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    Why Martin Bashir's Apology Should Have Been Enough

    Until Martin Bashir either resigned or was let go by MSNBC this week, I was a loyal fan.  One of the reasons I watched Bashir is because the things that engaged him usually did the same for me.  At my house, in the Eastern Time Zone, he was on at 4 PM, which meant whatever had happened that day had largely been dissected to death by the daytime pundits.  But he had the ability to find something fresh and insightful and, yes, funny, about what was going on out there.  Maybe it's his accent, his enunciation, his eyebrows--I don't know. He is a devilishly clever wordsmith--smarmy, but in a good way.  I have been known to hurry things up just so I can get home in time to watch him.

    So I was home and watching on the day he went into that thing over Jake Tapper's interview with Sarah Palin--the part where Palin would not back down from comparing the national debt to slavery.  Tapper gave her many outs, bless his heart, but she stuck by every word.

    The interview went like this:

    TAPPER: Mitch McConnell has said no more government shutdowns. He didn't think it was a smart idea.
    If you were advising Senate Republicans, would you encourage them to do a --
    PALIN: What shutdown? What shutdown?
    It was a --
    TAPPER: Partial shutdown.
    PALIN: -- 17-day slim down -- no, a 16-day slim down of about 17 percent of the government. We need to rein in government.
    And when is the time, finally, for people to open their eyes and for the media to -- to open its eyes?
    What is the time and the magic number, when it comes to debt, when it comes to this trajectory of government growth, for people to say, we do need to start slimming this thing down?
    TAPPER: So, you obviously feel very passionate about the national debt. The other day, you gave a speech in which you compared it to slavery.
    PALIN: To slavery. Yes.
    And that's not a racist thing to do, by the way, which I know somebody is going to claim it is.
    TAPPER: Don't you ever fear that by using hyperbole like that -- obviously, you don't literally mean it's like slavery, which cost millions of people their lives and there was rape and torture. You're using it as a metaphor.
    But don't you ever worry that by using that kind of language, you -- you risk obscuring the point you're trying to make?
    PALIN: There is another definition of slavery and that is being beholden to some kind of master that is not of your choosing. And, yes, the national debt will be like slavery when the note comes due.
    TAPPER: So you're not -- you're not work -- I mean I'm -- I'm taking it as a no, but you're not -- you're not concerned about the language --
    PALIN: I'm not one to be politically correct, evidently.
    PALIN: And, no, I don't -- I don't worry about things like that, because no matter what I say, no matter what a lot of conservatives say, they're, you know, they'll be targeted and distractions will be attempted to be made to take the listener and the viewers' mind off what the point is, by pointing out, oh, she said the word slavery in a speech, and, I did say the word slavery, because I want to make a point.
    TAPPER: You can understand why African-Americans or others might be offended by it, though?
    PALIN: I -- I can if they choose to misinterpret what it is that I'm saying. And, again, you know, I'm sure if we open up the dictionary, we could prove that with semantics that are various, we can prove that there is a definition of slavery that absolutely fits the bill there, when I'm talking about a bankrupt country that will owe somebody something down the line if we don't change things that is, we will be shackled. We will be enslaved to those who we owe.

    Oh, Sarah.  Clueless, smug, privileged Sarah.  Why is anyone still interested in what you have to say?

    See, this is what grinds some of us who think the serious stuff should be left to serious thinkers.  The issue of our country's debt crisis is clearly not something Sarah Palin has studied judiciously.  And clearly her audiences don't expect anything more from her than some funnin' over the fuss the liberals make over every nutty thing the Republicans come up with.

    So when CNN's Jake Tapper sits down with Palin for what seems like a real interview with a real leader, giving her the deference a real leader might deserve, some of us, including or maybe especially Bashir, feel the tops of our heads threatening to blow off. 

    When Bashir began his segment on Palin's national debt/slavery connection, I was all ears.  Here we go!  Give it all you got, Mah-tin!

    He called her an idiot right off, and I, how you say, blanched. I'm all for semantics that are various, but nooooo!  Amateur hour.  Don't even go there!

    Then he told the story of a sadistic Jamaican plantation overseer named Thistlewood who meted out unspeakable punishments to his slaves.  Punishments involving feces and urine.

    If Bashir has ended his piece with the hope that Sarah Palin might never have said what she said if she fully understood what real slaves had to go through, it would have been a case of lesson learned.  Thank you, Martin, for reminding us all. . .

    I fully expected that was where he was going.  But he wasn't.  Reading from a teleprompter with blowup shots behind him of an African slave about to be punished on one side and Palin on the other, this is what he said:

    "When Mrs. Palin invoked slavery, she doesn’t just prove her rank ignorance. She confirms that if anyone truly qualified for a dose of discipline from Thomas Thistlewood, then she would be the outstanding candidate."

