Halperin Suspended from MSNBC: Calling President Obama a "Dick" is More Than Swearing

6 years ago

The Washington Post's Plum Line by Greg Sargent says that the MSNBC indefinite suspension of Mark Halperin for calling the President "a kind of a dick" per his press conference yesterday is "way over the top."

It isn't over the top. In this day of ridiculously biased news persons (we can't call them reporters any longer) and violently biased news corporations it is somewhat heartening to see MSNBC regularly giving the boot (even if only as temporary kicks in the ass) to talking heads who cross the line.  Of course it seems that the purportedly liberal news organization that is doing this, MSNBC, is the only one who censures language that had it been used about George W. Bush a few years ago would have gotten mega news coverage as treasonous, treacherous, and un-American as well as having lunies act on veiled calls for violence against the person.

(Credit Image: © The Toronto Star/ZUMApress.com)

I do however agree with Sargent, to some degree, when in the opinion piece he states that,

"Halperin’s use of an expletive is trival when compared with the degradation of our political discourse we witness on a regular basis from Halperin and many others — degradation that is seen as perfectly acceptable because no curse words are employed. Suspending Halperin only reinforces a phony definition of “civility” in our discourse..."

I agree that news of a political nature has degraded in toto through the last years.  But calling the President of the United States a "dick" shows a profound lack of respect for the office. There are limits that have to be maintained in order to have our society be a civil society. One of the definitions of the word civil involves custom or law rather than natural or physical laws. Not everything about civility relates to having a discourse guided by "polite" concerns.

We do not call women sluts.  We do not call the President a dick. There are customs and practices that reach beyond good taste and help to create and structure a safe and livable society. These practices hold societies together. These are the things we are taught my our mothers, and grandmothers and that we as women hand down to the next generations. Hateful and degrading speech, name calling and bullying (on the playground or in the press corp) erode the increasingly unstable structure of our society. 

So what are we going to do about it? It is up to us, the women of society who blog, connect, maintain families, are informed (and on and on and on...) to call for the censure of totally inappropriate statements that are easily misinterpreted by many audiences as "news" or "facts." We can and do shape the trajectory of our society. 

I find it educational to briefly glance at "What's Wrong With Calling Bush a Devil," an old Alternet article by Jeff Cohen, to remind ourselves what happened to Phil Donahue on MSNBC when he dared to have guests who presented political views that did not agree with the President at the time." Phil Donahue was a model of decorum compared to anything on the air today.

Ed Schultz was suspended for a slur. No matter how reprehensible that may have been, it was one talk show radio host swearing and slurring another talk show radio host. The suspension today of Mark Halperin is far different matter. The Office of the President deserves respect even if a person does not respect the person in the office. I believe the person in the office also deserves respect. That is what I was taught. No one who stoops to name-calling and insults should be given platform from which to hurl garbage. 

I think this is a totally different situation from the Ed Schultz one.  What do you think? What length of suspension is appropriate?

N. F. Hill

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