Imus Wasn’t “Lynched”, Conservatives Running Scared

Be very suspicious of political commentators who flippantly use the words “lynched” or “lynching” to describe what happened to Don Imus recently.  Pat Buchanan, Frank Rich (paragraph three), Michael Smerconish, Rachel Marsden and Michael Coren are all guilty of this.  All of them are ignorant of the brutal history of those terms.
 
The concept of real “lynching” began with William Lynch, an 18th Century judge from Virginia.  Essentially, he came up with the idea of punishing “guilty persons” without trial.  Rather than have lawyers argue the facts of a case, Lynch would decree a “defendant” guilty without requiring any evidence at all and sentence the unfortunate soul to death which would be administered by an angry mob.  This “unwritten law” soon became known as “Lynch law”.  It’s purely an American phenomenon with roots in the Old West.  Later, lynching became a popular way for racist white males to eviscerate the Native and Black populations.  The Ku Klux Klan re-popularized it during their peak in the 20th Century.  Thankfully, this ghastly violent punishment is no longer as popular as it once was.  (Check out the underappreciated John Singleton film, Rosewood, to see the ugly nature of it firsthand.)
 
Compare the unjustifiable and unlawful acts of violence against minorities in America’s controversial history with the fierce criticism of Don Imus’ racist remarks and you realize that the comparison is false and offensive.  Real lynching is murder by a self-appointed committee of sadists.  It is not a movement of genuine and peaceful, verbal outrage.  Note the difference.
 
Don Imus wasn’t strung up on a tree branch by an angry, bloodthirsty mob hoping to kill him for his racist garbage.  He was fired by his employers (MSNBC and CBS Radio) because the ongoing, negative publicity was inspiring advertisers to take their business elsewhere, as Kevin Nance of The Chicago Sun-Times astutely observed.  Isn’t that how “the free market” is supposed to function properly?
 
One wonders why those five, above-mentioned columnists would criticize Imus’ firing.  All are well aware of his racist history.  Some of them, Buchanan and Rich, have been frequent guests on his now-defunct, low-rated program.  Why would they turn this into a ridiculous “First Amendment” issue?
 
This is what Michael Smerconish wrote in The Philadelphia Inquirer on Sunday:
 
“Individuals who hide behind the anonymity afforded by the Internet are seeking to squelch the First Amendment right of people whose identities are readily known and who, unlike their cowardly critics, put their names and credibility on the line each and every day on matters of public concern. Left unconfronted, it is a dangerous practice in the making.”
 
In a word, that’s bullshit.  No one at the liberal watchdog website, Media Matters For America, posts anything anonymously.  My name is attached to every piece I’ve written on this site.  For all their well-noted hypocracies, Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson have publicly voiced their disapproval of Imus’ slanderous remarks.  They’re not cowering anonymously.  A quick check of the excellent Huffington Post site shows a large number of contributors who’ve signed their names to their strong criticisms of Imus.
 
Furthermore, this wasn’t a First Amendment issue, it was a libel issue.  Don Imus slandered the Rutgers University female basketball team.  He made remarks that were not true.  He’s done this countless times over his career without much consequence.  His lifelong racism finally caught up to him.  I won’t miss him.  Most others won’t, either.
 
As for Smerconish’s assertion that people like him “put their names and credibility on the line each and every day on matters of public concern”, that doesn’t mean you get a free pass from justifiable criticism.  It also doesn’t mean you have the right to slander people without paying a price for it.  The airwaves are owned by the public.  When you maliciously and continuously attack anyone without providing credible evidence, you don’t belong in the public eye.  Period.  Responsible pundits, journalists and broadcasters don’t libel other people. 
 
Perhaps that is the real reason why most of these columnists were so eager to defend Don Imus.  They now worry the same fate awaits them.  The world would be a better place if that happened.  It would definitely be less angry and dishonest.
 
On her Fox News program, Red Eye, Rachel Marsden claimed that Pakistanis have poor hygiene.  Michael Smerconish believes Muslims who pray publicly are committing “a form of terrorism”.  Pat Buchanan is paranoid about immigrants becoming the new majority in America.  Michael Coren equates animal rights activists with Nazis.  When they protest Don Imus’ justifiable dismissal, they’re clearly defending themselves more than him, or rather, through him.
 
As for Frank Rich, the sole liberal on the list, one wonders why he would appear on Imus’ show again and again never raising a fuss about the constant, awful rhetoric coming out of the 67-year-old’s elderly yap.  Does he not have a conscience?  Does he not care that he has long associated with a well-documented racist?  Is he that desperate to sell his writing?
 
Were it not for Howard Stern (a longtime Imus critic) and Media Matters, one would have zero faith in our public discourse.  In fact, thanks to the latter’s recent coverage of the Imus debacle, other conservative broadcasters have been viciously lashing out, clearly worried that they’ll soon be imitating his walk of shame, as they should.  If they made honest, persuasive arguments throughout their careers, they wouldn’t have to concern themselves with watchdog groups in the first place.
 
Rush Limbaugh and Michael Savage, two of the worst offenders, are so paranoid about what’s happened that, absurdly, they believe Hillary Clinton has something to do with Imus’ removal.  Expect others to weigh in very soon with similiar sentiments.
 
In the end, let’s hope the end of Don Imus’ overrated, hate-filled career in broadcasting inspires many of us to pay more attention to the disgusting racism, libel and slander that continues to corrupt our public airwaves and demand something positive be done about it.  That’s not lynching, that’s democracy in action.
 
Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Tuesday, April 17, 2007
8:25 p.m.
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Published in: on April 17, 2007 at 8:27 pm  Leave a Comment  

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