like Don Imus, knowing how to sound like a hipster without crossing the ever-capricious line gets tougher and tougher. And when someone like Sharpton can set himself up as an arbiter of where the line is set, it's pretty problematic, no?
Increasingly we live in the same place, but we have a hard time talking to each other. Chris Rock can say things that Don Imus can't. Rosie O'Donnell can apparently say anything she wants. Hope you can say whatever you want, too. But don't count on it.