Movie Review: Dolittle (2020)

If, like me, you’re a fan of Robert Downey Jr., you may know that his choice of roles lacks ambition, challenge and imagination. Unfortunately, his newest movie, middling general fare for Universal Studios, is among his worst pictures.

It’s an incomprehensible, computer-generated jumble. The period piece, Dolittle, will do nothing to enhance the outstanding actor’s reputation. It’s a remake of a Sixties’ 20th Century Fox musical box office bomb starring Samantha Eggar, Anthony Newley and Rex Harrison. The title refers to a character — created by author Hugh Lofting, apparently during World War One to entertain his children with a tale of the fictitious naturalist John Dolittle in Victorian England — a doctor that “talks to the animals“.

Robert Downey’s voice is muffled. His John Dolittle speaks in a barely audible stream with an accent best described as Mrs. Doubtfire by way of somewhere between Wales and Ireland. The Iron Man star looks haggard, frazzled and befuddled. He’s shot in a way that’s unbecoming. Downey mumbles and generally looks like he’d rather be deadpanning through another Marvel movie. But he’s only occasionally on screen.

Most of Dolittle, which features an onslaught of wisecracking animals in Victorian-era England that say such lines as “see ya, suckers!” and other vulgar modern vernacular, happens in two or three second fragments. Image-manipulated animals look fine, though a dog with eyeglasses looks completely unrealistic and not because the glasses look bad. At one point, a polar bear dives underwater and keeps yapping, having a conversation with diver Dolittle, whose medical degree is curiously left off the title. This type of arbitrary world-making pervades the non-musical, nonsensical Dolittle, which could’ve been fabulous fun.

Its theme about healing, grief recovery and health might’ve played well. But when a sassy-voiced squirrel says he feels as if he’s got a “front seat to Crazy Town” to no one in particular, I admit that I felt the same way. I turned to my guest. His eyes were closed.

Danny Elfman’s bombastic score thunders. There’s a scene with what amounts to a terrorist bombing, which didn’t seem to bother or stir kids in the audience. To peg Dolittle as fantasy is to be exceedingly kind, though a key plot point entails the thing everyone who watches HBO’s popular series says they find enjoyable about Game of Thrones.

The best part of Dolittle is an appealing actor named Harry Collett. The boy plays Tommy Stubbins with perfection. The innocent character, against his family’s hunting practices, loves animals. But he unintentionally brings harm to an animal, which he brings to the reclusive, grieving, misanthropic doctor. The dying animal’s literally left hanging with its life in the balance while Dolittle introduces an unnecessary character. This forewarns the deficiencies.

Downey deserves a stellar career from now on. The actor’s Sherlock Holmes was bad 10 years ago. Disney’s boring but profitable Marvel movies set him up for life. Dolittle is bad, too. The actor who wowed audiences with great performances in Chaplin, Less Than Zero and the woefully unknown and underrated Nineties gem Heart and Souls deserves better. Downey’s Iron Man entertained in the initial outing. But it is with sincere admiration that I wish for Robert Downey, Jr. better scripts, roles and movies than the atrocious Dolittle.

 

Democrats Pseudo-Debate in Des Moines 2020

Tonight’s Des Moines Register/Cable News Network (CNN) pseudo-debate among 2020 Democratic Party presidential candidates is more of the same egalitarianism, welfare statism and environmentalism.

As has been true for years now, the Des Moines, Iowa event at Drake University was not a debate in any meaningful sense of the term. One of the CNN debate questioners displayed explicit sexism when she sided with a female New England senator who argued with a male New England senator (both of whom seek to abolish capitalism and enact total statism) when she declared to the female: “I want to give you the last word” after framing what the male said as false.

