A Faint Cheer For MSNBC, and A Search for Civility Standards

MSNBC class act Ed Schultz

When I learned that MSNBC’s human hate-machine Ed Schultz had called conservative radio talk-show host Laura Ingraham a “right wing slut” on his syndicated radio show, I wondered if the cable network would take any action. It did, suspending Schultz for one week while issuing a statement that “Remarks of this nature are unacceptable and will not be tolerated.”  It’s good that MSNBC has some standards of discourse, however low, though having some one like Schultz on the air dispensing his crude, angry, frequently mistaken and dishonest rants is pretty intolerable as it is. But what does it mean by “of this nature”?

MSNBC’s action does distinguish it from HBO, which took no action at all against Bill Maher when he called Sarah Palin a “dumb twat.” What are we to take from this disparate treatment? That at HBO “dumb twat” is acceptable and will be tolerated?  Apparently so. Is the difference because HBO is a premium channel, and MSNBC is not? That’s a strange definition of “premium”: “HBO, where political commentators can call women twats!” Would “slut” have gotten Maher in trouble? Should Ed have called Ingraham a “twat” instead?

Schultz didn’t even use the s-word on MSNBC, but on his radio show, yet that was still enough to earn a suspension. To be fair to Schultz, conservative radio talk show host Mark Levin regularly calls him a “fat, red-faced  idiot.” If Schultz had called Ingraham a fat, red-faced idiot, would that have been acceptable to MSNBC? Of course, Ingraham isn’t a fat, red-faced idiot, but then she isn’t a slut either. Was Schultz suspended because women in the punditry business are supposed to be treated more respectfully than men, who are, I guess, supposed to be able to “take it”? SEems sexist to me, somehow, and certainly Rachel Maddow wouldn’t put up with that.

Speaking of Rachel Maddow, what if MSNBC’s smirking female progressive warrior had called Ingraham a slut? (To her credit, Maddow does not engage in name-calling). Is it okay for female pundits to call other women sluts? How about twats…I mean, if Rachel did it on a classy premium channel where people think calling politicians twats is edgy? I wonder. It’s almost worth it for Rachel to do it just to see what happens.

MSNBC saw, and sees, nothing wrong with its various “talents” using the derisive and sexually-suggestive term “tea-baggers” to describe Tea Party candidates, including Senator Scott Brown. But then the main offender with that term was Keith Olberman, who, unlike Ed Schultz, actually attracted an audience that you couldn’t fit in a typical McDonald’s restroom. Is “tea-bagger”— which suggests that the target of the description either accepts another’s scrotal sac in his or her open mouth or is the wielder of said sac for another  (and we have the classy Anderson Cooper to thank for injecting that image into our political discussions)—-really more acceptable and tolerable than “slut’? Why? Personally, I think it’s less acceptable than “twat”…though HBO  has no trouble with Maher using “tea-bagger” either.

I’m so confused!

Wait! I have an idea! Why don’t all the news networks and producers of political commentary shows, as well as radio talk shows, insist that the prerequisites of being employed include professional conduct, which means engaging in animated political speech that avoids gratuitous insults, name-calling, sexual epithets and the substitution of personal attacks for substantive argument?

That’s a standard I could understand

50 thoughts on “A Faint Cheer For MSNBC, and A Search for Civility Standards

    • That’s quaintly trusting of you, given that no teapartiers use the term, nor any teaparty supporters. You also must have missed Cooper, Olbermann and Maddow snickering and giggling like 7th grade boys as they used the double-entendre to report the early rallies, since the cool and the gay (who are also intrinsically cool, like Maddow). knew the lexicon, while the un-cool, square, conservative, goofy, anti-gay marriage tea party enthusiasts WOULDN’T EVEN KNOW THEY WERE BEING DENIGRATED!! Brilliant!

      Cooper later apologized, and I may feature that “history” as the media trying to cover its tracks, which is what it is. I got a post explaining that Maher meant “twat” innocently too. Sometimes, one just has to face the ugly truth.

      • I’m not denying the bodily connotation, just saying that at the beginning most “squares”–including me and the tea partiers–saw tea bags as the symbol of the movement and tea-baggers as an acceptable label. My guess is that the suits at MSNBC also didn’t get it at first, not being as cool as Dwayne and Jack.

