April 13, 2007
-- by Dave Johnson
Are times beginning to change - a little bit? An actual mention of Media Matters in the newspaper!
While radio shock jock Don Imus was hanging up his cowboy hat and getting canned Wednesday from his MSNBC TV show and then Thursday from CBS for a racial slur made a week earlier, the Washington, D.C., organization Media Matters for America was scratching a notch on its belt.
In its third year, the non-profit with 50 employees and a budget of $3 million to $4 million was getting its biggest recognition so far for its efforts to "monitor, analyze and correct conservative misinformation."
Over three years, and to the ire of the conservatives it targets, the group had reported some 15 other examples of racist speech by the popular in-the-Beltway host, as well as countless corrections to reports in major media outlets, from the New York Times to Fox News. But even it was surprised that the Imus incident was the spark that caught fire.
"We were the first to draw attention to the comments a week ago," said Jamison Foser, the organization's managing director. "We focused a great deal of effort to make sure that people understood this wasn't an isolated incident, as he was claiming afterward."
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Cheers for Media Matters! They deserve plenty of credit for jumping on this.
What bothers me is that very few people seem to quite 'get' exactly what was so offensive about what Imus did, both legally and morally. Maybe we need to start requiring an ethics class in high school. After all, ethics is a branch of philosophy. One of the basic principles of ethics is that rights are always accompanied by duties and responsibilities. We have a right to have children, but a duty to care for them. We have a right to drive cars, provided we're licensed and drive responsibly. The same kind of thing is true for freedom of speech. Legally, in this country, we have libel and slander laws. Legally,it's OK to attack to some extent those who have placed themselves in the public eye and have the ability to defend themselves, so long as one is not libeling or slangering them. What the rappers do with their sexist and racial slurs if offensive but is NOT directed towards individuals, and that's where the difference lies in what Imus did. This jerk, who got paid over 10 million a year to insult people to feed the American appetite for viciousness, personally attacked a group of very young women, not nationally in the public eye but very much private citizens who had had a surprisingly good season playing basketball, by calling them, among other things, nappy headed whores. These are real individuals who were really harmed by this, and it was not funny. The consequences are beyond comprehending. They've been getting death threats. New Jersey's Governor Corzine was nearly killed in a hit and run accident (another kind of irresponsible behavior that seems to be on the increase) while going to mediate a meeting between Imus and the young women. That's how important this incident has been considered locally; important enough for the governor to step in. After all, not only were these girls slandered but New Jersey's main state university, Rutgers, with several campuses and over 50,000 students, which has always concentrated on academic excellence rather than sports since its founding in the 18th century, was portrayed as a school filled with tough, tatooed, nappy headed whores. Corzine is in critical but stable condition, faces several operations -- assuming he lives -- and won't be able to walk normally for at least six months because of this overpaid big-mouthed shock jock.
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