Tommy Christopher pens a doozy of a story on Mediaite that should be held up as a shining example of how to cherry pick your argument while ignoring some very inconvenient facts which destroy said argument.
Ten days ago, MSNBC host Martin Bashir delivered a harsh bit of commentary that culminated in the suggestion that someone should shit in former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin‘s (R-AK) mouth.
The world has never been the same since. Despite an abject and complete apology, calls for Bashir’s scalp continued to ring throughout the media and political spheres. It’s easy to see why Bashir makes such a tempting target, but even easier to understand why those screeching the loudest for his head ought to sit down and shut up.
Tommy’s thesis seems to be that because people like Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Mark Levin, and Donald Trump, who nobody should listen to for any sort of rational objective opinion on the subject of Martin Bashir in the first place, or Howard Kurtz and Joe Scarborough, who Tommy blasts for the perceived hypocrisy of having some skeletons in their closets, have called for Bashir’s head that means that any and all calls for Bashir’s head are automatically invalid or suspect. And everyone should just sit down and shut up.
Side Note: Dee Dee Meyers, Tommy? You’re that desperate that you dismiss Dee Dee Myers’ Bashir commentary not because of something she did but because of something her boss did after she had left working for him which was a year before Monica Lewinski had even arrived at the White House? Really, Tommy?
There is absolutely no doubt that the red side wants Bashir’s scalp but they would want his scalp under any circumstance so you have to take that into consideration. There is also no doubt that some people, like Kurtz, lose a lot of their gravitas in weighing in on Bashir because of the skeletons in their own closets.
If that was the sum total of where the “Off with Bashir’s head” call was coming from Tommy would be right. The problem is Tommy is wrong because it’s not just the usual suspects this time.
The AP’s David Bauder has written twice in the past week about the Bashir story, including MSNBC’s feeble non-defensive-defense of its decision to just slap his wrists. Should David Bauder “sit down and shut up” Tommy?
The Baltimore Sun’s David Zurawik wrote last week questioning why Bashir is still on the air and what Bashir not being off the air does to damage NBC. Should David Zurawik “sit down and shut up” Tommy?
TVNewser’s Gail Shister weighed in against Bashir yesterday, outlining how Bashir’s lack of punishment doesn’t fit in with MSNBC’s history of suspensions (a point I myself made last week). Should Gail Shister “sit down and shut up” Tommy?
The Daily Beast’s Lloyd Grove wondered a few days ago whether Bashir (and Alec Baldwin) should be fired. Should Lloyd Grove “sit down and shut up” Tommy?
Tommy doesn’t get it. He gets all hung up on the red baiters and the hypocrites…the ones who don’t count and whose opinions don’t matter…that he can’t see the others that don’t fall into those categories who do count and whose opinions do matter. MSNBC’s Executive Team has much the same problem apparently. Erik Wemple does get it though. He outlined it on Reliable Sources Sunday…
I will say that I do think that the continued pressure that this hasn’t gone away is not just a partisan thing. I think there’s always a tipping point in these stories. At some point that tipping point is at which it either fades away or it has the fuel and has the fumes to keep going. And I think that this one somehow does. I don’t think you can just contribute that to people who already hated Martin Bashir. I think what he did was really, really wrong and bad.
Bingo. Wemple gets a cookie.
Worse, Tommy seems to argue against himself here…
Just because every one of the people calling for Bashir’s firing either has done or condoned far worse, or has an obvious ax to grind against the network, doesn’t mean Bashir was right to do what he did, or that he shouldn’t be fired. It’s just irritating as hell to listen to.
You can’t have it both ways. You can’t say that maybe what Bashir did may justify termination and then in the same breath bitch about the people clamoring for said termination just because you don’t like their politics or don’t think their bonafides are beyond scrutable reproach when there are scores of others who think exactly the same way but don’t fall into either of those categories. Tommy then goes on to double down by circling back to what Palin originally did, as if to recast Bashir’s actions in a more “contextual” manner.
