Benjamin, Aaronson, Edinger & Patanzo, P.A.

VA Tech, Don Imus and Free Speech

As this article is being written, two days have passed since the shootings at Virginia Tech.  It almost seems silly to write about Don Imus and his “nappy-headed hos” in light of the tragedy at Virginia Tech.  However, one event does not change another and we refuse to be like every other media source which keeps a topic hot for a period of time until another one comes an replaces it.  So, no matter how small the Don Imus matter seems in light of the massacre in Blacksburg, Virginia, for a free speech and First Amendment column, his remarks still need to be discussed.

On a personal level, we found Mr. Imus’ remarks about the predominately black Rutgers women’s basketball team, to not only be offensive and unfunny, but also to be a cheap shot at people that certainly did not deserve any cheap shots made at them.  Here was a basketball team that lost four out of their first six games, and with the use of hard work and perseverance made it to the finals of the women’s NCAA Basketball Tournament.  They all attend class, all are seeking degrees, and all would be credits to their race whether that be black, white, purple, green or gray.  These were students, people, who did not deserve to be classified as ho’s, street talk for whores, nor did their race need to become an issue by the term “nappy headed”.  Further, they were not political figures, they were not celebrities, they were college students without a forum to fight back against Mr. Imus.

Yet, did Mr. Imus deserve to be fired?  The answer is a resounding yes.  Not because of the comments that he made, but rather because the free market spoke.  His sponsors that ultimately are the ones that are paying his salary, pulled the plug on his show.  Without the financial backing of his sponsors, CBS radio and MSNBC television were right to decide that he no longer was going to be a money making tool for them as he once was.  Therefore, his show was expendable like all other failed products in the market and it was taken off the shelf.

The question still remains however, were his comments such that they alone required him to be taken off the air.  To that we must say a resounding no.  Everyday on our air ways, we are inundated   with racial, religious and other types of slurs in the name of political commentary.  If you do not believe that to be the case, spend the day listening to right-wing talk radio or Fox News.  Apparently, it is OK to call Barack Obama a “Hafrican” because he is a political figure.  At no time, does anybody chime in that that would be slur against anybody who is from a mixed union.  Apparently, it is all right to call John Edwards a contender for the Democratic nomination for President, a “fagot” because again, he is a political figure.  The term is incredibly derogatory to anyone that is gay and worse, it is used to describe a man that is not gay, but to put that word against him as if being gay was an insult.  The speaker of that comment was Ann Colter, who humorously was called upon by Fox News to give her opinion on the “nappy-headed ho” comment.

Then there was Glen Beck on CNN who basically challenged a Muslim American lawmaker to prove that he was not a terrorist simply because the book that he chooses to follow is not the Bible but the Koran.  No one called for his removal, because again it was done in the name of political discourse.

What Don Imus said was wrong.  It was insensitive.  But it was no more wrong than words we hear everyday on the various broadcasts streaming across this country.

Freedom of speech is a precious thing.  It is so easy to lose and so hard to get back.  Although we hate, the comments made on Fox News and by those right-winged ideologs on conservative radio talk shows, we still support their right to say it.  Although it may sound hypocritical in light of some of the things written in this article, we also support Don Imus’ right to say words that he decided to utter.  But as much as we support the right to say those words, we support the advertisers’ rights to pull the plugs, the networks’ rights to cancel the shows and the people’s rights to not have to listen to those who they desire not to listen to.  The only thing that we would ask, is that there be consistency.

If the public gets morally outraged by Don Imus, then that same public needs to be morally outraged by the hate mongers from the right.  If Don Imus deserves to have his sponsors bail out on him, then Rush Limbaugh and his ilk deserve the same.

The one thing that we have not asked for in this article, and we are thrilled that it does not appear that others have asked for the same, and that is that the government get involved.  If the government got involved it would be censorship from the government and a violation of the First Amendment.  Mr. Imus and those right-winged ideologs have their right to speak and we would never take that away from them.  We on the other hand, have the right not to listen.  Apparently, in the case of Don Imus the public has chosen not to listen any longer.  When will the public make those exact same moral judgments and stop listening to the hate mongering from the right.

Lastly, back to the tragedy at Virginia Tech.  The horrific deaths of these 32 college students has captivated this country.  For the last couple of days, sixty to seventy percent of every newscast has concentrated on that event.  Although most of us do not know and will never know any of the victims of this senselessness, we all feel that a little bit of us has been violated.

With this in mind, it is time that our government, our leadership and especially our President take a good look at what we and he has done in Iraq.  What occurred in Blacksburg, Virginia was incredibly terrible and affected the American psyche.  What occurred in Blacksburg, Virginia unfortunately is minor compared to what occurs in the City of Bagdad every single day since we invaded that country.  Mr. Bush, the carnage that occurred at Virginia Tech is nothing compared to what you have caused to have occurred in Iraq.  Every day that we stay in Iraq only brings more death and destruction to that country.  Our leaving Iraq may not be the solution to the chaos that you created, but one thing is for sure, and that is that our staying only makes matters worse.

You have caused a hundred times more Americans to die for no reason, then Mr. Cho’s senseless act at Virginia Tech.  Everybody wants to know why the authorities did not step in when the warning signs from Mr. Cho were seen by other students, law enforcement, and even psychiatric professionals.  History will want to know why Congress and the American people did not step in to force you to stop your delusional policy in Iraq.

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