Gurney's Inn
April 18, 2007

Kiss & Tell


The most surprising thing about the uproar over the comments of Don Imus is that it implies that this sort of speech in the public air waves is rare. Has no one listed to Imus before or Howard Stern or Bill O'Reilly or even read some of the letters to the editor here in this paper? Or what about Ann Coulter whose apology for calling Jon Edwards a "faggot" consisted of saying she didn't mean to insult gay people by putting Edwards in their camp.

Hateful, degrading insults are hurled on a regular basis by TV and radio personalities hired specifically for their negative personality. There's a reason they're called shock jocks. Even America's most popular entertainment show — "American Idol,"— is ruled by the meanness of Simon Cowell reducing singer wannabes to tears. What we consider straight "news" is not even immune where pontificating pundits from both sides yell at each other instead of engaging in an informed discussion. Face it, hate is in.

I remember a valuable lesson I learned in high school as part of an English class. We were learning the art of debate, and the teacher would select an issue and we would divide into sides to create support for our position. The beauty was not in coming up with a coherent and compelling set of reasons for our case, but when, after it was over, the teacher instructing us to switch sides and argue with as much conviction the opposing point of view.

Bill Maher and a panel which included Jason Alexander and Dan Rather discussed the phenomenon of a large part of the audience, especially the younger generation, getting their news from comics like Maher and Jon Stewart. Personally I think both are brilliant, not just because their personal positions resonate with mine but because they take issues and put them in a human context. What makes their comments funny, unlike Imus, is that there is some measure of truth in what they say. In my book, to be truly funny and witty you must also be informed and smart.

The cult of negativity can overwhelm a culture. We are all quick to draw when we're angry and have something bad to say, yet slow on the uptake to express a compliment or a positive statement. Like with the letters to the editor, a person is much more likely to take the time and write a letter or complain if he or she has a negative comment but much less likely to take that same amount of time to go out of his or her way to say "well done."

Thoughts and words have power. They carry energy. And that energy is conducted both ways Ė reaching out to its target and reflected right back at us. We need to be far more choosy about what energies we let into our lives, even down to the TV we watch and the radio we listen to.

Do you think Imus wishes that instead of referring to the winning basketball team as "nappy-headed ho's" that he had simply said "well done?" Probably. But if that was his take on life, he never would have been given a show in the first place. Also who the hell is he to be criticizing anyone else's hair? I mean has he ever looked in the mirror? There's a reason they say he has a face for radio. See, now did that make me feel any better? Nah, I'd rather spend the last line saying congratulations to that fantastic Rutgers University women's basketball team.

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