Imus and The Culture of Incivility
The thing is, although the sites are often quite funny, they can also be incredibly vile -- and they give really ignorant, decidedly unfunny people a forum for contributing extraordinarily hateful comments about the various celebrities -- particularly focusing on their bodies.
On a typical site, photos of Uma Thurman in an ill-fitting bikini generate 106 disgusting meditations on the condition of her breasts, which are apparently committing the crime of not being silicone-filled and immune to the effects of age and child-bearing. A photo of Britney Spears with a stain on her blouse appears on dozens of these blogs and obliges dozens of anonymous posters from all over the country to call her names that should make any decent person blush with shame. Cameron Diaz caught by paparazzi without make-up earns her savage insults, and everyone and anyone is referred to as "slut," "ho," "fag" and "pig" and "bitch."
It seems that merely being an entertainer or celebrity -- especially a female one -- makes anyone fair game for this sort of insanely vicious attack.
It's one thing for bloggers to engage in hyperbolic tirades against politicians or world leaders who make offensive policy out of ignorance and arrogance. For instance, I'm not offended by anyone who spews venom at a Rick Santorum or a South Dakota Senator Bill Napoli (have you forgotten? I've reproduced below his outrageously misogynistic remarks regarding what he thinks would constitute an acceptable definition of rape for the purposes of allowing abortion -- to which my own blogger's response was that he should be anally impaled on the Statue of Liberty -- which I thought had a fine democratic zing to it) as a way of publicizing and puncturing the outrageousness of these guys' rhetoric.
Blogging is a way that people with no power can hollaback at people with a lot of power. Celebrity blogs, however, aren't so much confrontational as they are parasitic. The celebs feed the media machine, the bloggers consume it, and the whole thing becomes an ugly, totally unproductive spectacle about beautiful people with way too much money.
Don Imus' incredibly disgusting, offensive remarks about the Rutgers women's basketball team was, for me, the last straw in wanting to participate in any way in this big media version of "the dozens." What we seem to have forgotten, culturally, is that the art of doling out extravagant insult is something that can be done within affectionately affiliated peer or family groups, not by outsiders and not by wanna-bes. If my girlfriends and I want to call each other the "B" word, and if African-American folk want to call each other the "N" word, and if Jews want to knock on each other, it's all in the family. Outsiders may critique the practice, but they can't participate in it. Period.
Don Imus is most definitely not in any of the cultural "families" who use insult as a way of honing humor and resilience amongst themselves. He can't claim affectionate affiliation with the talented female athletes he egregiously verbally violated, nor can he claim to be puncturing their power and influence for any good reason. He is simply an overpaid, privileged white man who spews hateful, sexist, racist invective because he has done so before and has gotten away with it under the guise of "entertainment."
His party is apparently over, and maybe now he can start to bridge the great divide between being the so-called "not a bad man" he claims to be and the harmful, hateful radio talk show host he's been behaving as. And the rest of us can continue the conversation about how it is that women in our culture are so regularly denigrated in just this way with no public outcry whatsoever.
[Editorial note: I don't have time to edit this post and I can't sign into Blogger at home right now, so this will have to stand as is. - PB]
*Said Senator Napoli:
"A real-life description to me would be a rape victim, brutally raped, savaged. The girl was a virgin. She was religious. She planned on saving her virginity until she was married. She was brutalized and raped, sodomized as bad as you can possibly make it, and is impregnated. I mean, that girl could be so messed up, physically and psychologically, that carrying that child could very well threaten her life."