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 V.16 No.16 | April 19 - 25, 2007 

Thin Line

Icarus Imus—You, like me, might be nauseated at the thought of reading one more word about idiot Don Imus and his three-word verbal folly. Witness, once again, the media defeating itself by becoming a player in a controversial story. Objective observers, my ass. A two-day news cycle, some front-page teasers to A-2 stories, then letting the thing fall to the letter writers who would thoroughly dissect and brutalize Icarus Imus, an ugly old man who flew too close to slang. That would have been appropriate.

Instead, it's become one of those stories that won't curl up like the nasty bug burned under a magnifying glass that it is, charred and without any real bug guts or "news value." The prolonged exposure means someone's going to give this guy another job in a couple of months. He's fallen, marred by his bad taste, but I didn't know who he was before all of this started, before the Albuquerque Journal put it on its front page on Tuesday, April 10, and I'll bet some of you didn't either. Maybe not many, but my television ignorance is another column.

Hot or cold, Imus has even more national name recognition now. If he wants one, someone somewhere will help him with a lucrative comeback, maybe selling Imus as a slightly reformed but still staunchly outspoken shock-jock—all because big media couldn't let the story's ashes blow away as they should. Who's a passive observer now? I can already hear some old-school news veteran grumbling something to the effect of, "I just write the stories people want to read," passing the buck, of course, to you, dear reader. Imus was thrust upon us because we wanted it, right? Journalists shouldn't give much thought to the implications of their work, right?

Insert angry red buzzer sound here.

Bloggers Rule—There's another side to this story that may be even more interesting than the usual kvetching about the American media's seemingly unstoppable gossip-mongering. Would his racist, sexist comment about the Rutgers women's basketball team have evaporated were it not for the blogosphere? Probably.

Individual consumers don't have all that much power in a massive marketplace. But bloggers give me hope. Ten or 15 years ago, Imus would be rolling out of bed today, combing his own really odd-looking hair in his bathroom mirror and heading off to the studio to get paid to say witless shit. His cocky misstep probably wouldn't have made it to the front page of any paper. Some callers, e-mailers and op-ed writers may have gotten pissed. But you wouldn't have been able to look up the exact clip on YouTube. Bloggers wouldn't have been able to express, en masse, their outrage, using that clip. Like mirrors facing mirrors facing mirrors, Imus' foolishness echoed and amplified, reflecting back at him an infinite number of times, as consumers exercised a new power over the market.

 
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