Pages Menu
TwitterRssFacebook
Categories Menu

Posted by on Nov 27, 2013 in Featured, Media, Politics | 24 comments

Martin Bashir Crosses the Line

Martin-Bashir-apologizes-to-Sarah-Palin-MSNBC (3)

Is it possible to go over the already distant line of acceptable discussion often nearly crossed by polarizing left and right talkers? MSNBC’s Martin Bashir did in an incident that shows us how far American political “debate” has sunk.

But it’s not entirely surprising.

It all started when Bashir — the journalist-turned commentator criticized by analysts for being among the most shrill partisan hosts at MSNBC — decided to chime in on former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin’s widely criticized comment comparing U.S. indebtedness to China to American slavery. He then read from the diaries of notorious former slave-owner Thomas Thistlewood who had noted one punishment for slaves was to defecate in their mouths. Bashir then delivered this gem of 21st century political vulgarity:

“When Mrs. Palin invokes slavery, she doesn’t just prove her rank ignorance,” he said. “She confirms if anyone [is] truly qualified for a dose of discipline from Thomas Thistlewood, she would be the outstanding candidate.”

It ignited a firestorm. The video of his commentary was replayed and embedded far and wide. Bashir apologized, but the controversy continued. Palin accepted his apology and took some more swipes at him and MSNBC. Some (who had not suggested Rush Limbaugh be fired for Limbaugh’s comments about law student Sandra Fluke) suggested MSNBC parent-company NBC should pull the plug entirely on the ratings-struggling channel. Bashir had not only crossed the line but shoved political talk to a new low.

MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” host Joe Scarborough called the remarks deplorable and told his viewers about Bashir’s apology: “I’m glad that he went out and said it [the apology], and I will guarantee you he didn’t write all that by himself.”

Indeed: Bashir’s comments — scripted, edited, approved and read on the air — reflected a mindset.

In the 60s and 70s the late Steve Allen had a show on PBS called “The Meetings of the Minds,” and David Susskind had “Open End.” If these shows were re-titled to fit today’s political culture, they’d have to be called “The Meetings of the Mouths” and “Open Mouth.” Attempting to share ideas or convince others with the power of passionate but thoughtful arguments have little to do with today’s partisan talk shows. They’re about re-affirming like-minded viewers’ existing beliefs, emphasizing developments through viewers’ pre-existing political conditions, channeling confrontation, frustration, anger and partisanship — then delivering this demographic package to advertisers.

But you can’t just blame ideological talkers.

How many times on any cable channel or broadcast channel if there’s a political discussion where both sides get angry, or interrupt each other, or someone makes an outrageous comment, do you see the host get a the-cat-just-ate-the-canary look and say, “We’ll have to have the two of you back!” Translation: “That conflict, anger, interrupting was great TV!” If they had coolly discussed policy or indulged in nuance, the host might not be re-inviting.

Meanwhile, weblogs were once considered a wave of the future that would allow citizens to become a citizen journalist with no corporate gatekeepers, and do real reporting, or serious commentary. But blogs have declined as new and “old” media companies created websites absorbing some of the style of the original weblogs and offering blog-like posts and original reporting. Many political blogs are now citizen op-ed pages or partisan blogs actively promoting one party and actively denigrating the other.

Bashir’s sin was crossing a way-out-there line that has been pushed by others to a limit a continent away from broadcast or print media limits 20 years ago. We’re seeing less the “dumbing down of America,” than the “coarsening of America.” Bashir took it to its grossest, most juvenile, vilest conclusion — but he took an “it” that is out there. This “it” has turned some partisan talk show hosts of the right and left into millionaires, and fills the bank accounts of companies employing them. There is lucrative market for packaging partisan anger and providing a tool for lashing out.

Someday perhaps someone will name a dish to serve at restaurants that will define the quality of the serious discussion Bashir and 24/7 indignant left and right partisan talkers sometimes offer. But there’s already a “pooh-pooh platter.”

Copyright 2013 Joe Gandelman. This weekly column is distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons newspaper syndicate.

Click here for reuse options!
Copyright 2013 The Moderate Voice
  • slamfu

    Bashir is done. That’s difference. On the left, you say something as ignorant as Bashir did, you’re out. On the right, you get a book deal, salary from FOX News, and a keynote speaker gig at about half a dozen conservative conventions.

  • DR. CLARISSA PINKOLA ESTÉS, Managing Editor of TMV, and Columnist

    I thnk the removal of ‘equal time’ by FCC is one of the rotted roots of this kind of “talk.” Frankly, there should when someone takes such demeaning stances, be someone not to bash, but to put it in perspective. Esp with regard to slaveries of many kinds; we have many groups across the world and in the US who were slaves of the Chinese, the Japanese, many of the farmers in the US, slaves in Congo, in the Americas. The whole issue of slavery ought not be given final words by palin or bashir. The entire subject worldwide deserves gravitas. And pushback for the suffering slaves still held by wealthy men in the middle east and elsewhere, today. This day.

