Thursday, April 19, 2007

Go Gwen!

Gwen Ifill was a guest on Meet the Press this week. The reporters' roundtable was supposed to cover three different topics, but the first topic, the Don Imus firing, occupied the entire time. As I watched the show, I could almost see the fire dancing behind Gwen's eyes, even while she maintained her graceful and professional composure.

Tim Russert was hosting the show as usual. His guests were David Brooks, Gwen Ifill, John Harwood, and Eugene Robinson.

Ifill has apparently had enough of the hypocrisy of people condemning Imus now who once appeared on his show--a show where Imus has always made the same sorts of incendiary remarks. She specifically calls out two of her fellow panelists.
There’s been radio silence from a lot of people who’ve done this program who could’ve spoken up and said, “I find this offensive” or “I didn’t know.” These people didn’t speak up.

Tim, we didn’t hear that much from you.

David, we didn’t hear from you.

What was missing in this debate was someone saying, “You know, I understand that this is offensive.” ...people will say, “I didn’t know,” or people will say, “I wasn’t listening.” A lot of people did know, and a lot of people were listening, and they just decided it was OK. They decided this culture of meanness was fine until they got caught. My concern about Mr. Imus and a lot of people and, and a lot of the debate in the society is not that people are sorry that they say these things. They’re sorry that someone catches them.

...David’s right, about the culture of meanness, about the culture of racial complaint, about the internal culture in our community, about the way we talk to one another. But this week, just this week, it was finally saying “Enough.”
Ifill is a lady in every way. No shouting or demeaning. She just pointed out that her colleagues have tried to play both sides. They appear on Imus's show and then try to distance themselves from the things that go on immediately before and immediately after their appearance.

I concur with Gwen Ifill. A heck of a lot of people had an opportunity to ignore Imus. They failed to insist on a culture of civility and kindness. They are complicit in his public offenses.

I don't endorse a culture that polices thought that speech with external forces. (I am soooooo grateful for the 1st amendment protections we enjoy in this country.) I endorse a culture that encourages self control. I hope for a culture that refuses to support hateful speech. We can allow people to saw those things, but we don't have to support or subsidize them.

1 comment:

Reach Upward said...

I remember years ago a colleague that had moved from back East telling me about the Howard Stern radio program. I was appalled that anyone would listen to it at all. He quickly admitted that it was beyond deplorable, but said that it was so entertaining in a morbidly fascinating way that a great number of people listened to it. Ratings proved my colleague correct.

I agree that we need to re-enthrone the ideal that self restraint provides the highest level of liberty. We need to teach everyone (not just children) that self discipline is the best way to ensure liberty.

While there should be no legal curb on Mr. Imus' or Mr. Stern's right to spew verbal (and nonverbal) garbage, we should understand that engaging in or supporting this behavior runs counter to the principles of liberty. It doesn't matter that one can do this junk; it matters that we choose not to do so.