MartinBashirClearThe Air

Martin Bashir, Slave Of The Politics Of Hate?

By Michael Maynard

March 2, 2014

The movie, “Twelve Years A Slave”, is about to win the Oscar Award for Best Picture, but broadcast journalist Martin Bashir got fired for reading from a slave owner’s diary. Go figure.

I wasn’t surprised by former MSNBC show host Martin Bashir’s remarks. I saw him get angrier each day when reporting about the crazy, dishonest and too often hateful deeds and words used by Tea Party politicians. So when he responded to former Alaskan Governor Sarah Palin’s remarks about the national debt being the modern form of slavery for the next generation, I knew the explosion was coming.

Watching this from my desk in my home office, I stood up and applauded Martin Bashir for having the intestinal fortitude for fighting back against ignorance and intolerance.

This is what the half-term half-wit said that set Bashir off:

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. We are going to beholden to the foreign master.

That’s hateful, dishonest and wrong in many ways and Caribou Barbie knew it when she said it. She was speaking to the Iowa Faith and Freedom Coalition, most likely to assess her viability to run again for President in the 2016 election. Palin knows that most Midwestern far-right voters hate President Barack Obama and fear the US being “taken over by the Chinese”. She should, but probably doesn’t, know that the majority of US debt (approximately 57%)  is held by US government agencies, institutions and individuals. Then again, Palin and most of her rabid right-wing followers aren’t going to change their views just because the facts show otherwise.


The US government , institutions and individuals hold 66% of the national debt. China hold only 7.9%

There are various media claims that Martin Bashir said that someone should s**t in her mouth. Bashir did not. Bashir did imply it through quoting from the diary of Thomas Thistlewood, a slave owner. But he did not say it directly. This is what Bashir did say:

“It will be like slavery,” Bashir repeated. “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,” Bashir continued. “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,” Bashir added. “In 1756, he records that a slave named Darby ‘catched eating kanes 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 inhumanity. And he mentions a similar incident 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,’” Bashir recited.

Well, Martin Bashir certainly did “Clear The Air”.

Even if Bashir did say what various media sources inaccurately claimed what he said, it would only be an accurate description of what comes out of Palin’s mouth being consistent with what’s in her head. And for saying that publicly, Bashir should have been commended, not fired.

Bashir did apologize on-air the next day to Ms. Palin and to the viewers for his “impertinent remarks”. He should not have had to. He was fired when what he really did “wrong” was bring attention to the issue of the media and its role in race relations. By the way, it is common practice to do show preparation to go over and approve what is going to be said BEFORE going on-air. When you watch the video, notice the graphics in the background. MSNBC hired a show coordinator AFTER firing Bashir (and after other similar on-air incidents).

In a 2012 survey, the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press showed that the public is divided over whether news organizations devote too much coverage to race relations in this country. Still, close to half (48%) say the media make relations between the races seem worse than they actually are, while about a quarter (24%) say they reflect race relations as they really are.

That survey also found that blacks were far more likely than whites to say that the news media devoted too little coverage to race relations. About half of African Americans (51%) said the subject of race relations received too little coverage, compared with just 24% of whites.

Pew Media Research poll

Pew Survey On The Media And Race Relations

However, there were smaller differences between blacks and whites in views of the accuracy of news coverage of race relations. Pluralities of both whites (50%) and blacks (42%) said that coverage of race relations make them out to be worse than they actually are. Smaller percentages said coverage presented race relations as better than they really are (16% of whites, 23% of blacks) or about as they really are (23% of whites, 26% of blacks).

In a 2009 poll conducted by Pew Social Demographic Trends, blacks’ concerns over racial discrimination had not decreased. More than 4 in 10 (43%) African Americans said that there is a lot of discrimination against blacks, compared with just 13% of whites. Whites were more likely to say that Hispanics than blacks faced a lot of discrimination (21% vs. 13%).

Fully 81% of African Americans said “our country needs to continue making changes to give blacks equal rights with whites.” Just 36% of whites agreed, while a majority (54%) said “our country has made the changes needed to give blacks equal rights with whites.

