As we wrap up our necessary Don Imus coverage this week — Don Imus and the Rutgers Nappy Headed Hos and Race and the American Humor Line and The Lesson of Don Imus: Red is Thicker than Green — we turn the page by taking a scholarly, semiotic, examination of The Imus Incident and its created Consequential Context expressed in national editorial cartoons.


Power is not always revealed in words. Power can find great purchase in
images. Semiotics is a powerful plan for teaching without telling. Many
of these beautiful artistic renderings of The Imus Issue are poignant
and telling on an unspoken level and it is fascinating how these
disparate editorial artists have come together — in an inconvenient
way on an uncomfortable topic — to express a national moral truth in
several specific, corrective, categories:
THE KKK AND RACISM

THE RUTGERS TEAM

MONEY AND POWER

AL SHARPTON

REFLECTIVE

It is amazing to see how the power of Semiotics can so
strongly create Consequential Context and a moral correction while
framing an issue and providing commentary and insight to give us all,
and those who will follow us, meaning in the moment and prescience into
the future by providing platforms for further examination — and a
correction of — our nationally shared moral values.

39 Comments

  1. Here’s a riveting story on the history of “Nappy” in the Black community:

    Since slavery times, “nappy” has been used to malign the natural hair texture of many people of African descent: dense, dark and tightly curled. So when Don Imus referred to the women of the Rutgers basketball team as “nappy-headed hos” — a widely condemned remark that got him fired Thursday — it cut deeper than many who are unfamiliar with the term might realize.
    Even today, with natural black hair in full bloom throughout pop culture, “nappy hair” remains a sensitive issue — especially, as with the original N-word used so casually by many blacks, when a white person uses it.
    “When Imus says ‘these nappy-headed hos,’ his first flaw is he’s using an in-group term that’s loaded,” said Lanita Jacobs-Huey, associate professor of anthropology and American studies and ethnicity at the University of Southern California.
    “When I hear it from someone who doesn’t understand the depth of pain, they just don’t have the right to say it,” said Carla Lynne Hall, a singer from Harlem.
    The pain goes back to slavery. Whites saw blacks’ natural hair as a negative attribute, a contrast to the European standard of “ideal” beauty. As a result, even blacks started to look down on their own natural features.
    “If your hair wasn’t straight, it was called nappy. Nappy hair meant you weren’t beautiful or desirable,” said Nsenga Burton, professor of communications and media studies at Goucher College in Baltimore. “Even within the community, nappy hair for a long time was seen as a bad thing.”

    http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20070412/ap_en_tv/nappy_hair_2

  2. Hi Katha,
    I have a feeling that a lot of the music industry is aimed at getting the attention of teenage boys and using salacious images — whether in videos or in lyrical form — gets this audience’s attention.
    I heard an argument that Imus — despite his age — have been behaving like a teenager for the last 41 years he has been on the radio.
    Maybe it is time that the music and radio industry grows up — or at least matures a few years beyond its collective “15-year-old boy” mentality.

  3. Here’s the link for Mrs. Imus asking for the hate mail to stop:

    NEW YORK – Don Imus’ wife took over his radio fundraiser Friday after CBS fired the host for racist remarks about the Rutgers women’s basketball team. She described her husband’s meeting with the team, praised the women as “beautiful and courageous,” and demanded that all hate mail being sent to the team stop.

    http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20070413/ap_en_ot/imus_protests_342

  4. People sending hate mail to the team is just plain sick.
    Imus’ actions may have had another unintended consequence .

    Gov. Jon S. Corzine was in critical condition Friday but expected to recover after his SUV crashed into a guard rail while heading to a meeting between Don Imus and the Rutgers women’s basketball team.

