Friday, April 20, 2007

Imus and "The Rules" for White Comedians

A brilliant essay on this, from the Weekly Standard’s “Scrapbook”:

Jeff "Protein Wisdom" Goldstein also has a very keen insight on this matter.

The firing of Don Imus makes me ambivalent.

One the one hand, it IS nice to see a leftist like Imus get savaged by his fellow leftists. And make no mistake about it, Don Imus is left leaning, although the Left will deny it.

I started (and soon stopped) listening to Imus back in 1995, when I noticed he had a Rush Limbaugh impersonator singing painfully unfunny parody songs about what a racist Mr. Limbaugh was, only to follow that up with Imus trying to elicit slurs out of people, and in some cases succeeding (Senator Al D’Amato vs. Judge Lance Ito during the O.J. Simpson trial, for example).

On the other hand....I wonder if Imus will show up on satellite radio with a more right leaning slant. Faced with the hard facts that most of his leftist chums not only bailed but took some parting shots to polish their own liberal bona fides will Imus have an epiphany on the topic of conviction? Remember the definition of “neo-conservative”: a former leftist mugged by reality. Imus got his mugging.

On the other hand, given how Imus then groveled before that dirtbag Al Sharpton, maybe not.

There are two general orthogonal rules about who is allowed to speak about race in contemporary American polite society: blacks and comedians have vastly more freedom to tell it the way it is than whites and serious thinkers. So, there’s a grid of acceptability in who is supposed to discuss race, with the most favored corner being black comedians such as Dave Chappelle, who gets a $50 million contract to make fun of blacks and whites. In contrast, a serious, judicious, data-driven thinker like Charles Murray is in the opposite corner. He becomes persona non grata and is subject to horrific slanders.

The ambiguous corners belong to the serious black thinkers such as Thomas Sowell and the white comedians such as this Don Imus radio fellow who is being condemned by Al Sharpton, arbiter of all that is right and holy.

You’ll notice that even the writers for that wonderfully irreverent show "The Simpsons" are hesitant to joke at all with black characters. The show has a completely stereotypical Asian Indian, Apu, but no continuing characters who act in any way stereotypically "black". The upper-middle class Dr. Hibbert is a parody of Bill Cosby’s Dr. Huxtable character.

Meanwhile, the show’s creators telegraph to viewers that they are avoiding joking about blacks by creating two black characters who behave indistinguishably from their white partners. There are Homer’s co-workers Lenny and Carl; and there are the cops Lou and Eddie. After nearly 20 years of watching, I still have no idea whether it’s Lenny who is black, or if it’s Carl. The same goes for Lou and Eddie. If there was just one ambiguous duo like this, it might be an accident, but having two pairs indicates the writers are making a subtle joke about their hesitancy in the face of race.

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