imus.jpgIt’s especially cruel to hear that Imus is back in the middle of my local public radio station’s pledge drive. After being hounded off his morning radio and cable TV slot for referring to Rutgers University’s women’s basketball team in ugly terms, Don Imus is reportedly returning to New York’s WABC, and the temptation to take up with the “shock-jock” again is especially acute now, when all serious discussion on the airwaves is being pre-empted by morning hosts wielding unctuous cheer to bleed us for cash. Imus’s show was a refuge, offering cranky debates on politics, education, religion and foreign policy with presidential contenders, sitting senators, historians and newspeople. He got me through several fundraising weeks, not to mention that series on rice farming. I’ll be sticking out the fundraising drives from here on, however.

Though it was his untoward description of the largely African-American Rutgers team that set Al Sharpton and, ultimately, the entire babblocracy against him, Imus’s “gaffe” was by no means an isolated incident. What passed for racial parody was often just a white guy talking in a dull African-American accent—the audio version of blackface—and irony meant insulting all African-Americans using rap slang, as if it was a black thing, and they’d understand. Sure, Imus backed black candidates and championed black churchman, but in the end his racial equanimity was like his dude ranch for children with cancer: in the face of his tolerance for race jokes, it came to sound more like sanctimony than sanity. Even during pledge week, swearing off Imus is a pledge that’s easy to make.

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