Imus and the Media Hose


You still see it, in certain circles, when the topic turns to Anna Nicole Smith. The speaker turns his nose toward the air, adopts a tone of resigned disgust, and sighs, This story is so unimportant, but it's EVERYWHERE. Why can't I avoid it?

Since I have avoided virtually all coverage of the Smith story without any effort at all—indeed, I've been meaning to Google her and catch up on what I've missed—my sympathy is limited. In the Internet age, it's nearly impossible for a topic to so dominate the media that it becomes literally unavoidable. But here we are, entering week two (or three? or 42? it feels like a year) of the Imus affair, and though I'd rather be paying attention to, say, this, I can't escape the chatter. Even my local newspaper has been giving it front-page coverage, as though the people of Baltimore are overwhelmed with curiosity about the fate of an aging shock jock. This was an actual page-one, over-the-fold headline last week:

Controversy steals shining moment
Rutgers team voices hurt; Imus' remarks speak to struggle facing female athletes

"Controversy"? Everyone is on the team's side. Even Imus' defenders say the joke was out of line. Does it "hurt" to have the entire country come to your defense after a throwaway putdown by a morning DJ?

So at last I understand how you Anna Nicole Smith people feel. You have my condolences. We'll meet again in news-snob heaven.

Unfortunately, these faux outrages have a way of making themselves significant, as every interest group tries to widen the attacks to include its own targets of choice. Tom DeLay says, "If the Left takes Imus, we'll take Rosie." The watchdog group Media Matters has a long list of right-wing talkers it probably wouldn't mind "taking" as well. There have been roughly seven trillion cookie-cutter op-eds comparing Imus to rap lyrics. They're all variations on the same theme: that we've only just begun to clean up the country's polluted airwaves. Naturally, there are calls for the FCC to get involved. It's a nipplegate for news nerds.

Speaking of rap, here's one of the few genuinely entertaining comments to come out of the affair—Snoop Dog explaining why the two uses of "ho" aren't comparable:

It's a completely different scenario. [Rappers] are not talking about no collegiate basketball girls who have made it to the next level in education and sports. We're talking about ho's that's in the 'hood that ain't doing sh–, that's trying to get a n—a for his money.

So that settles that.