The cable news sewer

Matthew Hoy
By Matthew Hoy on November 17, 2013

Politics ain't beanball.

Despite repeated claims that America is more divided politically now than ever (often forgetting the unpleasantness from 1861-65 during which many feelings were hurt), modern-day politics aren't really appreciably nastier than they have been for the past two centuries. (I heartily recommend Edward J. Larson's "A Magnificent Catastrophe" on the election of 1800 as evidence of this fact.)

Once upon a time, the same could be said for journalism. There were Democrat papers and there were Republican papers (and Whig papers, etc.). Journalists took sides.

Then, about 50 or so years ago, in a fit of marketing genius, newspaper publishers sought to sell papers to both the left and right by trumpeting unbiased journalism. Journalism ceased to be a trade that was learned in actual newsrooms and became some sort of higher calling learned at universities. (Blame Woodward and Bernstein.)

If they believed it for a few decades, it's become clear since then that journalists are no better than any other human being at putting aside their preconceptions and biases—they're just better at hiding them.

On cable news, we've largely returned to the days of journalists (or commentators or analysts) having opinions and not being afraid to share them. Fox News came out with a more conservative take on the news (which I would argue puts them pretty close to the political middle) and about five years ago, MSNBC, languishing in 3rd place in the cable news ratings, decided to tack leftward.

And all this is perfectly fine. I'm for more speech, not less. More debate, not less.

But I also believe there's such a thing as "polite company" and that certain acts should result in public shunning and that employers should be willing to sack employees that step over the line of decency.

Which is to say, MSNBC should fire host Martin Bashir first thing tomorrow morning for this:

MARTIN BASHIR: It's time now to clear the air. And we end this week in the way it began - with America’s resident dunce, Sarah Palin, scraping the barrel of her long deceased mind, and using her all-time favorite analogy in an attempt to sound intelligent about the national debt.


SARAH PALIN: Our free stuff today is being paid for by taking money from our children, and borrowing from China. When that note comes due - and this isn't racist, so try it. Try it anyway. This isn't racist. But it's going to be like slavery when that note is due.


BASHIR: It’lll be like slavery. Given her well-established reputation as a world class idiot, it's hardly surprising that she should choose to mention slavery in a way that is abominable to anyone who knows anything about its barbaric history. So here's an example.One of the most comprehensive first-person accounts of slavery comes from the personal diary of a man called Thomas Thistlewood, who kept copious notes for 39 years. Thistlewood was the son of a tenant farmer who arrived on the island of Jamaica in April 1750, and assumed the position of overseer at a major plantation. What is most shocking about Thistlewood's diary is not simply the fact that he assumes the right to own and possess other human beings, but is the sheer cruelty and brutality of his regime.

In 1756, he records that “A slave named Darby catched eating canes; had him well flogged and pickled, then made Hector, another slave, s-h-i-t in his mouth.” This became known as Darby’s dose, a punishment invented by Thistlewood that spoke only of the slave owners savagery and inhumanity.

And he mentions a similar incident again in 1756, this time in relation to a man he refers to as Punch. “Flogged Punch well, and then washed and rubbed salt pickle, lime juice and bird pepper; made Negro Joe piss in his eyes and mouth.” I could go on, but you get the point.

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.

This is beyond the pale. I have no doubt that had a Fox News host suggested similar "punishment" for Kathleen Sebelius (to pick another female, former governor) that he would be gone before you could tweet it. The typical media watchdogs would jump from zero-to-handwringing in less than a second. Yet, CNN's "Reliable Sources" didn't utter a peep about it. Neither did Fox News' "Media Buzz" hosted by longtime media critic Howard Kurtz. The Columbia Journalism Review apparently doesn't work weekends.

And the kicker is that Bashir is faux outraged that someone would compare slavery to anything other than slavery (comparing slavery to debt  is not an original analogy that Palin was the first person ever to make). Just two years ago, Bashir didn't hesitate to compare those who oppose gay "marriage" to wanting a return to slavery. So, traditional marriage support=slavery, debt ≠ slavery. (So those of you playing at home can keep everything straight, no pun intended.)

Remember this the next time the holier-than-thou left starts preaching about "civility:" liberals' pleas for civility are nothing more than a polite request for their political foes to shut up.


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November 2013



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