Every so often, some dirty little news story surfaces which, despite my best efforts to ignore it, seizes the national (in)attention with such disproportional ferocity that I can't help but sit up and wonder at its origin. While my interest in the often-incoherent ramblings of shock "journalists" approaches nonexistence, the reaction of the media and the "victims" to the recent flap over radio host Imus' comments regarding the Rutgers female basketball team should instruct us all on the nature of modern media, business in general and the role that consumers and advertisers play in the policies of both. Ignoring the obvious fact that such inconsequential blather serves, most importantly, to distract us from the very real dangers that government poses, I'd like to focus, instead, on what this incident says about American society, in general.
Sensationalist conflict sells. The media perpetuates that conflict by reporting it. Race-baiting publicity hounds like Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson are products of that reporting and depend almost entirely upon it for their recognition and income. These parasites could not promote their divisive propaganda without the endorsement (or demonization) that that reporting provides. Rev. Sharpton's demand that the FCC do something about this "hate speech" should come as a surprise to no one. As trivial as this story seems, it points to the much larger problem with Americans: their belief that no problem exists that a little government intervention can't solve. The free market solution, the simple act of looking away, of withdrawing one's support of a commodity that one finds reprehensible, simply doesn't cut it. Nothing short of blood will do.
Sharpton and Jackson don't want revenge, though. Whatever they may say, they really seek to engender a culture of victimization, which cements their positions as racial whistle-blowers in the minds of the "victims" and guarantees a paycheck to these perpetual pot-stirrers. Few seem to be saying, though, that this issue really should exist only between Imus, his employers and their advertisers, who make their decision to withdraw funding for the show (or maintain it) based on the reactions of the viewers or listeners.
And what about these supposed victims? One of the players was quoted as having said "this has scarred me for life." Really? For life? It seems hardly possible that what amounts to a schoolyard taunt should or could scar anyone for life. Please, let's grow up and move along here, folks. Paying attention to such drivel only lends it power.
Do we really want to tell the rest of the world that, far from being the hardy individualists who fought off the largest empire in the world to attain the freedom to say and do as we like, we now can't reach over and hit the power switch on a TV or radio when we hear something that we don't like? Of course, that assumes that they don't already see us in this light. Since I find it difficult to imagine too many countries worldwide whose subjects haven't already boarded that over-the-cliff bullet train to servitude, I can't see that our image matters much. What matters is how we see ourselves in relation to authority and how we act towards it as a result. We are only the slaves that we make ourselves. Do we really want to move names into the same category as sticks and stones? I pray that on this issue of freedom, we can someday look back and say that we knew at least as much about name-calling as any five-year-old child.
April 14, 2007