The male is Sen. Sanders. The dispute is over a trivial issue of one’s view of electability. Worse than whatever Sanders, a self-described socialist, had in mind when he spoke is what he has in mind for America’s defense and economics. Sanders came out against U.S. unilateral military action under any circumstances. Instead, he proposed to “bring the world together”, as he put it, resurrect the United Nations and seek pacifism. On domestic policy, Sanders seeks to “end all premiums [sic]” imposed under ObamaCare which is 10 years old. Sanders would replace ObamaCare with totalitarianism in health care; total government control he calls “Medicare for all”. When asked what he would say to those working in what remains of Iowa’s insurance industry, a cartel now controlled by the government, whose lives and careers will be annihilated, Sanders cavalierly dismissed them, muttering about re-education and subsidies for “up to five years”. This is an example of Democrats’ compassion, which is the contempt of a socialist for what glimmers of capitalism remain.

Vice-President Biden said that he would leave troops in the Mideast and aped competitor Sen. Warren, prefacing his plan with her repetitious phrase, “Here’s the deal…” and pledged to “limit what [drug companies] can charge [for drugs]”. For her part, Sen. Warren said she would “pull troops out” of the Mideast though she gives no indication that she grasps the concept of military defense. Domestically, Warren admitted that her plans for government controlled child care “has some people making a small payment” — and she hustled her proposed wealth tax — before plugging “trans women of color”, “black and brown women” “mommas and daddies” and, in a rare moment of honesty which she was quick to amend with her characteristic dishonesty, ‪“billions of dollars in taxes”.‬

Another Iowa frontrunner stuck in the pack, former Mayor Buttigieg, was asked about his mandatory government health care plan, which forces Americans into ObamaCare’s pseudo-insurance cartel. Buttigieg vowed that his administration will make “sure there’s no such thing as an uninsured person”, which sounds downright ominous, while “making sure there’s freedom of choice”.

His fellow Midwesterner, Sen. Klobuchar, was also contradictory. The Minnesota feminist made an issue about being a woman, invoking statistics about women in elective government while stressing competence and, then, promptly neglecting to remember the name of the female governor she singled out in her stats. On competence, though I did not keep tally, I think Klobuchar exceeded time in answering every question every time.

Activist Steyer looked like a bobbleheaded windup toy, smiling with a blank stare and bobbling his head while driving his arm and fist up and down in a robotic manner while prattling left-wing slogans. It was like watching one of Ira Levin’s Stepford Wives but the automaton was male.

This strikes me as a good end to this commentary on the Democrats’ pseudo-debate (read my roundup of Democrats’ discourse last fall here) because cruel, bureaucratic, total emotional detachment from destroying humanity with what Democrats mean by “diversity and inclusion”, conformity and exclusion, down to Biden’s facially alarming and amusing final remarks, is the 2020 Democrats’ emergent theme.

 

The Dishonorable American Airlines

On my way to visit family for Christmas, I chose to fly on American Airlines. The experience quickly went from bad to worse. For context, I’ve been an American Airlines customer and passenger for over 30 years. I do not consider myself a frequent flyer, yet my loyalty program status recently rose due to increased travel.

After repeatedly delayed flights, poor service and rude agents, I asked for a simple customer service accommodation. In response, American reported me to the police. The escalation is an example of horrendous customer service and a lesson in how not to treat the consumer. Unfortunately, it’s also an essentialization of the American Airlines subculture and philosophy.

In pledging customer service, American Airlines claims on its website that it’s “in business to provide safe, dependable and friendly air transportation to our customers … [and that they] are dedicated to making every flight you take with us something special…in the hopes that you will fly us again and again. We work very hard to make your entire experience with us, from making a reservation to deplaning at your final destination, a positive one.”

In the same pledge, American Airlines promises to render “[a]ssistance when your flight has been delayed”, “[t]icket refunds” and “[h]andling of customer issues”. None were offered, however, to this passenger. All were refused. In other words, none of what American Airlines claims is true. On the contrary, American reported me to the police.

The travel fiasco began with a flight which was hours late. I was not informed of the delay until after I’d arrived at the airport. I waited for several hours. I was disappointed but not irate. I had arrived in advance — by two hours — of my scheduled flight departure. I’d checked in online. I’d reserved a seat. I was all set. Then, American Airlines notified me that its plane was not ready to fly.

Apparently, something was wrong with the aircraft. I was informed that the plane was taken out of operation and that another plane would be used. Eventually, I boarded a plane and arrived at my destination. I lost a day of Christmas time with family.