    Call me prescient but right then and there I saw trouble ahead.

    Bashir apologized, of course, the next day, and he meant it sincerely.  So sincerely, I wondered how it could have happened in the first place.  It wasn't something uttered in the heat of the moment.  The segment was planned, the words were scripted, he said them on the air. Sometime during the hours it took to produce the segment, the initial fury over Palin's noxious jabbering should have abated.

    It's a mystery why it didn't, but there it was.

    The internet went crazy.  The Right--wouldn't you know?--grabbed this unexpected but oh-so-welcome gift and ran with it.  Alec Baldwin, no stranger to controversy, wanted to know why he was suspended for spontaneous raging at a reporter but Martin wasn't for planning and airing this icky diatribe against Sarah Palin.  The cries for punishment never let up. 

    It was an awful, awful moment, but it was a moment come and gone.  It was an ugly flub in an otherwise smart and often enlightening body of work.  It did not reflect who Martin is, was. or ever will be.  What he said in that one single utterance, egregious as it might be, was not enough to kill a good man's otherwise trouble-free career.

    Martin Bashir has lost his job.  Resigned under pressure, forced out--no matter.  He is among the unemployed because he said something stupid and he should have known better.

    We've always been cavalier about someone else's job, and there's no reason to believe it will ever be otherwise.  So, Martin, I will miss you.  I wish you the best.  I hope to see you again soon, because you know I will follow you anywhere.



    It is sad to see him go because he was interesting.  I would of left too.

    They tend to talk things to death in the evening also.  After a while it get boring and I move on to something else. I can always skim through it on line to the important parts.

    As soon as they start talking about Rush Limbaugh, I start checking the weather or go to music.  That wind bag is not news worthy and is irrelevant.  I feel the same way about Sara Palin and Michele Bachman. 

    They need reporters in the field doing reports on stuff happening out side of the village.  They need to be dogging the City Manager in Detroit.  Or down here in Florida kicking over a couple of bee hives in Tallahassee.  There is tons of political action happening at the local level right now.  

    You're so right, Momoe, and not much of it gets reported nationally.  Detroit is news now but only because it finally got so bad it's good news to the TV people.  It draws ratings.

    I know so many people now who used to be news junkies but barely watch it anymore.  I can understand that, given all the hype and misinformation. 

    It's hard to know where to go for the truth anymore.

    I don't have a TV, and I haven't found him on-line, so I haven't watched this guy, so I'm approaching this as a non-fan (but not as an anti-fan). I'd argue that a suspension would have been totally appropriate, as I think Baldwin was alluding to. Being forced to resign, however, seems over the top. Do you think he actually wrote this material himself or does he have a team of writers?

    I'm guessing he has a team and they all work together to write the scripts, but he has the final vote on what goes in and how it's written.  It's his show.  He is ultimately responsible for the content.

    Funniest news guy on TV.

    Big loss for me.


    Here is why I disagree with you Mona, while Palin is a bizarre woman, who is unable to speak in complete sentences, I think Bashir went to far. What he said was completely unnecessary, I mean that. How is what he said different than when Limbaugh called Sandra Fluke a slut? It's not really different. It would be smarter to just brush aside the snide, vile comments and just comment directly on the crazy statement without acting like a stupid republican talking head. 

    So he lost his job, and someone else will step in to take his place, looks like it might be Joy Reid, and honestly I don't think she would make a stupidly vile statement like that. I just can't support our side acting like their side.

    Specifically, why are we supposed to be comfortable with TV hosts/anchors shaming public figures? Why do we need the Kool Kids when simply reporting the news with a reasonably unbiased (not "even-handed") treatment would do?

    Yet again the Republican freak show has taken on a semantic framing with lots of baggage and denied they were using the baggage.

    1st, Bashir played over-the-top jury/judge.

    2nd, Bashir blew the issue - the Founding Fathers talked about freedom and slavery with reference to to King George. So wannabee Founding Father Teabaggers don't have to be invoking our racist slavery past to use the term. However, it's pretty certain they like the irony of accusing a black President of foisting slavery on the country. Bashir's analysis could have addressed the difference between economic and physical slavery and left it at that.

