Saturday, December 7, 2013

I Was Wrong

A while back I posted my anger at MSNBC, welling for a while, but brought over the top by Martin Bashir's suggestion that someone should shit in Sarah Palin's mouth. And darn it if I wasn't right, if that had, indeed, been what he said.

So it turns out I can be just as credulous as a teabagger, brought to outrage by falsehood, deliberate or otherwise. I admit I didn't hear what he said when he said it, nor did I seek out a source of the actual words. I must have assumed that since it was everywhere, including on liberal sites, that it was an accurate rendition of his commentary. Mea culpa. Mea really, really, embarrassingly, culpa. Here, it turns out, is what he actually said, in response to the moosekiller's comparison of the national debt to slavery:

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."

There's no one on earth who can gin up martyred outrage like Sarah of the empty head, and she makes a damn good living at it. Sure, a case can be made that what Mr Bashir said was a little less than that expected of a professional journalist. But it was a long, long way from saying, literally, that someone ought to shit, or "defecate" even, in the poor defenseless lady's mouth; and, couched as it was, it was milder by far than what one hears daily on right-wing radio.

In context, I'd have to say I agree with his sentiment. She trivialized slavery as only she could do, and could stand to inform herself a little better (requiring the sort of effort toward which she's never shown the slightest inclination). Plus, it's undeniable that if someone were to notice feces in Ms Palin's mouth, it'd require DNA testing to be sure it wasn't just a result of her usual logorrhea. In my original post, I expressed outrage that Bashir had suffered no consequences. Now I understand why, and I find his resignation an overreaction on his part. In fact, MSNBC should have stood up for him, making the context crystal clear. So my ultimate reaction to the network remains, if for different reasons.

But I digress. The point is, first, that I took outrageous claims at face value and, second, that Martin Bashir ended up resigning over the reaction to the misconstruction of what he said. Right wing outrage is a powerful force; the more so when it's baseless. Which, of course, it almost always is.

I really should have looked into it before firing off a response. I usually do. I'd like to think I'm better than a teabagging right winger or their propagandists. In this case, I surely wasn't. Hope it's a rarity.

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