Letter from the Editor 

It all started when Don Imus made fun of Hawaiian singing legend Don "Nappy-headed" Ho. Then, ol' Tiny Bubbles up and died! After that, things got crazy. The media went into a feeding frenzy, and Imus was ultimately fired from his gigs at MSNBC and CBS Radio.

At least, I think that's how it went down. But I could be confused. It's hard these days to keep track of all the stupid things people say into a microphone.

Let's review the action over just the past year: There was Imus' racial slur against the Rutgers women's basketball team; Mel Gibson slandering Jews after being arrested for drunken driving; Kramer (Michael Richards) attacking blacks in his standup comedy routine; Ann Coulter calling presidential candidate John Edwards a faggot in a speech to a conservative group; Virginia senator George Allen naming a young man "Macaca" during one of his stump speeches; and Rosie O'Donnell using fake Chinese words to make fun of Asians.

Is there anyone left uninsulted? Oh yeah, straight white people. But that could be remedied easily enough if you count the Duke lacrosse team players, who were called rapists and worse by MSNBC news-harpie Nancy Grace and the Rev. Al Sharpton (deacon of the Church of Shameless Self-Promotion). Or Memphis city councilman Edmund Ford, who suggested a couple of his councilmates should "get a white sheet."

So, why is it that all these folks got in trouble? I think it's because they dared to insult folks outside their peer group. Black rappers and comics use the same phrases Imus used without losing their jobs. Jewish comics make fun of their Jewishness all the time. Gays call each other slang terms that straight folks dare not employ. But let someone outside the fold do the same thing and it's racism or anti-Semitism or homophobia.

Is there a lesson here — besides the obvious fact that the difference between a joke and an insult often depends on who's talking and who's listening? I don't know. Maybe it's that free speech means just that: It's free for everybody, whether you like what you hear or not.

Bruce VanWyngarden

brucev@memphisflyer.com

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT

Blogs

News Blog

Supreme Court Steps In on Fayette Church Matter

Intermission Impossible

Muhammad Ali Meets Stepin Fetchit at The Hattiloo Theatre

News Blog

Task Force Considers Medical Cannabis

News Blog

Trolleys Return to the Tracks for Testing

Music Blog

Jessi Zazu: In Memoriam

Beyond the Arc

Deflections: The Roster, TV Angst, and The Buy/Sell Clause

Film/TV/Etc. Blog

The Vietnam War

We Saw You

Cooper-Young Fest, Big Bugs, Art of Caring

Music Blog

Linda Heck: Bound to ExCITM tonight

Intermission Impossible

A Memory of Charles Billings

ADVERTISEMENT

More by Bruce VanWyngarden

Readers also liked…

ADVERTISEMENT
© 1996-2017

Contemporary Media
460 Tennessee Street, 2nd Floor | Memphis, TN 38103
Visit our other sites: Memphis Magazine | Memphis Parent | Inside Memphis Business
Powered by Foundation