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David Brooks has an interesting take on the Don Imus affair

I do not have a link, but David Brooks was speaking on Meet the Press this morning about the Don Imus affair in the USA.

He says shock-jock popularity is not about racism. It is about cruelty. Institutionalized culturally based cruelty. Indiscriminate cruelty for its own sake.

On hearing the case (allegedly put forth by Snoop Dog in defense of his own misogynistic lyrics) that these particular women, the basketball players should not have been spoken about that way, Brooks said with sad derision, “We can only step on the down trodden.”

Brooks also points out that Imus was very heavily watched and listened to by the power elite. After an appearance on Imus’ show he, Brooks, received a remarkable amount of feedback from the power elite that make made up a disproportionate part of Imus’ audience. So now I ask, what does this say about the souls of those who demand the power and authority to be our masters? What does it mean that the powerful should be so enamoured of deliberate and systematic cruelty that they listen to it for entertainment? Somehow, I am not as surprised as I would like to be.

I think this path to cruelty is one that has been travelled farther in the UK than here, but we appear to be following closely behind you. My personal opinion is that cruelty is a/the clear marker for both the decadence and impotence of a society. Celebrated cruelty is the symptom of a society that has reoriented from protecting its weakest members to baiting them for entertainment. It is historically clear that cruelty, a cultural coldness in the extremities of society, is one of the final signs of its imminent death.

On a positive note, watching this exposure of the internal tensions in the power cabal has provided some interesting moments. For me, the most interesting of all was hearing the market place being praised from the left for having removed Imus from the air (referring to the actions of sponsors). I will take all such statements/concessions as a sign of our strength.

47 comments to David Brooks has an interesting take on the Don Imus affair

  • guy herbert

    Alan Davies (for overseas readers, a well-loved British comedian whose own demeanour is as threatening as an exceedingly well house-trained Labrador puppy) has an interesting take here. Though he might not be happy with the less subtle headline the subs have given him.

  • Uain

    It’s about time that misogynist old fossil was finally booted off the air. The nit wit Imus is but a symptom of the larger problem. That is cowardly, hypocritical left wing power elite waxing poetic on multiculturalism while they fawn over a Don Imus to speak their true thoughts. It is gratifying to see that they couldn’t save their favorite mouth piece.

  • In America the cruelty is delivered with almost open abusiveness.
    Here it’s done with kind eyes and a genuine belief that it is for our own good.
    At least in America you still have some social ‘traffic-lights’.

  • James

    I think this path to cruelty is one that has been travelled farther in the UK than here, but we appear to be following closely behind you.

    To be fair, I think Guantanamo has put the US well in the lead, and that isn’t ‘entertainment’- it’s real.

  • Am I missing something or are Alan Davies and Alan Davieson the same person?

  • Midwesterner

    James,

    … and that isn’t ‘entertainment’- it’s real.

    Are you suggesting that cruelty doesn’t count if it is part of an entertainer’s act? I think your missing my point (or demonstrating it) that it is when sadistic behavior comes out of hiding and is openly celebrated that it means the society has undergone a fundamental change. The very outcry against Guantanamo belies the case you are making that it is acceptable to us. The great majority of us here are still holding out against this new and further debasement of our already faltering standards.

    Monty Python was my introduction to comedians making fun of the mentally retarded for the benefit of an ‘enlightened’ audience. As much as I enjoyed things like The Ministry of Silly Walks, the treatments in sketches like the village idiot genre were something that I had never seen before. Prior to that, all mean humor I had seen was aimed at powerful people and their institutions. Even someone like Don Rickles started out by insulting hecklers who interrupted his shows and he generally shows a genuine concern for people who are not in situations of their own making.

    I may be wrong about cruelty humor entering the acceptable mainstream first in the UK. If so, I apologize.

    I have, and will continue to use dark humor against people who have chosen their fates. I have and will sometimes energetically use dark humor against our tormentors (especially the UN, the left and politicians in general). But you need to reread my post and see that it is how cruelty* is accepted (or not) by a society that is the tell.