  5. Chris! I agree! There are those who predict this action against Imus for his hate speech will bounce back against the Black Community in really awful, negative, hateful ways because the perpetrators will become even more aggressive in the name of revenge and leveling the field and in eye-for-an-eye retribution.
    I have to say what I’m hearing on the radio in NYC reflects that. The talkers are angry Imus is gone and they’re blaming the Black Community for getting rid on an icon. They are spewing even more hate now — because they realize their livelihood spewing rage is likely over — and they’re going to go down in flames and burn everyone else with them on the way.
    The Corzine accident was horrific! It’s like no one can escape this issue without some sort of mortal wound being inflicted.

  6. Now the event should be closed and we can all move forward together:

    NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. – Rutgers women’s basketball coach C. Vivian Stringer said Friday the team had accepted radio host Don Imus’ apology. She said he deserves a chance to move on but hopes the furor his racist and sexist insult caused will be a catalyst for change.
    “We, the Rutgers University Scarlet Knight basketball team, accept — accept — Mr. Imus’ apology, and we are in the process of forgiving,” Stringer read from a team statement a day after the women met personally with Imus and his wife.

    http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20070413/ap_en_ot/imus_protests_351

  7. Before I begin, an article to provide context for my comment.
    http://www.wlky.com/entertainment/11814452/detail.html
    I know I for one am against the black community and have been for quite some time for their continual hypocrisy. If IMUS is the hatemongering icon of the white community, then Snoop Dogg is the hatemongering icon of the black community.
    According to MTV, Snoop Dogg said that rappers “are not talking about no collegiate basketball girls who have made it to the next level in education and sports. We’re talking about ho’s that’s in the ‘hood that ain’t doing sh–, that’s trying to get a n—a for his money. These are two separate things.”
    And if MSNBC is the supporter of IMUS then MTV is the supporter of Snoop Dogg. Here we have MSNBC under fire being pressured to cut IMUS off, while at the same time MTV condones and justifies Snoop Dogg’s comments.
    I for one don’t see how Snoop Dogg’s comments are in any way relevant. The issue at hand is that the “nappy headed ho’s” comment is demeaning to black girls. But according to Snoop Dogg, its alright to call a black girl who “aint doin shit” a “nappy headed ho” because that is a separate thing from a an educated black girl, because in the words of Joe Biden, those girls are “clean”.
    Yet when Joe Biden makes the distinction between a “clean” and a “nappy headed ho” the world is in outrage as well. But Snoop Dogg can not only make the distinction, is also allowed to call the non-clean girls “nappy headed ho’s”, and on top of that is condoned and justified by MTV.
    “We are rappers that have these songs coming from our minds and our souls that are relevant to what we feel.”
    Well, racism was in the minds and souls of the white man, and the black man didn’t seem to like it too much when he was called a “nigger” and a “boy” and therefore required the white man to be censured. And yet by that same argument Snoop Dogg has a free pass to “express” his mind and soul.
    Somehow this double standard doesn’t sit right with me. I am in no way white — not even close, and I do not support racism in any shape way or form, but as long as the black community thinks it can, in the name of past oppression, be racist themselves, I believe racism remains free game for the white man.
    Also on a side note, I’ve watched IMUS in the morning occasionally. I didn’t like the show, because Don Imus is an *sshole. He would tell his co-hosts to shut up like you do to a dog; naturally they complied. But he was no racist. He talked crap on every race, gender, stereotype, and whatnot. He wasn’t selective against any race. He even talked sh*t on his own white race. Don Imus was a major *sshole, but no racist.
    [Comment edited for content by David W. Boles]

  8. alexkruez —
    Please do not curse on this blog.
    You should read all our Imus articles and comments published this week. Then you’ll discover Imus’ established history of hate speech, Racism and bigotry.
    The “Snoop Dogg does it too” argument doesn’t wash in the context of Imus or any hate speech as Joe Conason points out in today’s issue of Salon:

    It doesn’t matter whether rappers or anybody else use the same disgusting language that Imus and his sidekick Bernard McGuirk used when describing the Rutgers basketball team as “nappy-headed hos.” Imus himself tried out a version of this argument when he appeared on the Rev. Al Sharpton’s radio show, pointing out that although he is indeed a white man, he is hip enough to know that “ho” is a term of disrespect heard in the black community. This is a stupid argument, roughly akin to claiming that white ownership of slaves was justifiable because black Africans sold them. The only issue for NBC and CBS was the standard of discourse on their programming, not what some idiots may be saying somewhere else.