  • KP

    The entire subject worldwide deserves gravitas. And pushback for the suffering slaves still held by wealthy men in the middle east and elsewhere, today. This day.

    Amen.

  • rudi

    MB did cross the line. But Limpbaugh, Mark Levin, Mike Savage and the fra Right obliterate that line daily.

    Savage has summarized his political philosophy in three words: borders, language, and culture. Savage has characterized his views as conservative nationalism,[10] while critics have characterized them as “fostering extremism or hatred.”[11] He opposes illegal immigration to the United States, supports the English-only movement and argues that liberalism and progressivism are degrading American culture. Although his radio delivery is usually characterized as confrontational and politically themed, he also ruminates on medicine, nutrition, music, literature, history, theology, philosophy, sports, and culture, and tells personal anecdotes.

    Since 2009, Savage has been barred from entering the United Kingdom, for allegedly “seeking to provoke others to serious criminal acts and fostering hatred”.

    The Left does have some idiots, but the Right has sociopaths. Pam Geller and Mike Savage are barred from England because of ties to English Defense League. MB is just a blow hard…

  • slamfu

    The left has plenty of idiots, but they are were they belong, in the peanut gallery. On the right, they are running the show.

  • PATRICK EDABURN, Assistant Editor

    I must say that as someone who sees idiots on both sides of the fence I am always bemused when incidents like this bring out the “Well my side never does that but their side does” mantra.

    Just as I am sure my comments will bring responses that one side is never wrong, or almost never wrong.

  • adelinesdad

    Unless I missed something, Bashir is still a MSNBC host, right? That seems a far cry from “peanut gallery”.

    But anyway, we can spend time comparing idiots or we can acknowledge that stupid and offensive things said or done by those on either side (whether comparable or not) have no bearing on those who share their political ideologies but don’t say and do stupid and offensive things, or condone those who do. Let’s all agree to condemn those who do this stuff on either side, and not use those who do it on the other side as political weapons.

  • sheknows

    LOL Patrick…of course. Slamfu has a good point also. Lets just say that there is an occasional ( prove me wrong people) ungracious comment from the left but still not on a par with the hateful ramblings from the right. I know we all agree on that because we have ears and we have eyes.

    My two favorite things which top the R list of utter and complete disrespect for our Left president was the 34 interruptions from Bill O’Reilly in a 15 min interview with Obama. And the Governor of Arizona daring to openly yell at the president and point her finger in his face. I don’t remember seeing any articles here at TMV about either.
    You can say Bashir was hateful in that comment and I agree. But lets not make a federal case out of it.
    It is SO rare to hear that from the left, an entire article had to be devoted to it. My lord, if we authored every right wing bash, we would have no time to read about anything else.

  • DR. CLARISSA PINKOLA ESTÉS, Managing Editor of TMV, and Columnist

    I live for the day when atrocious behavior is seen as such and not defended by either ‘side’ and the non issue of my side not yours/ your side not mine, is replaced by thoughtful solutions. I offer a solution: Reinstate the ‘equal time’ FCC ruling. It would facilitate conversation based on thought, rather than ad revenues. The thoughts might be rough, or vapid or useful or informing, but for every minute of x there would be, as once was, y. But then, I wonder how the big media would make their money from equity instead of tilting one way or the other.

  • The_Ohioan

    I’m not sure why Bashir is still broadcasting; an apology usually isn’t enough for MSNBC. I hope they aren’t further lowering their standards just to compete.

    There are so many “loose lips” at MSNBC that they are losing in the ratings game. Their viewers are turned off by the likes of Schultz, Sharpton, and Bashir. FOX viewers, however, are turned on by The Five and all the other loose lips there, and their ratings reflect that.

    The ratings don’t lie, however much anyone in broadcasting does.

  • DaGoat

    The Left does have some idiots, but the Right has sociopaths.

    How is being an idiot better than being a sociopath?

  • cjjack

    I offer a solution: Reinstate the ‘equal time’ FCC ruling. It would facilitate conversation based on thought, rather than ad revenues. The thoughts might be rough, or vapid or useful or informing, but for every minute of x there would be, as once was, y. But then, I wonder how the big media would make their money from equity instead of tilting one way or the other.

    If I remember correctly (and it has been quite some time since anyone in broadcasting had to know how to apply these rules) “equal time” and “the Fairness Doctrine” were two different things. The Fairness Doctrine is the one that fell by the wayside in the late 1980s, and that was the one that compelled stations to provide coverage of public issues.

    Administratively, it was (I’ve heard) a bit of a nightmare. FCC inspections are about as rare as Bigfoot sightings, but stations would nonetheless have to maintain a compliance regime that makes today’s required “public file” seem relatively easy.