    *Did you catch the reference to Nietzsche in the wiki link?

  • Charles

    Brooks also points out that Imus was very heavily watched and listened to by the power elite.

    Ahhh, I wondered who listened to him. Saw the show once, thought it was one of the most boring five minutes of my life. I still can’t figure out how he was considered part of “shock radio”. To me he seemed to be the antidote to morning coffee.

    Free Numia

  • For years I have always been totally unimpressed by the UK media’s habit of assuming being rude and ignorant is entertaining.

    Chris Moyles made himself very popular by being rude to people on his show; Anne Robinson’s quiz show The Weakest Link seemed to be noteworthy for no other reason than its host was exceptionally rude to the contestants. At the high-end of the media (and I use that term loosely), we have Jonathan Humphrey’s, John Snow, and Jeremy Paxman constantly interrupting, sneering, and being ill-mannered towards their guests.

    It’s pathetic. Being rude to people for entertainment usually stops when you are about 14. If in my job I was ill-mannered or rude to my colleagues and clients, I’d probably not last long.

  • Midwesterner

    Well John_R, Wikipedia makes the qualification that “Cruelty usually carries connotations of supremacy over a submissive or weaker force.”

    It seems to me the answer to your question lies in whether or not the British Navy is “a submissive or weaker force.” Considering the antagonist in this case is a conservative blogger from Iowa, that does indeed leave some room for doubts. :-)

  • Uain

    “To be fair, I think Guantanamo has put the US well in the lead”…. Gawd James, I hope your kidding.

    Some how the thought of child rapers and mother murderers living with 3 squares a day and constant hand wringing about their Islamic dietary needs, health/ dental needs, free korans for all so they can re-inforce their hate……. sorry old boy, but the sympathy-meter is stuck on zero. Maybe you would like to free them all and have them move to your neighborhood?
    But the islamist scum in Git-mo are well worked targets, let’s get back to the degenerate old fossil Don Imus…

    Here is a pathetic man who is paid to speak the darkest thoughts of the left wing elite and weenie executives who don’t dare say the trash this dirt bag does. So in the privacy of their cars or Bluetooth earpieces, they pander to their personal degeneracies, yet would fire in a minute any of their employees who would say the same things in the workplace (and rightly so). If these elitist weenies feel just a little less comfortable indulging their hypocracies, then I say Hurrah!

  • Gengee

    For British cruelty dressed up as entertainment, I would point you in the direction of Big Brother.

    Later

    Gengee

  • guy herbert

    mandrill,

    Times Online appears to have mangled the by-line. It was/is Alan Davies’s column.

  • Eamon Brennan

    For British cruelty dressed up as entertainment, I would point you in the direction of Big Brother.

    That would be Netherlands cruelty then…

    Eamon

  • ian

    Who is Don Imus and why should I care?

  • He is a well known (in America) radio ‘shock jock’ talk show host. Please feel free to follow the CBS link if it looks interesting and find out yourself.

    However in fact Midwesterner’s article is not really about Don Imus other than tangentially, it is about attitudes and the cultural value of markets, so I am not sure you really need to know (or care) a whole hell of a lot about Imus beyond the fact he was a well known radio talking head who insulted people for a living (completely without panache I might add. A million miles away from ‘have I got news for you’ where people are insulted with skill and adroitness). I had the misfortune of listening to him once when trapped in a car being driven by someone else in the USA and found him utterly witless. Think of him as Bernard Manning but with pretensions of being something more.

  • ian

    Think of him as Bernard Manning but with pretensions of being something more.

    I think that says enough, thank you very much…

  • I had the same experience with Imus as Charles. Also, the guy did strike me as mean spirited, and that was another reason why I never got interested in the show. But, contrary to what might be inferred from Mid’s post, in my 13 years in the US I never felt that such cruelty is very prevalent. My impression of the American media and show-biz people has long been that they are very often ignorant, misguided and hypocritical, but seldom truly mean.

