How very interesting that the proposed blogger code of conduct is being touted at the same time that Don Imus was suspended by CBS and NBC for using not one, but two racial epithets to describe the Rutgers women's basketball team.
But before we appear to be inconsistent by condemning one attempt at civility while praising the other, let's note that there is no equivalency here, whatsoever. The very fact that Imus and other members of broadcast media can make these remarks without being directly challenged is what gave rise to blogging in the first place. The great explosion of liberal blogs in the first Bush administration took place because so much of mainstream media news was lifted wholesale from Karl Rove's morning memos and only challenged, if at all, by countervailing opinion from the so-called left, not by actual fact. While it is wrong to ever threaten a blogger, as Jerry noted yesterday, using unflattering speech in a comment area or even in a blog does bear immediate consequences: those comments are challenged online and in real time. Anybody see one of the Scarlet Knights getting her bit in on Imus? No, and you won't, because the broadcast playing field is an Alpine one, and Imus for all his supposed "guts" would never apologize in person, on the air, to the very people he offended while they were sitting in the studio. And for all the show's "spontaneity," Imus' producers would be too afraid of such an uncontrollable event. But that is exactly what happens all the time on the Internet, a free exchange of insults in real time between the people who make them. More like a Jerry Springer show, come to think of it.
Also, there is no comparative scale in the marketplace. How much does Imus get paid to make racist comments which are never immediately questioned? Even the most successful bloggers, whether on the right or the left, are basically doing it for love, and most if not all worked a long time before the dribs and drabs of online advertising or contributions started to sustain them. Who among Imus' fans would willingly pull over the SUV to punch in a credit card number in order to commune in the "I'm cool because I've suffered and wear a cowboy hat" victimized-white-guy schtick? (Which Johnny Cash did with much more authenticity, more goodwill, and no hat.) Why not put Imus on the same budget as bloggers and see how he survives? I daresay he wouldn't be able to keep the ranch going for more than a couple of days.