Just a brief comment on the current Don Imus controversy.
This morning as I was driving to work I was listening to one of the Philly hip hop radio stations as they were discussing Don Imus' racist and sexist comment about the Rutgers women's basketball team. Most of the callers were outraged by the remark, and thought Imus should be fired. But the DJs, who I believe were both African American, said they didn't think so. As one of them put it: "We don't really want to go down that road, because if you fire him, it will restrict the kinds of things we can do on our show too." The other DJ then chimed in: "Yeah, you have to respect free speech."
As I heard that statement, I thought, "well, would it be such a bad thing if Don Imus getting fired led morning talk radio to clean up its act?" The current norms -- after 20 years of Howard Stern -- are pretty sad, whether we're talking about the white DJs on the pop/rock stations or the black DJs on the hip hop stations. Sleaze, strippers, and mean-spirited gossip are just about omnipresent. How to change those norms so that racism and sexism become less endemic across the board is really the question, NOT freedom of speech.
The journalist Gwen Ifill, who was the victim of another nasty Imus remark back in 1993, has this to say. Also see Tony Norman's column.