    3rd, Bashir missed the real analysis, which is what real indentured slaves have had to go through to free themselves from debt. This could have been early American colonists, or Latin America through much of the last century, or what Iraq & Afghanistan have put up with via occupation, or what sacrifices most Americans have to make to support Republican-backed wars and Wall Street bailouts and tax cuts to the wealthy. The continued indifference to deficits during the Bush years and the sudden deficit scolds in 2009 after applauding Dick "deficits don't matter" Cheney is just amazing chutzpah. Go out on a binge like drunken sailors, and then attack the MPs for making you pay your debt, comparing them with Simon LaGree.

    Is there any reason all this couldn't have been presented simply in non-Beavis & Butthead terms, so as to give Tea Baggers another win for being wrong?


    Exactly.  All those things.  He blew it big time.  As I said, it could have been a lesson learned.  That teachable moment.  Dumb, dumb, dumb.  And ugly.

    But I still don't agree with the firing.

    OMG no wonder it's so damn cold outside right now... did we just agree on something?

    I agree with everything you said.  In fact, I think I said it, too.  I still don't believe he should have been fired, which is the point of my post.  I don't think anyone, no matter who they are or who they work for, should be fired on the basis of one stupid--even vile--statement.

    I feel strongly enough that I would defend anyone whose whole body of work doesn't reflect one stupid statement.  Martin Bashir isn't one to do this kind of thing, which makes it all the more shocking.  Suspension, yes, but firing him?  IMHO, no.

    In the war of vile, over the top, mendacious reporting, we are fighting an asymmetrical battle. The Dan Rathers and Martin Bashirs of the world are fired even when they are likely right, or when they make one boo-boo, and the Rush Limbaughs and FOXes of the world shrug it all off and move on to their next idiocy.

    Hard to know what to do...

    I purposely chose not to go with the double standard.  It's there, of course, but it can't be used as an excuse or a justification.  Bashir takes pride in being a journalist, which makes what he did all the more disturbing, at least to me.  

    And the fact that it was planned and scripted makes it so much worse.  But because it was a one-time offense, I'm still arguing that he shouldn't have been fired.

    Taking this from a slightly different angle...

    One reason movement conservatism was able to rise was not a concern for the truth, but a willingness to play as a team.

    I'm not arguing with you, Ramona, truly. I agree with your point about journalistic standards, of course. So I'm in a quandary on this. And maybe I wouldn't be if, as you say, Bashir were a serial offender and not someone who made a mistake one time.

    Here's another point: Though what he said was vile, was it untrue? Was it the content or the manner?

    I disagree with PP above that Bashir got the history wrong. The Americans said that life under GIII was slavery, not because they were taxed, even harshly, as Ms. Palin would have us believe, but because they were taxed without their consent. Regardless of what you think of how well your members of Congress represent you, this is not at all what obtains today.

    Moreover, it's pretty obvious (I think) that she was talking about good ole slavery because she's attempting to turn her opponents' attack back on themselves. She wasn't talking about GIII, who gets no one's blood boiling, even when he's invoked. That's been a cold issue for a loooong time and is only trotted out for rhetorical effect, IMO.

    Anyway just food for thought...

    The way I understood it, it was the interview with Tapper and not the original speech that so infuriated Bashir.  How flip she was, how arrogant, how clueless, even when Tapper was trying to give her an out--trying to get her to see that slavery couldn't possibly be considered on the same level as the national debt.  She refused to back down.  When Palin is right, she's right.  No further discussion necessary.

    To say that Bashir lost it is of course an understatement.  And he paid the price.  Meanwhile Palin is still Palin, going strong. 

    But I think there's another nuance to this that "double standard" doesn't quite capture.

    She IS going strong, not as strong as she once was, perhaps, but still strong. Why?

    I don't really know how to put this, Ramona, but here's a crack at it: They're playing a different game than we are.

    It's not exactly that they get a pass when they're wrong; they are playing a different game or at least according to different rules. They use the word "wrong" in a different way. It means something different.

    You can see it in their "Ooops! Made a boo-boo. What's next?" approach to journalistic integrity.

    Maybe it's this: For them, journalism is simply a way to purvey ideology. Even when an ideological attack gets some facts wrong, it's never wrong per se. Shep and Chris and Britt are in there to fog up the picture.

    For us, journalism is an attempt to get close to the facts, whatever they happen to be. Of course, ideology enters into it and no one is without bias, but there is a reason that Rather and Bashir got toppled for one mistake and Doocy and Carlson can rattle off doozies day in and day out without any repercussions.

    I know that's not very enlightening, but I think it may be key to understanding what is going on.

    Understand your disagreement, but with the conservatives there's always an element of "they're doing this by illegal means", forcing this on us, even though they never manage to make a good argument how their consent is violated in a democracy where they got to vote. Still they insist ACA is unconstitutional and that Obama wasn't qualified to be elected and a variety of other untruths to feed their sense of being wronged. So I think their angle on outrage is "sold into slavery", not "elected into slavery" - blame it all on those constitution defiling liberals.

