Wednesday, August 15, 2007

OK, I'm trying to follow the logic in the news story I'm reading, and it seems that I'm missing something.

I'll preface this by saying that I don't do "shock jock" humor. I guess being female and in my 40s has something to do with that -- I'm just plain In the Wrong Demographic to either enjoy or appreciate that brand of humor. Apparently, there are enough people who think otherwise, because there are multiple "shock jocks" on both free and satellite radio on a daily basis. Clearly, the industry isn't hurting for the lack of my ears listening to the programs. And that's OK. I mean, there's a place for junk food on supermarket shelves right alongside health food, so why not have the equivalent of "junk food" humor alongside what I'd consider to be healthier (or at least more substantive) choices for the brain? And then let each consumer decide for themselves what they're in the mood to eat, or listen to, at any given time. Live and let live, and all that good stuff, ya know?

Having said all that... a few months ago, Don Imus offended an awful lot of people by calling the members of the Rutgers' women's basketball team "nappy-headed hos". The backlash was such that his show lost sponsors and he was ultimately fired by CBS. At the time, I thought that the "humor" in that statement was nonexistent, that too many people speaking into a live microphone make the error of thinking that "if it offends, annoys or bothers somebody, then it MUST be funny", and that Imus and his producer should have known better than to let the conversation drift off along that tangent in the first place. BUT... he also lost his job over it, so IMO that's a pretty significant repercussion for offering up an ignorant, unfunny punch line. (I can't speak for the emotional impact that the racially-charged slang words would have on a person, since I'm in no position to speak from experience on that score. I'll leave that analysis to people who have a clue what it feels like to face discrimination, and let THEM say whether Imus's comments qualify as racially divisive.)

BTW, I also thought that the comments were out-of-line because the team hadn't actually DONE anything to deserve being lampooned. They earned their way into the public eye by being an underdog and going deep into a national tournament, not by getting into trouble or doing anything wrong. Had the team made negative headlines for itself by getting into a brawl or something, well, in that case they'd deserve to be tweaked by any and every standup comic out there. But this case, they made headlines by doing All the Right Things, so it's a little puzzling to me that darts, even small ones, would be cast in their general direction in the first place.

At any rate, I'm not sure that those particular ignorant, unfunny attempts at humor warranted having someone fired, but the Sponsors Dropped the Show and the Almighty Dollar had its say. The radio show was cancelled, the shock jock was fired. If it were up to me, I'd say that this is a clear example of "case closed".

But, as with far too many things in this world, it's NOT up to me. And the case is, apparently, NOT closed. See the article below:

A member of the Rutgers women’s basketball team sued Don Imus and CBS yesterday, claiming the disgraced shock jock’s “nappy-headed hos” remark damaged her reputation.

Kia Vaughn filed suit alleging defamation of character in state Supreme Court in the Bronx the same day Imus settled with CBS Radio in a deal that pre-empts his threatened $120 million breach-of-contract lawsuit against CBS.

Vaughn’s suit, believed to be the first by a player in the case, says Imus and his former co-host Bernard McGuirk, along with CBS Corp. and CBS Radio, are legally responsible for damage done to her character and reputation. There is no dollar amount listed.

Okay... see, NOW we have an example of how Karma's Army works. One aspect of the original brouhaha was that Imus and his producer made comments about the TEAM as a whole, not about any individual person on the team. Therefore, any player who didn't want her good name degraded by association with those comments would have an easy solution to the problem. She could simply move on and live her life, and avoid mentioning the fact that, yes, SHE happened to play on the team that Imus cracked his so-called jokes about and got himself fired for it.

But no... now we have an individual who is allegedly so bent on defending her good name (that was never really sullied to begin with, IMO), she's going to court over it. NOW we all know her name, NOW we all know that she was on the team that was targeted by the punch lines... and NOW she's gone and provided fodder for every standup comic and late-night talk show host to crack jokes specifically about HER and her lawsuit. If she couldn't abide being lampooned (undeservedly or not) as an anonymous member of a group, she's going to REALLY loathe it when she's parodied, specifically by name, on every comedy program in the US.

Is this about restoring the honor to her good name? I think not. I think it's about an attempt to put some cash in the bank. Because as ignorant as Imus's comments about the Rutgers players were, the only name he did any damage to was his own. The team and its players did nothing wrong, and therefore IMO their good reputation was never in doubt for a moment. But if there's a person from that team whose public behavior paints her as lawsuit-happy and trying to line her own pockets, NOW there actually IS going to be an in-depth public examination of her character, as well as a multitude of punch-lines put forth about the entire affair. Is she going to want to sue every comedian to keep her name out of their comic act? Time will tell. Stay tuned to Google News for details.

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