About Rationally Speaking
Rationally Speaking is a blog maintained by Prof. Massimo Pigliucci, a philosopher at the City University of New York. The blog reflects the Enlightenment figure Marquis de Condorcet's idea of what a public intellectual (yes, we know, that's such a bad word) ought to be: someone who devotes himself to "the tracking down of prejudices in the hiding places where priests, the schools, the government, and all long-established institutions had gathered and protected them." You're welcome. Please notice that the contents of this blog can be reprinted under the standard Creative Commons license.
Tuesday, April 24, 2007
I watched Imus a few times, and could never understand why he was there to begin with. Yes, he was better than, say, Bill O'Reilly, but still, don't we have smarter and funnier people to turn our airwaves over to for several hours every day?
I also don't care for crude remarks of any kind, let alone misogynistic or racist ones. Nonetheless, I couldn't help having been both amused and a bit frightened by the whole media storm over Imus. Let us begin with the self-righteous Al Sharpton, always ready to jump on the latest offense to “his people,” but who – as New York Times commentator Frank Rich pointed out – still has to apologize for a blunder he committed back in the 1980s (the Tawana Brawley case, similar to the more recent Duke lacross incident). I guess I just don't like self-righteousness, it smells too much of religious or ideological bigotry.
Second, a couple of boos to CBS for attempting to get credit for nothing less than helping to catalyze a cultural change by firing Imus. As all but the most naïve among us know, the decision was a purely economic one, with CBS simply looking at how much advertising revenues they were going to lose as a result of the uproar. If CBS wanted to bring about cultural change, may I suggest a complete rethinking of their daily lineup of shows? (I mean, they are currently looking for contestants for “Big Brother,” for crying out loud.)
Lastly, shame on all those liberals who quickly joined the stoning frenzy. As Rich again pointed out, the only answer to idiotic speech is intelligent speech, not censorship. When one starts down the latter road, one immediately gets Tom DeLay (of all people!) asking for the firing of Rosie O'Donnell on the ground that she offends conservative Christians and – God forbid – the Thief-in-Chief himself. I still ache from when ABC fired Bill Maher over his post-9/11 comments, which were right on target but hurt some people's sensitivities.
More broadly, it is time for this country to get off the bizarre notion that people have a constitutional right not to be offended. Not only is that not the case, but – quite the contrary – the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States of America actually guarantees anybody's right to offend whoever, at will. It's not that calling women and minorities names is a nice thing to do, it isn't. But it is much more dangerous to those same women and minorities, as well as to the rest of us, if we silence people just because someone gets offended. And by the way, I'm deeply offended by Bill O'Reilly's outrageous stupidity, can Fox please fire his ass by lunchtime? Thanks.