After the visit, in anticipation of the return flight, once again, I arrived at the airport hours in advance of scheduled flight departure. And, once again, I was notified that the flight was late — hours late — after I’d reserved a seat, checked into the flight, arrived at the airport, checked luggage and made connecting flight arrangements.

Again, I was told that American’s passenger jet was not ready to fly. The plane, I was told, was removed from operation to be fixed. It was too late to make other arrangements. This late departure, like the previous late departure, was caused by American Airlines’ aircraft maintenance.

Let me emphasize this point. The late departures were caused by American Airlines. There were no weather complications. There were no announced travel or security conflicts. There was no reason to expect a problem with aircraft, let alone on two separate airplanes during the round trip. I emphasize this not to blame American Airlines for badly or properly operating or maintaining flawed, faulty or deficient aircraft. Of course, I know that things go wrong and I want the aircraft to be safe. But the fact that American Airlines, not weather or an external factor, caused the delay is relevant to customer service.

Faced with hours before rescheduled departure, this customer proceeded to an airline customer service desk to seek assistance with the connecting flight. The desk was cordoned off. It was vacant. I noticed that an airline club — American Airlines calls them Admirals Clubs — was near the gate where my flight was scheduled to board.

The gate was packed with passengers. I decided to investigate whether American Airlines was willing to consider admitting me as a guest in the club for a few hours. The impetus was the prospect of having a place to sit, wait for hours and relax while waiting for customer service to address any problem with my connecting flight. I entered the club.

Speaking with an agent who did not wear a name tag, I explained that there was no seating at the gate — the terminal was full of travelers — and I asked if the club could consider making an exception, waiving requisites and admitting me for a few hours.

The agent neither addressed nor answered my question. Instead, she stated what she called airline policy. I explained that I understood the policy and repeated that I was inquiring about an exception; that an exceptional circumstance had apparently delayed my flight and I was asking for an exception to the club’s admission policy. The agent told me to visit American Airlines’ customer service desk. I explained that I had been there and done that and that the service desk was vacant. She shrugged, as if to say “tough luck.”

I would come to learn that the agent’s attitude and actions represent American Airlines, which is based in Dallas/Fort Worth, Texas.

The agent spoke to me as if she’d memorized a script. After making the policy statement, she added that, if she agreed to consider my request, she would have to admit every passenger. Of course, this is not true, which I told her. I never raised my voice. Nor was I rude, hostile or disrespectful. I made my request — that American let me wait in the club for a flight which was delayed for hours due to American’s maintenance problem — with discretion. The request I made was reasonable. The agent offered zero accommodation. None.

Shortly after I left the club, someone at American’s Admirals Club notified police. While I was standing at the gate while looking for a place to sit and rest, a trio of police officers arrived. One of them asked if I’d been to the club. I knew that I did not violate the law, so I spoke freely with the peace officer, who expressed shock to me that the airline had notified police. Of course, I was neither detained nor placed under arrest. However, I was shocked that American Airlines treated me as a potential criminal — merely because I had asked to be admitted to American’s club to wait for American’s delayed flight.

Is it possible that American Airlines can improve?

After communicating with at least nine American Airlines representatives, none one of whom offered to honor the airline’s customer service pledge, I have zero reason to think improvement is possible. In fact, I have multiple reasons to think that American Airlines is malicious, dishonest and dishonorable.

New Articles: Iran, ‘The Cotton Club’ and Ayn Rand

The new year started with a turn of foreign events, as I wrote last week. Capitalism Magazine’s editor and publisher, without whom this blog, site and many articles would not be possible, asked to reprint it. Read my commentary on the day America’s impeached president of the United States ordered a pre-emptive and proper retaliation against Islamic Iran, the first serious strike against this enemy of Western civilization, here.

