Okay, okay, so Imus is an insensitive idiot. Let’s be serious, though: he’s a shock-jock. He’s said this kind of thing before, without nearly the nuclear fallout. This time, however, the resulting mushroom cloud got him fired.
My issue is this: what Imus said wasn’t dangerous. Calling the Rutgers basketball team “nappy-headed hoes” was offensive and hurtful, but, as free speech goes, it was not yelling “fire” in a crowded theatre. We’ve over-reacted here.
Imus’ comments were derogatory, but they were not dangerous. They were offensive, but they were not hate speech. There was no danger that could have resulted from these comments, only insult. Therefore, legally, they were within the realm of free speech. Yet, he loses his job over them. Do you think maybe the insult has been exaggerated? I rather imagine that the members of that basketball team have been the recipients of worse jabs from other ignorant people. While the comments Imus flippantly made are morally sketchy and racially ignorant, I fail to see how they are worth firing him, essentially censoring him, which is infringing upon his constitutional freedoms.
Should Imus receive consequences for this? Absolutely. Should he be fired? Absolutely not. This is a serious slippery slope we’re starting down. Are artists to be told what they can and cannot paint or write? Are journalists to be told what questions they can and cannot ask? There’s already way too much of this going around for my taste. Almost every professional organization I’ve worked for has regulations as to what sort of content can be contained in email communications. That’s creating a professional work environment. I can live with that. Compare this, however, with a certain evangelical school, where the staff at the campus radio station are not only under specific regulations as to what sort of humor they can engage in on the air, but also strictly forbidden from making any comments against the school’s founder. That’s censorship. It should be illegal. Instead its tolerated. That’s just wrong.
Someone’s opinion may be stupid, as in Imus’ case. The opinion may be controversial. Here, however, we all have the right to express that opinion. That’s what sets us apart as a free nation. Tragically, this may be a trend that leads us to a freedom that exists in name only.