        • Oh, the tea BAGs were indeed symbols of the movement, and likely would have remained so if Anderson et al. hadn’t turned it on them. Since the reference to Tea Party, Boston Harbor and all that, was key to the movement, no teapartier used “teabagger,” even when they were using tea bags.

          I had never heard the term, and couldn’t figure out what Anderson and Maddow thought was so funny. ( It is fair to say that I have never been called “cool” in my life.) A gay friend explained it to me. He thought it was funny too.

          Just imagine Cronkite or Chet Huntley pulling something like that. Actually, I can’t.

            • Oops, I didn’t realize Ethics Bob included it in this thread already. Also, I didn’t previously link to it, just used it for reference.

            • No, they didn’t. The article is a lame defense of the liberal media, and doesn’t make its case. Show me where, as promised in the articale, there is evidence that Tea Party supporters used the term “teabagger” to describe their movement?
              The use of “tea bag” as a verb in a couple of signs was clearly intended as a reference to the sexual connotation; why else would it be praised as “the best sign”? Do IT to them before they do it to you—what is that supposed to mean, unless “tea bag” has a negative —as in “fuck them over before they fuck you” connotation? Are we still playing the “one sign in a rally speaks for the whole movement” game? Really?

              The teapartiers never called themselves “teabaggers,” and that was what I wrote. It’s true. And even if some guy carrying a sign did somewhere, someplace,once Cooper used the term as a sexual innuendo and it was reinforced by other anti-Tea Party commentators, it was journalistically disgraceful to persist in using it as a synonym for “Tea party supporters.”

              That article has now been linked here THREE times, and it doesn’t warrant even one link. Talk about confirmation bias. I can’t believe anyone considers this to be a persuasive argument at all. it doesn’t even make the case it says its going to make.

              Bob will do anything to protect Rachel’s honor, but I’m not sure what your excuse is.

              • My first introduction to the tea partiers as teabaggers comes from an uncle, a self professed teabagger. That was before I started seeing it on liberal blogs. It’s possible he picked up the term from left wing commentators, but as someone who sends me fox news stories every week, I strongly doubt it.

              • “Are we still playing the ‘one sign in a rally speaks for the whole movement’ game? Really?” No, we’re playing the “‘no teapartiers use the term, nor any teaparty supporters’ is a factually incorrect statement” game. There’s a difference between “none” and “few,” or else there’s nothing wrong with saying there has never been a President of the United States.

                Unless we’re quibbling over the transformation of a verb into a noun (one who teabags is a teabagger, presumably), it is well documented that the usage was originally self-applied. There’s a blogsite which even now offers “teabagging instructions.” A couple of years ago, it proclaimed “teabagging is for everyone” and exhorted readers “you can be a teabagger too.” [I omit the comma in the foregoing because the site did.] It doesn’t say that now, but it did. I know this because in April of 2009, having heard the Maddow/Cox smirkfest, I wondered whether there really were self-described “teabaggers,” so I looked. How do I know the site said what I now can’t prove it said? Because I blogged about it at the time, and I regard my 2009 self as quite a credible source.

                Were Maddow, Cox, Schuster, Cooper, et al. unprofessional to use the term as unadulterated snark? Absolutely. Did they invent the term? No. I think the Nordlinger piece from National Review Online linked in the posts from Ethics Bob and tgt states the case pretty well.

                I have, to the best of my knowledge, avoided the term “teabagger” for the past two years. I have little but contempt for the Tea Party and especially for its professional leadership, but the word itself is a cheap shot. That would make it much like that movement’s stock in trade, mind you, but someone needs to act like a grown-up.

                • Well, fine. I’ll accept that some in the tea party movement used teabag as a verb, with or without the sexual connotation unprofessional anti-tea party journalists attached to the name and then continued to use to denigrate the movement without admitting they were doing so.

                  And I find the protestations of Bob and tgt about that as somehow excusing the “teabagger” slur to be EXACTLY like the defense of the conservatives who always said “Hussein” when referring to Obama. “But that’s his NAME!” they said, and say, with a wink-wink, nudge-nudge. It was unfair and dishonest and despicable, and still is ( Michael Savage, among others, still calls Obama by all three names), and the teabagger slur is worse, because it has been wielded by supposedly “objective” journalists. “But that’s what they called themselves!” Right. 1) A website and some signs don’t speak for the movement as a whole and 2) they didn’t call themselves teabaggers meaning THAT and 3) the only people who make the “Hussein” type argument are those who don’t really care if the Tea Party is slurred. Everybody should care, because it is proof of how hard it is to get any kind of fair news coverage of conservative or anti-Obama policy positions.

