Sunday, April 15, 2007
I can only hope that the Don Imus firing is a tipping point in our tolerance of rude and crude behavior in public personalities. I may be showing my age but I grew up in a time when public figures set a higher standard for people to use as role models. I have seen a trend over the last decade or more of greater and greater tolerance for rude behavior by public figures. The yardstick that we use to measure what is acceptable in public has gotten severely distorted in my view. An entire network, Fox News, has prospered by supporting public rants by people like Bill O'reilly and others. In O'reilly's case his written works seem pretty reasonable and sensible but his public persona like Don Imus is rude, domineering and bullying. The man is highly skilled in public debate and often leaves his guests shredded and wounded. The point is with O'reilly in particular is that he seems a very intelligent and reasonable man but his public persona is what sells and has sold for decades, a bullying and mean one. We see it everywhere in our culture. It is now publicly acceptable to publicly bash women, cops, and "The Man", through loudly played "Gangsta Rap" when stopped at a traffic light or in a parking lot. The intrusion on our individual space has not only become commonplace but the norm. I admit to attempting on several occasions trying to watch the Imus show and I guess I just did not get it. A rude and crude old guy in a cowboy hat ridiculing everyone around him. Like O'reilly he had redeeming qualities in his private life but the point is he became a rich, rude, old guy like many other TV personalities including Ann Coulter, Nancy Grace and many others on various networks because of his bad behavior in public. We paid for him to get that way through the network polls by casting our vote for rude and crude public behavior. I can only hope that his firing is a tipping point in our society that will lead us back to the times I knew as a kid when public persona's were elevating by their public behavior even if their off camera or off mike behavior was reprehensible. But, then again I could just be a middle class old guy hoping for a return to my youth.