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April 12th, 2007


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10:15 am - Moratorium
That's it, I'm declaring one. Right here, right now. Moratorium time, kiddies, and here is the subject: "Shock Jock." No more shall we use the phrase Shock Jock. Yes, yes, I know it makes a nifty rhyme and the hard-K sounds help as well, but like so many pet phrases before it, the term has become overused to the point of meaninglessness.

The current person to whom this meaningless moniker has been attached is radio host Don Imus. Imus, for those not living in America and/or those who really don't care, is currently in all sorts of trouble over an inappropriate on-air remark involving the term "nappy-headed hos." Because he made an offensive comment towards black womens' basketball players, he's now being protested and contested and suspended and upended. And in every writeup on this story, every development, every mention made of him by plastic talking tee-vee heads, he's referred to as "Controversial Shock Jock Don Imus."

Don Imus is not a shock jock. Let me tell you what Don Imus is.

Don Imus is a cranky old fart. He is an crusty, opinionated, bitter social commentator with his own set of moral guidelines and very little in the vocal restraint category. He is but a shadow of his former radio self, when he was the powerhouse darling of New York's WNBC in the 70s and 80s and even Howard Stern held him in fearful respect. For some reason, whatever reason, probably atrophy, he's been allowed to continue speaking on the air with his baritone clipped form of speech, even when faced with his own impending irrelevancy.

Imus has made a career of running his mouth off, holding forth any opinions he wishes to hell with the consequences, and shrugging off most recriminations. He's been conditioned over four decades to say what he knows will bring in indignant callers whose confrontational dialogues will make for Good Radio. And frankly, he's probably glad for the brouhaha right now, because I am absolutely sure that 99% of those who were offended by his remark weren't listening to him when he said it live on the air but you can be sure as hell they were listening afterwards. Controversy equals ears glued to the radio, you know that. Even when one media outlet yanks your coverage and you lose a few sponsors. Besides, when was the last time you saw a news story on the man?

"Shock Jock", on the other hand, is a term which is supposed to refer to Madcow And J-Dog In The Morning. The Monster Boys and their Lesbian Lunch Fiesta. Tony and Greg's Drive-Time Drive-By. Rude, crude, and full of attitude, as said in a guttural voice with a mean bunch of power chords behind it. Ready to say anything, do anything, force interns to eat anything for a laugh. Soundboards at the ready to punctuate any point with just the right soundbite from Scarface or a toilet flushing. They're often paired with a woman jock for the "Oh come on, you guys" contrast, the superego to their id, the third of the "Two Dicks And A Chick" radio formula, appealing to the lowest common denominator since Stern started poking fun at his hourly news reporter.

Imus? Well, the man who once prank-called a McDonald's, pretended he was the commander of a nearby military base and wanted to order "a thousand cheeseburgers to go", well, Imus has risen above Shock Jock status, whether you want to believe it or not. A man whose show was once simulcast on C-SPAN can hardly be considered such. Sure, he's a blowhard, and he'll say things to get people riled up, but the last time I checked, he never held an on-air endurance contest where folks kept drinking water but held out taking a bathroom break in order to win a Nintendo Wii. But now, seeing as how "Shock Jock" is apparently being used to denote any radio personality who has said, on-air, something that people have found offensive enough to indignantly pipe up and complain about, we'll have to label Rush Limbaugh, David Brudnoy, Rachel Maddow, Art Bell, Al Franken, Dr. Laura -- heck, even the Voice of the New England Patriots, Gil Santos, we'll have to call them all Shock Jocks.

But for right now, let's focus on finding another phrase for Imus. To help with your creative process, I'm pretty sure we'll soon be seeing "Outgoing" or "Retired" attached to whatever he's called, so try using those as seeds. And for a long-term goal, let's try so very hard to phase "shock jock" out of our collective media vocabulary, as its useless shorthand has become almost as useless as one who thinks ragging on a women's basketball team is a great way to drum up publicity.