Iran attacks America, November 1979

Since the strike that killed a general for Iran’s army of Islamic terrorist proxy gangs and regimented soldiers of Allah, Iran has attacked America and a Ukrainian passenger jet carrying 176 innocents with missiles. The American president pledged this morning that, while showing restraint by declining to hit back for the moment, he will prevent the state sponsor of terrorism from acquiring nuclear weapons. When his predecessor brokered a deal with Iran that returned billions of dollars which were withheld after Iran attacked America and seized our embassy, capturing 66 Americans as prisoners of war in Iran’s jihad (“holy war”) against the West, I called it Obama’s death pact. Horrifically, for the Americans and others, including 63 Canadians on board the Boeing 737 Iran shot down in Teheran, death or its imminent threat became real thanks to Obama’s Iran deal. Barack Obama continued U.S. selflessness in foreign policy which, for decades, appeased Iran.

May appeasement end with military defense ordered and enacted by President Trump.

Thirty-five years after it debuted in theaters, I watched a notorious movie by director Francis Ford Coppola (The Godfather, Apocalypse Now, One from the Heart). Read my new review of a restored version of Mr. Coppola’s 1984 motion picture, The Cotton Club, now available on Blu-ray, DVD and streaming for its 35th anniversary, here.

Though I never saw the original in either theatrical or home video release, I was not disappointed in The Cotton Club (encore edition). It isn’t perfect, as I write in the review. But its jazz and tap dance scenes offer rare and exquisite entertainment.

The Harlem-themed epic has an unusual history. This is Mr. Coppola’s first movie after a self-financed 1982 musical, One from the Heart, lost money. The Cotton Club was made and financed by a range of contentious principals, such as the late producer Robert Evans, and others, such as Orion Pictures, now owned by MGM, which Lionsgate purchased, acquiring its library years ago.

The nightclub, where in reality only Negroes were allowed to perform for an exclusively white audience, was a swank joint on Manhattan’s upper end. The film features a score by the late composer John Barry, leading performances by Richard Gere, Diane Lane, Lonette McKee (the 1976 original remade with Whitney Houston in Sparkle) and the late Gregory Hines. Also look for Mario Van Peebles, Gwen Verdon, James Remar, Maurice Hines, who appears in a home video segment with Mr. Coppola, Lawrence Fishburne (Boyz N the Hood) as a thug named Bumpy Rhodes, Jackee Harry (227), Jennifer Grey, Nicolas Cage, Bob Hoskins, Fred Gwynne and Woody Strode (Sergeant Rutledge) as a club doorman. Music by Fats Waller, Duke Ellington and Louis Armstrong is fabulous.

“This is the movie I meant you to see”, Mr. Coppola, referring to the additional 20 minutes, tells a New York audience in the Q&A feature in the bonus segments. The panel includes disclosures about lawsuits, attempts to steal the negative and a murder trial surrounding The Cotton Club, which debuted in the fall of 1984. Francis Ford Coppola also remembers reading and being influenced by Arthur C. Clarke’s science fiction novel, Childhood’s End, with a black character and Maurice Hines recalling his late brother, Gregory, and their grandmother being an original Cotton Club showgirl.

Read the article

Finally, my editor informed me this morning that my article about Pittsburgh and its connection to Ayn Rand (1905-1982) for the winter edition of the print publication Pittsburgh Quarterly, is featured on the online version’s cover. Read about Rand, who revered the Industrial Revolution, and the city of bridges, steel and progress, here.

 

TV Review: Golden Globes 2020 (NBC)

The Golden Globes are an awards ceremony which are essentially and primarily a broadcast to promote Hollywood Foreign Press Association (HFPA) influence in Hollywood and to make money for HFPA and its designated broadcaster through advertising revenue. In other words, it’s meaningless except as a tool for promotionalism, offering no real value except as advertising for the industry of mass entertainment.

This isn’t saying much, especially now. I watched the awards broadcast this year for one reason: comedian Ricky Gervais. He hosted the show. This far left environmentalist is a passionate spokesman for his pet causes, such as his crusades against hunting, animal cruelty and for various laws aimed at controlling man’s life. But he’s also a biting satirist.

Gervais did not disappoint. The comedian launched into a scathing monologue against Hollywood, pointing out that the raging, pigtailed anti-child touted as a mascot for environmentalism is deprived of knowledge and explicitly naming Hollywood’s — and Silicon Valley’s — hypocrisy.