    http://www.salon.com/opinion/conason/2007/04/13/imus/

  9. My apologies I didn’t know there was a censor in place here.
    I am not bringing up a “Snoop Dogg does it too” argument. That would suggest that I’m saying that what Imus did was ok because snoop dogg does it too. I don’t believe what Imus said was appropriate by any stretch of the imagination. But I don’t believe that this attempt at ridding racism from our society is genuine.
    Again, I am not condoning or supporting what Imus did. In fact, I’m glad he is gone because of the hate he spread (not racism, but hate). But I am bringing up the point that if the black community was truly concerned with attacking racism in our society, they would begin with their own, rather than go after everyone else while remaining silent when one of their own does the same only a couple of days after Imus did.
    To use the quote you posted to my advantage, Africans are in uproar about the white ownership of slaves, while they continue to support the black Africans who sold them into slavery through listening to their music and following their “hip hop” culture, then it makes their requests for an “end to slavery” seem disingenuous.
    And if I were a white slave owner, and I saw this phenomenon, I would say to the slaves, “if you were truly concerned about ending slavery, you would not just end your support for the black Africans who sold you into slavery, but you would censure them as well, if not first.”

  10. alexkreuz —
    There’s no censor in place, it’s our established comments policy not to publish cursing:
    http://urbansemiotic.com/comments-policy/
    As Chris Hedges argued elsewhere in our Imus comments, Al Sharpton protested against hate Rap two weeks before Imus opened his mouth about the Rutgers team.
    I have argued elsewhere this is a condition of power, where Black advocates have always expressed their dislike of how Black women are treated in rap music, but they can’t get heard in the mainstream White media because that very media is making money off the hatred. We need to provide strong minority voices equal access to the avenues of the White power mainstream media elite outlets beyond issues of Race and ensuing outrage.

  11. On my way back from lunch today, the radio station that I listen to, KCRW (NPR) was discussing the topic of “How Did Don Imus Go Down in Flames?” The podcast for the show should be available by tomorrow if anybody is interested in listening to it.
    http://www.npr.org/rss/podcast.php?id=510124
    One of the guests was brining up a point so similar to what I felt that I found myself wondering if I was plagiarized, lol. Anyway, for additional interest, her article on her blog can be found here.
    http://jasmynecannick.typepad.com/jasmynecannickcom/2007/04/cbs_fires_don_i.html

  12. Thanks for the links, alexkreuz, and on the topic of ripping people off online… I was watching “The View” yesterday on ABC-TV and they were talking about Imus and then they all started talking about the ability to hold equal, but opposite ideas in your mind at the same time as the sign of an intellectual mind and I thought, “Jinkers! They read my ‘Passionate Mind and Intellectual Heart’ article here, quoted me on air, but didn’t credit me!”

    I wrote all their answers on the board and we discussed the merits and weaknesses in each thought.
    Then I told them that, other than logically expressing their thoughts and feelings in writing, the core of a university education is all about having a “Passionate Mind and Intellectual Heart.”
    They stared at me.
    I said that phrase means you are able to unemotionally hold two different and opposite thoughts in your mind at the same time and then… and here’s the hard part… find value in each of them even if you don’t agree with either of them.
    They stared at me.
    A university education, I warned them, is not about deciding between right and wrong; it is about finding compromise and understanding in that hazy, grey, undefined part of the world and then getting comfortable enough with being open-minded to live your life into your death.

    http://urbansemiotic.com/2005/08/25/passionate-mind-and-intellectual-heart/
    I know Rosie O’Donnell reads this blog because there have been Trackbacks here from her blog several times.

  13. Hi Chris,
    Thanks for the answer!
    I think you are right, because it is easy to sell something cheesy in the name of “being true”.
    Is those songs are typically expressing “rebellious adolescent” or it is something more deep?

