Who Can Say What?

I read the news this morning that MSNBC canceled Imus’s television show because of his inappropriate racist comments, and I was frustrated.

No, I’m not an Imus fan. I think what he said was wrong and uncalled for. I’m not a Sharpton fan either, though I think that he’s right to call this remark racist. What frustrates me is the supreme hypocrisy of moral relativism. This whole scandal is just relativism crashing in on itself.

There are no lines until you cross them; and once you cross them, you find out very quickly that the “anything goes” mantra of modern humanity is nothing but a disingenuous cop-out, a half-hearted attempt to shed all personal responsibility. If you don’t believe me, read Time magazine’s thought provoking article and sickening conclusion:

“You might say that there’s no excuse and that I’m as big a hypocrite as Imus’ defenders for suggesting that there is one. Which may be true. That’s finally why “Where’s the line?” is a misleading question. There are as many lines as there are people. We draw and redraw them by constantly arguing them. This is how we avoid throwing out the brilliance of a Sacha Baron Cohen—who offends us to point out absurdities in our society, not just to make “idiot comments meant to be amusing”—with a shock jock’s dirty bathwater. It’s a draining, polarizing but necessary process.

Which may be why it was such a catharsis to see the Rutgers players respond to Imus at their press conference in their own words. “I’m a woman, and I’m someone’s child,” said Kia Vaughn. “I achieve a lot. And unless they’ve given this name, a ‘ho,’ a new definition, then that is not what I am.” She stood with her teammates, a row of unbowed, confident women. For a few minutes, anyway, they drew a line we could all agree on and formed a line we could all get behind.”
-JAMES PONIEWOZIK, Time Magazine, Apr. 12, 2007

What sort of pathetic conclusion is that? That last sentence is more naive than a Disney film. I highly doubt every single person in the world could stand behind that line. The difference between right and wrong has been reduced to chance, people drawing lines wherever they please. And the person with the loudest voice wins. That’s the inevitable conclusion of relativism. Nothing is truth until we can all come together and agree on it.

This very debate is raging within the blogosphere: Tim O’Reilly, an internet visionary, recently called for a blogger’s code of conduct in response to the Kathy Sierra (from Creating Passionate Users) debacle. (She’s a high profile blogger who received some pretty graphic threats.) The response has been mixed; from “who is this guy to tell us what we can and can’t say” to “we need this if bloggers are going to be taken seriously”. Unfortunately, I can’t see relativism and a a blogger’s code of conduct playing very nicely together. For those who believe in an absolute standard of right and wrong, it may be worth considering; but ultimately if relativism prevails, God (whatever that concept means to you) help us all.

The future consequences of this relativism will be much greater than a shock jock’s career, I can guarantee that.