    As to the UK, I have not had enough direct experience, but: my 13 year old has been watching quite a bit of Top Gear here in Israel lately, and so some of the Brits’ comments here make me realize that maybe Mid has a point about the UK.

  • Midwesterner

    ian,

    Nobody, and you shouldn’t. Nobody should.

    Unfortunately, he is very popular ‘inside the beltway’ (~ the American equivelent to ‘Whitehall’) and among the movers and shakers of the MSM and probably even academics – The Power Elite is the term sometimes used. As such, he is an reliable indicator of the true attitudes and values they hold.

    Who can be very surprised, especially after dealing with government programs and agencies, that the souls behind them should find entertainment in choreographed abuse and cruelty? I think Uain did state Imus’ source of popularity accurately.

    “…Imus is but a symptom of the larger problem. That is … left wing power elite waxing poetic on multiculturalism while they fawn over a Don Imus to speak their true thoughts.”

    I editted Uain’s statement when I quoted it, because I think he over-qualified it.

    Like other commenters here, I couldn’t understand why Imus had any audience at all. When I found out who it was, it explained so much. Imus is a window to the souls of our leaders and an indicator of flawed character far beyond his own. How soon until they find a new ‘mouthpiece’ to provide them their vicarious thrills?

    This is one more reason we must take away the benefit of the doubt from all of them and their stated intentions.

  • Mid: I now understand your point better. I never realized that he was not all that popular with “regular” people. I thought I was the exception, rather than the norm.

  • embutler

    you guys have educated me as to who imus’ audience was…. certainly couldnt have been normal people and as far as cruelty determing how close any ones civilization is to collapsing…by what miracle does britain exist at all??
    vile ,mean ,unfunny comedians have been on exhibit for decades in britain.

  • Midwesterner

    It probably has only been decades, embutler. C S Lewis was an education professional. He had strong opinions and used every opportunity to put them into his fictional characters. One particularly sharp attack was in his ‘experimental school’ in Prince Caspian (I think).

    The character of Eustace in the earlier Voyage of the Dawn Treader was Lewis’ introduction of ‘modern’ Britain. Eustace is a cruel, cowardly self obsessed character who steals and hurts as a life style choice. His character undergoes a change and in the next book in the series, we are introduced to the experimental school which his ‘modern’ ‘enlightened’ parents sent him to. Lewis placed everything he detested about the trends in education and the ‘new’ values into it. Prince Caspian is a light read with a dark message and worth a few minutes of time to read the school scenes at the very beginning.

    With liturature’s long record in English, we have a clear record of historically held values. To my casual observation, it wasn’t until approximately the 1960s that cruel and sadistic characters became acceptable as anything other villians. I could be very wrong about this, there could have been a natural filtering of the old world English books that found traction over here, but I am not aware of these malacious people being perceived as normal, acceptable, and even admirable prior to that relatively recent time.

    Certainly, Britain’s colonial history when compared to other nations is one of distinct benevolence and probably very indicative of generally held values during those times relative to other nations. I also find it interesting that there never even was a word with the meaning of ‘schadenfreude’ in English and yet it is being enthusiastically incorporated into it now. That alone is a strong indicator of a cultural shift.

  • RAB

    Thanks to Perry’s succinct description, I shant bother looking Imus up.
    But I’m afraid the essence of all comedy is cruelty.
    The pratfall is universal. You will see pratfall jokes on walls from Pompeii to the the Pyramids.
    The relief that comes from watching something nasty happen to someone else rather than yourself results in laughter the world over.
    If you look at what is, and has been successful comedy worldwide, you find that first it was the slapstick of the Silents Chaplin, Keaton and the like where physical nasty things happen all the time.
    Today Mr Bean, gawd help us! is the global frontrunner and he is a vile stupid and very cruel character.
    Then of course there were those Japanese game shows that Clive Davis used to take the piss out of.
    Sitting in a bath of cockroaches for as long as you can, bungee jumping with the rope tied to you willie- that sort of thing.
    The Japanese thought them hilarious. We thought the Japanese wierd. But it’s funny how ideas get copied culture to culture, because, in essence those Japanese show’s trials are now at the heart of things like “Im a Celeb Get me out of here!”.
    So lumping it on us Brits is going too far Mid. We are just better at being funny than most nations is all!

