The Things We Say Aloud
“Words are alive; cut them and they bleed.” Ralph Waldo Emerson
I think about words all the time. It’s almost an obsession. It’s what makes me happy – the writing, the reading, the arrangement of words to express how I feel and what gives my world a little sense. I’m also very careful of words, because they can hurt. For me, they can bring tears faster than most physical injuries. Because I’m a writer, I’m expected to be careful. I check facts, dates, names, and spelling. I write my opinion and preface it as such, but I don’t write speculations from others or try to “break a story” in order to win some invisible competition of being the first. Often what I know first is wrong, and what I say when I’m in casual conversation with friends or writing a blog entry is not often fact – it might be an off-the-wall thought – something that could be taken out of context if I were to write it down without analyzing it.
I’m writing this article because of news this week that deals with the context of words. As usual, this is my opinion, not fact, not a breaking story.
Britney Spears – Oops! . . . I Think She Was Joking
“There is only one thing in the world worse than being talked about, and this is not being talked about.” Oscar Wilde
I feel sorry for Britney. Not that I think she is pathetic or a tragic character; I feel sorry for her because when she is outside of her home, a restaurant, a studio or wherever, she lives in a fishbowl. Her view is obstructed by hordes of reporters, cameras and fans. They want a comment, a picture, or just a few words. More often than not, those few words can be taken the wrong way.
This week, while seated in a car, the beehive formed around her and she was asked about the release date for her next album. She was laughing, she was smiling and I’m sure she was joking when she made a statement to the effect that she didn’t know the date and that she might quit the business. Cue the “Breaking News” stinger.
Immediately, the gossip gurus began penning stories about Britney’s defection from the Pop Music business. For the most part, they all admitted in their text and scripts that she seemed to be joking, but then the articles went in-depth about her past and the troubles and trials she’s battled that may have led to her decision to leave the business. The stories continue to be written.
Honestly, I think she was joking. Maybe it felt good to say the words aloud, maybe she really has felt that way at times, but I don’t think that one sentence was her declaration of ditching the music world. Taken out of context, they make it look like she’s throwing in the lyrics right now. However, it might be the boost she needs—attention to her career and not to her as a person. In reality, as fans, we don’t know her; we only know her music. The media headlines took her words and spun them out of context. Hopefully, it’s just another story that will fade and we’ll see some new work from her soon.
There are times when words are not taken out of context. They are captured on tape to be replayed over and over. Such words brought a well-known and well-seasoned radio host’s career to a sudden stop this week. I won’t say his career is at end, I think Don Imus will be back. He’s just away right now; I think he needs the break.
Don Imus – The Air Check He Will Never Forget
“Be generous with kindly words, especially about those who are absent.” Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
I was in radio and in radio you do something called air checks. It’s a tape of your show, an archive to be more specific. You use it to listen to your work, make improvements, keep a record, or in some cases be evaluated by radio management. The words have already been said and you can’t take them back, but you can replay them.
This month, Don Imus made a remark that was both racist and disparaging about the Rutgers women's basketball team. I won’t repeat it, trust me, it’s all over the Internet. The remark was wrong. It was hurtful and uncalled for. After listening to the air check and reading the script, I did find that the remark was not first said by Imus; it was said by his show producer. However, true to the nature of the business, the radio personality behind the microphone is responsible for what goes over the air, and in this instance, Imus agreed and even added more verbiage.
There was fallout and he was to be suspended for two weeks. Sponsors cancelled ads, and MSNBC took off the live simulcast of the program. Then, his home station, CBS, fired him. After 30 years in radio, Don Imus stopped his career at a terrible point. His words, which in the past have brought him fame as well as trouble and controversy, pulled the plug on his long-time show. I think it was time. The era of the shock-jock is over. Nothing shocks us much these days. Racism is not funny, making fun of people you don’t know is not funny. Meanness is not good entertainment in my opinion. I understand satire and parodies, but the remark made by Imus not only took the team by surprise, but the nation. Like I said, I think he will come back to radio, somewhere, someday, but when he does, I hope he brings a new attitude, one that includes thinking before speaking.
Have a great weekend!
I will be back Monday with a story that includes the words five and fighting.