                    • No, because by Willard I know you’ll mean the lead character in the 1971 horror film about a misfit who loves RATS, slyly suggesting that Romney is a leader of “rats,” meaning Republicans, as in “Republicans Against Truth.” I’m on to you.

  1. Anyone who grew up with online gaming, especially males between 10 and 30, ought to recognize “tea bagging” as sexual slang. I doubt most have ever combined the words “tea” and “bag” in the same sentence without intending to use the sexual connotation, or without at least chuckling to themselves about it. To claim otherwise is either ignorant or dishonest.

  2. I actually sometimes say, “May I please have a teabag?” or “Who left the teabag on the counter?” without intending any sexual connotation or chuckling. With slang as with pop music I think we all have to recognize a generation gap and be tolerant of some folks who haven’t bridged it..

    • I think the connotation is based on part of speech. “Would you like this teabag?” is very different from “Would you like to be teabagged?”

  3. I had to educate my own father on why he couldn’t call himself a teabagger. It was a very weird conversation. The folks around him, others of my extended family included, thought it was a great descriptor. But they’d never heard it before, because they don’t run in the circles I do. Most of the tea partiers now know not to use it on themselves or anything.

  4. I’m getting into this one late! I was just going back on my saved email and found I left this one behind in the dust.

    I’d just say that the one thing common to all those you mentioned, Jack, is the lack of recognized, professional standards of conduct that (admittedly) is so prevalent in many walks of life beyond the news media. Even Levin’s remark of a “big, red-faced idiot” would have been (at best) marginal in earlier times and would have gotten him suspended from client stations. But that pales in comparison to those who use vulgar sexual epithets to describe others while one the air in any venue.

    It only serves to illustrate how low the discourse has fallen since the standards were effectively abolished. Frankly, TGT’s attempts to smooth over the term “teabagger” are pretty appalling. Like most Tea Partiers, I had no idea what that term actually meant until it was made evident later. we don’t generally move in those circles where it’s applied.

    • TGT’s attempts to smooth over the term “teabagger” are pretty appalling. Like most Tea Partiers, I had no idea what that term actually meant until it was made evident later. we don’t generally move in those circles where it’s applied.

      It’s not my fault a group self identified with a term without seeing if that term had any existing usages.

      If a segment of the population started calling themselves Dunce’s (Democrats Under New Conservative Exigencies) and started throwing protests about the republican intransigence, I would rightly continue to use the Dunce name to describe them.

      (My old college ultimate team fell victim to this same issue, renaming the team with a common term that has an uncommon sex act connotation. And just like the teabaggers, when they found out, they continued to use it. The difference? They decided to own it, instead of attempting to revise history to blame their rivals. Of course, they aren’t as used to revising history as the teabaggers.)

  5. I do think that the teabagger epithet can’t be excused because 1) early Tea Parties used teabags as symbols or 2) that some clueless Tea Party members used the term. It reminds me of whites who use “nigger” as a term of derision and argue, disingenuously, that “What do you mean? They call themselves that!” A more immediate example: the conservatives who like to call the President “:Barack HUSSEIN Obama” and then protest “But that’s his name!” We know that when they use it, they are saying something specific and denigrating—just like when the MSNBC crowd uses “teabagger.”

    And yes, I know I wrote essentially the same thing in May, but it was a winning argument then (Nobody has challenged it, because it can’t be argued), and still is now.

    • I disagree that either of your examples works. When I say teabaggers, I’m referring to their stupidity in calling themselves teabaggers and how completely unserious the movement is. It’s used in part to remind people how out of touch they are.

      Nigger doesn’t follow that path. It doesn’t inherently say ANYTHING about the class of people it references. Barack HUSSEIN Obama is even further off.

      • Oh, please!!! You can’t be making this argument!