  • The relief that comes from watching something nasty happen to someone else rather than yourself results in laughter the world over.

    True.

    But I’m afraid the essence of all comedy is cruelty.

    Not true at all. Pratfall is only one kind of comedy. It is very prevalent, because it is very basic and primitive, but it is by no means the only kind. For example, irony and absurd do not have to involve cruelty or ‘schadenfreude’ to be funny, (although sometimes they do). There are plenty of very successful humor, in film, TV and literature, that is not nasty and mean-spirited.

  • BTW, I just remembered Jonathan’s recent post about favorite humor, and I realized that I have forgotten the best and finest of the all, “Winnie The Pooh”!

  • RAB

    I agree Alisa. Comedy is complicated.
    And there is no-one better inclined to complicate it than us Brits. I prefer wit and wordplay to Norman Wisdom myself.
    I was alluding to the world in general.
    As someone who has travelled quite a bit, I can tell you, sophisticated humour has not travelled as well as I have.
    But slapstick will get you through from Timbuktoo to Timamaroo!

  • guy herbert

    RAB,

    The Dartington (one supposes) incident is in The Silver Chair, much darker than either of the preceding books. Prince Caspian itself precedes The Voyage of the Dawn Treader.

  • That is an illusion, I believe, RAB. It seems that way, because slapstick transcends the boundaries of language and culture. Surely, you don’t have an almost perfect command of all the languages of the numerous places you have visited, which is what one has to have to understand local humor? And, maybe, some cultures are not developed and sophisticated enough, to have produced humor that is similarly developed and sophisticated.

  • Michiganny

    It is a bad business to publicly attack student athletes for no good reason. It is of a kind with Imus’s schtick, though.

    The only “funny” thing about this whole affair was Al Sharpton’s indignation. For a guy who falsely accused cops, in the face of both overwhelming evidence and obvious truth, of sadistically raping and smearing feces on a child because of her race, it is more than risible to hear his voice do anything other than utter public penance for his own opportunistic crimes (yes, crimes).

    Someone, somewhere once wrote that every company should employ a Chief Memory Officer to remind management of stupid initiatives past. It was argued that somebody needed a formal job in the corporate world to speak truth to power.

    That role should, in the public sphere, be handled by anybody who sees fit to pontificate publicly about the events of the day. Is that not their job? After all, who has anything to lose by calling the likes of Al Sharpton a racist? He is one of the most racist figures in American society. It just shows that a huge percentage of discourse in America is simply pointless.

  • RAB

    Well some folk round here like statistics but I meander on , on mere personal experience.
    I was on a Nile cruise this time last year and I would drop in to the bar for a drink before dinner. The only people there were the Barmen and the Guides. All Egyptian.
    Well we would have a drink and fall into conversation (they all spoke English, and I doubt they got any more sophisticated than this in their own language Alisa)
    And we would josh and talk. But all too soon the conversation would come round to sex.
    I quickly found that Egyptians have yet to invent the double entendre. The stuff they were coming out with was so crude as to make Davison and Manning blush!
    No I’m sorry Alisa, they may all be hilarious and subtle in their own language, but it sure as hell doesn’t translate.
    But if you can name your favorite French, German, Italian or Belgian stand up comedian then I’m all years and reaching for the Collins pocket translator.

  • …they may all be hilarious and subtle in their own language, but it sure as hell doesn’t translate.

    Of course it does not, humor does not translate! (OK, sometimes it does, but never well enough). That was precisely the point I was making.