  14. David,
    I agree.
    I was looking for the roots of the problem.
    People can be sarcastic while protesting about any situation they are in, but degrading someone beyond limit is not permissible.
    I don’t listen to anything except NPR, but I listened to the MSNBC morning show of Imus just to see what happened there. I don’t know whether you noticed it or not – right after Imus uttering the word “nappy headed hos” there was an awkward silence for a split second – then he cleared his throat and went to the next topic.
    My take on it is – he instantly knew it was a bit too much, he shouldn’t have done that.
    I listened to a few clippings of “Snoopy Dog” too, I found it downright derogatory. I don’t know how come the media is airing it.
    Can I say whatever I want just because I want to express myself? Duh!

  15. Hi Katha!
    Yes, Akismet nabbed you! Thanks for the heads up. The new reporting method for these false positives is for the one caught to go to http://akismet.com/contact/ and fill in the form and copy in your comment and provide the URL so they can track it down on that end.
    I agree degrading someone — especially someone you don’t know — on a national news program is a big problem.
    I’m glad you listened to the MSNBC Imus show so you could hear the entire thing in context. I agree Imus knew he shouldn’t have said the phrase that no longer pays and if he had genuinely corrected his slip right then and there he might have been able to avoid the firestorm.
    Imus’ show has mocked Alberto Gonzales’ speech pattern, Brian Wilson’s mental problems, Gays, Dr. Phil and the old, reliable, chestnut — Bill Clinton.
    I can’t really listen to the hate Rap. I think it can infect you in bad ways. “Humps” was the only blue song I’ve been able to handle in that genre so far.

  16. Well, you can express your disapproval but why profanity? That too such a demeaning level that some needs to call someone a “whore” and make a song out of it and sell it?
    I don’t understand this cheap comedy either. There are many ways you make people laugh, if that is what you want; why humiliating someone in such an improper way?
    Till ’80s Bengali music was all about moon, stars, flower, birds, moonlit night, you are mine, I am yours etc. Then a new genre arrived which was known as “real-life” music where people started talking about their daily life, frustration etc.
    I still remember there was a furor when a leading singer used the word “idiot” to express his frustration about politicians. There is a Bengali equivalent to the word “idiot” which is known as slang. The reason of the commotion was “though the situation is appropriate, is it justifiable to use the word in a song?”
    We enjoyed the song and laughed.
    It was nothing compared to this.

  17. Hi Katha —
    We have sort of the same sort of cultural conditioning. The Golden Age of music was 1930-1950 when the music was melodic, moving, forward thinking and sublime.
    Today we have degenerate music passing as popular. The “Golden Days” still beat any music made today.
    In 1934, Cole Porter’s musical “Anything Goes” debuted and — even back then — there was regret at how far popular culture had fallen from the previous generation’s standards of glory and beauty:

    Times have changed,
    And we’ve often rewound the clock,
    Since the Puritans got a shock,
    When they landed on Plymouth Rock.
    If today,
    Any shock they should try to stem,
    ‘Stead of landing on Plymouth Rock,
    Plymouth Rock would land on them.
    In olden days a glimpse of stocking
    Was looked on as something shocking,
    But now, God knows,
    Anything Goes.
    Good authors too who once knew better words,
    Now only use four letter words
    Writing prose, Anything Goes.

    http://www.stlyrics.com/lyrics/anythinggoes/anythinggoes.htm

  18. Wow! What a lyric!
    I agree with you. Noone calls someone a whore in a Bengali song but our golden days are over too. We are still encashing our old melodies through remake but for how long?
    I am afraid somedays we will be so immuned that we won’t even distinguish between crap and gold.

