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Bad words or bad ideas?

Posted Tuesday, June 24, 2008, at 10:30 AM

I'm trying wrap my head around this one and maybe our readers can help me sort this out.

Last night, I was kicking back looking at the Yahoo wire and noticed two things.

For the top entertainment story, there was the new flap about comments that radio shock jock Don Imus made yesterday. In case, you haven't heard, the AP reported that:

During an on-air conversation Monday about the arrests of suspended Dallas Cowboys cornerback Adam Jones, Imus asked, "What color is he?"

Told by sports announcer Warner Wolf that Jones, who used to be nicknamed Pacman, is "African-American," Imus responded: "There you go. Now we know."

Later Monday, Imus responded to criticism of his comments, saying he had been misunderstood.

"I meant that he was being picked on because he's black," Imus said in a statement released by his spokesman.

However, listed right under this story was one of the tributes to the late George Carlin, which focused on:

Carlin breached the accepted boundaries of comedy and language, particularly with his routine on the "Seven Words" -- all of which are taboo on broadcast TV to this day.

When he uttered all seven at a show in Milwaukee in 1972, he was arrested on charges of disturbing the peace, freed on $150 bail and exonerated when a Wisconsin judge dismissed the case, saying it was indecent but citing free speech and the lack of any disturbance.

When the words were later played on a New York radio station, they resulted in a 1978 Supreme Court ruling upholding the government's authority to sanction stations for broadcasting offensive language during hours when children might be listening.

Well, maybe not on broadcast TV, but at one time or another, I have heard all of these seven words on cable, which has pretty much taken the place of what was once considered "broadcast." And I'm not talking about HBO, but Comedy Central (after hours) and others popular channels. Although a lot of shows "bleep out" the words, everyone knows what is said. There is little doubt about the content.

This is what struck me. These days, you can say these offensive words on TV.

But offensive ideas? That's another story entirely.

If someone says one of the seven dirty words on TV these days, there will be a few items about the event and usually an apology about how the offensive word "just slipped out". But cross the line in another respect, and your career is probably over or you "just want to spend more time with my family."

Carlin built a successful career saying offensive words. He is praised upon his death for "pushing the boundries." However, Imus nearly destroyed his career with offensive ideas and may have done so yet again.

My question to our readers: Today, just what is acceptable? What is worse? Bad words or bad ideas?

Showing comments in chronological order
[Show most recent comments first]

Depends how right wing you are. I find what he said about Rutgers offensive, but regarding the latest incident, it all depends on the context in which he meant to be heard.

Regarding George Carlin, his reasoning was to make people think, that is what was so revolutionary about him. He wanted to stimulate the mind and ask questions, he was against complacency and sheepolism that many others adore.

-- Posted by Evil Monkey on Tue, Jun 24, 2008, at 12:46 PM

Obviously, today's standards are different than when Carlin gave his "Seven Words" routine. Now, you can say any word you want, or so it seems, but ideas seem to get people in more trouble these days.

Imus was already skating on thin ice so he should have known better to approach any race subject. He is a veteran and while I don't take offense to his last statement, especially after hearing his reasonsing, he should not have said it considering his past remarks. No matter what he says these days, people will think he is being racist.

-- Posted by dooshie69 on Tue, Jun 24, 2008, at 12:57 PM

The question is "was it racist or the truth?" Watch the news on local channels or read the paper ,who commits more crime? Some of you will say I am a racist . You have to call it the way you see it!

-- Posted by tn.moonshiner on Tue, Jun 24, 2008, at 2:48 PM


Well there could be two sides to the coin too, Whilst you said might be true; it could also be said that their punishments seem to always be more severe compared to white offenders.

-- Posted by Evil Monkey on Tue, Jun 24, 2008, at 4:57 PM

Don Imus has the right to say whatever he wants, when he wants and if people don't like it then it is pretty simple . . . DON'T LISTEN TO HIS SHOW. Everyone nowadays feel as though everyone should cater to their every feeling and whim and we need to walk on eggshells. If you don't like what he says then don't support his show and if more people do that, then that will speak for itself. Everyone wears their feelings on their sleeves and the same people who are complaining really have no room to talk. I mean really, Al Sharpton shouldn't even be commenting after he helped crucify the Duke lacrosse team and come to find out the woman(who was black) lied and had a history of issues and yet he never apologized. He just "assumed" that since it was a black woman and they were rich white males then evidently the white men were the guilty ones. That was racism in action itself. Usually if Sharpton makes a issue of it then I discredit it as being an issue and that is the case with Imus.

My point is this . . . yes racism still exist among all the races and it is sad that it still exist in today's times. However, the black community needs to quit blaming their problems on the "white man holding them down" and slavery that occurred many decades ago. African Americans need to move forward and if they want to end stereotypes, then they need to look inside their own community and improve their situation and that will speak for itself. When African Americans consist of only less than 15% of the nations population but yet make up almost 60% of the prison population, then you have a problem and that can not be attributed to racism. Everyone has the choice to rise up above any situation . . . they just have to decide if they want to actually work for it and have respect for themselves. Every human faces that decision daily . . . that isn't just racial issue.