    What the Fairness Doctrine did (well, to some extent) was to keep at least part of the focus of a broadcaster on the “public interest,” and on that level I wish it weren’t gone. The airwaves are owned by the public, after all. ABC, NBC, CBS, and all the radio companies are just leasing the bandwidth from it’s rightful owners, and should perhaps be required to run more than an hour of public affairs programming every week.

    That said, I don’t think a reinstatement of the FD would apply to cable networks.

  • DR. CLARISSA PINKOLA ESTÉS, Managing Editor of TMV, and Columnist

    Thanks Cjjack, I was thinking of Fairness Doctrine, which I understood as equal time, meaning, used to be in ancient history that if x was carrying on politically, esp if running for office, that y would be able to carry on also. Thanks for the clarification.

    I wonder if there ought be a proper boneyard of gored oxen somewhere.

  • cjjack

    Equal time applies almost explicitly to politics, and if I’m not mistaken is still in effect. So if Congressman Jackwagon is granted an opportunity to speak on the airwaves – not a paid advertisement, but as part of the programming – then his opponent gets equal time to respond. This is why talk show hosts who decide to run for office often quit their shows well in advance of their campaign.

    The Fairness Doctrine was a bit fuzzier. If, for example, you had some nut-case on a talk show espousing a conspiracy theory that Jews controlled the media, you weren’t required to give a Jewish person the exact same amount of time to refute the claim, but only prove to the FCC come inspection time that you’d made a good faith effort to offer the Jewish community an opportunity to respond. If the local rabbi said “thanks, but no thanks,” you were off the hook as far as the law was concerned.

  • PATRICK EDABURN, Assistant Editor

    Well Sheknows to a degree it depends on how you define right and left. I’ve had similar discussions with people elsewhere on the blogs and some were of the view that President Obama is a right winger and there are no liberals in the US political realm.

    Or when I cited comments or attacks on Bush the response was “well those things were true, he is evil, etc” so they didn’t count.

    But in any case I’m taking the holiday off 🙂

  • rudi

    Idiots aten’t barred from Canada or England. Savage Geller…

  • ShannonLeee

    He then read from the diaries of notorious former slave-owner Thomas Thistlewood who had noted one punishment for slaves was to defecate in their mouths. Bashir then delivered this gem of 21st century political vulgarity:

    “When Mrs. Palin invokes slavery, she doesn’t just prove her rank ignorance,” he said. “She confirms if anyone [is] truly qualified for a dose of discipline from Thomas Thistlewood, she would be the outstanding candidate.”

    How is this guy still employed? MSNBC should be ashamed of itself. Lean into the gutter and stay there.

  • DaGoat

    It’s very appropriate Bashir still has a job, since he is a reflection of MSNBC in the same way Hannity reflects Fox. As Joe G’s essay suggests these networks actually want this sort of thing.

  • adelinesdad

    Regarding the Fairness Doctrine, if the intent is to make sure guests on all sides are given equal opportunity on the airwaves, I’m not sure it would make much difference. The few times I find myself watching MSNBC or Fox News (I say somewhat shamefully), I usually do see guests from two sides (I won’t say “all” sides). The problem is that the host gets to direct the discussion, essentially acting as a third guest to gang up on the outsider. It’s one thing to make sure the show has balanced guests, but I don’t think the government can or should be in the business of determining who networks can hire as hosts and what they can and can’t say.

    In talk radio I think there is more of a tendency to only hear from guests from one side, so maybe it would have more of an impact. But I’m still skeptical that the government can be an impartial and predictable judge of balance.

    ETA: A better solution, I think, is for consumers to demand better. If we could band together to elect politicians that support the fairness doctrine, why couldn’t we band together to support media that is balanced?

  • ordinarysparrow

    Simply …. Bashir needs to go… This is a place where Left and Right can meet… He needs to go…

  • ordinarysparrow

    When i read the above, the feeling was disgust then vaguely remembered a post in The New York Times that gives some interesting insight into an act such as this and the reaction at sociological/ psychological/political levels..

    It is worth the read in relation to Bashir and his disgusting remark

    http://www.nytimes.com/2007/09/18/science/18mora.html?_r=0

  • The_Ohioan

    os

    That’s a very interesting link. I see some application of his hypothesis in the differing views on the NSA controversy as expressed here at TMV.

  • adelinesdad

    OS, I read Jonathan Haidt’s book “The Righteous Mind” which expands on the ideas in that article. If I were king of a world I’d make it required reading for anyone who wants to argue about anything.

  • DaGoat

    I read “The Righteous Mind” too – extremely interesting. I’m not sure how we’re relating Haidt to Bashir though. OS in your link the article mentions extreme liberals are more likely to say ‘I find that disgusting but that doesn’t make it wrong,’ Is that how you feel Bashir or MSNBC look at this, or liberal commenters look at this, or am I missing the boat entirely?

Twitter Auto Publish Powered By : XYZScripts.com