Calhoun’s Cannons, The Bay News, Morro Bay, CA, for April 25, 2007
Pass the Madeira
Watching Don Imus’ precipitous tumble from the I-man to the Out Of Work Man, stanzas from the old Limelighter’s song, “Have Some Madeira, M’Dear” kept rolling through my head. The song tells of a Sweet Young Thing being seduced by an aging Lothario who warns her against the perils of gin while plying her with sweet draughts of Madeira, until she awakens with “an ache in her head . . . . and a beard on her pillow that tickled and said, ‘Have some Madeira, M’Dear.’”
The song came to mind while watching respectable, virginal CBS and Sweet Innocent Young MSNBC both tiptoeing through their delicate, hypocritical, vaporish hand-wringing, trembling with woe, fingers to the wind, testing for every hum and murmur from their viewers and advertisers, upended twitchy noses scenting like a pair of Culture Bloodhounds sniffing out the zeitgeist for the slightest change, weeping in belated sorrow that they had NO IDEA what that nasty man was up to, Boo-Hoo, Boo-Hoo, until they came to their senses and dumped him with a thud and a promise that they should have listened to Mother and not gone up to his room and surely shouldn’t have drunk all those glasses of wine, Nosir, Nosir!
Adding to the melodramatic comic effect was the Reverend Al (Twana Brawley) Sharpton, and the Reverend (Hymietown) Jesse Jackson’s pious cant churning up a chorus of the faithful to express Shock & Dismay! that the I-man was a crude, lewd, bigoted nimcompoop, while the rich and powerful people who had previously fallen all over themselves to be guests on his show, demurred as to how he was a good man, really, helped sick kids, and that if the Rutgers University women’s basketball team that he so thoughtlessly trashed on air would only “forgive him,” we could all join hands and sing Kumbaya and be redeemed together in this amazing Morality Play about a radio talker who regularly spit out racist, misogynistic, homophobic, anti-Semitic remarks in a radio show that was best described by Constance L. Rice, a civil rights attorney in Los Angeles, in her op-ed piece in the L.A. Times, as “eavesdrop[ping on] a seventh-grade white boy’s locker room . . .”
A seventh-grade white boy’s locker room run by The Cool Guy In School, the edgy dangerous guy who tempted the sweet young things, kicked sand into the eyes of the geeky guys who nonetheless flocked to his door for the sand-kicking so his macho, bully-boy cool could rub off onto them. And so, one after another, seventh-grade White Boy Politicians and White Boy Media Elites played the role of the Sweet Young Things invited into the I-man’s den to look at his etchings, sip some sweet Madeira, and with tongues loosened, indulge in the frisson of trash talking under the cover of pretending to engage in serious political discussions – like guys who claim they only buy Playboy . . . for the interviews.
And all of it done for years without any real consequences or accountability.
It was a lucrative business and moved the I-man from the Get-No-Respect talk radio basement up into the corporate offices high above the mean city streets. But, clearly, it was a phony marriage of convenience that remained dangerously uneasy. Marrying above your station rarely has a good outcome. Corporate America will sleep with the very lucrative tabloid trash, but will never marry one of them when the cost escalates, as Imus learned, to his temporary sorrow.
Well, weep not for the I-man. He’ll find his seventh-grade white boy locker room niche once again. What should have concerned Americans years ago wasn’t the I-man and his ilk, but was the politicization and tabloidization of the news, the consolidation of fewer and fewer media outlets into fewer and fewer corporate hands, the repeated failure of even the basics of journalistic integrity and diligence in reporting the news, and the race to the bottom by all media in the ratings wars that give us Infotainment -- Anna Nicole Smith 24/7 – instead of real news.
All this while deadly problems that need the attention and active engagement of accurately informed citizens gather dangerously outside the blinking, mesmerizing lights of the media circus tent that we have built around ourselves, passively “amusing ourselves to death” by mistaking its contrived dumbshow for “reality.”