(26 comments | Leave a comment)

Comments:


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From:triplehdm
Date:April 12th, 2007 03:13 pm (UTC)
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I got a good laugh when I saw "Shock Jock Don Imus" in the paper yesterday. The only thing shocking about Imus is that he hasn't decayed to the point his skull collapses under the weight of his 24 gallon cowboy hat.
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From:zorndeslammes
Date:April 12th, 2007 03:27 pm (UTC)

re:

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This was stupendous. I agree one hundred percent.
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From:jp_land
Date:April 12th, 2007 03:39 pm (UTC)
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I'm a big Stern fan, and Stern makes fun of Imus quite a bit. But under his jokes is the truth: that Imus is a dried up corporate puppet. I tried to sit through one of his shows one day, and it was absolutely terrible. Completely unfunny. Extremely boring. And then the guy breaks in to read stock quotes. He has the Patton character. Which... isn't funny at all.

I never understood why Imus got that Shock Jock moniker. I guess I'm just shocked that anybody likes him. And why would anybody tune into MSNBC to watch the old crusty booger? He's a New Yorker who dresses up -- as if he were a 5 year old -- like a cowboy.
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From:ron_newman
Date:April 12th, 2007 07:16 pm (UTC)
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maybe i'm just Too Damn Old, but I utterly fail to understand the appeal of Howard Stern.
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From:wahhappen
Date:April 12th, 2007 09:13 pm (UTC)
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The rest of the country agrees with you. Too bad he lost 95% of his listeners when he went to satellite. Boo hoo hoo Howie.

Turn on WBCN if you want to hear some real morning radio. :)
From:oakenguy
Date:April 12th, 2007 03:45 pm (UTC)
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New phrase? Hmm..."Barnicle without the plagiarism"?
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From:28bytes
Date:April 12th, 2007 03:54 pm (UTC)
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I think the GOP should name him Honorary Minority Whip.
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From:resk
Date:April 12th, 2007 04:02 pm (UTC)
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Hi there. I'm new to you. I discovered you through this post by minkrose.

By a not-so-strange coincidence, I posted about The Imus Thing just 2 days ago. As you can see, I did not refer to him as a "shock jock" in my initial post, but I did drop that "title" into one of the comments. I agree with you about the absurdity of it and will no longer utter the term.

By a strange coincidence, I completed my Master's Thesis yesterday. This is notable because my project was an adaptation of the Kurt Vonnegut novel The Sirens of Titan. And because Vonnegut also died yesterday.

I liked your Bokononist post. You have been friended.
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From:samethreechords
Date:April 12th, 2007 06:39 pm (UTC)
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I turned in a paper on Jean Baudrillard the day he died and to this day I'm weirdly certain that I somehow killed him.
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From:resk
Date:April 12th, 2007 08:06 pm (UTC)
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You think that's weird. Check this out.
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From:fancycwabs
Date:April 12th, 2007 04:17 pm (UTC)
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Shocky Jockey. He could hawk turkey jerky during his promo spots.
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From:redtheblue
Date:April 12th, 2007 04:36 pm (UTC)
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The first time I saw him on MSNBC I was confused. It's this very crusty, wiry old man hunched over a console, grudgingly croaking into the mic every so often, and looking for all the world like he'd rather be rotting in a box. He's just one more reason not to be up at 7 a.m. in the central zone, and there were already enough before he was born.