  19. TAKE HEART, REMEMBER THE COURAGE
    Great collection of cartoons! A picture is worth a thousand words, but in the case of Imus, a few words are worth a thousand pictures.
    We are probably getting sick of Imus and all the furor, but I have a few comments.
    I began listening to Imus about six months ago, and I noticed from the start that his programming was a “weird mix.” He wore a Mickey Mouse tee shirt, a cowboy hat, played Country-Western music and hosted high profile types like Joe Liebermann, Harold Ford, Jr., John Edwards, John McCain and the like.
    The first time he offended me was when he referred to his sportscaster, Chris, as a “fat moose,” “fatso,” and also said “Howard Johnson called and wants their awning back” (a reference to Chris’ striped shirt).
    I remember thinking, where does this guy get off slamming the people who work for him?
    I never heard Imus call his wife a “Green Ho,” although I am not surprised. He frequently had her on his show and jousted with her. I could not believe she put up with his arrogant remarks, considering she appeared to be an intelligent woman.
    Never knowing Imus had a history of racism, I overlooked any controversial remarks he made. After all, surely a classy network like MSNBC would not have an idiot in their hire.
    Once, Imus said that the reason Harold Ford, Jr. lost the race to Bob Corker (whom he referred to as Bob Cracker) was that the State of Tennessee was caught up in “abject racism.”
    I was offended by this remark, as I reside in the State of Tennessee and voted for Harold Ford, Jr. What does Imus know about the people of this state?
    Imus went from a small town dj decades ago to the big time, but he forgot his audience. He let his ego get in the way, and felt he could do whatever he pleased. But his audience changed from small town to national. No longer would they tolerate his insulting remarks. (Not that small town would have tolerated them, either, but times changed.)
    I hope we have the courage to think twice while standing around the water cooler in Corporate America. If we hear a racist or sexist joke, I hope we have the courage to speak our mind.
    Take heart, remember the courage of the Rutgers’ team! Be of good cheer.

  20. Hi David,
    The effects of Imus’ demise are being observed on talk radio already.
    There will be a tightening up on radio shows — much like television was clamped down after Janet Jackson and Justin Timberlake performed their musical act during a Super Game half-time show.
    Today on Roe Conn’s Show on WLS-AM in Chicago, an interview with comedian Andy Dick who was in Chicago to promote a gig had to be pre-recorded and throughly vetted before it could be played on the air out of fear someone might say something that could be offensive.
    TMZ calls Andy Dick “The New Kramer.”
    (I bet the interview was set up before the Imus firing).
    In the past, the radio producers would have let someone like that on the air live, but kept their fingers on the “dump” button ready to “delete” anything offensive. Now, controversial people will probably be interviewed off-air to prevent any problems.

  21. Here’s something interesting from the Eventide link above:

    If 80 seconds of delay protection were not enough, the BD600 has a secondary backup called PANIC. This plays a .WAV file stored on a compact flash card. While the file – a jingle, ID or other message – is played, delay is being built up in real time, allowing programming to continue in safety as soon as the jingle is over.

    I bet fingers are hovering over “Panic” buttons in stations all over the nation now.

  22. Hey Donna!
    I love when you said, “a few words are worth a thousand pictures.” How right you are! I can’t remember another “one week” topic that received so much editorial cartoon coverage! It’s a firestorm of fun in the form of a troubling and necessary moral correction.
    I used to listen to Imus’ old stuff on the ReelRadio http://reelradio.com site and he was quite good and enjoyable when he was spinning records.
    I’ve been watching Imus on MSNBC for the past year or so and I enjoyed his political banter – but I always had to change the channel when things started to get stupid and so I guess I missed a lot of the hate speech stuff.
    I agree Imus hates Chris. I think he was picking on him so hard to get him to quit so he could bring back Sid (the guy who was fired four years ago for insulting the Williams sisters) but Chris would just take the ribbing and choke it down. It’s pretty funny that Chris does the play-by-play for Rutgers football! I hope he’ll be able to keep that job.
    Imus has always been cruel to his wife and he seemed to especially get off on humiliating her on the air. She used to be such a kind and good person and then, slowly, she became him: Cruel, loud and obviously miserable. His current interaction and flirting with lovely MSNBC intern Ashley Alexander always turned my stomach.
    Imus did stand up for Harold Ford, Jr. in the Tennessee race and when Harold refused to stand with Imus over this hate speech incident — Imus was stunned and hurt for probably the first time in his life. Harold did the right thing to cut him loose, though, because it would have been personal and political suicide not to…
    I am concerned about Imus’ son Wyatt and the values he’s given. He is allowed to compete against “kids with cancer” that visit the ranch and he is encouraged to beat the cancer kids in competitions by his mother and father. It was always hard to watch Don brag on his son for “beating” the other kids — who are all sick with cancer — while Wyatt was healthy and vibrant.
    I agree we need to find creative ways beyond anger to remove cruel jokes from the workplace. We can do it by working together and, as you suggest, by keeping the faith in each other forever.

