By MARC McDONALD
Please, whatever you do, don't feel sorry for Don Imus. Mark my words: he still has a bright and lucrative future ahead of him.
Sure, Imus is in hot water at the moment. But it won't last.
As soon as the current fuss has died down, you can take it to the bank that another network will step in to pick up Imus's program. In fact, the smart money would have to be on Fox News.
In fact, I would bet that Imus winds up coming out ahead in this whole deal. For one thing, the huge controversy sparked by his bigoted comments has made millions of people aware of him who've never previously heard his program. His media profile is much higher than it was before.
I look for Fox News to step in and give Imus a nice, fat, new contract. After all, your average Fox News viewer is unlikely to be offended by Imus's bigoted comments. On the contrary, most Fox News viewers are likely to see Imus as a "victim" of political correctness run amok in our society. (This point of view is a recurring theme, for example, on that network's highest rated program, The O'Reilly Factor).
Let's face it, bigotry sells in America these days. There are tens of millions of angry, frustrated white males in our society who feel victimized by affirmative action and "political correctness." Never mind the fact that affluent white males still control all the levels of power in the worlds of business and politics in America. Never mind the fact that racism still permeates every corner of American society today.
African-Americans are incarcerated at vastly higher rates than whites. Studies show that black people get much harsher prison sentences than white people for doing identical crimes. Blatant racism permeates our justice system, our legal system, our schools---in fact, every American institution. And let's not forget the 2000 election, in which hundreds of thousands of black people were denied the vote.
The horrible plight of poor black people was briefly brought to white, middle-class America's attention during the Hurricane Katrina crisis (but I doubt it came as much of a surprise to black people across America).
My point is, despite all of the above, there are still millions of white people in our society who are convinced that African-Americans somehow get all the breaks in our society.
It's crazy, it's nutty, it's insane---but that's how these sadly deluded people feel.
And the likes of Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck cannily know just how to push the emotional hot buttons of Angry White Males these days. Make no mistake: much of the appeal of hate radio is based in subtle racism and bigotry. After all, it's no mystery why Limbaugh, when he had a brief contract with ESPN, immediately plunged into racial issues and attacked quarterback Donovan McNabb (and ludicrously claimed that "the media" was part of a sinister plot to help black quarterbacks).
The fact is, bigotry sells in America today. It's the reason talk radio's Neal Boortz can have a lucrative career after saying that Rep. Cynthia McKinney "looks like a ghetto slut." It's the reason that CNN's Glenn Beck can get away with calling the predominately African-American victims of Hurricane Katrina "scumbags."
Nor is bigotry in America limited only to the nation's airwaves. Recall when Trent Lott praised Strom Thurmond--a politician who ran on a campaign of racial segregation.
And last, but not least, let's not forget George W. Bush himself, whose actions over the years have set the whole tone for the nation's current rising tide of bigotry. Recall how during the 2000 election campaign, Bush made it a point to stop by Bob Jones University, which incredibly still had a ban on interracial dating.
So before you shed a tear for Imus, just stop and consider this: he clearly has a bright future ahead of him, as long as Republicans encourage and tolerate bigotry and our nation's airwaves are full of poisonous bile and racism.