    OK, I'm chiming in late and so no one will probably read this, but here goes:


    DeeDee Myers said Bashir should be fired because Imus was and also Alec Baldwin lost his show.  Theresa said this was equivalent to Rush Limbaugh calling Fluke a "slut."


    Imus made disparaging comments about college basketball players; Baldwin made a gay slur against a photographer.  Ms. Fluke was testifying in a court hearing.  Martin Bashir made a crude and unprofessional attempt to show Sarah Palin what slaves actually went through after she had made a crude and unprofessional comment about our President (not her first).  

    Does anyone see a difference here between the injured parties?  College athletes, a (not well-known) photographer, a college student who was asked to testify in court,


    a public figure who puts herself out there on a daily basis saying the most outrageous things she can imagine.


    It seems to me that the standard here ought to be similar to that of slander -- people making statements about public figures can get away with all kinds of outrageous lies and absurdities without fear of being called to account.  


    Yes, Martin Bashir offended a lot of people and he missed an opportunity to make his point in a more nuanced way.  However, I think he was a victim of a skewed standard that would never have been applied to someone on the right saying similar things about...say, our President.  Is what he said any more offensive than the posters of a half-naked Obama with a bone through his nose?


    Yes, I viscerally dislike Sarah Palin.  I think she is an idiot who got herself rich by appealing to the basest instincts of fear and hate.  I admit it is hard for me to be objective, but I also truly believe that Martin Bashir should have apologized to his audience because of the lousy way he worded his attempt at educating Sarah about slavery rather than apologizing to her.  


    He should not have lost his job.

    This is well put Cville.

    Miss ya.

    Excellent points, Cville.  What kills me about all this is that Palin comes out smelling like a rose.  She is now the injured party.  Damn.

    I don't believe for a minute that Martin should have lost his job, but man, could he have given Palin and the Right a bigger gift?  Why, why, why didn't he see where it was going--and how it might possibly end?

    You're right about the apology, but he had to do what he had to do.  It should have been enough to save his job, but as usual the Right has a lock on self-righteous indignation and the Left has a lock on punishing those who forget their manners.  We're hopeless.

    You always were CVille.

    Huh?  I always was what?

    Just a lame joke. Sorry!

    Corporate America is in charge and eveyone "must" do as they're told.

    Huffington Post suddenly "decided" if you don't have a FaceBook account, you can't comment anymore ... off-the-wall comments are a part of the internet experience since day one ... to cut them off is censorship ... especially if one has to submit your personal info to a social network, is similar to being a Jew and being tattoo'ed by the Nazi's.

    The irony of Huffington Post and MSNBC is this week they all "honored" Nelson Mandella, yet failed to comphrend he was a nonconformist to the status quo ... just like anonymous posters.

    Corporate America is making the internet their turf and the public has no choice but to accept their terms unconditionally.

    I just watched a clip of Basir's monologue. Until then, my only knowledge of the incident had been what I read here.  I had been thinking about the simple fact that the gross crudity of his suggestion would have been plenty enough to merit firing for most of my life and I was curious to see it for myself in its full context.
     I did not object one bit when he called Palin an idiot. But it seems to me that there had been some heavy duty research done to find an example that made slavery look not just wrong as we all agree it was, but to find a particularly perverted and particularly disgusting example and then to suggest that Palin deserved the same perverted treatment because she used the word even though she was talking about a very different kind of slavery
     I am not at all familiar with Bashir, maybe if I was I would have seen enough  good stuff so as to be inclined to cut him more slack. But I haven't and I don't.
      All I will say is, fuck Bashir, it wouldn't be appropriate to tell him to eat shit and die.
     Bashir says Palin has earned shit in her mouth because of her profound ignorance about slavery and suggests that if she wasn't so ignorant she would never have said what she did. That suggests Bashir has a mouthful of ... ignorance. Did Palin really make a non-valid analogy?
     There are millions of people in the world today which are legitimately considered to be slaves because of the economic situation they are bound to. The word 'Slavery" has so far not been narrowed in its application to one particular form suffered by one particular group in one particular place, as Bashir's criticism requires, so that its use in any other way is out of line. Palin is an idiot in a hundred ways but even though her analogy of a current policies leading to economic slavery was hyped up and overblown for the purpose of stoking fear about the future of our economy, in fact it is a possibility that a lot of people worry about, and it is a prediction of a possible future that a lot of people have been scared into expecting and is also one we cannot at this time be certain is wrong.

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