After I wrote up Bashir’s original commentary, people on Twitter asked me if I condemned or condoned it, a question without a 140 character answer. Bashir’s goal was worthy, and his means were legitimate, but that’s not the commentary or provocation that I would have used. Yes, it amplified the underlying message, but at the cost of obscuring it. Palin deliberately referenced American slavery, as conservatives are wont to do, in order to make a trivial point about public debt. She needed to be shown just what it was she was comparing. For too many white people, conservative or not, slavery is one of three things:
1. Something that black people need to get over.
2. Something that you shouldn’t talk about in detail, unless you hate America.
3. Something that you should compare other things to that aren’t anything like slavery.
We aren’t talking about what Palin said about slavery, however one feels about that. That’s not the subject now. We are talking about Bashir’s response. That’s what the past week and a half have all been about. What Palin said is irrelevant to the subject of how Bashir answered unless you ascribe to the notion that the ends justify the means or two wrongs make a right.
Since Tommy already carved himself out an escape clause by stipulating to the possibility that what Bashir did merited termination, everything he says about Palin and how vile it was and trying to spin nuance into Bashir’s diatribe or otherwise contextualize his remarks; the “he didn’t mean it literally” defense for example…all of that rings rather hollow. You can’t excuse, explain away, or otherwise attempt to re-position or re-characterize what Bashir did and how bad it was or wasn’t if you’re going to give yourself an out like that. If termination isn’t off the table, as Tommy himself states, everything else he says to “explain” or add context to Bashir’s actions stands in stark 180 degree opposition to it. If Bashir’s actions merit the possibility of termination or are even in the ballpark, then by definition everything else Tommy discusses is moot. Full stop. You can’t explain or contextualize it because it is indeed that bad. We know it was that bad because Tommy gave himself that out and if the case truly was that open and shut regarding not meriting any discussion of termination, then what Bashir did wasn’t that bad at all because we should not need to talk about termination or even entertain the thought. But Tommy did entertain it. See the contradiction at play here?
Lastly there’s this…
No, the reason they’re all wrong as well as annoying is that what Martin Bashir did was a form of political commentary that is worthy of protection
Protection from what? The government? Sure. From a private employer exercising whatever it decides to do as a result of that political speech? No way. The PC Police collect scalps all the time. Boycotts sometimes work. Some networks, like CNN, are so scared of their own shadow they’ll cut the talent loose at the first sign of trouble…unless of course the talent has deep tie ins with other parts of the parent company’s empire. But I digress.
You have no protection in the private workplace, provocative opinions are not impervious to blowback, and you should have no illusions about that. You have to use your judgement when opening your mouth. But the lines covering what’s acceptable and what isn’t are badly drawn, or in MSNBC’s case, move around like a whack-a-mole game. In that respect MSNBC is as much to blame as Bashir and one can see why Phil Griffin would be loathe to suspend him…because doing so would be an indictment of the very culture he has created there. Catch 22.
So what have we learned here today?
1) We learned that Tommy believes that “every one of the people calling for Bashir’s firing either has done or condoned far worse or has an obvious axe to grind against the network”. Except I just showed that isn’t the case at all. There are plenty of people who operate outside of the red/blue political minefield and think Bashir went too far, as Don Imus went too far, and these people do not fit into Tommy’s convenient pigeonholes…
2) We learned that Tommy believes that it “doesn’t mean Bashir was right to do what he did, or that he shouldn’t be fired”. And yet he goes on to state over and over that anyone who does call for that needs to “sit down and shut up” and also goes into excruciating detail to contextualize what Bashir did while at the same time carving out an exception for himself that…gosh..gee willikers…maybe that doesn’t mean he shouldn’t be fired.
The next time Tommy Christopher thinks about using the words “sit down and shut up” perhaps it will be in front of a mirror…