Don Imus & The End of Controversial Voices?

This is the last time I step on this dead horse, I promise.

Media owner/critic [and Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban asks interesting questions about the Imus fallout. Here’s one:

Was Imus the last “media provocateur”? If most media are controlled by major corporations, who is going to be willing to put their job on the line and say something that might catch the fancy of tabloid news, and in turn upset the board of directors? Who is going to be willing to knowingly take an unpopular position and accept the accompanying risk?

This basically translates to asking if any network will have any gall to support people who say crazy and/or stupid things. Cuban mentions that he thinks Fox News would. He’s right, and they have demonstrated that time and time again.

This is important to ponder when thinking about media and media reform. What level of controversy and/or offensiveness is acceptable or should be permitted? Should any?

Let’s flip this and ask the same question: If [insert your “prominent” Black non-sports media personality here, but for the purposes of example I’ll say] Tom Joyner said some horribly offensive things about white or Hispanic women, would you want him fired?

Let’s be careful with our double standards. We all know that they exist. The question is where/if they ever make sense.

One Love. One II.


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About Garlin Gilchrist II

I am the City of Detroit's first ever Deputy Technology Director for Civic Community Engagement. My job is to open up the city's public data and information for the consumption and benefit of all Detroiters. I currently live in Detroit, my hometown, with my beautiful wife Ellen and our twins Garlin III and Emily Grace. I'm from Detroit. I created Detroit Diaspora, and was formerly the National Campaign Director at I also co-hosted The #WinReport on "The Good Fight," a an award winning, nationally syndicated radio show that was one of Apple's Best of 2013. After graduating with degrees in Computer Engineering and Computer Science from the University of Michigan, I became a Software Engineer at Microsoft. By day, I helped build SharePoint into the fastest growth product in the company's history. On my personal time, I sought out opportunities to connect my technical skills with community building efforts across the country. This led to my co-founding The SuperSpade: Black Thought at the Highest Level, a leading Black political blog. I served as Social Media Manager for the 2008 Obama campaign in Washington, and then became Director of New Media at the Center for Community Change. I spent two years creating and implementing a strategy for the Center to take it's 40 years of community organizing experience into the digital age. I speak before diverse audiences on effective & responsive government, empowerment in revolutionary new organizing spaces, increasing civic engagement & participation through emerging technologies and protecting civil rights in the age of the Internet. Full bio here.

7 responses to “Don Imus & The End of Controversial Voices?”

  1. Brandon Q. says :

    Great post G. I am so convicted at your example of Tom Joyner saying something degrading towards White or Hispanic women. I think given his long history of uplifting our people, I wouldn’t want him fired. On the same token though, when it came to the controversy surrounding the Radio Host from (I think it was Hot 97) rapping a song about the victims of the tsunami, I wanted her to be fired and she was Black.

    However, my bird’s eye view is that yes, Fox will continue to support ignorance but mainstream ignorance will go underground via the blogosphere. This way, mainstream reporters will be able to export the controversy without the responsibility.

  2. Edward says :

    Greetings everyone. Great post. I don’t believe in media reform per se. It won’t matter what occurs because some group will always be offended at some point; either by the attention they’ve gotten or lack thereof.

    If Tom Joyner said something offensive to those groups, he would have to held accountable to the people he works for. I don’t want anyone fired because it isn’t my place. (Just like IMUS)

    Brandon is right about Fox only because that sells with their core audience. When their audience doesn’t implicitly demand it, they’ll do something else. Pure economics. No social responsibility.

  3. Garlin II says :

    Thanks Edward for chiming in. I have to ask though, what was Imus’ core audience? I doubt it is Black women…

  4. mary says :

    Tom Joyner has already said racist and sexist things. Would I want him fired? Nope. If I were offended I could simply cease to listen to the show. I would, however, love to see Howard Stern’s voice removed from the airwaves as well as miscogynist and vulgar songs, because the media is what shapes the children’s attitudes. I do understand why the young women over-reacted. By forcing the firing, rather than being big enough to accept his apology and try to understand how he happened to cross the unspoken double-standard rule, they contributed to widening the “racial divide”.

  5. Garlin II says :

    Mary, I fail to see why you would only “cease to listen” to Joyner. Why can’t you just “cease to listen” to Stern?

    Also, I did not interpret the actions of the basketball team as “forcing the firing.” If anything, they are the only ones that accepted the apology given by Imus.

  6. mary says :

    Actually I do not listen to Stern. I observed a parent that watched his television show with his young sons. I saw how the boys attitude towards their mother and girls in general became disrespectful. Of “it is okay to degrade women” in the manner that Stern does.

    My understanding is a campaign to flood the station with protest phone calls and emails was what forced the firing of Imus and McQuirk who started the comparrision to teams from a Spike Lee movie.

    I don’t think it was intended to be racial slurs, but an attempt at humor gone bad due to ignorance on Imus’ part. By making the issue front page news, it has added fuel to racists and bigots fires.

    There are bigger issues of racist discrimination that need to be dealt with including media bias. It would be nice if adults were more mature and responsive to how their words affect listeners. There is a thin line between censorship and freedom of speech.

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