As I remember it, the “shock jock” phenomenon started ca. 1980, about the same time the Reagan Administration started. Actually shock jocks had been around for awhile, but it was about that time mainstream pop culture took notice of them, and they became the rage. (Coincidence? I wonder.) Radio stations all over the nation hired their own pubescent pottymouths to attract attention and listeners. I never found any of them to be the least bit amusing, so I tuned out.
Apparently it’s a Big Bleeping Deal that Don Imus was suspended for two weeks. I wouldn’t miss him if he disappeared entirely, but that’s me. Never once having listened to Imus for more than five minutes at a stretch — and that maybe twice a year — I have absolutely no idea why he’s popular. Nor can I imagine on what planet it is funny to call the Rutgers women’s basketball team “nappy headed ho’s.”
Sometimes there can be honest disagreements about what constitutes racism, but I don’t see room for disagreement on this. Nor was calling Gwen Ifil the “cleaning lady” anything but racism. Sometimes offensive speech is defensible, but in this case, it isn’t. And for the life of me I can’t comprehend how anyone could defend it. Yet they do.
On an almost related note — in the early 1980s (possibly longer) there was a morning radio host on WLW am radio in Cincinnati who was genuinely funny without ever being vulgar or mean. I still think about him sometimes and chuckle, even though I haven’t listened to his program since 1983. His shtick was receiving phone calls from a cast of demented recurring characters (played by himself). Is there anyone reading this who knows who I’m talking about and can remember his name? I’m drawing a blank.