Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Conservative Radio Host Lars Larson Questions Courage Of Virginia Tech Students

In an age where one can expect to hear just about anything on the airwaves, occasionally, I still am surprised. Last night was one of those times.

I listened to the Lars Larson radio program last evening which turned to the topic of the shootings at Virginia Tech. I expected the conversation to morph into how "liberals are going to try to take away our 2nd Amendment rights," but never in a million years did I imagine that, instead, Mr. Larson would begin to criticism the victims.

It was one of those moments when I wished there was TIVO for radio.

In responding to an e-mail from one of his listeners, Mr. Larson started to question why the students didn't rush Cho in an attempt to subdue him. He disparaged students, including young athletes, who escaped through the window while their elderly professor held back the door. His implication was that lives would have been saved if students had simply, manned up.

While it is possible that rushing the shooter might have worked, the truth is, none of us can know it for sure. Larson's meaning was clear: the students were cowardly for not trying.

My reaction in that moment is frankly, not suitable for print.

After a tragedy has occured a period of examination is often necessary both in order to heal and to learn. There are many aspects of the Virginia Tech that should be examined such as; how someone who was deemed by the courts as a danger to himself and others was legally able to purchase firearms; how campuses can better protect their communities during times of crisis; how campuses can notify their communities about dangers in a timely manner. But the one thing that I am quite certain does not require examination is the courage of the victims. To do so is unproductive, mean-spirited, insensitive and frankly, shameful.

It's easy for Lars Larson to be a Monday morning quarterback while safely tucked away behind his microphone.

But not Lars, you, me, or anyone else knows what they would do in such a situation, unless they were actually faced with that situation.

Lars owes the Virginia Tech community and their families a big apology.

I've already told him and I hope that you will too! Tell Lars.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Imus, Offense and The All Mighty Dollar

I've listened to Don Imus many times over the years and the truth be told have often enjoyed his program.   It felt more adult than Howard Stern, and there was a brutal honesty to it that I found refreshing in the all too frequently prepackaged world of media.  But, there was also an undercurrent that often left me feeling uneasy: A certain meanness to it.   When Imus opened his mouth and made the now famous (and incredibly stupid, racist and misogynist) remarks at the expense of the Rutgers women's basketball team, I was not surprised.

Like so many before him, his mouth cost him his job.

I don't know if Don Imus is a racist.  My gut tells me no, at least not in the way that most of us think of someone being a racist.  More likely, Imus is a reflection of the majority of the population.  We are by nature a species that figures out our world by making discreet judgements through our perceived experiences.  We are also a social species that shares our perceptions with one another.  And these days it's to a voyeuristic extreme.

The problem is that sometimes we get it wrong.

The consequences too often are hurtful stereotypes.  Sometimes they come out through humour and I have heard far too many educated people, including people whom I greatly admire, make a joke at the expense of a group that was different from their own.  In my heart of hearts, I believe that this is what Don Imus was doing. It's easy when you don't belong to a group not to understand how the words and all their underlying history hurt.

Sadly, this incident is endemic of a larger problem.

While I am a staunch supporter of freedom of speech and first amendment rights, I think we have to acknowledge that the expression of these rights have outcomes that do not always serve our societal interests well.   The most far reaching perhaps, seems to be a radical shift in what is defined as normal.  What twenty years ago would have been considered outrageous and unacceptable, by today's standards is often pedestrian.

The result that I have most noticed is a breakdown of civility and basic manners.

If you don't believe me, think about how many times you've watched someone change lanes without signaling, had them complain when you didn't respond to their e-mail within a couple of hours, or worse yet, overheard the most private of cell phone conversations in of all places, the bathroom.

When we're willing to discuss anything, anywhere, are Imus' comments really so surprising?

The question is what are we going to do about it?  Are we ready and willing to shed some of the avarice's of our no holds barred society?  Are we willing to turn off the e-mail?  How about the cell phone?  Or reality TV?  Do we dare go gently into that goodnight?

The answer as CBS and NBC so showed us is, yes.  But only if the advertisers pull out.

Until then, expect very little to really change.