        Why should ANYONE who isn’t gay or who doesn’t frequent porn know what “teabagging” means? I’m pretty up to speed on most things, and I never heard of it before Anderson Cooper started giggling like a girl. Nobody uses it now “to remind people how out of touch they are”—and they aren’t—it is used to connect what they are doing and advocating to something THEY would consider disgusting as a matter of denigration. “Nigger” doesn’t say anything about the class of people it references? .What’s the matter with it, then? Of course it does: it’s a slur, and like all slurs, it says “you are a lower form of human life, and not worthy of respect.”

        • (1) I am not gay, nor have I seen teabagging in porn, yet I still know what it means. As has been noted before, at the very least, it’s a commonly known term for gamers and anyone who has been to college in the last decade.
          (2) I was unclear on my nigger comment. Nigger doesn’t say anything about actual black people. Teabagger does say something about actual tea partiers.
          (3) Yes, I do use the term tea bagger as I said I do. I’m not attempting to denigrate them by connecting to something disgusting; I am connecting them to their own stupidity. See my dunce example.

          • The that you knew the term did not mean that the Tea Party participants, who are not gamers, predominantly, and did not fit your demographic, does not make them ignorant, or make your experience typical. Virtually nobody I know knew the term, and it is a smart group. Similarly, I’ll take your word for what you mean by the term. That is not typical either.

            I still don’t see your “nigger” logic at all.

  6. I see I set off an old, smoldering fire! I’d reply to TGT that there are, indeed, many cases where proferred insults have been turned around on their instigators by adoption. Der Teufelhunden (Devil Dogs)- the German’s term for the U.S. Marines in WWI- is a case in point! However, the term “teabagger” is of such a nauseating derivation that no decent person could possibly apply it to one’s self without acknowledging the deed to which it refers.

    I’d add a mild desputation, Jack, to your analogy to using the name Barack Hussein Obama. That IS his full, legal name after all. Mine is Mark. King Mark of Cornwall was famous for chopping down Sir Tristram from behind with a battle axe! On the other hand, Jordan’s previous ruler was King Hussein, who was a respected leader of Arab moderates. A name is what you make of it.

    • No, disingenuous, Steven. Those who make a point of using the middle name, when Obama does not, are intentionally insinuating a Muslim connection that is irrelevant. Find me another president who was referred to by all three names so frequently, and not just in formal statements. There isn’t one, except for John Quincy Adams, to distinguish him from his father, both at home and in politics.

  7. William Howard Taft. Ronald Wilson Reagan. James “Jimmy” Earl Carter. George Herbert Walker Bush. George Walker “Dubya” Bush. And Woodrow Wilson used his middle name to the exclusion of his first name… which I’ve forgotten! (Was that also the case with Grover Cleveland?) I seem to recall that every President, upon taking the Oath of Office, must identify himself with his full name. Certainly, political opponents have always tried to insult candidates and officials through use or variation of their given name. It’s been no different with Obama. But a name, as I said, is what one makes of it. Had Mr. Obama not been so ready to kowtow to Arab sovereigns and influences hostile to our nation, there would have been little attention drawn to his Arab middle name.

    • You ignored my distinction. Those presidents were occasionally called by their full names to emphasize formality. When a right wing radio host does it over and over with Obama, you know that’s something else.

        • AhHA! That’s an unethical argument—people don’t make unethical conduct ethical because they “brought it on themselves”…as you well know. (And how did Obama bring the dishonest use of his middle name to impugn his loyalty to America? He didn’t name himself. I bet he would rather have his middle name be “Milhous…”)

          • SMP is saying that Obama’s policies and actions have made the use of his middle name accurate. Considering the usage started before he was president, this is simply false.

            • Nonsense, TGT. Obama made full use of his middle name all his life. And why not? There’s nothing disreputable about Hussein by itself, as I’ve pointed out. Nor is there anything wrong with others using it as well. It’s his name. People are free to draw whatever conclusions they may about it. They can praise it or mock it as they will. The same for the rest of us. BTW: He’s also gone by the name “Barry Soetero”. Is that off-limits, too? If so, why?

              • You didn’t respond to my counterpoint. Instead, you created a separate point.

                Had Mr. Obama not been so ready to kowtow to Arab sovereigns and influences hostile to our nation, there would have been little attention drawn to his Arab middle name.

                While your accusations about Obama are false, even if I grant them, they only apply to his conduct after he became president. The usage of the middle name to make him seem different started prior to his presidency.