As Apple boss Tim Cook, a decent man who defied the Obama administration on principle and won, sat stoned-faced, Gervais skewered Apple and other technology companies for breaching while claiming superior business ethics. Above all, he was irreverent without being malicious. His humor was hilarious. I laughed out loud.

Why? Humor, like music, is complicated. One’s responses to humor are, I think, the byproduct of what lies deep inside one’s innermost premises, thoughts and psychology. That said, in this case, I think I laughed — and, apparently, so did many other Americans — because Hollywood deserves the criticism. That it was done with conscious, self-aware, self-mocking vulgarity unmasks the hubris of California’s preachy, leftist technology and entertainment celebrities.

There were finer moments, including for the celebrities, most of whom laughed at the host’s jokes. They did laugh at themselves, though some of them didn’t appear to know whether this was appropriate, an unfortunate sign of suppressive or repressive times.

The best performing artists elegantly or smartly exercised the right to free speech. Stellan Skarsgård, who won an award for his outstanding performance in HBO’s Chernobyl, joked at his own expense in appreciation of a crew member’s ability. Comedienne Kate McKinnon came out as gay in a humorous display of appreciation for comedienne and TV hostess Ellen DeGeneres, a lesbian who, in turn, expressed admiration for comedienne Carol Burnett, namesake for the award DeGeneres won.

DeGeneres appeared in a montage in which she was shown telling a post-9/11 audience: “What would bug the Taliban more than seeing a gay woman in a suit surrounded by Jews”. The comedy succeeds in that clip because, as delivered, hers is a statement, not a question. This goes to what’s good about DeGeneres; her sense of irony.

DeGeneres was shown in various clips dancing through her life, which with her irony taps the essence of her appeal. It was fitting that she won the Carol Burnett Award — Carol Burnett sat with DeGeneres, demonstrating her grace and elegance as always — and she’s a testament to the power of mass media, especially television.

“Live your life with integrity,” DeGeneres told an audience of graduates in a clip, before sending up Hollywood pretentiousness herself in a humorous acceptance speech.

Integrity defines the night’s winner for lifetime achievement. Tom Hanks (SullyPhiladelphiaThe PostA Beautiful Day in the NeighborhoodBridge of Spies) displayed honesty during an emotional acceptance of the Cecil B. DeMille award. This was the best moment of the Golden Globes, which aired on NBC. I say this because Mr. Hanks, an impeccable actor of ability, took the opportunity to share his thoughts and insights on his own ability. This alone is a remarkable departure from the usual pandering, bootlicking, sniveling, smearing and ranting that emanates from Hollywood awards podiums.

An old white male — at a time when the old white male is under siege in Hollywood — had the audacity to reject the status quo and imply that today’s industry needs to do better, to be better, to strive to be the best. Hanks made a strong rejection of the Me, Too movement’s proposed codification of egalitarianism, the basis for feminism, multiculturalism and other offshoots of tribalism. He emphasized instead the singular pleasure of doing one’s work, of doing it right, of doing it on deadline (and, by implication, on budget) and of doing it for one’s own sake.

Tom Hanks made this radical breach of altruism and collectivism after a woman of ability, Charlize Theron, thanked the old white male. Theron thanked Mr. Hanks for choosing to be supportive, subtle, decent, kind and deft in hiring her for his movie (That Thing You Do!, innocuous and enjoyable fluff chiefly of value for its Americanism) early in her career.

Showing genuine emotion for his wife, children and family, following an exemplary reel of moments from his greatest performances, Tom Hanks accepted his winning the award for, as he put it, “showing up on time”, which he rightly called liberating — he told Hollywood that “you [should] do it for yourself” — and for his lifetime of achievement.

This, not momentary hilarity of satire by Ricky Gervais, who distinctly, notably, wisely and, to his credit, did not mock or joke after Tom Hanks spoke, displayed man at his best.

Other artists also shined. Quentin Tarantino, winning an award for his overrated Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, plainly declared “I did it” rather than parrot the status quo of an artist acting as if he exists at the mercy of the lives of others. Tarantino also acknowledged writer Robert Bolt, who wrote A Man for All Seasons, providing the evening’s most intellectual moment of justice. Laura Dern (Star Wars: The Last Jedi), unfortunately beating Kathy Bates (Richard Jewell) for an acting acknowledgment which Bates deserves, acknowledged the importance of the story — as against merely pictures and effects — to the movie for which she won, The Marriage Story.

