Actions and Words

| April 12, 2007 | 2 Replies

James Lileks has a Bleat today that I think is worth your time. In it, he talks a bit about a new book by Hugh Hewitt on Republican Presidential candidate Mitt Romney. Romney, as you know if you’ve read a newspaper or two in the past couple of months, is Mormon. He’s a pretty devout one, too.

Lileks talks a bit about Belief and politics and how the two seem to be converging more and more. Romney is the focal point, because of course, the book is about him, but it could as easily apply to any candidate. The whole latter half of his Bleat is quotable, but I want to pull one sentence that really captures the whole thing:

Surely how one lives one’s life is as important as the things the curious things they believe, no?

I’d say that deep in our hearts we know this, but we know it less every year. What seems more important to us is not how we live but what we say and to whom we genuflect when we’re caught in a perceived wrong.

Let’s take Don Imus. For three decades he’s made a career out of being a crashing boor. He has made his employers a few dozen truckloads of money (and has done pretty well himself) by being the guy who’ll say any old crude thing about anyone. But now he’s gotten caught out by the same folks who just a few days ago were eating up his curmudgeon act. He committed the unpardonable sin.

So what did he do? Did he hold up the life he lives outside the studio as an example of his real good will? Did he say the Rutgers women weren’t the first target of his bile and certainly wouldn’t be his last?

Those would have at least redeemed him somewhat. Had he done either of those things, we could have found some tiny bit of respect for him.

That’s not what he did. What he did was what others have done in the same situation. He went and paid homage to the media’s favorite black person, Al Sharpton, who knows more than a little about being a racist. He did what Michael Richards did and what Mel Gibson did and what every public figure does when they step over the line. He went to an Approved Media Confessor and further debased himself.

What he should have done, and would have done in a better world, was either to resign with a heartfelt apology or to stand up and refuse to be anything other than he’s been for 30 years.

After this firestorm ends – and it’ll end fairly soon – Don Imus will be working pretty much as he always has. Yes, he’s lost a few advertisers but he’ll get them back. He may have to find somewhere else to work, but he’ll still work. He’ll find his audience again and it’ll be just about like nothing had ever happened.

Because what we seem to care about the most is form over function – sizzle over steak.

James Lileks asks if how we live is more important than what we believe. I’m not sure these days that it is. Don Imus and Mitt Romney are different people and different sides of the question but I think how our media – and by extension us – have reacted to each of them answers that question fairly well.

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