Thursday, December 5, 2013

GOP Strategist Rick Wilson Tweets About Sh*tting in Sarah Palin's 'Whore Mouth'

The ouster of MSNBC host Martin Bashir over commentary he delivered about former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin has sparked intense debate online, debate which included Republican strategist Rick Wilson tweeting something far more vulgar about Palin than anything Bashir said in his controversial commentary. Responding to a tweet berating liberals for failing to oppose Bashir's ouster, Wilson tweeted "Yeah, I mean it was just Sarah Palin right? Totes cool to talk about shitting HER whore mouth, amitrite? I mean, really." 
 By rights, anyone referring to Governor Palin's oral cavity as a "whore mouth," and calling her a "whore" by extension, should never expect to get a job in politics again. During our Twitter exchange, I asked if Wilson should expect a fate similar to Bashir's:

The fact is that context matters, and Rick Wilson clearly did not actually mean that Sarah Palin has a "whore mouth," or that he would like to hear more about it being defecated in. Rick Wilson was using satire (not parody) to make a point, which was that many Palin detractors view her with irrational, at times misogynistic, contempt, while also attempting to falsely recast Bashir's remarks as a gender-specific attack. It was vulgar and provocative, but was clearly intended to make a point, not to literally condone the filling of anyone's mouth, "whore" or otherwise, with fecal matter.

 The same could also be said of the commentary that resulted in Martin Bashir's ouster. It was vulgar and provocative, but was clearly intended to make a point, not to literally condone the filling of anyone's mouth with fecal matter. The purpose of Bashir’s commentary was to illustrate, mainly to Sarah Palin, the sick trivialization of her remarks about slavery. 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, and Bashir's intent was to show just what it was she was comparing. Bashir described, at length, the barbaric punishments used on slaves, and in the long tradition of political satire, included a provocation that served to amplify that commentary. Just as Swift didn’t actually intend for people to eat babies, Bashir did not literally wish for Palin to be shat upon, or into.

 It's an important distinction to make, because Martin Bashir didn't lose his job for violating MSNBC language standards, or for offending the sensibilities of his audience, but for running afoul of people who already didn't like him, and who relentlessly sought to silence him. That MSNBC volunteered to capitulate is unfortunate, because they have introduced a chill to an essential form of political and social commentary, and it's an asymmetrical chill. Conservatives don't punish people for saying offensive things, they reward them.

 To be clear, Martin Bashir's commentary didn't get it right; the provocation that he punctuated it with was misguided and irresponsible, and he was right to apologize for it. MSNBC would even have been justified in suspending him for it, had they done so immediately. In forcing Bashir out under external pressure, MSNBC has drawn a target on the back of any liberal commentator who dares to be provocative. [photo via Wikimedia Commons]

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