                When you’re caught with an invalid argument, you don’t get to move the goalposts.

                • Your “counterpoint” was false itself, so I ignored it. MY point is that a name is a name and a name is what one makes of it. Simple enough, huh? The mere usage of a man’s name of what ever kind does not imply religious bigotry, as you’re obviously attempting to imply. The name Obama itself carries with it an African connotion as well. Does my use of it, then, condemn me as a racist? And what about “Barack”, for God’s sake?! Should we just call him “President Barry” to keep from saying anything to offend liberal sensibilities?

                  • Your “counterpoint” was false itself, so I ignored it.

                    What part of it was false? It was direct counterpoint.

                    The mere usage of a man’s name of what ever kind does not imply religious bigotry, as you’re obviously attempting to imply.

                    No, but that’s not an accurate representation of this argument. You’re leaving out the history of muslim-bashing by the speakers (including yourself) and the expected anti-muslim audience.

          • Yes, I forgot about Richard Milhous Nixon! They really put him through the wringer for what was merely a bland middle name. But to your point- I don’t see the unethicality in Obama’s case anymore than I do with Nixon’s. There are serious questions as to Obama’s sympathies in regard to Arab interests and extremist movements that he has helped gain attention. When you have a President who has not only spent many of his formative years in Moslem countries and schools and has likewise demonstrated so much sympathy and support for radical causes that such countries tend to favor, how CAN you ignore the fact that he also bears a Moslem name? The mere fact that he’s been labeled with his own, given name- which has not been altered in any unflattering manner- can’t be held against those who’ve envoked it. Again, a name is what you make of it. “Captain Ahab is not to blame for his evil name!”

            • There are serious questions as to Obama’s sympathies in regard to Arab interests and extremist movements that he has helped gain attention.

              No, there aren’t.

              When you have a President who has not only spent many of his formative years in Moslem countries and schools and has likewise demonstrated so much sympathy and support for radical causes that such countries tend to favor, how CAN you ignore the fact that he also bears a Moslem name?

              1) Islamic countries tend to favor radical CONSERVATIVE postions. Obama tends to favor LIBERAL positions.
              2) The name on his birth certificate doesn’t have anything to do with your first two points. It’s completely irrelevant. If it was Barack Luke Obama, would that say something different about him? No.

              The mere fact that he’s been labeled with his own, given name- which has not been altered in any unflattering manner- can’t be held against those who’ve envoked it.

              The point is the name is not being used to say anything relevant about Obama. Instead, it is being used to attempt to otherize him and slander him. It’s dog whistles…but dog whistles that everyone can hear.

              • How do you define “conservative”, for Pete’s sake? If you think (or are trying to indicate) that American conservatives have anything seriously in common with Jihadists, you’re at the butt end of a looney tune! It’s the atheistic left that has made common cause with Moslem extremists as they both have a major point in common in regard to Christians. “The enemy of my enemy is my friend.” The fact that, after disposing of all Christians, they’d be after you next with a scimitar’s edge never seems to occur to you.

                And how you can claim slander (“otherizing”??) by the use of a man’s given name is still mysterious to me. Only slightly more mysterious is your outrageous claim that Obama’s policies haven’t favored Arab causes.

                • How do you define “conservative”, for Pete’s sake? If you think (or are trying to indicate) that American conservatives have anything seriously in common with Jihadists, you’re at the butt end of a looney tune!

                  You mean other than basing law on religious morality? Other than placing faith over reality?

                  It’s the atheistic left that has made common cause with Moslem extremists

                  Sure, the leftest, equal-rights, pro-science atheists are friends with the fundamentalist, anti-gay, anti-women, anti-science muslims. That is sane.

                  The persecution complex here is ridiculous.

                  And how you can claim slander (“otherizing”??) by the use of a man’s given name is still mysterious to me.

                  Again, dog whistles. This isn’t hard to understand. It’s the southern strategy. He has a Muslim name, therefore he is foreign/muslim/terrorist/not real american. That’s the intended implication.

                  I guess you could argue the implication is not intended, and the people using the namecalling to an audience that believes such are just criminally stupid or reckless.

                  Only slightly more mysterious is your outrageous claim that Obama’s policies haven’t favored Arab causes.

                  Name the policies and the Arab causes.

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