-- Posted by jaxspike on Tue, Jun 24, 2008, at 9:12 PM

I do not think society can agree on what is acceptable at this time, or any other for that matter. I personally think that a bad idea is much worse than a bad word, if there are any "bad" words. That does not mean that I believe bad ideas should be censored in any way. Who gets to decide which ideas are bad? The ideas will stand or fall on their own merit eventually.

For example, racism will slowly fade away in our society as the older people get older and nature relieves all their pains. It may disappear completely, provided there is not an effort to divide the population.

I am not so sure that the race issue is as cut and dry as some of the other comments here portray it though. It is easy to point out the statistics of our prisons, but it is somewhat harder to understand and explain why the statistics are like they are. It is also very easy to say "get up and work for it", however it looks like a different problem when you ask yourself: Do the people that are struggling not care, or is there something else going on? I would imagine that most all people want to be successful and live a comfortable life. However people need the tools to achieve their success. Please do not get me wrong, I am not defending anyones bad decisions, nor am I advocating a relevant morality. I do however see quite a few disadvantages even at this late date for not just for minorities, but the poor and uneducated of any race.

-- Posted by memyselfi on Wed, Jun 25, 2008, at 1:37 AM

In the immortal words of Ice-T "Freedom of speech....just watch what you say."

-- Posted by Thumper on Wed, Jun 25, 2008, at 9:17 AM

Thumper, you brought up Ice-T....now that's sweet. I loved old school Ice-T.

-- Posted by dooshie69 on Wed, Jun 25, 2008, at 9:49 AM

I have always liked Imus...because he spoke his mind...I believe we should be able to do that without living in fear all the time...I really believe Imus meant it in the way he explained...I do not think we should have to explain everything we say...but that is the way it is now..I have a question....We just moved into our own home..Well we are still moving but almost done...I wanted to get my flags up...One is the American flag and the other is a Rebel flag...The people across the street here on Midland Road on the county side (not the city)told us they did not like us flying our Rebel Flag and we need to take it down...What should we do...I am a kind hearted person and I do not want to up-set anyone ...I feel we should take it down...But my husband and son feel that we have the right to have it up...We do not mean anything racist about it at all......I never judge a book by it's cover and I do not judge anyone by the color of their skin either...What would you do if you were in our shoes...I went out and took them both down this morning...just for now..

-- Posted by rebelrose on Wed, Jun 25, 2008, at 10:31 AM

I would leave it up . . . it is a part of our history and the flag itself is not racist nor do they have the right to tell you what you should or should not do.

-- Posted by jaxspike on Wed, Jun 25, 2008, at 11:11 AM

I believe it depends on Who the person is. If a person is known for saying "Anything" about "Anybody", or "Anything", anywhere, people are going to be use to this person saying what ever he saids, and it will be more acceptable or "expected". But if you have some one that tends to "Target" certain groups or things whether it is a normal thing they do all the time or not they are going to run into some problems with the media, etc.

Example: you mentioned Pac Man Jones; This is a person that can not keep himself out of trouble. If someone saids something about him, it wouldn't matter it would pretty much be expected. But you take someone that constantly has something negative to say about people of his same race, then this person will be looked at as targeting him simply because he is black.

Targeting subjects (race, sex, religion, handicap, sexuality, and even financial status) is "ALWAYS" going to cause you a problem.

When it comes to racism and prejudice or discriminative issues majority of the time a white person will be accused or Targeted of it, usually a male. When it comes to a crime of some sort majority of the time a black man will be accused or "Targeted" of it. When in reallity both race are guilty of both, fairly equal. There are just as many white people killing, raping, stealing, abusing, DUI, Doing and selling drugs, involved in gang activity, want work, live off of welfare or mom and pops, being rude and disrespectful, vandalizing and comitting any other crime as their are any other race. And there are many other races that have prejudice issues and racism toward other races mainly towards whites.

I look at it this way, If there is a person that saids positive things and negative things both about all people no matter who they are, I would not suspect this person as "Targeting" certain people. But if this person said positive things about some people, but only has negative things to say about "Certain" people or only wants to point out negative things about "Certain" people, and Never has been known to say or point out positive things about "Certain" people; then their is No Doubt to me what this person is all about.

-- Posted by Momof3&3step&1gran on Thu, Jun 26, 2008, at 4:14 PM

RE Carlin, I found him rather offensive and bad-tempered, yet frequently hilarious. Though his sarcasm was his act, I have a feeling that was his true personality as well, which is not always the case with comics, as well as TV anchors.

RE Imus, what he said about the Rutgers team was downright mean. But I believe him when he defends his latest comment. He was blaming "profiling." While in some cases that's certainly the case, to claim it's commonplace is a slap in the face of our law enforcement. Most of them have too much to do to sit around looking for certain faces to catch. So just who was Imus insulting? African-Americans or our police force?

-- Posted by loveretirement on Thu, Jun 26, 2008, at 5:37 PM

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Brian Mosely is a staff writer for the Times-Gazette.
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