  23. Hi Chris!
    Yes, Andy Dick is dangerous. He has a rotten mouth and enjoys mocking people in really nasty ways. He wrote a song called “Little Brown Hole” about — yes, that — and he performed it live and uncensored on the Howard Stern Show a couple of years ago. Big. Ick! 😀
    I think a clamping down and correction over the public airwaves is a good thing. We need less crassness in our lives, not more. You can still be provocative and interesting without cursing or putting down the less fortunate. Sure, it’s harder and it takes more time, but in the end, the extra effort is more effervescent and everlasting.
    Love the news on the PANIC BUTTON! Don’t you wish we all had one in our real lives? A lot of pain and hurt would be taken away from the world in the PANIC BUTTONING of shotgun mouth moments.

  24. Oh, David, you have your pulse so on the I-Man. It is obvious you have listened to him go on about his wife and Ashly Alexander.
    It is so hard to take a stand against racism, especially when someone in the office (most notably the boss) is inclined to make that racist/sexist joke. It requires courage of the third magnitude.
    I would say, let us as a society take the overwhelming stance and courage of the Rutgers’ team. They outclassed and outperformed all those who thought they were anything but cool, intellectual girls.
    We are humbled by their courage and dignity.

  25. Yikes!
    It’s good that I didn’t know anything about Cosmo Kramer till a few minutes ago!!!
    The only “Kramer” I can relate to is “Kramer Vs Kramer” – the movie I saw when I was in school – I don’t remember how many times I saw it after that.
    I can still remember a Bengali song which was composed before I was born; the gist goes like this:
    “I wanted to go see the full moon, but I saw you accidentally
    Now I am in a dilemma to decide which one is brighter”…
    There is a story behind this song. It was known that the lyricist went to one of his friend’s house when his friend’s wife opened the door whom the lyricist never saw before. That “chance meeting” was the inspiration for this song.
    Now the modern singers are singing something like:
    “Now a days the girls are smart
    They wear mini skirt
    At random they flirt
    Without heart
    and after two days the relation is cut!”…
    College students are dancing with this tune. “Duh!”
    If you want you can even pick those words in the first four lines – ‘smart’, ‘mini skirt’, ‘flirt’, ‘heart’ and ‘relation cut’…
    http://www.esnips.com/doc/b68f49a0-16d4-4e54-b5d0-34f93816e9e8/3-TANA-NA-TANA-NA-NA-NA
    It seemed like a mixed dish rather than a song.

  26. Hi David,
    A PANIC button for real life would be a great invention. Just think how the world would be different if people had the option to edit out silly things they may have said without thinking.
    Speaking of Andy Dick pushing things too far, there is a video of him touching Ivanka Trump one two many times without her permission while she appeared on the Jimmy Kimmel show. Security guards eventual came onto the stage and dragged him away from Ivanka.

  27. Right, Donna! We can do good by standing by the Rutgers team and imitating their goodwill.
    Yes, Imus and the women around him is an interesting topic to watch play our on his show. I agree employees take their cues from the behavior of their bosses.

  28. Chris —
    Andy Dick is a talented guy. He’s funny. I think his addictions have played with his sense of what is right and wrong and tainted him in the whole. If he can release his demons, I think he could have a lot to offer society beyond the inappropriate groping of Ms. Trump.