Oprah on Imus (Public forum with Russell and others) 2
© copyright 2007 Betsy L. Angert
In this tome, I am not advocating autocratic censorship. I ask each of us to look within and consciously choose an empathetic ethical code.
"There is a problem." However, Americans do not agree what the problem is. Sexism, racism, homophobia, violence, or the words we use to promote such social ills. For weeks, language has been in the news, on the blogs, in the airwaves, and in music-industry executives meeting rooms. Free speech is the topic in question, as is the power of words. As children, we learned that "Sticks and stones may break our bones; but names will never hurt me." In fact, the opposite is true. Words and the inferences can cause greater, and more last injuries than twigs or rocks might. The body heals far better than the heart does.
After receiving numerous death threats, blogger Kathy Sierra called on the blogosphere to confront the culture of cruelty in cyberspace. This active author and public speaker, fears for her life. Missus Sierra recently canceled public speaking engagements and suspended her site. On her weblog, Kathy Sierra writes . . .
If you want to do something about it, do not tolerate the kind of abuse that includes threats or even suggestions of violence (especially sexual violence). Do not put these people on a pedestal. Do not let them get away with calling this "social commentary," "protected speech," or simply "criticism."For weeks, Missus Sierra has been immobilized. After becoming the focus of ample threats, inclusive of a post that featured a picture of her next to a noose, she stated . . .
"I have cancelled all speaking engagements. I am afraid to leave my yard, I will never feel the same. I will never be the same."The police are investigating the harassment and the blogosphere is blazing. Discussions of how women are treated online are fueling a fire. While, on her own site, Creating Passionate Users, Kathy Sierra receives much support, there are those that think her call for civility and courtesy is ridiculous.
In Death threats and blogging, by the famous Kos condemnation of a proposed code was evident.
[T]he rantings of a lunatic. For my part, I've gotten my fair share of such vile emails. Some of them have threatened my children. One or two actually crossed the line into "death threat" territory. But so what? It's not as if those cowards will actually act on their threats. For better or for worse, this isn't a country in which media figures -- even hugely controversial ones -- are routinely attacked by anything more dangerous than a cream pie.This dictum on Daily Kos was posted on April 12, days before an angry aggressor, Cho Seung-Hui avenged those he loathed at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University. The shooter's rants were his truth. His threats proved to be powerful. Cho Seung-Hui may not have sent his last package in a timely manner. Nevertheless, he did warn and alarm many years before he carried out this horrific and planned deed.
Email makes it easy for stupid people to send stupid emails to public figures. If they can't handle a little heat in their email inbox, then really, they should try another line of work. Because no "blogger code of conduct" will scare away psycho losers with access to email.
Words can be wicked. They are often used as weapons. Expressions wound a heart and soul; they hurt. Yet, we excuse these repeatedly. Mel Gibson declared, "I am not anti Semitic" after a tirade that was terribly intolerant. This was not the Directors first show of fury against Jews. Nevertheless, it was excused. It did promote momentary concerns.
Abraham H. Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League, called Gibson's apology "unremorseful and insufficient." Prominent Hollywood talent agent Ari Emanuel called for an industry boycott of Gibson in a blog posted Monday.Nonetheless, money ruled. His next movie "Apocalypto," distributed by The Walt Disney Company received rave reviews, even from periodicals that some consider Progressive. The almighty buck may not reduce bigotry. Actually, it may help to create it.
"At a time of escalating tensions in the world, the entertainment industry cannot idly stand by and allow Mel Gibson to get away with such tragically inflammatory statements," he wrote. "People in the entertainment community, whether Jew or gentile, need to demonstrate that they understand how much is at stake in this by professionally shunning Mel Gibson and refusing to work with him, even if it means a sacrifice to their bottom line.
"There are times in history when standing up against bigotry and racism is more important than money."
In recent years, [Mel Gibson] has turned his attention to producing films and TV shows through his Icon Productions. The hundreds of millions of dollars he made producing the 2004 film "The Passion of the Christ" has given the star the ability to finance his own films, giving him a measure of independence from the major studios.Some "artists" using racial slurs make millions. They defend their right to do so. Many or most apologize. However, there is skepticism. Why are they contrite. Can a heart change in a moment or is cash their concern.
When Michael Richards railed against Blacks in his audience, he was quite impassioned. His "hate speak" seemed infinitely sincere. Smears spewed; slights slammed, all said with sincerity. These affronts fell trippingly off his tongue. The comedian apologized while explaining, "I am not a racist." The response was "Really?" It is difficult to know whether Michael Richards has or will recover from such a blunder or the unbelievable statement, "I'm not a racist, that's what's so insane about this."
Will Don Imus be deeply effected by his debacle? The debate continues. Again, cash was cut off, at least temporarily. Imus was apologetic and ashamed, perchance more so after advertisers raised the volume on this discussion. Ultimately Don Imus lost his battle. The major television and radio networks that carried the Don Imus Show felt they could no longer support him. The load was too great; the rewards realized too little. Don Imus had become a distraction.
