Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Stop Replicating Imus' Words!

Lots of ink has been spilled over the Don Imus scandal. The news analysts, pundits, spin doctors, preachers, and Imus fans have had their say. I am not terribly interested in wading further into the debate-that-should-not-need-to-take place. Imus' totally abused his position of power; his words are inexcusable.

What has been bugging me about this incident is how much play his words have gotten play by 'well-meaning folk' who want to harshly condemn him for his slurs against the Rutger's Scarlett Knights. Every article, news report and talk show host repeats, verbatim, what Imus said, thereby fueling the fire of these injurious words.

I just came from my Philosophy of Mind class wherein we discussed the idea of cultural transmission through memes. The idea here is that the transmission of culture, in this case racist and sexist views about women athletes, occurs by the replication of memes. Imus' infamous phrase is now such a meme and each time it is replicated in either the popular press, conversations around the water color, or over the family table, the cutural views therein continue to take hold.

It seems to me that if the press wants to do something responsible here, and thereby really censure this kind of behavior, they should refuse to replicate the very words that Imus used. It is making the phrase almost inert.