Best Picture clips were ads, not scenes, and the Best Song award presentation— an actor singing to promote his upcoming appearance in a musical was granted more musical performance time than the nominated songs, which mostly went unheard — was awful. Even director Sam Mendes was shocked that he won an award for his movie, 1917, which does not qualify for serious consideration of a great, let alone best, movie. Michelle Williams, a talented actress, accepted an award with what amounts to an attack on the virtue of selfishness pushing more of the same collectivism. Unfortunately, she did this under the guise that she was defending rights, i.e., woman’s right to an abortion, which needs (and does not receive) a proper defense.

For his satire, Ricky Gervais is the host of the moment. But the best part of the Golden Globes, heralding egoism, implied if not made explicit by Tom Hanks, came from Elton John, accepting an award for the first time with Bernie Taupin for a song they co-wrote. Elton’s exuberance, enthusiasm and title and meaning of his memoir, Me, and his movie (2019’s best), Rocketman show that art exalts life. Elton spoke, appeared and expressed himself with a style of his own. True to themes of his movie, book and life, he did so for his own sake, neither excoriating nor appeasing, placating or seeking for the approval of others.

That Elton John was acknowledged and recognized for his ability, and that he welcomed the recognition without pleading for altruism or collectivism, happy to bask in his own glory — this, not satire as such — is the mark of progress. This, man’s pride in his own ability, is what is worth celebrating. This is what we ought to strive to regard as golden and make universal.

 

America Hits Iran

President Trump apparently ordered today’s pre-emptive strike on Iran’s top military official for planning to mass murder Americans in Iraq. The Islamic dictatorship of Iran confirmed the death. The New York Times reports confirmation of both assertions.

The historic nature of this excellent act of U.S. self-defense is unmistakable. Donald Trump is the first American president to militarily counterstrike this evil enemy explicitly on the principle of saving American lives. Time and again, from President Carter, who refused to assassinate Iran’s first Islamic dictator, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, before the monster returned to impose a barbaric theocracy, to President Obama, who appeased Iran and brokered a deal which brought Israel’s prime minister and the late Elie Wiesel to plead to a joint session of Congress for U.S. rejection of Obama’s death pact.

“This is devastating for the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps, the [Islamic] regime and Khamenei’s regional ambitions,” Mark Dubowitz, who runs a think tank opposing appeasement of Iran, referring to the Iranian dictatorship’s ayatollah, told the Times, which reported that President Trump ordered the drone strike on Baghdad’s International Airport.

In the 40 years since Iran waged war on America by seizing our embassy in Teheran, capturing Americans as prisoners of war wrongly dubbed “hostages”, beating U.S. Marines, baiting Americans for a race war involving radical leftists including Rev. Jesse Jackson and waging war with mass murder on American Marines in Beirut and across the world, including sponsoring nonstop attacks on America from hijacked passenger jets to countless untold acts of war, not a single American government hit Iran back hard. Carter shrunk in defeat after his folly over Khomeini. Reagan retreated. Bush the pappy appeased Iran, letting the savages threaten a published Western author and bomb American bookstores. Clinton did nothing when Iran bombed the United States Navy. Bush the son ordered the Marines to stand down in Iraq when Iran’s mystics ordered a siege against America. Obama welcomed and appeased Iran over and over. Even when Obama ordered the U.S. military to kill the top Moslem connected to carrying out the attack on Black Tuesday, September 11, 2001, he did so with a sad, morose, somber tone and honored the monster, granting an Islamic ritual at sea. And pleading with the enemy by pledging that he had done so in accordance with the faith that moves the enemy to destroy the West.

On Friday, January 3, 2020, the third American president to be impeached by Congress, Donald Trump, hit Iran by taking out one of its top thugs. It’s even better that he did so on the grounds of saving Americans’ lives, contrary to all of his presidential predecessors combined, who

“General Suleimani was actively developing plans to attack American diplomats and service members in Iraq and throughout the region,” the Pentagon said in a statement. “General Suleimani and his Quds Force were responsible for the deaths of hundreds of American and coalition service members and the wounding of thousands more.”