Executives at CBS and MSNBC saw where the numbers were heading. They may well have been genuinely disgusted by Imus' reference to the Rutgers women's basketball team as "nappy-headed hos," but their decision to dump him had little to do with moral outrage. They simply did the math. They'll miss the millions they would have earned from Imus' show, but they stood to lose even more if they let him stay on the air, and so he was toast.However, unlike Don Imus who justifies his antics as comedy, and whose money is or was tied to corporate sponsors, there are the rappers. They too are coming under attack.
Free speech, meet free enterprise.
For political prominents, Al Sharpton, Jesse Jackson, and Bruce Gordon enough is enough. These gentlemen want the smears to end. These Black leaders think even Black on Black rubs need to be eliminated from our common language. Two wrongs do not make a right. Racism, bigotry, and misogyny cannot be defined differently depending on who exhibits such behavior. Reverend Al Sharpton is calling on the Federal Communications Commission to punish artists and announcers alike for advocating violence in word and deed.
In 2005, this issue was fresh and addressed. Then, a member of rap group, The Game was wounded during a shooting outside a New York hip-hop radio station. The cause was clear; another hip-hopper, 50 Cent was on the air criticizing The Game. Tempers flared. The effect of word weaponry was realized. The rest is rap or American history. After this volatile event, civil rights leader Al Sharpton . . .
The founder of the National Action Network emphasized in the letter: "We cannot sit silently by while young Americans feel that shootings and bloodshed is now synonymous with success and celebrity. We understand you're in the business of making money, but it cannot be at the expense of polluting the cultural outlook of young Americans."However, two years later, rappers again speak to their creativity, just cause, and the need to communicate their concerns.
Rappers reason they are poets; they please the people. Although admittedly, not all the people. The recent allegations of racial and misogynistic rhetoric against Don Imus amplified a too often delayed or dissuaded discussion. Is it proper to demean women or people of other ethnicities. Might a poet use his or her artistic licenses? Is it just when an performer uses racial slurs, or vile vernacular against one of their own? Today, USA Today reported . . .
Imus fallout: Music execs discuss rap lyricsAgain, we stand still. Money moves mountains; yet, capital does not necessarily change minds. We think, and act on our beliefs. When people profess their deepest, darkest chauvinistic values, spirits are often broken. Lives can be lost.
NEW YORK (AP) — In the wake of Don Imus' firing for his on-air slur about the Rutgers women's basketball team, a high-powered group of music-industry executives met privately Wednesday to discuss sexist and misogynistic rap lyrics.
During the furor that led to Imus' fall last week from his talk-radio perch, many of his critics carped as well about offensive language in rap music.
The meeting, called by hip-hop mogul Russell Simmons' Hip-Hop Summit Action Network, was held at the New York home of Lyor Cohen, chairman, and chief executive of U.S. music at Warner Music Group. The summit, which lasted several hours, did not result in any specific initiative.
Organizers billed the gathering as a forum to "discuss issues challenging the industry in the wake of controversy surrounding hip-hop and the First Amendment." Afterward, they planned to hold a news conference at a Manhattan hotel to discuss "initiatives agreed upon at the meeting." But by early afternoon, the news conference was postponed, because the meeting was still going on.
After the meeting ended, it was unclear whether there would be another one. Simmons' publicist released a short statement that described the topic as a "complex issue that involves gender, race, culture and artistic expression. Everyone assembled today takes this issue very seriously."
Although no recommendations emerged, the gathering was significant for its who's-who list of powerful music executives.
Rappers know this as do bloggers. Suffering students are realizing that words, written or spoken cannot be ignored. The common folk and tycoons agree; yet, they disagree. This is evident when we listen to recent Oprah Winfrey town-hall meeting. Hip-hop mogul Russell Simmons of Hip-Hop Summit Action Network stated his beliefs . . .
"We're talking about a lot of these artists who come from the most extreme cases of poverty and ignorance ... And when they write a song, and they write it from their heart, and they're not educated, and they don't believe there's opportunity, they have a right, they have a right to say what's on their mind," he said.I wonder; might our number one concern be the hearts and minds of all humans, men, women, Black, White, Yellow, Brown, Red, and Jew, Muslims, Buddhists, and Christians too. Whether we are born in poverty or into wealth, we are human. We hurt; we bleed. We can love; however, as long as our language degrades another, love will not survive. Perhaps, neither will we. I am reminded of the phrase, "race riots," or "the war against women." I fear the folly of expressing emotions in a manner that kills heart, mind, body, or soul. I prefer the words, "May peace be with you my brother and my sister."
"Whether it's our sexism, our racism, our homophobia or our violence, the hip-hop community sometimes can be a good mirror of our dirt and sometimes the dirt that we try to cover up," Simmons said. "Pointing at the conditions that create these words from the rappers ... should be our No. 1 concern."
For me, a code of ethics need not be written or etched in stone; it must be lived because we believe in love, peace, and tranquility.
The Rap and Resources . . .