Friday, May 04, 2007

F-Bombs on Aisle One

Former talk-show host Don Imus is suing CBS Radio for $40-million for breach of contract in the wake of his firing over his choice of adjectives in describing the Rugters women’s basketball squad.
I think he'll win.
Not everyone agrees.

Notice how AP journalist Larry McShane wrote his piece on the story: “Disgraced radio host Don Imus will sue CBS Radio for the huge portion of his $40 million contract that was left unpaid after he was fired for racist and sexist comments…”

I looked up the word, “disgraced,” because I found McShane’s lead to be somewhat biased.
As a noun, “disgraced” can mean the loss of respect, honor or esteem, as in “the disgrace of criminals.” I don’t find Imus’ comments to be criminal, but do I believe the overreaction of some parties in this whole affair to have been disgraceful…

“Disgraced” also can refer to a person, an act (a comment?) or a thing that causes shame, reproach, or dishonor.
That is true.
The off-the-scale hue and cry that this incident raised, and the resulting punishment (two persons lost their jobs) that was clearly over zealous, was shameful, and I predict, will bring dishonor to those who made Don Imus the scapegoat for myriad racial tensions in our country.

“Disgraced” has a third meaning in the dictionary (from that would be the most accurate use of the word in this case: “the state of being out of favor,” which is dead-on in describing Imus’ status with CBS.

I predict at worst Imus will reach a settlement with CBS.
He could win…and if so will join the ranks of other outspoken celebrities like Lenny Bruce and Spike Lee, who have caused we the people to look within ourselves and squirm with the honest realization of what we think and believe about ourselves and others.

Imus has hired First Amendment specialist, Attorney Martin Garbus to handle the breach of contract complaint. The key clause: Imus' services are portrayed as being "unique, extraordinary, irreverent, intellectual, topical, controversial." As such, according to the contract, Imus' programming was "desired by company and ... consistent with company rules and policy."

Garbus, by the way, was the legal eagle behind Lenny Bruce's and Spike Lee’s First Amendment battles.

Free speech.
Doesn’t mean you can yell “fire” in a crowded theater, and as we have learned, can have some very unsavory results when you describe certain ethnic and gender groups in terms deemed to be unflattering.

Free speech carries responsibilities, like knowing when to keep your mouth shut.
Choosing carefully the words that you do use.

I was in a grocery store this week, and two women were verbally jousting in the bakery section over something one of them had done. It was clearly a black vs white confrontation, and the black woman was dropping f-bombs, calling into question the other woman’s paternity, and gesturing with her middle finger most prominent—in general, just creating a very uncomfortable situation in the store.

The women’s faces were inches apart as they shrieked at one another.
“Bitch,” and it’s ebonic “Be-yotch” derivative, were in prime usage.
I grabbed a hand-held grocery basket and intentionally walked between the two women to break up what looked to be the next Smack Down, suburbia style.

As I passed between the women, I politely said, “excuse me,” and then turned my head so that only the black woman would hear me, and said, “watch your mouth; you’re language is inappropriate in here.”

The response was as expected—I became the primary target of a round of f-bombs; she indicated that I was now “number one,” and said, “the only reason you’re telling me to shut the f*** up is because I’m black and she’s white!”

I said, “Lady, I don’t care if you’re purple, your language is too blue for the room, and you need to watch your mouth.”

By this time a small crowd of curious, incredulous shoppers have gathered.
I should have sold tickets.
The store managers soon escorted the belligerent woman out of the store, and I continued on into the fresh produce section.

No one violated her first amendment rights, but she was violating the other principal of freedom—which limits extend only as far as where the next person’s nose begins.

Both Imus and The Beligerent Black Woman in the grocery store were out of line.
Both were kicked out.
Imus, however, was paid to be controversial, and when he was, his employer dumped him.

I still think he will prevail.
I think the woman in the store needs some serious anger management counseling.
Or Xanax.
On aisle 3.

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