Don Imus

Don Imus died at age 79 this week. What was disturbing about him has only spread in the culture and worsened. What was distinctive and unique about this radio broadcaster has almost disappeared in today’s culture. In either case, his is a career worth knowing and thinking about.

He debuted on New York City radio at the dawn of New Left predominance. The year was 1971. America was in a steep and rapid decline. In retrospect, Imus represents part of the downward slide.

I remember hearing him on the radio in New York City for the first time. The disc jockey was sarcastic, really caustic. He was a complete turn-off. I didn’t become part of his audience. He struck me then as small, petty and cynical, not what I expected from a popular—one of the most influential—radio hosts in America’s greatest city.

I didn’t listen again for another decade which turned out to be the high point of his career. It was the 1990s. President Clinton was being impeached. Imus, with other so-called radio shock jocks, applied his caustic commentary to the news of the day.

This time, something clicked.

Whatever his faults, whatever his errors and flaws, Imus expressed himself with both biting humor and intelligence. I never became a regular listener, let alone fan. But between the early 1970s, when the New Left’s crusade for environmentalism, feminism and multiculturalism appeared to many Americans as odd or innocuous departures from mainstream ideas, and the mid-90s, when Republicans presumably opposing New Left madness did so on the grounds of seeking to remove a president from office for lying about sex, Don Imus became a counterpoint to America’s decline.

Around this time, I worked as a production assistant for Leonard Peikoff who had launched his own talk radio show in LA. It struck me that reducing Imus to sensationalistic radio host wasn’t fair whatever one’s view of his broadcasts. For one thing, his sarcasm was thoughtful (and often right on). Though he could be harsh, he was not malicious. When he went for the joke, it was not at the expense of the thought. Cynical humor had, by then, with South Park, The Simpsons and most modern comedy, consumed American culture. Imus became less a cynic than a curmudgeon rejecting the status quo.

Like showman Rush Limbaugh and philosopher Leonard Peikoff, Imus raised the level of discourse. He didn’t broadcast for the sole purpose of titillation. Imus reported the news, commentating, in this context, as a relatively reliable source.

Imus found humor in the increasingly absurd slogans of the day. Occasionally, I would tune in or watch his morning program on MSNBC in the late 1990s. Typically, I was repelled. Sometimes, he tried too hard to crack the joke. But I grew to appreciate his sincerity. He was self-made. Like me, he was self-educated. He created a charity to let kids with cancer experience the cowboy lifestyle at a ranch he owned. The native Southern Californian who grew up in the Grand Canyon State wore a cowboy hat, speaking freely and authentically. As far as I could tell, Imus was honest and sincere, which is more than I can say for many of today’s broadcasters.

Unlike today’s media hosts, Imus did not pander to others or distort facts or news to fit an agenda. He was relatively detached and objective, as I recall. If biased, he was transparent about it. He criticized conservatives and leftists alike.

Don Imus spoke his mind. He did so freely without overfiltering. He called out New Left irrationalism which worsened with each year. His career stalled from telling a bad joke, for which he repeatedly apologized, and he became a victim of exactly what he opposed. But Imus left his mark on broadcasting. Without him, I can’t think of a single East Coast media host that didn’t hold back, go flat and seek to silence proper discourse.

Like Johnny Carson, Don Imus blended irony with intelligent inquiry in broadcasting. His approach had a major impact and influence for the better on modern mass communication. Talk radio was never the same and led to new media, podcasting, which in my estimation elevates the caliber of debate and improves Americans’ willingness to think and speak freely.

With anti-capitalist frontrunners in the Democratic Party‘s 2020 presidential campaign, a mass surveillance and welfare state and a political circus bordering on dysfunction which has led to paralysis and incompetence in American government, thinking and speaking freely matters more than ever. Don Imus, an addict who made his career out of biting commentary paired with his brand of cowboy individualism, showed the way. May Imus rest in peace.