Shock jock? Not until I saw his 40-years-younger wife.
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From:samethreechords
Date:April 12th, 2007 06:26 pm (UTC)
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The only person I know of who I could describe as a truly honest-to-god shock jock is probably Phil Hendrie.
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From:derspatchel
Date:April 12th, 2007 06:35 pm (UTC)
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And God bless him for it. Oh, Bobbie Dooley, you crazy mmm-hmmmer, you.
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From:samethreechords
Date:April 12th, 2007 06:37 pm (UTC)
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Of course I meant "shock jock" in only the most benevolent of terms. Man, I miss him, but I don't think we get his show here, and even if we did I'm lazy.
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From:derspatchel
Date:April 12th, 2007 06:39 pm (UTC)
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Actually, Hendrie ended his show last year, which may have been for the best at this point. I have tremendous admiration for a man who could control both his voices and the phone filter button near-simultaneously. He was a professional troll I respected.
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From:samethreechords
Date:April 12th, 2007 06:41 pm (UTC)
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Aw, shame. Now I have to see if I can find him on CD or something.
From:archangelsk
Date:April 12th, 2007 06:34 pm (UTC)
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If you haven't seen it already, check out this piece by Ana Marie Cox which, when taken with your remarks here, makes me think that such rampant use of the term "shock jock" is just a crypto-apologia by people who want to defend Imus but who don't want to be thrown to the wolves as (perhaps) they think is being done to him. I'm sure it's quite a sting for other media types to see the industry eat one of its own this way, no matter how much Imus deserves it.
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From:derspatchel
Date:April 12th, 2007 06:42 pm (UTC)
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Well, I've only really heard the S.J. term used in the mainstream media pieces, and even then, mostly as the opening line to each article. I don't think I've heard any half-hearted Imus defenders use it, as the connotation really is negative.
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From:fancycwabs
Date:April 12th, 2007 09:04 pm (UTC)
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I actually think I remember Imus being referred to as a "shock jock" some ten years ago when he had some previous, and quickly-forgotten, controversy. It's hard to imagine that there was a golden age of shock jockery.
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From:ron_newman
Date:April 12th, 2007 09:32 pm (UTC)
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Here's a Usenet post from way back in 1993 calling Imus "the original shock jock". (Actually it's a "FidoNet Newsletter", whatever that is)
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From:notgruntled
Date:April 12th, 2007 10:55 pm (UTC)
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(Actually it's a "FidoNet Newsletter", whatever that is)

These kids today.
From:dcart
Date:April 13th, 2007 02:29 am (UTC)
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I may be wrong about this, perhaps having got it years and years ago from some source like the one you link there, but I've long been under the impression that Imus was one of the first guys to be called a shock jock. I don't guess you really lose the title just because the world passes you by and you're not so shocking anymore.
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From:ron_newman
Date:April 13th, 2007 12:26 pm (UTC)
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Today's Globe article includes this sentence:

"Imus, considered by many to be the original shock jock, was no stranger to controversy."

So as much as I enjoyed reading your essay, I think you're wrong and are fighting a losing battle this time.

Meanwhile, I'll ask a different question: Does this story belong on page 1 of the Globe, given that its subject has no tie to Boston other than being syndicated on a local trash-radio station?
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From:derspatchel
Date:April 13th, 2007 01:30 pm (UTC)
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"Original" doesn't mean he still is, mind you. There's no denying he started out as such. The key phrase above is that, over the course of his career, he rose above it. It is hard to believe MSNBC and C-SPAN would picked up his shows if they still believed him to be one.

That his career took him past the realm of the shock jock, past the Daily Phone Farters and Homeless Crackhead Beauty Contest holders, and turned him into a radio host who espouses his political and social viewpoints in a caustic and often uncouth manner, is his own doing. And most likely in this case it will be his own downfall. I believe with dcart insofar as the world has passed him by and he's not so "shocking" anymore. Leave the term to the crude morning show types -- no, let's just let the term be laid to rest along with other gems as "race music" and "payola."

Let me put it to you another way: One popular radio show once held a contest where they placed contestants in a 50-gallon drum and proceeded to cover them in whatever disgusting material they could think of -- anything from foul-smelling crud like sour milk to live maggots, Madagascar hissing cockroaches and other wriggly critters. The contestants could give up at any time; the one who held out the longest was the winner.

Don Imus called the Rutgers' women's basketball team "nappy-headed hos."

Shrug.
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From:littlegirltoast
Date:April 16th, 2007 08:16 am (UTC)
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They're two very different forms of degradation, though, even if you do overlook for a moment that the former is undertaken voluntarily.

Practically anyone can do practically anything they want in life without being subject to a bath in erstwhile foodstuffs. But some certain people cannot do practically anything in life without being subject to someone feeling as though it is his inalienable right to refer to them as a nappy-headed ho or somesuch.

The latter burrows deeper than maggots.

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