Bye-bye Imus

Don Imus is an idiot. He got to pretend to be smart with actual smart people.

don imus 88 (photo credit: )
don imus 88
(photo credit: )
Don Imus is an idiot. I don't mean that what he said was idiotic, or that his racism makes him stupid. I mean that Don Imus is just not that bright. I know this because when I was in elementary school, Imus was my hero. He called people "weasels," and when something merited even more disapproval, he "nuked it," which meant that he used a bomb sound effect. These gimmicks were tremendously cool to an 11-year-old. Not only did I call everyone a weasel for all of sixth grade, but when I got in an argument with my seventh-grade teacher, I called in to "Imus in the Morning" and got Miss Shimshack nuked. So Imus has the same sense of humor as a mildly bright seventh- grader. Once I moved on to high school and Imus started to feud with his rival afternoon jock on New York's WNBC, Howard Stern, I switched sides. Stern was obviously sharper, more creative and a lot more honest. It was the mid-1980s, and Imus was still doing long bits about a money-grubbing Southern minister. Stern was describing his masturbation. Look, it was New York talk radio; Richard Feynman wasn't doing drive time. SO I was pretty shocked when Imus re-emerged as a political cognoscente. Senators and journalists happily suffered the fool. Imus asked people such as John McCain dumber questions than Stern asked strippers, and they laughed it off. But without the sexy little giggle. That's because society's aspirationals use politics as a refuge for their stupidity. They sucker you into long conversations at dinner parties about how Bush is stupid and how Bush is also really stupid. They feed on political blogs and newspaper columnists that reflect their side and parrot the best one-liners they can find. These are the people who furiously scream about policy decisions mostly because they need to furiously scream about something. If they were one rung down the socioeconomic ladder, instead of yelling about Nancy Pelosi's trip to Syria they'd be shouting about Kobe Bryant's refusal to pass the basketball. This isn't to say that politics is not important or interesting. It's to say that most people who talk about politics aren't important or interesting. And Imus was their king. He got to pretend to be smart with actual smart people. The arena of politics is too confined to encapsulate all the topics worthy of intellectual debate. It's as though we all go to a college where everyone has to major in political science. Newspaper columns, talk radio and cable news channels rarely have serious debates about art, literature, technology, sex, fashion or religion. If it weren't for Monica Lewinsky, newspapers still wouldn't acknowledge the existence of the thong. Look at the lengths Britney Spears had to go to just to inform us of long-standing fashion changes in personal grooming. Part of the reason the mainstream media are being replaced is because, while this newspaper cuts sentences about topics that might be offensive or contain language editors find unpleasant, bloggers are writing about stuff that's happening in people's lives and not devoting half of their space to debating whether Rudy Giuliani will raise more money than Mitt Romney. Which doesn't matter, because no matter how many millions candidates raise, their ads will still suck. Why they don't throw some of that cash Michael Bay's way is beyond me. The mainstream ignored Stern as he was investigating disabilities, plastic surgery, stripper culture and other bizarre changes in our world, yet the media embraced Imus' moronic, angry-white-man rants because they fit into the constraints of what the mainstream considers news. Which, to my surprise, includes women's basketball. So now that Imus got fired by CBS and MSNBC for a mean-spirited, if confusing, racist comment about the intimidating nature of unstraightened black hair (I've listened to enough talk radio and rap to know he would have gotten away with just the sexist "hos'' part), I'm thrilled that he has been unmasked for what he always was: an angry, adolescent, simplistic shock jock. A few years ago, Imus spent months calling me a pinhead every time my byline appeared, because of the fact that I had written that his friend, George Carlin, was no longer the most cutting-edge comic. It was weird and angry and fed my insatiable ego, but mostly it was just simplistic and juvenile. I just wish he'd go back to being simplistic and juvenile about simplistic and juvenile things. Other than, of course, college basketball. The writer is a columnist for The Los Angeles Times.