Pew Rsearch on Racial Discrimination

But the most telling and disheartening survey was conducted by the Associated Press about racial attitudes. The AP used researchers from Stanford University, the University of Michigan, and NORC at the University of Chicago, who found:

“Racial prejudice has increased slightly since 2008 whether those feelings were measured using questions that explicitly asked respondents about racist attitudes, or through an experimental test that measured implicit views toward race without asking questions about that topic directly.

In all, 51 percent of Americans now express explicit anti-black attitudes, compared with 48 percent in a similar 2008 survey. When measured by an implicit racial attitudes test, the number of Americans with anti-black sentiments jumped to 56 percent, up from 49 percent during the last presidential election. In both tests, the share of Americans expressing pro-black attitudes fell.

Most Americans expressed anti-Hispanic sentiments, too. In an AP survey done in 2011, 52 percent of non-Hispanic whites expressed anti-Hispanic attitudes. That figure rose to 57 percent in the implicit test. The survey on Hispanics had no past data for comparison.”

No, Martin Bashir exposed painful truths about US racist attitudes and our history of slavery. The movie “12 Years A Slave” was not yet released at the time of his firing. The movie is based upon the eponymous book.

The year was 1841. That “Peculiar Institution” of slavery was running full bore in the south. Solomon Northup, age 33, a well-educated black man who was born into freedom, resided with his wife and three children in his native state of New York. Solomon was kidnapped and sold into slavery in our nation’s capital…Washington, D.C. The perpetrators of this crime, in order to sell Solomon, insisted he was an escaped slave from Georgia. Whenever Solomon protested and declared himself a free man, he was terribly beaten…once near to death. Solomon was sold and transported to Louisiana where he spent twelve long years of suffering, degradation, whippings and hard labor as a slave. For fear of his life, he had to give up the idea of convincing his masters and others that he was actually a free man and a citizen of New York and he resigned himself to the accept the life of a slave. But, through his years of captivity, he never once stopped believing that one day… he would be freed and again become united with his family in New York. The enslavement of the black race was an everyday fact of life from the earliest settlement of this country up to the end of the Civil War, which brought a close to this shameful period of our history.

I find nothing wrong in what Martin Bashir did or said. The problem was that he got too honest about race relations in the United States than what is today’s norm for broadcast journalism.

One of my biggest complaints about Martin Bashir’s former employer, MSNBC, is while it purports to be a bastion of liberal political analysis, it acts too wimpy, like many liberals do. MSNBC wants it both ways. On the one hand, many of its shows delight in criticizing the stupid, hateful and racist statements that the known right-wing idiots make because broadcasting those statements boosts ratings. And there are many right-wing idiots who frequently make stupid, hateful and racist statements: Palin, Minnesota Representative Michele Bachman, Texas Representatives Steve Stockman, Louis Gohmert and Blake Farenthold, Iowa Congressman Steve King, and the master of stupid, hateful and racist statements, radio broadcaster Rush Limbaugh. On the other hand, if one of MSNBC’s best talk show hosts and experienced international journalist gets offended and fires back with the truth about the racism of right-wing politics, i.e. Martin Bashir, Bashir gets fired.

I find it very ironic that the dark-skinned Bashir, born of Pakistani parents in Great Britain, was fired for passionately discussing racism on the channel where civil-rights activist legend, the Reverend Al Sharpton, is also a show host. If Bashir was fired for saying s-h-i-t on air, I’m sorry, he was quoting from a literary work to his audience of informed, politically liberal adults, 99.99% percent of whom say and have said s-h-i-t in their lives. So MSNBC, let’s get real, real fast.

Martin Bashir did what a good journalist should do – expose the truth, no matter how painful or impolitic it may be. He called out the right-wing politics of racism and did it forcefully and accurately. He did not accept the false equivalency that the national debt is a form of slavery. And he did this with the passionate anger that we all should have about how racism is used to shake campaign contributions from the pockets of the ignorant by fomenting hate.

As long as the majority of United States citizens hold racist views, our country is not exceptional. It will remain enslaved to the politics of hate.

Columnist/Journalist/Writer/Book Editor Co-Founder/CEO of Azimuth Partners, high tech consulting firm for 30+ years. Former columnist for the Washington Post/Newsweek syndicate.

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