    But if you can name your favorite French, German, Italian or Belgian stand up comedian

    How could I, I don’t speak any of these languages, and
    I am not familiar with their current culture and entertainment. What is your point?

  • RAB

    My point is that we have sold our comedy to them and they have lapped it up!
    So where’s theirs???

  • Uain

    Once upon a time we had Satire here the the US. In the 1960-70′s, one embodiment was a humor magazine called “Mad Magazine”. It those days it satirized TV shows and movies quite artfully and also included some slap stick (Spy vs. Spy).
    Unfortunately today, for the most part, satire has been replaced by crude mocking.

    Mid-
    Thanks for clarifying my remarks. I forget that outside the US, folks might not be aware of the tight connections between Power Elites and certain “entertainers”. Although I suspect you could find the same in Merrie Olde Englande.

  • RAB: what do you know, maybe we are lucky they keep their comedy to themselves?

  • RAB

    Could be, could be, Alisa.
    You should hear the Kurdish jokes I hear in Turkey!!
    But as a free marketeer
    I have to infer from the evidence
    That “They” do not have a saleable product.

  • Dave

    Satire survives in the form of ”Weird Al” Yankovic
    (Link)

  • Eamon Brennan

    RAB

    I don’t think exporting the likes of Norman Wisdom and Benny Hill is a laughing matter.

  • RAB

    Really Eamon why not?
    Admittedly you have to be no more than six years old to fully appreciate Norman Wisdom, but the world’s humour IQ level I have found is just that. The level of a six year old.
    Benny Hill on the other hand was a hero of feminism, if the ninnies in boiler suits and the alternative comedians (yes Elton we are talking about you) who hounded him out of a job, had known a genius from a knob joke…
    Quite apart from writing some really great comic songs, and I dont mean the Ernie milkman one.
    The joke the alternatives never seemed to get, is that Benny and his bald headed little friend never ever got the girls they were chasing.
    Pure male lust, ineptitude and failure writ LARGE !

  • Eamon Brennan

    RAB

    Exporting humour. No laughing matter.

    I’ll get me coat.

  • Steve P

    Alternative comedy; wasn’t that basically like normal comedy but without the jokes?

  • Speaking of humor export, to this day I cannot see what was so funny about Benny Hill.

  • Fred Beloit

    While Mr. Brooks’ statement about stepping on the downtrodden may be true as a statement of Physics, it is simply hyperbole in the social sense. Jon Stewart in his TV show stomped all over Nancy Grace recently, though she deserved it. She is in no other way downtrodden. I don’t admire hyperbole as a replacement for the truth.

  • RAB

    Well I cant help you there Alisa.
    Explaining jokes is always a no no.
    He wasn’t one of my favorites either
    but I can appreciate his craft, which was considerable.
    I was always suprised that he was so big worldwide as his humour is very parochial.
    What tickles your chuckle muffins then dear lady?
    So I know what ballpark we are in.

  • I did enjoy “Yes, Minister/PM” and Monty Pyton. Note, I am not saying BH was not funny, I just don’t get, as it may be a British thing. In general, I am more of an American comedy type of person. Luckily, Jonathan has recently supplied us with a chance to present our lists :-)

  • Digital TV, bless it; been repeating old(very old) Jasper Carrot.
    How about this:Jasper Carrot gets arrested in Jersey for trying to direct traffic over a cliff. The copper asks him his name.
    “Jasper Carrot.”
    “Oh, comedian eh?”
    “Well, yes as a matter of fact…..”
    He may be soppy these days, but he was a bloody funny comedian once.What about the scooter song?

  • RAB

    Talking of jasper.
    In one of his very old shows, he had a joke about
    Ted Kennedy, back in the days when he may have had a realistic chance to run for Presedent (told you it was old!).
    Jasper said that Ted had been asked at a press conference whether Chappaquidick would be a problem

    I hope not. But I’ll miss that bridge when I come to it.