America’s Problem with Free Speech

Don Imus is not a name that would have meant anything to the average Briton until last week. Imus has been presenter of a morning radio show in America for 30 years and his rather rabid right wing views on everything have earned him a reputation way beyond what his talent deserved. Not as amusing as Rush Limbaugh not as witty as Anne Coulter, Imus traded on sheer nastiness. And for a long time he got away with it as he directed his projectile vomit of toxic bile at liberals, gays, humanists, pro – choice campaigners, women and anyone who did not subscribe to the John Wayne / Dick Cheney vision of what it is to be American.
Then he made an ill advised remark about a women’s basketball team of which most members were black. He referred to them as “nappy headed hos.”
I have known of Imus for a while due to the blog wars between his foul mouthed (or rather foul fingered) fans and the liberal writers who operate sites such as Pandangon. So I know that in America you can call a black woman more or less anything you like except “ho” or “bitch”. Only black men, it seems are licenced to use those terms.
There is something deeply wrong with a society that will not object to incitement to murder staff of abortion clinics, accuse gay men of deliberately spreading AIDS in the heterosexual community (it takes two – know what I mean,) and say that liberals should not be allowed to vote as they hate America on grounds that to complain who infringe somebody’s right to free speech but demand a shockjock be sacked for crudity. Imus has always been racist; is racism acceptable when framed in euphemism.
America needs a new understanding of free speech, which is not licence to say what you like but the right to express ideas that challenge the views endorsed by the establishment. In other words its aim is to promote intelligent debate, not protect bullies and thugs. Once we forget decent manners we forfeit our right to free speech.

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